There is still plenty of time between now and college basketball signing day, but look for Ohio State’s 2014 class to be one of the best in the country.
The Buckeyes’ group was recently ranked No. 2 by 247sports.com behind only North Carolina.
In fact, Thad Matta already has four commits heading to Columbus as of now, while many of the national powers don’t even have a single one. Three of those four prospects are expected to contribute right away. Per Scout.com, D’Angelo Russell and Keita Bates-Diop are 5-star recruits, while Jae’sean Tate is a 4-star and Dave Bell is a 3-star.
While many schools would be more than satisfied with what Matta has already brought in for 2014, Ohio State is not done recruiting. The Scarlet and Gray would love to add another big man given the lack of depth they have behind Amir Williams (who is already a junior), but there is stiff competition on the recruiting trail.
Let’s take a look at that competition for some of the Buckeyes’ primary targets on a recruit-by-recruit basis.
Jahlil Okafor is the ultimate prize for teams looking for big men in the 2014 recruiting cycle, and Ohio State has an incredibly steep uphill battle if it hopes to land his services.
The fact of the matter is the Buckeyes’ biggest competition for Okafor is his own insistence on playing with point guard prospect Tyus Jones at the collegiate level. Matta probably only has one remaining scholarship to hand out for 2014, meaning the Buckeyes probably won’t land the closest thing to the Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. combination they did in 2006.
Duke is considered the favorites to land both Jones and Okafor, and with each recruiting update it seems like Ohio State falls further behind.
Ohio State and anyone else interested in Myles Turner is behind the eight ball right now because all signs are pointing in the right direction for the Kansas Jayhawks.
Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Oklahoma State and Texas also pose as obstacles to overcome for Matta in the pursuit of Turner, but the only official visit scheduled thus far is to Kansas on Oct. 4. That just so happens to be the Jayhawks’ “midnight madness” event, and the combination of the excitement surrounding that and Kansas’ storied history may be too much for other parties to overcome.
The Buckeyes have to leapfrog some of the game’s very best if they hope to land Turner.
Of all the big men still on the board that Ohio State is interested in, Matta has arguably the best chance to land Elbert Robinson.
The Buckeyes are considered one of the three finalists to land Robinson’s services, meaning their only real competition lies in the form of Georgetown and Louisville. Competing against two of the legendary programs in the game isn’t an easy task, especially when one of them is the defending national champions with Rick Pitino on the job.
Look for the Cardinals and Buckeyes (along with the Hoyas) to fight for Robinson for quite some time. He would really complete an impressive class for Matta.
Ohio State’s biggest competition for Goodluck Okonoboh (what a great name) may be its own timing in the recruiting game.
Matta may have been occupied elsewhere early in the 2014 cycle, but the Buckeyes were a bit late to the party in pursuing Okonoboh. Schools such as UNLV, Louisville, Duke, Indiana and Syracuse are all after Okonoboh, which means the Scarlet and Gray are facing quite the competition.
This is still a fairly wide open battle and fluid situation with the interested schools, so stay tuned.
Naming LaQuinton Ross as competition for Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class is clearly done with the tongue planted firmly in cheek, but the reality of the situation is Ross’ decision on the NBA will impact Matta’s recruiting.
The Buckeyes will have two scholarships remaining to possibly give out if Ross elects to go pro, while they would only have one if he stayed for his senior year. The best course of action would probably be to assume he is staying, and if he doesn’t, Ohio State can always bankroll that scholarship to what should be an impressive 2015 class.
Regardless of what happens with Ross, the Buckeyes’ 2014 recruiting haul should be impressive.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.