Thad Matta will not be easy to replace at Ohio State. The longtime Buckeyes coach was fired in a surprise announcement on Monday afternoon. With the firing taking place so late in the College Basketball calendar, finding an adequate replacement for next season may be a struggle. Athletic Director Gene Smith reportedly has a lofty wish list in terms of how he's going to fill the position, but these are the four best candidates who could be realistic hires in the coming weeks.

4. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

This is probably the biggest long shot on the list. Marshall is firmly entrenched at one of the best mid-major programs in the country and the Shockers are in the process of moving to a new conference.

He makes over $3 million annually at Wichita State, so Ohio State would have to pony up for Marshall to replace Matta.

3. Chris Jent, Ohio State

The easiest hire for Ohio State would be an internal one. He played for the Buckyes almost three decades ago and is in the midst of his second stint on the team's bench. He has served as an interim coach for the Orlando Magic and the coach for the D-League Bakersfield Jam. The falloff from Matta to Jent likely wouldn't be a precipitous drop.

2. Jeff Boals, Stony Brook

Ohio State would likely want to hire someone with a bit more head coaching experience than Boals, but he has the requisite ties to the school and the state. He served as an assistant under Matta for seven years before taking over at Stony Brook, where he went 18-14 during his first campaign.

He would almost certainly jump at the job if the school were to offer it to him.

1. Tom Crean

On the surface, this may seem unfathomable. Why would the Buckeyes hire a coach who was recently fired by one of their bigger rivals, Indiana University? For starters, they aren't going to find a bigger name coach who is a free agent right now.

He seems to be interested in doing some television work, but there's no doubt that he would be motivated to redeem his sullied name in college basketball circles. He has ties to the Big Ten, which means he also has ties to the Big Ten recruiting scene. The Ohio State AD suggested that recruiting failures were one of the reason for relieving Matta from his duties on Monday.

If Crean is able to win those key recruiting battles, he may be able to restore the program back to the heights of the Thad Matta era. It's not a likely scenario, but it's certainly a rather intriguing one to consider.

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