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Ohio State made the inevitable the official in a rare and stunning in-season move, firing men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann Wednesday in the midst of his seventh season as the Buckeyes flounder their way to the regular-season finish line. The Buckeyes fell for the ninth time in their last 11 outings Tuesday -- a 62-54 road loss to Wisconsin -- which preceded the move. The loss dropped them to within one game of last place in the Big Ten and put them on track to finish 13th in the regular season race for a second consecutive season.

Ohio State's decision to not let Holtmann play out the string and to cut him loose with six games left in the season opens the job of a highly coveted position at a major university that has a track record of success, plays in a top-three basketball league and has infinite resources on hand to compete in the modern era. Perhaps most importantly, it puts the Buckeyes on the map as a marquee destination in what projects to be an active carousel season with numerous high-major candidates potentially available and other mid-major stars worthy of bigger gigs. New athletic director Ross Bjork, who is expected to lead the search, should have a nice list from which to choose from as he targets his next coach.

Holtmann found success early and often in his first five years with Ohio State and led the team to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, during which he led the program to a 107-56 record. The last two seasons have been an unmitigated disaster, though, and with Ohio State at .500 in that span -- including 9-25 in league play -- the move to sever ties and to enter the market first ahead of the offseason makes sense.

The Big Ten has positioned itself to be a top-two conference in the new era of college athletics, and Bjork has a number of positives to sell prospective candidates -- ranging from resources to the league to the big brand of Ohio State itself among the many alluring aspects. There are high expectations at OSU as we've seen play out with Holtmann, who seemingly bought himself some goodwill and apparently used it all up in a short and disastrous span of two years, but you can win at the highest level here, too. The appeal should draw out some big names.

With that said, here are six possible candidates the school could target as it looks to replace Holtmann in the coming weeks and months.

Dusty May, FAU coach

A former student manager for Indiana's basketball program under Bob Knight, May projects to be one of the most sought after coaches should he choose to leave FAU this offseason. May, 47, led FAU to the Final Four last season and subsequently signed a 10-year deal with the school after the Owls set a school record with 35 wins. He is 120-65 since taking over the program in 2018 and has a wealth of assistant coaching experience from which to pull from as well following stints at Florida, Louisiana Tech and UAB, among others, the last two decades. 

Lamont Paris, South Carolina coach

After an 11-21 debut season at South Carolina, Paris has the Gamecocks in contention to win the SEC with a 21-3 overall record in his second year. Paris turned Chattanooga into a consistent winner in short order and helped lead the Mocs to a conference title before leaving for South Carolina, and now he has the Gamecocks positioned to win the SEC for the first time since 2009. He's a proven winner and builder who has shown an ability to win over big recruits and build successful rosters via the portal in the modern era. 

Sean Miller, Xavier coach

Miller's unceremonious exit from Arizona amid scandal in 2021 temporarily led him out of the sport, but he has been back at Xavier since last season and is widely still considered one of the best coaches in the game. Miller's won 70+% of his games as Xavier coach (including his first stint from 2004-2009 and his most recent stint from 2022-present) and he was immensely successful at Arizona, where he won 302 games and lost 109, prior to his finish there. The Musketeers have had a tough season in a loaded Big East but he coaches an exciting brand of basketball that would -- and has -- translated to success everywhere he has been.

Greg McDermott, Creighton coach

Georgetown coach Ed Cooley on Tuesday made a curious comment about McDermott as he ended his postgame press conference by encouraging Bluejays fans to appreciate him. McDermott signed a new multi-year deal in 2022 but his future has risen from a whisper to a murmur inside college basketball circles. The team is heading for a reset this offseason and a change of scenery for a great coach and a fresh start for the program could make sense for Ohio State. There's immense value in a proven commodity to succeed Holtmann, of which McDermott absolutely is. 

Nate Oats, Alabama coach

Oats became a hot candidate for his run as the Buffalo coach, where he finished his four-season stint by winning 32 games in 2018-19, and he has only burnished his bona fides in the five seasons since taking over the Crimson Tide. Alabama is 109-49 under his watch and the team plays as modern a style as any in the sport with an emphasis on playing with pace and focusing on 3-pointers and layups. Bama's in the mix to win a third SEC title since he took over, but his buyout is believed to be $12 million after signing a new deal last year that runs through 2028-29, which could be prohibitive. 

Mick Cronin, UCLA coach

Cronin has made it clear throughout this season he is unhappy about the support his program got during the offseason on the NIL front. He won 58 games the two seasons prior to this year, so it's unlikely he's looking for an exit even amid a down year, but a return to Ohio -- where he previously led Cincinnati -- would at least be worth Bjork's time to make a phone call and kick the tires.