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ESPN Names Chris Holtmann The Best 1st-Year Coach In America

A closeup of Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann.

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17: Head coach Chris Holtmann of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts during the second half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Chris Holtmann tops the list of first-year coaches, according to ESPN.

Ohio State basketball wasn't supposed to bounce back this quickly.

After going 17-15 last year under Thad Matta, it was supposed to take a year or two at least before Chris Holtmann got the program back rolling. But Holtmann hasn't wasted any time.

As of now, the Buckeyes are 19-5 overall and 10-1 in the Big Ten, trailing only Purdue in the conference standings. Ohio State is also ranked 17th in the AP Poll.

ESPN re-did its rankings of first-year head coaches today. Some of these guys are in their first head coaching jobs, while others like Holtmann are just at new schools.

The last time ESPN did its rankings, Holtmann didn't even make the cut. Now he's the No. 1 first-year head coach.

Here's what ESPN's John Gasaway said about Holtmann:

Any of the other nine coaches listed here would have given his eyeteeth for a player the caliber of Keita Bates-Diop, who has been terrorizing opposing defenses from both sides of the arc. Holtmann would be the first to point out that having a conference-POY-level performer anchoring your offense is going to make you look like a really smart coach.

That being said, Holtmann has more than earned all the plaudits that have come his way. Indeed, the year-to-year turnaround Ohio State has recorded on defense, in particular, has been remarkable. The Buckeyes have held their Big Ten opponents to 0.97 points per possession, the best such figure (for now, by a hair) in the league.

Meanwhile, OSU has suddenly become a paragon of wise shot selection, draining no less than 58 percent of its 2-point tries in conference play. Defense and shot selection are pretty fair markers of good coaching, and Ohio State has a very good coach.

You can read the rest of the story here. It is an Insider piece, so you'll need a subscription.

Ohio State continues its 2017-18 season on Sunday against Illinois.