It seems like just yesterday Thad Matta was having his way with national Top 20 talent. He was a magnet for the best of the best. Names like Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, B.J. Mullens, William Buford, Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas come to mind, and there was plenty of other excellent talent mixed in (including Evan Turner who wasn’t quite as highly ranked). However, the last couple of classes have lacked that “marquee” name, with Matta missing out on the superstars. And, looking at the class of 2013 prospects, it seems he may come up empty again.
Don’t get me wrong, the class of 2011 was very good with guys like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross. But none of those guys was a Top 20 recruit or instant star. And this year’s class was almost an 0-fer, as Thad reeled in just one late recruit in Amadeo Della-Valle, whose name is awesome even if his game still needs some work.
So what gives? Is Thad suddenly losing his touch? I don't think so, but I can come up with at least three factors that are affecting his recruiting prowess - two John's and a state revival. Allow me to explain:
1) John Groce - The former assistant, who did a super job at Ohio the past four seasons before moving on to Illinois, had the reputation of being a great recruiter. Word is that he did a lot of the legwork in getting Oden and Conley, and helped Thad develop some solid roots with top AAU programs. My guess is that when he left it created a bit of a vacuum that has never been filled. I like Dave Dickerson, but I'm not sure he has been or will be as effective. Of course, Groce had Indiana roots, which helped greatly. There is always a harvest of talent in our neighbor to the west. Maybe Chris Jent can help out with recruiting since he is not only a good coach, but has NBA experience.
3) State of Indiana Basketball Revival - It sure was nice when IU was down and Purdue was in the twilight stage of Gene Keady's career. Consider that OSU brought in Oden, Conley, Walter Offut (who later starred at Ohio U.) and Thomas from the Hoosier state. Although he looks like a thinner, tanner version of actor Tom Arnold (which is not a compliment), Tom Crean has done a whale of job at Indiana, and it has started with keeping the best talent in state. Meanwhile, Matt Painter is also a good coach, and is doing a better job recruiting that Keady did in his final, few seasons. All of this means that it will be very difficult to get the best kids out of Indiana to head east to Columbus.
Although I think Thad and Co, can still win most of the battles for Ohio talent, that may not be enough to keep the Buckeyes at the top of the B1G or a Final Four contender. Ohio produces a lot of good players, but there are dry spells in concern to Top 20 talent. Thad needs to be able to get an occasional superstar from Illinois or Indiana, and that is going to be really tough to do in the near future. He will still reel in plenty of good players - but I think the gravy train may have dried up.