Kentucky's six McDonald's All-Americans are expected to make a big impact this year. But will any of them still be around in two seasons?
Once upon a time, college basketball recruiting was done with an eye toward the future.
These days, at least for the big boys, rosters are built over one or two years and then turn over quickly. Take a look back at the 2010 class for instance.
The consensus top class was Kentucky. All six players are no longer Wildcats. The teams that Rivals.com and ESPN.com had in the next two spots were Memphis and Ohio State. Only two of the seven players Josh Pastner signed—Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford—figure to make an impact as seniors; the rest or gone and one is a benchwarmer. Only two of Ohio State's six-man class that year—Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.—are still in Columbus.
If you were to re-rank that 2010 class based on what the teams have left, Florida, No. 19 by Rivals.com that year, would be No. 1, and Michigan State—No. 11 by Rivals and No. 10 according to ESPN—would probably be No. 2 with two impact players, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, making it to their senior seasons.
Look at the 2011 class, and it's a similar story. UK was the consensus No. 1; all four signees are no longer around. Texas was ranked eighth by both Rivals and ESPN, and Jonathan Holmes is the lone ranger left from that class of six.
Two years ago, no one would have predicted that. So projecting the impact of the current 2013 class in two years is no easy task. In the short term, it's pretty clear: Kentucky is the No. 1 class; Kansas, with Andrew Wiggins, is a clear No. 2.
But if we were to re-rank those classes in two years based on what's left, the rankings would look a lot different.
John Calipari may not care—especially if his current class wins him a title in 2014—but it's still possible to recruit with an eye toward the future. Rick Pitino just won a national title with four juniors and a senior in his rotation. (One of those juniors, Luke Hancock, was a transfer.) Michigan State is a title contender because of the players Tom Izzo has developed and held on to.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2013 class and predict who will have the best class of what's left once these players become upperclassmen.
John Groce built a winner quickly at Ohio, and he appears to be on the same track at Illinois.
John Groce's mentor is Thad Matta, a coach who has done a good job of mixing in some star recruits with program guys.
Groce is yet to recruit a player to Illinois the caliber of a Greg Oden, Evan Turner or Jared Sullinger, but during his time at Ohio, he found under-recruited guys who were good enough to play at big schools. He appears to have an eye for talent.
Groce is taking sort of a Fred Hoiberg approach early on at Illinois, trying to win quickly by mixing in some transfers. That takes some of the pressure off of the first few recruiting classes, allowing a coach to recruit with an eye toward the future. This class, the first of which you should really judge Groce at Illinois, is a good start.
Groce signed five, including two guards, Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, who are consensus top-70 recruits via ESPN. Groce's system has been kind to guards throughout his brief six-year career as a head coach.
If one of the two big men he signed—Austin Colbert or Maverick Morgan—turn into a productive college player, this could turn out to be a really nice class down the road.
This is actually one of the less-heralded classes Scott Drew has had in recent years.
The good news for Baylor fans is Drew might have found what he was missing last year: scoring wings with height. Both Ishmail Wainright, 6'5", and Allerik Freeman, 6'3", are players talented enough to be impact guys for multiple years in the Big 12 but not quite good enough to leave for the pros after a year or two.
Baylor is thought of as an underachiever because of the talent Drew has brought to Waco, but he does have two Elite Eight appearances in the past four years. He's also done a good job developing perimeter talent.
Duke adds two McDonald's All-Americans this year, Matt Jones (left) and Jabari Parker (right).
This ranking is obviously based on the fact that it's safe to assume Jabari Parker will not make it to his junior season at Duke.
Mike Krzyzewski has two other wings who should: Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye. Both are consensus top-40 players in the class, both are great shooters and both will probably have to wait their turn. That doesn't mean that, eventually, both can't be great scorers for the Blue Devils. They are the type of talents who fit well in Coach K's system.
They just have to wait behind better talents Rodney Hood, Parker and Rasheed Sulaimon.
Demetrius Jackson is the headliner of Notre Dame's recruiting class.
Demetrius Jackson is the highest-profile recruit Mike Brey has signed since Chris Thomas in 2001, who like Jackson was also a McDonald's All-American.
Brey has never had a player who he recruited leave early for the NBA, and he has done a good job developing lower-rated guys into all-league performers, particularly post players. The lowest-rated player in Notre Dame's class, Austin Torres, is the only post player. Don't be shocked in three years if Torres is a star in the ACC.
Brey also signed three guys Rivals.com has rated as 4-stars—Jackson, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia—and based on ranking alone, this could be his best class. Considering Brey's history, they also figure to be around longer than the other top classes around the country.
Roy Williams signed two McDonald's All-Americans, Isaiah Hicks (left) and Kennedy Meeks (right).
If P.J. Hairston does not play this season, it could be another "down" year for North Carolina.
Better pick on the Tar Heels now, because Roy Williams is known to recruit in cycles, and next year's class is already looking salty. Williams already has commitments from three players in the class of 2014 ranked in the top 14 by ESPN.com.
So what does that have to do with this class?
Well, when you combine the two, you get a pretty talented and complete lineup. This class takes cares of the frontcourt with Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, both McDonald's All-Americans. The next class takes care of the wings and point guard with Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry. Berry will also have competition at point guard with incoming freshman Nate Britt, and current point guard Marcus Paige will probably make it to his senior year.
Give that group a couple of years together, and if history is any indication, the Tar Heels could have another title contender.
Bill Self has not won nine Big 12 title because of the Andrew Wiggins of the world.
Self has benefited from some one-and-done talents. Ben McLemore, who was actually in school for two years but redshirted his first year, was the best of the bunch. Self also had Xavier Henry and Josh Selby. But even on last year's team, it was senior Jeff Withey who was the most valuable player for the Jayhawks.
The NBA talents who stick around for three or four years—Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson—have carried the load on Self's best teams.
Obviously, the expectation is that Wiggins is a different sort of freshman than Kansas has been used to. It's also expected he'll be gone after one year. The same could be true after a year or two for wing Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid.
But even if Self loses all three before they're upperclassmen, there's a good chance he'll still have sharpshooters Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp along with point guard Frank Mason.
Greene and Frankamp are two of the best shooters in this class, and their impact at Kansas could be just as great as Wiggins' once their careers are finished.
Buzz Williams has taken Marquette to three straight Sweet 16s, and he has done it mostly with players who were not top-rated guys coming out of high school.
Williams finds guys who fit together, and he adjusts his system accordingly. For instance, two years ago Marquette played really fast. Last year's team played more of a grind-it-out style.
Williams has also coached three players who are having productive NBA careers—Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Wesley Matthews. So he wins and he produces pros.
That's why you have to like Marquette's chances over the next few years. Williams signed possibly his best class that includes three players ranked in the top 53 by both ESPN and Rivals—shooting guard JaJuan Johnson, small forward Deonte Burton and point guard Duane Wilson.
You might expect the Golden Eagles to start playing fast again with that group. You can expect Williams will turn them into winners.
The only players in this five-man class who figure to get significant minutes early are point guard Tyler Ennis and small forward Tyler Roberson. Roberson might even have a hard time considering Jim Boeheim has a lot of talent at his position.
Just because a guy does not play much as a freshman in Boeheim's system does not mean that guy is not eventually going to be good. Michael Carter-Williams, for instance, averaged only 10.8 minutes per game as a freshman.
If Ennis makes it to his junior season, then this class could be the core group on one of the best teams in the country. Boeheim has guys with plenty of length—three members of Syracuse's class are 6'6" or taller—who could become valuable system players.
Memphis has the consensus best class after Kentucky and Kansas. Josh Pastner signed six freshmen who are all ranked in the top 100 by Rivals.com. Five of the six are ranked by ESPN.com in their top 100.
How long will those six stick around? Well, NBADraft.net does not have one Memphis player projected to go in its 2014 or 2015 mock drafts. Pastner could have a group that grows together.
But it's also worth pointing out that the last time he had a class this heralded with this much depth in 2010, only three of the seven are still around for their senior seasons. And the best that group has done is get to the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament one time.
You could make an argument for the Tigers as a future Final Four team and the top group for this list, but the 2010 class is reason to be somewhat skeptical.
This could be some immediacy bias after watching Michigan play in the national championship game this past season.
John Beilein signed only three players in this class: guards Zakarie Irvin and Derrick Walton and big man Mark Donnal.
Here's why Michigan is here: Beilein's best NBA prospects are staying in school one extra year than need be. Trey Burke could have left after his freshman season. Both Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III decided to return for their sophomore years.
Unlike Burke and Darius Morris, who both left after their sophomore years, Walton and Irvin will not have to be relied upon to be stars early on. Beilein has upgraded the talent so that you might have to wait a year or two before it's your turn to shine.
So by putting Michigan here, I'm assuming Walton and Irvin become one of the best backcourts in the country by their sophomore season and then decide to stick around for one more season, a la Burke, McGary and Robinson.