LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — What if I told you that you didn’t need a roster packed with 5- or even 4-star recruits to be a Top 10-team in college basketball this season?
Or if I told you that having Top-20 recruiting classes has become optional?
First, you’d probably tell me to quit talking like that guy who promos the “30 for 30” series on ESPN. I understand.
Then you’d tell me prove it, wise guy.
I’ll make my case, starting with Rick Barnes and the incredible job he has done at Tennessee, a team worth considering on the brink of the Vols' trip to Kentucky on Saturday night.
Pardon me while I wash the glaze from my eyes, but I sorted through recruiting rankings of the last four classes for the teams in the current Associated Press Top 10.
For Duke, that’s easy. For Kentucky, I can do it without turning on my computer.
After that …
… after that it requires patience, multiple Google searches and reliance on 247Sports, ESPN, Ken Pomeroy and at least one football website.
Gonzaga, Nevada and Houston live in a different galaxy than the local teams we watch conference play. They’re not afraid to take chances on guys ranked near the bottom of the recruiting rankings or have washed out at different schools.
It’s a trend, at least this season. This is what I discovered while checking the last four recruiting classes at teams in the Feb. 11 AP Top 10.
*Only 15 of the 40 recruiting classes were considered Top 20 groups — and 11 of those 14 were signed by Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina.
*Three of the top 10 — top ranked Tennessee, Nevada and Houston — have not signed a Top-20 class.
Four other Top-10 teams — Gonzaga, Virginia, Michigan and Marquette — have enjoyed just one Top-20 class.
*If you check the eight guys who have logged the most minutes, half the Top-10 teams do not have players with average recruiting rankings of 3.5 stars or better.
Take another bow, Barnes. The Vols appear on that list. Tennessee has become a somebody with a bunch of nobodies.
There is your tease. Here is your list.
Player Average Ranking: 3.125 stars
Class Average Ranking: 69.5
I double-checked the rankings of the Vols’ top eight players. One was ranked a 4-star recruit by 247Sports. That’s Yves Pons, a sophomore forward who ranks eighth on the Vols in scoring.
Grant Williams, Tennessee’s top scorer, was ranked No. 191 in his class. Admiral Schofield, the Vols’ second-best player, was No. 251.
Somebody in Knoxville is doing a phenomenal job of scouting and developing because the average recruiting ranking of Tennessee’s top eight players is 218.
None of the Vols’ top eight players was a Top-100 recruit.
The Vols do not have a first-round NBA Draft pick, which explains why skeptics insist Tennessee will not win the NCAA title. Could be. But Barnes is doing something right.
Player Average Ranking: 4.5 stars
Class Average Ranking: 1.25
Nothing to see here. As you saw Tuesday night at the KFC Yum! Center, Mike Krzyzewski have five 5-stars in his lineup — and he can bring a pair of 4-stars and a lowly 3-star (Alex White) off the bench.
Player Average Ranking: 2.625
Class Average Ranking: 80.25
You’ve got to hunt and gather to rank Mark Few’s squad. Four of the Zags were considered 4-star recruits.
But guard Geno Crandell earned no stars before he started his career at North Dakota and Brandon Clarke was considered a 2-star when he began his career at San Jose State. Ken Pomeroy’s player efficiency rankings currently rank Clarke No. 5 in the nation.
Then there is back-up forward Jeremy Jones. He was considered a 3-star recruit in high school — as a football quarterback prospect. During his time at Rice, Jones switched to basketball full time. He’s a factor with the Zags.
Mark Few knows that he is doing.
Player Average Ranking: 3.75
Class Average Ranking: 57.5
Five-star prospects and one-and-done NBA guys have never been gaga about the patient and methodical style that Tony Bennett prefers at Virginia.
Although the Cavaliers have six four-star recruits in their rotation, center Jack Salt and guard Kihei Clark were only 3-star gets.
Player Average Ranking: 4.75
Class Average Ranking: 1.75
You know the way John Calipari does it in Lexington. Tyler Herro and Stanford transfer Reid Travis were ranked 4-star prospects by 247Sports, but Calipari’s six other top players were 5-star recruits.
Player Average Ranking: 3.75
Class Average Ranking: 48.25
John Beilein is another scout and development guy, a skill he had to learn at Canisius, Richmond and even West Virginia.
The Wolverines 2018 recruiting class was ranked No. 12 but the three groups that preceded it were ranked 43rd, 31st and 107th. Michigan State certainly has more talent.
Player Average Ranking: 2.125
Class Average Ranking: 90
I would have finished this story an hour earlier but it was a challenge finding the recruiting rankings for Eric Musselman’s team. Seven of Nevada’s top eight players started their careers elsewhere.
The Martin twins were 4-star recruits at North Carolina State, but I turned up zero stars for Jordan Carolina (Southern Illinois), Tre-Shawn Thurman (Omaha) and Trey Porter (Old Dominion).
8. North Carolina
Player Average Ranking: 4
Class Average Ranking: 29.25
This is not one of those North Carolina teams with Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy or with Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson.
Carolina actually starts a pair of 3-star recruits — Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson. Roy Williams has not signed a Top 10 recruiting class since 2014.
Player Average Ranking: 2.75
Class Average Ranking: 95.5
Kelvin Sampson won without the best of the best at Washington State and Oklahoma. No surprise that he is also doing it in Houston,.
The Cougars feature a single 4-star recruit — freshman guard Nate Hinton, who averages 7.5 points per game.
Player Average Ranking: 3.25
Class Average Ranking: 49.75
Steve Wojciehowski learned the game from Coach K at Duke but he has not recruited from the same catalogue as the Blue Devils.
Marquette features five 4-star recruits, led by dynamic point guard Markus Howard and the Hauser brothers, but there is nobody on his roster than Duke or Kentucky wanted.
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