Getty Images/Jared Wickerham
Butler head coach Chris Holtmann reportedly has moved to the top of the list to replace Thad Matta at Ohio State.

Ohio State basketball might have found a winner in Chris Holtmann, J.T. Barrett beats the blitz and more

Ryan Ginn

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Today is Friday, June 9, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


Ohio State could land on a winner

Things are suddenly looking up again in the world of Ohio State basketball.

In Thursday’s Wake Up Sloopy, we covered the fact that the presumed choice for the job, Creighton’s Greg McDermott, wasn’t going over so well among college basketball analysts. McDermott ended up staying at Creighton, which was a weird combination of relieving and embarrassing for Ohio State fans. Buckeyes fans weren’t stuck with a choice they hated, but that also meant a coach they viewed as unworthy turned them down instead of vice versa.

They’ll have no such problems with the next choice. Late Thursday night, it came to light that Ohio State was negotiating with Butler’s Chris Holtmann. The good vibes about his candidacy may have partly been a result of the McDermott fear, but Holtmann can also flat-out coach. In 2016-17, he led Butler to the Sweet 16 and earned the highest seed the program has ever reached, No. 4.

He’s had recent success recruiting Ohio, he’s won at least one NCAA Tournament game every year he’s been at Butler, and college basketball analysts consistently speak well of him. This spring, he won the John McLendon Award as CollegeInsider.com’s choice as the top coach in the country.

There are bigger names out there, but given the circumstances, it would be hard for Ohio State to do better when it comes to replacing a legend in June.

J.T. Barrett outwits blitzes

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett got his fair share of criticism last fall, but the offensive struggles weren’t entirely his fault.

The offensive line and particularly right tackle Isaiah Prince didn’t show up against the biggest opponents. The wide receivers almost never gained separation. The coaching … well, the offensive coordinator is now the offensive line coach at Minnesota.

There is one area in particular in which Barrett excelled, though. No returning quarterback finished better against the blitz than Barrett last season. As a junior, he didn’t throw a single interception while being blitzed, and his passer rating is also tops of the returning players.

New quarterbacks coach Ryan Day spoke this spring about being able to anticipate, a skill that Barrett uses against blitzing defenses.

“One of the biggest things I talk to the quarterbacks about a lot is if you anticipate what is going to happen, as opposed to react, for quarterbacks that is very important,” he said. “If you are just out there reacting to what the defense is showing you, I think you can be a little bit late or you may not see a guy.

“But when you are anticipating and you know what the defense is doing before you take the ball, that’s where you go from good to great.”

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge whimsy

Ohio State will get another shot at Clemson, but this one is coming on the hardwood.

The powers behind the Big Ten/ACC Challenge apparently have a sense of humor. One of the 2017 matchups will feature Ohio State and Clemson in a basketball version of the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers famously shut out the Buckeyes, 31-0, in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 31.

Ohio State won’t have to worry about not scoring points in this one, but the Buckeyes could have their hands full against a team that came much closer last season to making the NCAA Tournament.

After a quick run through the matchups, here’s how I’d rank the 14 games in terms of overall interest and intrigue.

Duke at Indiana
Michigan at North Carolina
Notre Dame at Michigan State
Louisville at Purdue
Wisconsin at Virginia
Miami at Minnesota
Maryland at Syracuse
Northwestern at Georgia Tech
Iowa at Virginia Tech
Illinois at Wake Forest
Clemson at Ohio State
Penn State at North Carolina State
Boston College at Nebraska
Florida State at Rutgers

B1G happenings

• Former Indiana receiver found dead in a river.

• What college football preview magazines say about Michigan State.

• Penn State already has a date for its 2018 spring game.

• Christian Hackenberg’s accuracy — or lack thereof  is a safety hazard.

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