The Ohio State University is still a football school. Always will be as long as 100,000-plus fans keep packing The Shoe on Saturdays in the fall.
But don't tell that to head basketball coach Thad Matta, who has put Buckeye hoops in elite company with an incredible run of success on the recruiting trail since his 2004 arrival in Columbus.
That success has translated into wins. In six seasons at OSU, Matta has delivered three Big Ten titles and a trip to the Final Four in 2007 among four NCAA Tournament appearances.
The only knock on the former Butler and Xavier head coach has been his inability to keep blue-chip recruits on campus – and that is a major stretch. With each NBA Draft early entrant that has left the program, Matta has re-stocked the roster in impressive fashion.
Ohio State has produced six first-round picks in the last four NBA Drafts – Evan Turner (2010, No. 2 overall pick), B.J. Mullens (2009, No. 24), Kosta Koufous (2008, No. 23), Greg Oden (2007, No. 1), Mike Conley Jr., (2007, No. 4) and Daequan Cook (2007, No. 21). Only Turner stayed longer than a year.
His most recent haul was rated the No. 3 recruiting class nationally by MaxPreps.com behind Kentucky and Memphis and included two of the top 12 seniors in America. Columbus product Jared Sullinger, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward, was the No. 2 prospect overall and should combine with returnees William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty to make the program a conference contender once again.
The 2010 class probably has a little more staying power than previous groups. Sullinger is a candidate to go one-and-done, but could find it difficult to post
Georgia point guard Shannon Scott, a 6-2 rising senior rated No. 25 in MaxPreps.com's 2011 Top 100, has already pledged to the Buckeyes to give Matta the first piece in what promises to be yet another nationally-ranked class.
Several elite prospects, including Mississippi's LaQuinton Ross and Louisiana's Ricardo Gathers, identified Ohio State as a prominent player in their recruitment last week in Las Vegas.
Even the players that got away from Matta turned out to be pretty special.
The Portland Trail Blazers picked Nevada's Luke Babbitt with the 16th overall pick in June's NBA Draft. Babbitt originally committed to Ohio State as a junior in high school, but reneged late in the process to stay close to home and signed with Nevada.
There was also talk of current Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor playing basketball at Ohio State. Pryor was an All-American two-sport star at Jeannette and there is little question he would have found his way on to the floor for Matta.
Pryor will have to settle for being the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy on a Buckeye team expected to compete for a national title.
In the end at The Ohio State University, it always comes back to football.