When Chris Holtmann took the head coaching job at Ohio State, he knew what he was getting into. He was inheriting a team that had not made the NCAA Tournament since 2015, that had not reached the Final Four since 2012 and had not won a national championship since 1960 — the program’s only title.
In his first season, Holtmann got the Buckeyes back into the Tournament, but not past Gonzaga, who beat Ohio State in the Round of 32.
Even with the loss of Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams, even with a lack of identity heading into the season with the amount of new faces on the roster, Holtmann and Ohio State found their way back into the dance and will open their 2019 NCAA Tournament run as an 11-seed against six-seeded Iowa State on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ohio State (19-14, 8-12 Big Ten)
G — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 12.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.5 apg
G — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 8.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
G — Musa Jallow — Sophomore, 2.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.6 apg
F — Andre Wesson — Junior, 8.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.7 apg
F — Kaleb Wesson — Sophomore, 14.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
No. 24 Iowa State (23-11, 9-9 Big 12)
G — Marial Shayok — Redshirt senior, 18.6 ppg, 4,9 rpg, 2.0 apg
G — Talen Horton-Tucker — Freshman, 12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg
G — Nick Weiler-Babb — Senior, 9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.0 apg
G — Tyrese Haliburton — Freshman, 6.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg
F — Michael Jacobson — Redshirt junior, 11.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.8 apg
Ohio State has not played a team from the Big 12 since the 2012-13 season when the Buckeyes lost to Kansas 74-66 in the regular season and defeated the Cyclones 78-75 in the Round of 32 in the tournament.
When describing teams from the Big Ten, Holtmann usually describes them as “physical.” In the Big 12, he said teams are still very physical, but play at a faster pace than the Buckeyes will be used to.
Despite winning nine of 18 conference games this season, losing five of its last six regular season games, Iowa State found a way to perform well against the high-octane offenses in the Big 12 in the conference tournament, defeating Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas for its fifth title.
“You have to be really good to win your conference tournament in that league. And my guess is they were the No. 1 of the six seeds, I would guess,” Holtmann said. “They could have very easily been a five seed.”
Iowa State comes into the second round of the NCAA Tournament with one of the best offenses in the Big 12, averaging 77.2 points per game and shooting 47.7 percent from the field, both No. 1 in the conference.
Leading the way offensively is redshirt senior guard Marial Shayok, who, after transferring from Virginia, is averaging 18.6 points per game and shooting 49.4 percent from the field.
With primarily a four-guard, one-forward lineup, Iowa State is No. 8 in the Big 12 in rebounding, averaging 35 per game, 0.2 rebounds more than Ohio State.
But the relative rebounding success comes from what Holtmann describes as “super versatile pieces” on the roster. Two of the Cyclones’ guards are taller than 6 foot 5 inches, while 6-foot-4-inch freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker averages five rebounds per game.
In his first season with Iowa State, Horton-Tucker, who Holtmann recruited and called “terrific,” averages 12.1 points per game, shooting 41 percent from the field.
Overall, despite being one of the smaller teams Ohio State has faced, Holtmann said the Buckeyes will have their hands full with such a versatile team.
“They have always been very, very hard to guard,” Holtmann said.
Off the bench, Iowa State sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton has been an offensive force, averaging 13.5 points, second-best on the team, in 25.8 minutes per game.
Iowa State has also found success from 3, coming into the Tournament with a 36.6 percent completion percentage, third-best in the conference. Freshman guard Tyrese Halliburton leads the team in 3-point percentage, connecting on 44.1 percent of attempts from deep.
Ohio State will take on Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 9:50 p.m. on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.