Senior Writer

Flourishing Five No. 3: Backyard gives Matta, Bucks all they need


(Third in a series. Some schools have great football teams. Some have great basketball teams. But a select few have the best of both worlds. ranks and profiles the schools who’ve positioned themselves for success now and into the future in both sports. Today, No. 3 Ohio State. Mon., Aug. 2, No. 2 revealed.)

The secret to the success of Ohio State basketball can be found on the roster.

Don't bother with the names.

Look at the hometowns.

Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Solon, Ohio. Findlay, Ohio. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and on down the line. Add it up, and 10 of the 15 players on Ohio State's current roster are from the state of Ohio. So if you're looking for a reason why Thad Matta has turned the school's basketball program into a dominant force that helped land OSU on the list of the nation's best combined football/basketball schools, that's a good place to start, with the hometowns of the players responsible for the rise to prominence.

"We have a lot of talent in the state of Ohio," said William Buford, a 6-foot-5 guard from -- where else? -- Toledo, Ohio. "There are players everywhere, and Ohio State is working really hard to keep that talent in Ohio."

Talk to coaches about what makes a job great, and they'll almost always tell you the same things: A strong financial commitment from the administration, first-class facilities, and a natural recruiting base. Ohio State has all three, and the perfect coach to take advantage of all three.

Thad Matta is terrific.

He spent his first four years as a college head coach winning championships at three different schools (Butler, Xavier and OSU) in three different leagues (Horizon, Atlantic-10, Big Ten), and he's made eight of the nine NCAA tournaments for which his teams have been eligible. He's won at least a share of seven league titles in 10 seasons as a coach and at least a share of three of the past five Big Ten championships. So it's probably safe to assume Matta would win regardless of whether he was at Ohio State or Oregon State, but the fact that he's at Ohio State means there's no ceiling on what can be accomplished.

Has Matta won a national title yet?


Flourishing Five: No. 3 Ohio State
Ohio State football
Dennis DoddDennis Dodd
No doubt Ohio State is a force. With five straight seasons atop the Big Ten, Jim Tressel's program helped cement Ohio State's spot on our super schools list. Read >>
Ohio State basketball
-- Big Ten regular-season champions (2005-'06, '06-'07, '09-'10)
-- Big Ten tournament champions (2007, '10)
-- Lost to Florida 84-75 in 2007 NCAA title game
-- 2008 NIT tournament champions
Draft picks
PlayerPick (Year)Team
Greg Oden1 (2007)Portland
Mike Conley Jr.4 (2007)Memphis
Daequan Cook21 (2007)Philadelphia
Kosta Koufos23 (2008)Utah
B.J. Mullens24 (2009)Dallas
Evan Turner2 (2010)Philadelphia
Recruiting Ohio St. hoops recruiting thrives
Series rundown
No. 5 Pittsburgh: Football | Basketball
No. 4 Wisconsin: Football | Basketball
No. 2 Texas: Football | Basketball
No. 1 Florida: Football | Basketball
Blog: Honorable mention | Who's the worst?
But remember, he's only 43. My guess is that he'll get that national title before he's 53, because a coach who stacks heralded recruits on top of each other should eventually cut nets, and I don't see any reason to think Matta won't continue to stack heralded recruits on top of each other, mostly because recruits in Ohio and the surrounding areas are pretty much stacked on top of each other, year after year after year.

Consider that Matta has signed eight McDonald's All-Americans in his past five classes, and five of the McDonald's All-Americans -- Daequan Cook (2006), Kosta Koufos (2007), William Buford (2008), B.J. Mullens (2008) and Jared Sullinger (2010) -- were from the state of Ohio. The other three -- Mike Conley (2006), Greg Oden (2006) and Deshaun Thomas (2010) -- were from bordering Indiana, less than 200 miles away from the Ohio State campus, point being that Matta took over the OSU program at a time when the area was producing or about to produce a flurry of elite prospects.

"I had no idea; I really didn't," Matta said when I asked, back when he was recruiting Sullinger, if he recognized the string of dominant post players that would come through when he accepted the Ohio State job in 2004. "The only one I knew was Greg. That was really about it."

But Oden has been far from it. Koufos (attended high school 128 miles from the OSU campus) and Mullens (attended high school 15 miles from the OSU campus) were also both talented enough to be one-and-done college players, and Sullinger -- a Columbus native whom Buford told me is going to "be a monster" as a freshman -- will almost certainly have the opportunity to be the fourth Ohio State post player in the past five years to be selected in the first round when the 2011 NBA Draft rolls around next June.

It's a remarkable amount of area-talent. Matta capitalizing on it despite constant turnover on his staff has allowed the Buckeyes to average 27 wins the past five seasons, and they'll enter next season with a top 10 ranking even without reigning National Player of the Year Evan Turner, the second overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. What's more, the success rooted in local recruiting has helped Matta expand his recruiting horizons, proof being how Ohio State is now seriously involved with a consensus top 10 prospect from Chicago (Anthony Davis) and Memphis (Adonis Thomas).

"Thad Matta and his staff are good enough at their jobs that they can go out of state and get some guys," said Evan Daniels, a national recruiting analyst for "His staff is putting him on the right guys, and he's pretty good at closing the deal. So they've established themselves, and they can recruit anywhere in the country. Obviously, there are certain pockets that are tough for anyone to get a player out of. But they've had enough success that they can now go out and throw their hat in the ring with anybody, and people will listen."

The result is winning seasons, one after another.

The end is nowhere in sight.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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