Watching Ohio State stumble through its conference schedule last season before a disappointing early exit in the NCAA tournament, it became apparent that roster imbalance was limiting the Buckeyes. Two true point guards with limited perimeter shooting skills, a lack of a bona fide interior weapon, and no consistent go-to scorer left Thad Matta's squad relying on stout defense to grind out ugly games.
As the Buckeyes prepare for the upcoming season and beyond, managing recruiting and scholarship allotment is a key to ensuring that the program does not endure another season like the one that ended against Dayton last March.
Ohio State will have twelve scholarship players in the fall, five of whom will be seniors. The breakdown looks like this:
Seniors: Anthony Lee, Trey McDonald, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams
Sophomores: Marc Loving, Trevor Thompson (redshirting)
Freshman: Keita Bates-Diop, David Bell, D'Angelo Russell, Jae'Sean Tate, Kam Williams
With only seven commitments beyond this year, Matta and his staff have a great deal of flexibility on the recruiting trail as they attempt to position the program for the future. The incoming freshman class, with McDonald's All-American and smooth scorer Russell, a pair of athletic wings in Bates-Diop and Tate, and redshirt member Williams, not only complements the existing roster, but forms a solid foundation moving forward.
Ohio State is taking advantage of its flexibility for future classes as well, as the 2015 recruiting class is shaping up to be just as versatile and highly-touted as this year's. With a true point guard (A.J. Harris), a sharp shooter (Austin Grandstaff), an athletic point-forward (Mickey Mitchell), a rim protecting center (Daniel Giddens), and the potential to add an offensively talented power forward (Carlton Bragg or Esa Ahmad), the Buckeyes look to be setting themselves up for deep postseason runs in the years to come.
Once this year's seniors have finished their careers, Ohio State will have eleven players under scholarship, barring any further moves, and no seniors thanks to Amadeo Della Valle's departure to play pro ball in Italy. More importantly, though, those players form a well-balanced roster. Jump forward a year and the Buckeyes look to be at least two-deep at every position on the court.
Matta will have flexibility and versatility on both ends of the court, with a roster that looks like this in 2015-16:
PG: Harris, Williams
SG: Russell, Grandtsaff
SF: Bates-Diop, Tate, Mitchell
PF: Loving, Bell
C: Thompson, Giddens
If another member is added to the 2015 class such as Ahmad or Bragg, and assuming that Russell does not go the one-and-done route, Ohio State would be one scholarship short of the thirteen permitted. The Buckeyes also must maintain some flexibility for the 2016 class, with targets such as V.J. King of St. Vincent-St. Mary, Derek Funderburk of St. Edward, and Omari Spellman, a former North Royalton star who is transferring to a Massachusetts prep school.
The key for Matta as he and his staff recruit the next generation of Buckeyes is to maintain balance up and down the roster. Failure to learn from past mistakes could result in future seasons of disappointment. Learning from them, though, could be the first step towards Ohio State cutting down some nets.