Recruiting Mishaps Showing Their Impact at Ohio State

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 9th, 2016

After Ohio State’s home overtime loss to Florida Atlantic earlier this week, along with the very real threat of missing a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, it is time to admit that something might be wrong in Columbus. Head coach Thad Matta is currently in the midst of the most difficult stretch of his 13-year career with the Buckeyes after a dominant run that included two Final Four appearances, three Elite Eights, five Sweet Sixteens and four Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. The program’s momentum clearly seems to have stalled, and we’re left to wonder if this is a permanent decline for the former rising star or a just an inevitable rough patch after several years of sustained success. One possible explanation for the recent downturn is related to Matta’s recruiting stumbles in recent years — mistakes which may not be evident to many — and the cascading effects they’ve had on the current roster.

Keita Bates-Diop (right) has been good, but not quite to the level of expectations he had as a Top 30 recuit (Jay LaPrete, AP).

Keita Bates-Diop (right) has been good, but not quite to the level of expectations of a top 30 recruit (Jay LaPrete, AP).

In his most successful years, Matta relied on top-tier talent to fill out his roster. Ohio State landed a top 10 recruiting class in five of the six cycles between 2006-11, populated by transcendent players like Greg Oden, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger, first round talent like Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos and Byron Mullens, and college standouts like David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Matta’s 2012 and 2013 classes, however, fell outside the top 25. The effects of this lull in talent procurement were latent because Thomas and Craft played into their upperclassmen seasons. The Buckeyes bounced back with top 10 classes in 2014 and 2015, but for various reasons their results have been mixed.

The Class of 2014 produced a transcendent one-and-done talent in D’Angelo Russell, but the remaining players have not lived up to their hype. Keita Bates-Diop, while certainly a serviceable player on the wing, has never matured into the high-level, athletic do-it-all guard he was supposed to become. Classmate Jae’Sean Tate currently leads the team in scoring (14.0 PPG) and rebounding (7.8 RPG) but he clearly isn’t of the caliber of many of Matta’s team leaders of years past. The 2015 class produced highly-regarded point guard JaQuan Lyle, who, while at times has shown flashes of brilliance, has also been maddeningly inconsistent. The remaining four recruits from last year’s class have all transferred away.

This leaves Ohio State with essentially only six reliable contributors — none of whom is a quintessential go-to-guy — as we approach the 2017 Big Ten campaign. That’s the result of four straight years of recruiting classes that have failed to live up to their billing. What should be even more concerning is that the cupboard doesn’t seem much fuller in the future. The current roster of contributors is almost entirely comprised of junior and seniors and, as of now, the Buckeyes are nowhere to be seen in the Class of 2017. Matta has earned the benefit of the doubt and he certainly deserves time to turn things around. But it is also clear that he may need to reset his approach if high-level talent no longer seems to be part of the formula in Columbus. Upcoming games against Connecticut and UCLA might tell the tale for the rest of this season.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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