Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann and his staff sat in The Board Room on the ground floor of the Schottenstein Center, giving their sales pitch after the game to recruits as to why they should buy into the program.
Among those were top-ranked Ohio recruit and five-star power forward Alonzo Gaffney, three-star guard Joseph Girard — both from the 2019 class — and 2021 guard prospect Meechie Johnson, who all attended the game on visits and stuck around after to talk with the staff.
For the prospects, it was a chance to take in the environment of a sold out arena with a ranked Ohio State team that is only on an upward trajectory. For Holtmann, it’s a chance to make sure the trajectory stays going up by stocking up on future talent.
“I mean how can you not want to be a part of something like this,” Holtmann said. “[The recruits] did catch just a glimpse of what we hope to be and the exciting thing is we have opportunity in front of us with who we’re graduating and kind of the roster rebuild that we’re going to have to undertake here in the next couple years.”
Taken at face value, the 82-64 win against Iowa does not seem to mean too much for No. 14 Ohio State. The Buckeyes were heavily favored, expected to beat down on the Hawkeyes, and they did just that.
The win for the Buckeyes does have 2017-18 implications. After No. 4 Michigan State took down No. 3 Purdue, Ohio State was able to move past its tie with the Boilermakers — the Buckeyes already held the tiebreaker with the head-to-head win — and step out a whole game in front of the Big Ten pack with just four games left in its schedule.
A winning team is naturally going to be easier to sell than a losing one, and Ohio State is the former. Sitting well ahead of nearly any preseason expectation with a 22-5 overall record and 13-1 conference record, recruits can easily buy into Holtmann’s pitch.
This type of season does not just happen every year, however, and there is a chance Ohio State regresses in 2018-19. There will again be a lot of uncertainty with the roster, just as there was at the beginning of this season.
Redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop is likely headed to the NBA draft, while the eligibility of both senior forward Jae’Sean Tate and redshirt senior guard Kam Williams will expire. That leaves only freshman center Kaleb Wesson and junior guard C.J. Jackson as returning starters.
Ohio State does bring in the 22nd-best recruiting class in the country and sixth-best in the conference, according to 247Sports Composite rankings for 2018. Among those recruits are four-star shooting guard Luther Muhammad and four-star small forward power forward JaeDon LeDee, who could each slide into open spots that Williams and Bates-Diop vacate. It will also have key freshman returnees like forward Kyle Young and guard Musa Jallow, both could be asked to step up and could take on starting roles for the team.
This is not all to say that Ohio State should expect a losing season next year and that the Holtmann-era will have started off with an outlier. Holtmann and his staff have shown they can answer question marks emphatically and maximize the talent on their roster.
But when a team is experiencing success, it behooves the coaching staff to do all it can to capitalize on the hype surrounding the program and the excitement shown when nearly 20,000 people pack into the Schottenstein Center for a game most expect to be an Ohio State blowout.
When things are going right, players and coaches want to make sure they are getting all the appropriate and deserved attention from everyone who can ensure the success carries forward.
“It’s just a perfect storm,” Wesson said. “Everybody’s here to see it.”