So many assists
Players, coaches and staff were there for each other, navigating heartaches and holidays inside a bubble.
But Ohio State enjoyed a strong regular season and reached the Big Ten title game before losing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to Oral Roberts. The early exit stung the program, and yet the Buckeyes exceeded preseason expectations on several levels. The team wasn’t even ranked in the top 20 before the campaign tipped off Nov. 25. They finished 21–10 overall and 12–8 in the conference.
“We owned the fact we didn’t perform like we wanted to in the NCAA tournament,” Holtmann says of his final address to his players. “But we also acknowledged what we did between the end of the regular season and the end of the conference tournament — and it was significant.”
Holtmann was most proud of the maturity his group demonstrated in the face of unprecedented circumstances. His players were asked to live like hermits when they weren’t at the gym or attending rare in-person classes.
The players bought into the message of sacrifice for the sake of safety, limiting their exposures with the outside world. It meant not going to dinner or out with friends, Washington says. In some cases, it also meant not hugging parents after games.