The hits just keep on coming for the Ohio State men's basketball program.
It was announced Saturday that JaQuan Lyle, the team's third-leading scorer from last season, is no longer part of the program. Lyle's departure not only leaves a massive hole in the Buckeyes' backcourt but it also becomes the latest black mark in quite a series of them for Thad Matta's program.
Ohio State finished just 17-15 last season and missed postseason play all together. It was the second-straight year the Buckeyes missed the NCAA tournament after qualifying seven consecutive seasons. Additionally, last year was the first time in Matta's career he failed to reach 20 wins.
Lyle's departure also means zero members of Ohio State's once highly-touted recruiting class remain on the roster. Austin Grandstaff transferred midway through his freshman season in 2015 and then Daniel Giddens, A.J. Harris and Mickey Mitchell all followed suit at the end of that campaign. Lyle was the only player who stuck around for his sophomore season, but now he too is no longer with the program.
The Buckeyes were recently affected on the recruiting trail, as well, as their top-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Darius Bazley, announced his decommitment.
All of the recent departures coupled with the on-court struggles the last two years have many fans worried about the state of the program — and for good reason. However, prior to the Buckeyes' Big Ten tournament appearance, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith issued a public statement of support for Matta.
“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve," Smith said then. "I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13-year tenure."
To make matters worse, there isn't much reason for optimism going forward into next season. Yes, Ohio State returns a core of players but the losses of Lyle and Thompson cannot be overstated. Additionally, the Buckeyes only have a two-man recruiting class incoming in Kaleb Wesson and Braxton Beverly.
As things stand right now, here is a potential starting five for Ohio State next year:
- PG: C.J. Jackson
- SG: Kam Williams
- SF: Keita Bates-Diop
- PF: Jae'Sean Tate
- C: Kaleb Wesson
That would leave a bench that consisted of Beverly, Andre Wesson, Derek Funderburk and Micah Potter. However, Williams currently has his name in the NBA Draft. He has until May 24 to withdraw and retain eligibility — which appears to be the likely choice.
Either way, Matta's program is in quite a bit of disarray at this point in time. And as things stand right now, he's going to be given another year to get it headed back in the right direction.
Matta is 337–123 (.733) over his 13-year tenure as the Buckeyes' head coach. He's the winningest coach in program history, won five Big Ten regular season titles and four Big Ten tournament titles. He's also been to a pair of Final Fours.
Matta has built up quite a resumé for himself in Columbus, but at some point, there needs to be some positives. It's been quite some time since that's happened.
Because if that doesn't happen, the most successful era in Ohio State basketball history could come to an end.