There are still shoes left to drop in college basketball’s recruiting season, but the picture has become a great deal clearer in the past week. The commitments of budding superstars Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel have left little doubt who the biggest winners in recruiting are…at least when it comes to individual teams.
Take a step back and examine the country’s top conferences, though, and the hierarchy looks a bit different. Just because John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats will again have the best crop of freshmen in the nation doesn’t mean that the SEC comes out on top this offseason.
Read on for a rundown of the six power conferences, plus the most successful of the mid-majors, according to which leagues will (as of this writing) have the most impressive freshman classes in 2012-13.
For a rarity, Josh Pastner and the Memphis Tigers aren’t the standard-bearers for C-USA’s recruiting efforts heading into 2012-13. Instead, it’s unheralded Houston and coach James Dickey who put the conference on incoming-freshmen map.
Dickey brings in some welcome size with 6’10” Valentine Izundu and 6’9” Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, but it’s on the wing that the Cougars get the biggest addition.
6’7” SF Danuel House is one of the top 20 individual recruits in the nation, and he carries Houston (and its conference) ahead of almost every mid-major in the country.
Another league that leans heavily on one team, the A-10 earns its place on this list behind Chris Mack’s effort at Xavier. The Cincinnati school cleaned up in New England to land an impressive four-man class for next fall.
Down low, a pair of 6’8” power forwards will help out a thin frontcourt, with New Hampshire’s Jalen Reynolds being the likelier instant-impact option.
In the backcourt, Mack looks to continue his pattern of winning with undersized guards behind 6’1” Myles Davis and the prize of the class, 6’2” PG Semaj Christon (ranked as high as No. 24 overall in the nation by Scout.com).
Although Duke did land standout SG Rasheed Sulaimon, the Blue Devils’ one-man class isn’t the highlight here. Instead, their in-state rivals stepped up to carry the ACC banner, led by Mark Gottfried and NC State.
The Wolfpack landed a terrific perimeter haul, highlighted by Raleigh product Rodney Purvis at SG and standout PG Tyler Lewis.
UNC got a terrific PG of its own in Marcus Paige to headline a strong four-man class, while Maryland (6’9”, 280-lb C Shaquille Cleare) and Georgia Tech (6’9”, 245-lb PF Robert Carter) also brought in some big-time talent.
If Syracuse and Pitt weren’t sticking around for another couple of seasons, the Big East would barely register on the recruiting radar.
Instead, the Orange (with the superlative DaJuan Coleman in the post) and the Panthers (led by 6’11” center Steven Adams) provide some support for the conference’s decisive recruiting winner: the surprising Providence Friars.
Coach Ed Cooley beat out a host of more successful programs to land a quartet of guards, two at each position.
High-scoring Ricardo Ledo will probably put up most of the highlights as a spiritual successor to MarShon Brooks, but don’t overlook PG Kris Dunn, who might develop into an even more dangerous option.
Although Florida did land a respectable crop of guards led by Braxton Ogbueze, most of the SEC came up well short in this year's recruiting contest.
That leaves the conference to be carried by Kentucky, which landed the decisive No. 1-ranked class in the country yet again.
The Wildcats were in contention for the nation’s top recruiting spot even before they landed the best individual player in the class, shot-blocking center Nerlens Noel.
Adding him to another pair of top-15-caliber recruits (Archie Goodwin at shooting guard and Alex Poythress at power forward) gives John Calipari a serious chance to have his team cutting down the nets again next March.
The Big Ten was notable not only for the quality of its top recruiting classes, but also for their size. Michigan and Michigan State each bring in four freshmen, while Indiana adds five to an already impressive roster.
The state of Indiana provides most of the conference’s highlights, both at IU (point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell) and elsewhere (the state’s Mr. Basketball, SG Gary Harris, is headed to the Spartans).
Michigan adds arguably the most impressive pair of all, with 6’10”, 250-lb Mitch McGary up front and 6’7” Glenn Robinson III (son of the former Bucks All-Star and yet another Indiana product) on the wing.
National runner-up Kansas brings in an imposing five-man class, led by forwards Andrew White and Perry Ellis, and the Jayhawks aren’t even in contention for the top freshman haul in the conference this year.
That title is a virtual dead heat between two teams that have been lighting up the recruiting charts in recent years: Texas and Baylor.
The Longhorns add six new players, half of them 6’9” or taller, with homegrown center Cameron Ridley (6’9”, 260 lbs) as the prize.
Baylor has a terrific center of its own, seven-footer Isaiah Austin, along with hard-nosed PF Ricardo Gathers and point guard L.J. Rose.
Rivals.com ranks high-flying SF Shabazz Muhammad as the single best recruit in the nation, but even signing Muhammad couldn’t give UCLA the top freshman class in its own league.
Between the Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats, there’s little doubt that the Pac-12 improved more than any conference in this year’s recruiting wars.
Muhammad will be joined in Westwood by 6’8” Kyle Anderson, a converted small forward who’s such a good passer that he’s expected to become a star at point guard.
Arizona answers that duo with a set of three 5-star post players, anchored by 7’0”, 220-lb Kaleb Tarczewski...and terrific shooting guard Gabe York, thrown in for good measure.