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College Basketball Recruiting: Top 20 Schools Kids Just Want to Play for

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2012

College Basketball Recruiting: Top 20 Schools Kids Just Want to Play for

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    Some College Basketball programs have an easier time at recruiting than others.

    These are primarily the schools that consistently do well in their conference play and in the post-season.

    They teams that are seen on TV and who are talked about even by people outside of their area or region.

    The cliche goes something like: "Some schools don't rebuild; they just reload."

    Here is a list of the Top 20 Schools that seem to have a magnetic pull when it comes to recruiting top-level high school talent.

    This list was created by taking a look at the recruiting sites on ESPN.com and Rivals.com for the last five years.

    Let me if there is a school that I missed.

20. Indiana Hoosiers

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    Indiana's men's basketball program is back and relevant in both the Big Ten race and the national scene. Tom Crean's hard work and perseverance have paid off.

    Assembly Hall continues to be one of the best places to play college hoops. And the Hoosiers are giving the 17,000+ per game plenty of reasons to keep coming back.

    The Hoosiers have beat both No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State this year.

    Crean is pulling in elite level recruits from inside and outside of the state.

    The Class of 2012 has three 4-Star recruits (Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera- Perea)

19. Florida Gators

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    Who wouldn't want to go and play college hoops in Gainsville, Florida?

    Billy Donovan is your coach, NCAA Championship banners hanging from the O'Dome and you get a chance to compete on the national stage on an annual basis.

    In 16 seasons under Donovan's leadership, the Gators have won nearly 400 games and made it to post-season play in all but one of those years.

    Florida plays a fun style of ball, running and pressing and scoring from opening tip to final buzzer.

    And Donovan gets players to the next level. In his years at Florida, 11 different players have been drafted, seven in the NBA's First Round.

18. Villanova Wildcats

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    Jay Wright gets things done year after year at the smallish (10,000 students) private school just outside of Philly.

    He pulls in top-level recruiting classes and develops hard-nosed teams that compete against schools with more hoops resources in the Big East.

    Wright inked three 4-Star recruits in the Class of 2011 (Tyrone Johnson, Achraf Yacoubou and Markus Kennedy) and two more in the Class of 2012 (Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu)

    Villanova has plenty of tradition, making it to the NCAA Tournament 30 times (the eighth-highest total among D-1 programs).

    While the Wildcats may be tussling this season (10-13; 3-8 in the Big East), just give them another year and they will be back up in the conference race.

17. Michigan State Spartans

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    Tom Izzo is a master of finding players that fit his style of coaching.

    He locates talent all the time that can play in-your-jock defense and hit the glass, regardless of their position on the floor.

    The Spartans' fans are some of the most faithful followers of any program, showing up nearly 15,000 strong regardless who Michigan State is playing.

    Under Izzo's leadership over the last 19 years, Michigan State has become one of the leading programs in country.

    The Spartans have won over 400 games and been selected for 14 consecutive NCAA tournament bids (1998–2011).

    And the players just keep on coming.

    MSU's Class of 2011 included McDonald's All-American Branden Dawson, and the Class of 2012 has 5-Star SG Gary Harris, plus three 4-Star recruits (Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello and Denzel Valentine). 

16. St. John's Red Storm

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    St. John's is one of the most iconic programs in college basketball, with over 1,700 wins to their credit.

    Just the fact that they play a portion of their home games at Madison Square Garden speaks volumes about how they aren't like most other collegiate hoops setups.

    Steve Lavin has had a unique run as the current St. John's head coach. After inheriting a team last year that was made up almost entirely of seniors, Lavin turned around and signed a nine-player recruiting class.

    Lavin's biggest challenge right now is getting healthy, but the program continues to roll.

15. Syracuse Orange

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    Jim Boeheim and Syracuse Basketball: Can you distinguish when one ends and the other begins?

    The school currently:

    • Holds an active NCAA-record of 40 consecutive winning seasons
    • Has made 32 NCAA Tournament appearances
    • Has made it to the NCAA Championship game three times, winning one in 2003 (Thanks, Carmelo!) 

    Boeheim has become an institution, serving as the Orange's head coach for the last 35 years.

    When student-athletes come to play at the 'Cuse, you get to play against some of the best comp in the country (Big East) and in front of some of the best fans in the world at the Carrier Dome (Average home attendance is over 22,000).

    This past year, in the recruiting Class of 2011, Boeheim pulled in two McDonald's All-American's in Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams. He's adding another 5-Star in this coming class in 6'9" 275 lb center DaJuan Coleman.

14. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Cuonzo Martin stepped into one of the more challenging opportunites this last off-season when he decided to go to Knoxville to become the Vols' next head coach.

    Following fan-fav Bruce Pearl was not going to be easy.

    He got the wins. He had the charismatic personality. He even put on the bright orange body paint and joined the fans at a Vols Women's game.

    Big shoes to fill.

    But, Tennessee Basketball is bigger than Pearl and is a program that has a magnetic recruiting pull. In spite of all of the NCAA controversy, guys want to play there. In fact, 5-Star Jarnell Stokes graduated high school in December, and started playing in mid-January. 

    Getting to play in front of nearly 20,000 rabid fans every home game is a rush.

    And, while it's going to take a few years to get everything back on track, Cuonzo is heading in the right direction on Rocky Top.  

13. Connectictut Huskies

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    Don't judge UConn hoops on the current six-game free fall, because very few programs are as attractive to recruits as the one that Jim Calhoun has built in Storrs.

    Calhoun has three banners hanging from the rafters of Gampel Pavillion. In his 25 years as the Huskies' head coach, they have won 10 Big East regular season championships and seven conference tournaments.

    Calhoun gets guys to the next level. During his tenure at UConn over 20 players have gone on to the NBA.

    In the Class of 2011, Calhoun pulled in 5-Star center Andre Drummond and 4-Star guard Ryan Boatright.

    No one knows yet what might happen with Calhoun's current indefinite medical leave of absence. But, it's safe to say that the UConn program is not ready to fold up and close down any time soon.

12. North Carolina State WolfPack

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    In spite of living in the shadows of two of collegiate hoops' Goliaths (North Carolina and Duke), NC State is an eye-catching program for elite-level recruits.

    First year head coach Mark Gottfried is not conceding anything when it comes to going after the best players in the region or nation. He has signed three 4-Star recruits (Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren, and Tyler Lewis) for the Class of 2012.

    Even with the Tar Heels' and Blue Devils' campuses literally minutes away, the Wolf Pack have a great winning tradition of their own, with two NCAA Championships (1974, 1983). They have a devoted following that fills the RBC Center to cheer their team on to victory.

    And while the ACC may not be on an up-cycle currently, NC State plays in one of the best and most visible conferences in College Basketball.

11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    Just down the road from Raleigh is another ACC hoops hot-bed that doesn't wear powder blue unis or play in front of the Cameron Crazies: Wake Forest.

    The Demon Deacons (one of the most unique nicknames) bring in the players. Even before Tim Duncan left after four years in Winston-Salem, WFU had delivered 30 players to the NBA.

    In spite of the school's small enrollment (4,400 undergrads), Wake Forest draws over 10,000 for an average home game. 

    Current coach Jeff Bzdelik is not backing down from the challenge to rebuild the program. Nor is he trying to take short-cuts. He has a six-player Class of 2012 coming in that includes two 4-Stars in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Arnaud Moto.

    While Bzdelik's bunch is fighting through this season (currently 11-12; 2-7 in ACC), it won't be long before you see the Deacons back up in the upper-tier of the league.

10. Louisville Cardinals

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    Louisville has been and is one of the top college hoops programs in the country.

    For 30 years, Denny Crum made it happen by winning 675 ball games, two NCAA Championships, and making it to six Final Fours. And since 2001, Rick Pitino has been knocking off Conference USA and then Big East opponents left and right.

    UL has made it to the Final Four once and the Elite Eight twice under Pitino's leadership.

    The Cardinals recently moved into the Yum Center where 20,000 of their loyal fans cheer them on to victory on a nightly basis. 

    In the 2011 recruiting class, Pitino grabbed two McDonald's All-Americans (Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear), not to mention two other 4-Stars in Kevin Ware and Zack Price.

9. UCLA Bruins

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    No college hoops program has had more success than UCLA. And while it has been a while (1995) since the Bruins' last NCAA Championship, the eleven banners that hang from the rafters at Pauley Pavillion still speak loudly and clearly.

    Ben Howland has had success, with an appearance in the NCAA Championship game in 2006, immediately followed by consecutive trips back to the Final Four.

    Howland's problem is that he recruits players that are so good, that they leave for the NBA after a season or two. 

    UCLA is in the middle of a challenging season where they are playing at multiple venues while Pauley is being remodeled. But, that hasn't stopped the Bruins from the No. 2 SF in the Class of 2012 (Ryan Anderson) plus 4-Star wing Jordan Adams.

8. Memphis Tigers

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    In 2000, John Calipari came to be the head coach at Memphis. He saw immediate success, and he not only sustained that success, but he elevated the program to some of the best times that Memphis Basketball has ever seen.

    From the 05-06 through 08-09 seasons, Memphis went 137-14, going to the Championship Game, two trips to the Elite Eight and one trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

    Obviously, the talent level that took the court for the Tigers was incredible. Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were just two of Memphis' amazing players. 11 players went to the NBA from Memphis during Calipari's tenure. 

    When Calipari left for Lexington, assistant coach Josh Pastner stepped up and continues to lead the program at a very high level. Pastner pulled in McDonald's All-American Adonis Thomas in last year's recruiting class and already has two 4-Stars (Shaq Goodwin and Damien Wilson) for the Class of 2012.  

    Even though the Tigers aren't challenging for NCAA Title under Pastner yet, they draw well, with usually 16,000+ fans coming out to cheer the team on to victory.

7. Arizona Wildcats

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    During the Lute Olson era, the Wildcats were a perrenial Top Ten team, making it to the NCAA Tournament 25 consecutive years, and winning it all in 1997.

    Not even four years ago, Sean Miller stepped into a mess and re-made Arizona Basketball in a hurry. With tireless recruiting, Miller has added an incredible array of talent to the U of A program.

    The Class of 2012 is currently ranked No. 1 on ESPN.com, featuring three Top Ten players in Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, as well as 4-Star SG Gabe York.

    Playing in front of the Zona Zoo at the McKale Center, the Wildcats are once again becoming a major program on the national level.

6. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Bill Self has had no trouble continuing the exceptional success of the Kansas Basketball program.

    In his ninth season in Lawrence, Self has already won an NCAA Championship, amassed over 250 victories, and seven consecutive Big 12 Championships. 

    No wonder that recruiting hasn't been a huge challenge for the Jayhawks in recent years.

    There are very few places to play a game that are quite like Allen Fieldhouse. Every game is sold out and 16,000+ fans scream their brains out as the Jayhawks win almost every home game.

    After getting through a recruiting season where a few of his recruits were academically ineligible, Self has come back strong for the Class of 2012, where he has signed three 4-Star recruits (Perry Ellis, Andrew White and Landen Lucas).

5. Duke Blue Devils

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    Coach K and Duke Basketball have set the gold standard in many ways on and off the court for college basketball programs.

    The Blue Devils have won 4 NCAA Championships and over 840 games under Coach K's leadership. Duke is usually at or near the top of both the ACC Standings and the national rankings. Playing home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium is a unique opportunity for any player.

    The education that a student-athlete can receive from an institution like Duke is as valuable as any of the benefits associated with the success of the basketball program.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Back in the Woody Hayes' Days at Ohio State, the joke was that the two most important sports seasons were (1) Football, and (2) Spring Football.

    While Fred Taylor had some great success back in the 50's, it wasn't until Thad Matta arrived on campus in 2004 that "The Ohio State University" has emerged as one of the powerhouse college basketball programs in the country.

    The Buckeyes have won over 200 games in less than eight seasons under Matta. They were the 2007 NCAA Runner-Up and have been to the Sweet Sixteen twice. Playing in front of 14,000+ fans on a nightly basis isn't bad either, right.

    Matta and his staff are excellent recruiters. They get top talent on an annual basis.

    The Ohio State Class of 2010 was No. 2 in the nation, and their Class of 2011 was No. 6.

3. Texas Longhorns

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    Just like Ohio State will always be thought of as a football school, Texas is in the same boat.

    However, Rick Barnes, over the last 14 years, has not only been successful (329-128), but he has turned UT into a national program. Barnes locks up Top Ten recruiting classes almost every year, finding players both from the state of Texas and from around the country.

    Barnes brought in a seven-player Class of 2011 recruiting class that featured McDonald's All-American PG Myck Kabongo from Canada.

    The Longhorns' Class of 2012 is going to be special.

    The Horns play their home games in front of 14,000+ fans who have become used to UT winning almost every game in Austin.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams has had unbelievable success at both Kansas and now at UNC.

    Since coming to Chapel Hill nine years ago, Williams has won two NCAA Championships, five regular season ACC Championships and over 240 games. Williams has always recruited nationally, and that's no different now at North Carolina.

    The current starting line-up comes from Virginia (Kendall Marshall), North Carolina (Reggie Bullock), Iowa (Harrison Barnes), Florida (John Henson) and Indiana (Tyler Zeller).

    At Kansas and North Carolina combined, 28 of Williams players have gone on to play at the next level. 

    UNC home games rarely have less than 18, 000 fans going berserk for the Tar Heels.

    And to top it off, players enjoy playing Williams' brand of basketball. North Carolina is currently the No. 1 scoring team in the nation. They get up and down the floor, move the ball and, obviously, put up a fair amount of shots.

    North Carolina is one of the few programs that gets involved with elite-level recruits simply by announcing their interest.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Players seem to love to play for John Calipari.

    He has had an amazing run of No.1 rated recruiting classes. He not only secures one or two Top Ten recruits per class; lately he pulls in two, three or even four players who are the best recruit at their position.

    Calipari not only recruits as well as anyone, he has the amazing ability to meld elite-level talent into a well-oiled machine. As strange as it sounds, not everyone can effectively take a large number of highly talented players and combine their abilities and their egos

    And Coach Cal wins. Since coming to Kentucky, Calipari sports a 88-13 record. The Cats haven't lost at Rupp Arena since he came to Lexington. That's 48 straight wins in front of over 23,000 fanatics who are out-of-their minds. Kentucky has had seven players selected in the first round of the last two NBA drafts.

    And that won't change this year. There's a good chance that no less than three Wildcats players will be chosen among the 2012 NBA Lottery picks.

    Like him or not, Calipari is an amazing college basketball coach.

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