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Did Ohio State's coaching switch and personnel movement help or hurt the team for 2017-18?

November 02, 2017

Thad Matta’s abrupt dismissal from Ohio State this summer opened up one of the best high-major head coaching jobs in the country late in the offseason and vacated a different head coaching job previously occupied by Matta’s replacement. Amid speculation about high-profile names like Arizona’s Sean Miller and Xavier’s Chris Mack potentially succeeding Matta, the Buckeyes settled on a less highly touted, but still respected, HC: Butler’s Chris Holtmann. Less than two weeks after Ohio State announced it had hired Holtmann, a four-star recruit who’d signed to play for him at Butler the previous November revealed that he, too, was headed to Columbus. That prospect is Kyle Young, a 6’6’’ forward from Massillon, Ohio, who assessed a four-star rating from 247Sports. The Buckeyes’ roster changed in a few other ways after Holtmann was brought in: three-star shooting guard Musa Jallow committed to Ohio State in July and then reclassified from 2018 to 2017, three-star point guard Braxton Beverly left the team, and PG graduate transfer Andrew Dakich enrolled.

The combination of the coaching swap and the personnel movement that took place in its aftermath pushed the Buckeyes up from 87th to 77th in our projections. That bump had more to do with Young and the addition of roster depth than the regime change. Although Holtmann acquitted himself well at Butler, leading the Bulldogs to 70 total wins and an NCAA tournament appearance in each of his three seasons in charge of the program, Matta is a longtime winner in the Big Ten who twice reached the Final Four. And it wasn’t that long ago that he groomed D’Angelo Russell into the Big Ten freshman of the year and a top-two pick in the draft. The Buckeyes’ recent dip in form did not shake our model’s faith in Matta’s in-season coaching ability, but his recruiting prowess has tailed off since Russell left campus. To give one example, none of the five players in Matta’s 2015 class are still with the team. It would be a significant challenge for either Matta or Holtmann to get this roster into the NCAAs. The summer pickups helped a little, but probably not enough to put the Buckeyes in position to claim an at-large bid.

For Butler, losing Young isn’t a major blow this season. Although he would have battled for playing time as a freshman, the Bulldogs have enough bodies in the frontcourt to weather his departure, including preseason first-team All-Big East forward Kelan Martin. Butler is more likely to suffer from Young’s absence in two or three years, at which point he could have developed into a valuable contributor in the Big East.

On the flip side, our model is dinging the Bulldogs because of their coaching switch. Although former Butler guard LaVall Jordan comes well regarded from previous stints as a high-major assistant, he lacks head coaching experience. The Bulldogs have had success hiring “within the family” in the past, but Jordan’s ties to the program don’t ensure he’ll thrive in his new position, especially right away. 

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