BOISE, Idaho — Chris Holtmann was looking for a game-plan assist for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ohio State coach got one from the coach he’s about to face in the second round.
Late Monday night in the Eastern time zone, after a full day of working up a plan to slow down South Dakota State star Mike Daum, Holtmann hit send on a call to the West Coast. Gonzaga’s Mark Few apparently had some free time on his hands or just wanted to see the Buckeyes again after demolishing them 86-59 in November — or maybe both, since he took the call and offered a bit of help.
Given the choice between another matchup with the high-scoring Daum or a team that Gonzaga beat handily early in the year, Few probably didn’t have to think twice.
“Hell yeah, I trust him,” Holtmann joked in the locker room after the 81-73 win against South Dakota State on Thursday. “Shoot, after playing us, he wants to play us again. I mean, he was hoping for that matchup.
“He probably would have given me his whole scouting report on them after he played us.”
There were some differences between the Jackrabbits from last season and the ones that nearly rallied down the stretch against the Buckeyes, but Daum was the primary concern in either case.
Ohio State couldn’t completely shut him down, but Daum had to work hard for his 27 points. The aggressive defensive looks the Buckeyes threw at Daum left him looking occasionally exhausted, with him turning the ball over 4 times along the way.
That was good enough for the rejuvenated Buckeyes as their own offense came alive with three different players finishing with at least 20 points. It set the stage for a rematch against Gonzaga that at least in some small fashion Few worked to produce.
“I called Mark at about 10 o’clock in my office on Monday,” Holtmann said. “I said, ‘Mark, what’s going on?’ And he goes, ‘Ah, I’m just drinking a beer, looking at the mountains here.’ And I said, ‘Mark, I’m in the office with Coach [Ryan] Pedon putting the game plan together for South Dakota State.’ Somehow, something was not right there.
“I really like him. I think he’s one of the best coaches out there.”
Holtmann has proven he belongs in that discussion, as well.
And after a friendly conversation at the beginning of the week, the two will spend the end of it competing head to head.