The Ohio State basketball program knows that they won’t ever be the number one sport in Columbus. That distinction goes to the Ohio State football program. Quite frankly, it always will. Ohio State football will always be number one in the city of Columbus.
That doesn’t mean that the Ohio State basketball team can’t succeed or win over new fans. The Buckeyes had a sustained period of success under Thad Matta. He led the Buckeyes to two Final Four appearances and a National Championship game appearance as well.
Those are the type of accolades and accomplishments that get you noticed at a football school. Matta had the program at a level that they hadn’t seen since the late 90s when Jim O’Brien was the head coach. Matta showed that Ohio State could succeed at both basketball and football at the same time.
Chris Holtmann hasn’t quite lived up to the same standard. Granted, it’s very hard to keep up that standard of play after replacing a legend. Matta has his name up in the rafters at the Schott because of how well he coached the program. He’s the winningest coach of all-time at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes can still succeed at a football school. They just have to make progress in the NCAA Tournament. Holtmann has yet to lead his team past the first weekend of the Tournament. That’s not going to get casual football fans to pay attention to the basketball program.
I don’t know if Holtmann is going to be able to get his team to do that this year, but if the Ohio State basketball program wants to remain relevant to Ohio State fans that mostly care about football, they have to be better in the postseason. It’s as simple as that.
This year will be a big year to determine whether or not that’s still possible. Ohio State has a great recruiting class coming in, so we’ll see what they are able to do at this point.