It’s Time To Wake The Sleeping Giant Of Ohio State Men’s Basketball

It’s time for the sleeping giant to wake up.

There is no good reason why the Ohio State men’s basketball program shouldn’t be one of the nation’s best programs on an annual basis and with Wednesday’s firing of head coach Chris Holtmann, the university may finally agree.

After a 9-25 mark in Big Ten play over the past two seasons, Holtmann’s time at OSU came to an end. Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith had been mulling it over of late and finally decided to make the move now in hopes of giving this team enough of a spark to close the season on a positive note.

Smith did Holtmann a solid by giving him the last few weeks to right things, but it never happened. Instead, the basketball program will start over next year with a brand new head coach and likely a very different roster.

This is all happening in a constantly changing landscape of college sports, but what hasn’t changed are the championship aspirations at Ohio State.

“There’s nothing changed for any of our sports,” Gene Smith said on Wednesday. “I mean, nothing’s changed. All of our programs have the same standard. The blessing that we have at The Ohio State University is to recruit to this platform, to recruit to Columbus, the resources that Buckeye Nation provides us. So the standard for men’s basketball is the same. Be in the hunt, periodically win the championship, and then go deep into the postseason. But that hasn’t changed. And so that hasn’t been accomplished. We need to do better.”

Being in the hunt is all well and good but the Buckeyes haven’t had a hunting license in over a decade.

The Ohio State men’s basketball program hasn’t won a title of any kind since a Big Ten Tournament Championship in 2013.

They’ve come close a couple of times in Holtmann’s tenure, finishing second in the regular season in his debut season of 2017-2018. They also lost in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament Championship Game as a 5-seed.

Outside of that, however, it’s been duck season for any kind of championship crown for the Buckeyes under Holtmann.

While Gene Smith did the firing, it will be incoming AD Ross Bjork who does the hiring. Smith will be on hand to advise and help out, but Bjork will be the one taking his recommendation to the powers that be.

Like Smith, Bjork sees Ohio State as a place where the possibilities should never be as limited as they have been for the past decade.

“We want to win championships. That should be the expectation,” Bjork said one month ago when he was introduced as OSU’s next AD. “This is not for the faint of heart. Be not afraid. So we will not be afraid of embracing that. Coaches understand the magnitude of all of that, and so they have to have the wherewithal. The chops. They have to have the chops to deal in that environment and understand the dynamics. But that’s Ohio State. And that should be the standard.”

And if that doesn’t happen?

“If it doesn’t happen, were we in the mix,” he said. “And maybe you got beat by a last-second shot or last-second field? I mean, think if that field goes goes in against Georgia the year before. What are we talking about then? Right? So the margin can be really, really thin at the elite, elite level. And that’s to me what happens here, if maybe you don’t win that championship, that margin is still really thin and we’re right there.”

The margins have been thick enough of late to hold the kind of footnotes that say Ohio State hasn’t won a road game in the Big Ten in nearly 14 months.

The Buckeyes’ lone national title in men’s basketball came way back in 1960, so having championship aspirations is nice, but operating in reality is still the rule of law. Aspiring to win conference championships, however, should have never been seen as out of reach or a pipe dream.

Ross Bjork says “be not afraid,” but he’s going to need to follow his own advice in this upcoming coaching search.

Ohio State should be able to land the best coach on the market, provided there is one.

It is time to get back to achieving expectations rather than limiting them. It shouldn’t be this hard to be really damn good at Ohio State.

Be not afraid to make the kind of noise that can wake up the sleeping giant.

Because it’s been sleeping for way too long.

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