Ohio State Basketball: 5 Reasons Buckeyes' Championship Window Is Still Open
Yesterday I presented the case for why the Ohio State Buckeyes’ championship window is now closed.
Today, in an effort to embrace my inner devil’s advocate, I will argue that the championship window is in fact not closed.
With Thad Matta at the helm, there is reason to be optimistic if you are a Buckeyes fan. Sure, the near misses have been frustrating recently (most notably last year’s Final Four collapse and the title game loss in 2007), but the mere fact that Ohio State is consistently playing late into March is promising.
In the very least, the law of averages is in the Buckeyes’ corner, since they haven’t won a title since the 1960 season.
Nevertheless, here are five more substantial reasons than the law of averages to explain why Ohio State’s championship window is in fact still open.
Yes, the name beckons images of Woody Hayes prowling the sidelines and Archie Griffin dashing past defenders, but basketball has its place as well.
The fact of the matter is that Ohio State is a brand name in collegiate sports. It doesn’t take a die-hard fan to know who the Buckeyes are, and they will always be on the radar in some fashion or another.
That applies for recruits as well. While in-game coaching is monumentally important, collegiate coaches truly earn their paychecks by convincing the best high-school players in the country to wear the right colors.
Therefore, if Ohio State is a brand name that every recruit knows about, the chance of landing top players is always going to be there.
It means something when Thad Matta walks into someone’s living room with the scarlet and gray on. It means tradition, Final Fours, unlimited national exposure and a chance to play at the next level.
As long as this holds true, the Buckeyes will have more than a fighting chance to land the recruits necessary to guide them to the promised land.
Football Returning to Prominence
Speaking of brand names, thanks to Urban Meyer, the world of college football is about to welcome one of its marquee members back to prominence.
But what does the return of Ohio State football have to do with Thad Matta’s program?
More than you would think.
Matta has made a habit of inviting recruits on his radar to prime-time games in Ohio Stadium. Glance at the sidelines this season when the Buckeyes are battling with the Wolverines or under the lights against Nebraska, and I guarantee there will be basketball hopefuls taking in the entire Horseshoe experience.
The roar of 100,000 scarlet and gray-clad fans in one of the greatest cathedrals in college sports is sure to make an impact on some of them.
Additionally, when the football program is rolling in Columbus, there is more money available for the entire athletic department. Like it or not, this matters.
More money available means more opportunities to build top-notch facilities, recruit the nation with jet planes and much more.
Football is the lifeblood for many athletic departments. Ohio State is no different.
Thad Matta is the best thing to happen to Ohio State basketball since Fred Taylor was guiding Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek to a national championship.
In addition to rescuing the program from the scandal that ended Jim O’Brien’s Buckeyes coaching career, Matta has led Ohio State to the NCAA title game, two Final Fours, three Sweet 16s, five Big Ten regular season titles, three Big Ten Tournament titles and won the National Invitation Tournament in the only season that an eligible Matta-led squad didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Throw in the fact that he has won at least 20 games every year of his career and already ranks in the top 20 of all-time in Big Ten conference victories, and it isn’t a bad resume.
Despite these successes, Matta’s ultimate influence extends beyond the playing court. Recently, Matta convinced Ohio State to move the student section to the sidelines, creating a much more hostile home court advantage, and has obtained approval for the construction of a top-notch basketball practice facility.
These types of things would have been unheard of in football-crazed Columbus before the fastest Buckeyes coach to 200 wins took over.
As long as Matta is around, the Ohio State basketball program is in good hands and has a legitimate chance to win a national title.
Increase in NBA Ambassadors
Ohio State is not, and may never be, North Carolina, Kentucky or UCLA when it comes to producing NBA stars.
However, while certain Buckeyes players can be criticized for their lack of production (sorry Greg Oden) at the professional level, no Big Ten program came close to logging as many NBA minutes last season as Ohio State. Michigan State finished second and was more than 3,000 minutes behind the Bucks.
With players like Evan Turner and Mike Conley Jr. playing in the NBA playoffs, high-school recruits will be reminded that Ohio State had a hand in helping them reach the pinnacle of the sport.
However, perhaps the best NBA ambassador that Ohio State has is someone who didn’t even attend the school (and may not be in the best graces of some Buckeyes fans).
It’s no secret that the defending MVP is a Buckeyes supporter. If the best basketball player in the world is behind your program, future stars will take notice.
While the NCAA would frown upon James steering recruits Columbus’ way, just his mere affiliation with the program could make an impact on the next generation of NCAA champions.
May Be Primed for Title Run in 2013-14
While the majority of these reasons deal with attracting top talent in the future and maintaining a spot among college basketball’s elite, the current Ohio State roster may be primed for a run at the title soon.
While it is difficult to imagine the Buckeyes losing All-American Jared Sullinger and four-year starter William Buford (without the help of a formidable recruiting class to replace the production) and winning a championship this season, the nucleus may be in place.
If we are working under the tenuous assumption that Deshaun Thomas returns for his senior season, Ohio State will have a rarity in today’s college basketball world: three senior leaders.
However, the 2013-14 Buckeyes will have more than the leadership and ability of Thomas, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Aaron Craft. They will have an experienced core of young stars in LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams.
All four of these players were highly-touted recruits (Scott and Williams were McDonald’s All-Americans), meaning that an entire year of seasoning in 2012-13 will give them the experience to match their talent. By the time this group is upperclassmen, it will form a lethal combination of ability and chemistry when paired with the seniors.
Moreover, there will undoubtedly be a batch of highly-ranked recruits joining this core. In fact, 4-star forward Marc Loving has already verbally committed to the Buckeyes and more should follow.
It’s hard to say the championship window is closed when there is a chance one will be won in the next two seasons.
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