Ohio State is sitting at 8-3, 2-0 on the season and the Buckeyes are what some might call “ahead of schedule” in terms of what expectations were for Chris Holtmann’s first squad in Columbus.
On Monday, NCAA.com contributor and longtime college basketball analyst Andy Katz ranked Ohio State No. 35 in the country in his weekly power rankings.
The Buckeyes could easily be 9-1, 2-0 on the season had it not been for a pair of games in which Ohio State blew double-digit second-half leads. By the same token, Ohio State could be sitting at 7-4, 1-1 had the Buckeyes not pulled off a 20-point comeback at home against Michigan on Dec. 4.
With all of that being said, Holtmann said Monday on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference that he is not focused on where his team stands in the eyes of the media or fans just 11 games in.
“It’s difficult at this point to press the pause button and look at stuff too much because I think you’re constantly aware as a coach that if you’re not growing from day-to-day and moment-to-moment, not only can you get complacent, you will get lapped,” Holtmann said. “I don’t pay attention to anything regarding rankings this time of year. I don’t know our league rankings (and) there are so many different polls.
“It’s so early and there is so much season left to be played for all of us, that I would caution anybody to draw too many conclusions from a pretty small sample size right now.”
The Buckeyes have won three straight games since dropping back-to-back contests against Butler and Clemson, but Holtmann has maintained that Ohio State still has plenty of room to improve.
One area that Holtmann would like to see improvement is in Ohio State’s attention to detail in the game plan leading up to a game. With a week separating the Buckeyes’ 97-62 win over William & Mary and their upcoming matchup against Appalachian State, Holtmann said he would like to see his teams’ focus improve in all facets of the game.
“I think defensively we have to continue to have a better understanding of what we are trying to do from game-to-game (in) the scouting report and the game plan,” Holtmann said. “Our commitment can continue to grow on that end. I think offensively, our ball movement and our ability to attack changing defenses, and our ability to play with pace offensively and understand what we are trying to do (can improve).
“Our ability to make good decisions with the ball and take care of the ball at a higher level. That is always going to be priority No. 1 for us until we get a better, consistent handle on that.”
Protecting the basketball has been an issue at times this season for Ohio State, but has seemingly improved in recent games. After being re-inserted into the starting lineup after a pair of games on the bench, junior C.J. Jackson did not commit a single turnover against William & Mary.
Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate, who has shared the primary ballhandling duties this season, is tied for the team lead in turnovers with Jackson (31). Tate, however, is still adjusting to his new role, and Holtmann said the Pickerington, Ohio native can still make strides as a point guard.
“I think he has adjusted well and I think the maturation is hopefully going to continue,” Holtmann said. “He knows he has some ways to go in that area, but he has been more than willing to do whatever we ask.”
In addition to being a facilitator, Tate, along with junior Keita Bates-Diop, continue to be Ohio State’s leaders on and off the floor. As the season progresses, Holtmann said he has seen glimpses of other Buckeyes taking leadership roles, but added Tate and Bates-Diop are the unquestioned leaders in the locker room.
“It’s really been those two guys primarily. I think that other guys, whether it’s Kam (Williams) at times or Joey (Lane) at times or Andrew Dakich, C.J. those four have all had moments where they have stepped into an influential role in certain ways,” Holtmann said. “But it has really been primarily led by Keita and Jae’Sean.”