Ohio State Basketball: Should Recruiting Struggles Be Dampening the Mood?

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Head coach Thad Matta of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts in the first half while taking on the Kansas Jayhawks during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

If you look at the Ohio State basketball program from the outside, everything looks great.

The Buckeyes are 2-0, ranked No. 4 in the country and coming off of their 11th ever trip to the Final Four. What’s more, Thad Matta has two of the best players in the country at his disposal this season with Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas.

Theoretically, the Scarlet and Gray should be one of the most optimistic fanbases in the entire nation right now.

But is there a reason to pump the brakes on the Ohio State bandwagon for the time being?

If there is, it is the recent struggles that Matta and his coaching staff have experienced on the recruiting trail this year.

Matta is typically one of the best coaches in the country when it comes to convincing high-school talent to join his program.

Per Scout.com, the Buckeyes’ head man brought in the No. 8 ranked class in 2011, No. 3 ranked class in 2010, No. 2 ranked class in 2008, No. 7 ranked class in 2007 and No. 2 ranked class in 2006.

The most famous of those groups was 2006’s “Thad Five” that included Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., David Lighty and Daequan Cook.

Yes, that pattern ended when Ohio State only brought in one freshman in the 2012 class, but it was easy to dismiss that as a blip on the radar that only occurred because of scholarship uncertainty regarding Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and the NBA.

However, it would be understandable for Buckeye fans to be somewhat pessimistic about Matta’s recruiting so far for the 2013 class.

As a brief summary, the following is a list of the players that Ohio State heavily pursued that have passed on the chance to come to Columbus.

Rodney Hood (a Mississippi State transfer) elected to go to Duke, top-10 prospect Noah Vonleh chose Indiana, Nigel Hayes is going to Wisconsin, Ishmail Wainright will be attending Baylor, Devin Williams chose West Virginia and BeeJay Anya liked North Carolina State.

There are a number of red flags from that list.

For one, Matta is losing players to Big Ten rivals. Another concern is that Anya decided to forego his official visit to Columbus altogether and Hood was childhood friends with Buckeye LaQuinton Ross but still chose elsewhere.

With all that in mind, should these recruiting struggles be dampening the mood among the Buckeye faithful despite a promising start to the season?

With the Midwest such a basketball battleground (Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Xavier and Butler all recruit from the same areas), is Matta losing his golden touch on the recruiting trail?

Let’s not jump the gun just yet. Matta has received commitments from 6’8” wing player Marc Loving and 6’2” three-point threat Kameron Williams, so the sky is still in place for now.

Matta is also still in the running for two of the best players in the country— 6’10” center Dakari Johnson and 6’7” Andrew Wiggins, who is only considered the top prospect in the entire class of 2013.

Perhaps more importantly, his 2011 class is just beginning to see the court consistently. Young players such as Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross will be in the program for a number of years, meaning a gap in recruiting wouldn’t necessarily cripple the future.

So don’t fret, Buckeye fans. While it is disconcerting that Matta has missed out on so many prospects the past few months, there is much more to feel optimistic about.

Ohio State has one of the best teams in the nation taking the floor every game, a number of young players who will help maintain the recent level of success and an outside chance at the top recruit in the country for next year.

Enjoy the ride. But if the recruiting doesn’t pick up in the next year or so, you have my permission to worry.