North Carolina and College Basketball's Top 20 Recruiting Draws
Recruiting has become a vital part of every college basketball program. Teams put almost as much emphasis on recruiting for the future as they do winning in the present.
But how does a coach manage to land recruits? With everyone vying for their talents, recruits can become divas—mercenaries for hire, taking a better college experience as currency.
Even in this simplistic view, it is difficult to understand how recruits truly choose their college. Every player is looking for something different in his college experience.
To some, all that matters is their playing time and status amongst their teammates. On the other hand, some players want to get a good education along with playing sports at these universities.
There are plenty of ways to recruit, which have obviously shaped some coaches into excellent recruiters. Every college is different, but some manage to pull in the best recruits year after year.
How do these universities do it? It's always different, but each school has certain things going for it.
20. Missouri Tigers
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Mike Anderson is obviously doing something right because his Mizzou team has been stockpiled full of talent ever since he took over as coach. He has less to draw on as well. Missouri hasn't historically been a great team, and Missouri isn't exactly the center of attention.
Anderson can draw on something else, though: his system. Anderson knows his playbook inside and out and teaches it with precision. Therefore, he also knows the type of players that best fit within that system. He can go out and recruit players precisely for what he needs to make his system work.
Now that he has a solid body of work and the Tigers have played well for a couple seasons, he can show that how he coaches works and that players recruited will play well in that scheme.
19. Indiana Hoosiers
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Although Indiana may not be at the level of success it once was, all signs are pointing up. The Hoosiers have looked better this season than in the past few seasons, and coach Tom Crean is slowly rebuilding the program.
I'm sure one of the biggest selling points for Bloomington is the tradition of excellence. Lots of players would like to associate their names with the best, and Indiana has had plenty of legends play there.
The Hoosiers are one of the most historic and proudest programs of all time, and the level of prestige has to impress some players.
The other draw that Indiana currently has is playing time. The Hoosiers seem to lack depth at times, and apart from Christian Watford, there aren't too many integral stars on the team.
A great high school player who loved the spotlight would add a great dynamic to the Hoosiers. He would get the chance to bring back a program to the top of its game and elevate his name near the top of a great program.
18. Washington Huskies
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While there are plenty of players on the West Coast capable of playing Division I basketball, there aren't as many institutions that can give them legitimate playing time and a chance to win. This is where the Washington Huskies come in.
Location is a big thing for Washington. If players want to stay on the Pacific side of the country, Washington is one of the best places to go to play basketball. With the majority of colleges being on the other side of the Rockies, Washington can take advantage of the local crop and possibly keep some close to home.
Another big pull for the Huskies is the chance for success. Washington is always in the hunt for the Pac-10 title and has made the tournament for two consecutive years, and the Huskies don't look like they're slowing down. Head coach Lorenzo Romar has three NCAA wins under his belt and a Pac-10 tournament title as well.
17. Illinois Fighting Illini
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Illinois has both a rich tradition of basketball and a great team currently. Head coach Bruce Weber has done bunches at Illinois, including a 33-2 season in his second year. He is another great coach and really knows how to showcase his best players.
Illinois would be the perfect landing spot for a player looking to put the team on his back. Weber's system usually revolves around the one or two best players on the team and allows them to shine like diamonds (Deron Williams and Demetri McCamey, for instance).
The crazy environment in Champagne is another thing to point out. The fans love basketball enough that anyone that is decent will become the big man on campus.
16. Baylor Bears
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The Baylor Bears are currently working on establishing the roots of a dominant program. Last year's Elite Eight performance did a great job in pushing that along.
Scott Drew can use the emergence of Baylor as a Big 12 powerhouse as a tool to pull in recruits. If a recruit were to go to Baylor, he'd have a chance to help to establish Baylor as a permanent fixture in the Big 12.
The Bears weren't really a factor until the last few seasons, but now that they've gotten some recognition, players have a unique chance to revive a program that has had its share of struggles and gain some individual recognition as well.
15. Arizona Wildcats
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After a few shaky years, Arizona is back on the rise and finally has a firm backbone on which to recruit again. In his first year at Arizona, Sean Miller has already led Arizona to a brief stint in the Top 25 and helped put them in the race for the Pac-10 title.
A newer, young coach can be a very useful recruiting strategy. It may make players feel like the coach has something to prove along with the players and makes it seem like they are in it together.
The Wildcats also have the prestige to use as a factor. Great coach Lute Olson made his name at Arizona and won a title with them as well. Arizona also had a streak of 25 straight tournament appearances until last season.
As mentioned before, Arizona is also one of the few serious basketball programs in the West, so they could use location as well.
14. Tennessee Volunteers
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If nothing else, people have fun in Knoxville. Not all Tennessee players have made the smartest decisions, but it's a rare occurrence that I hear a weekend in Knoxville isn't a good time.
Perhaps Bruce Pearl embodies the spirit of the Volunteers perfectly: loud, brash and good.
Since Pearl's migration to Knoxville, Tennessee has become one of the better programs in the SEC, and it's managed to stay near the top every year. Winning is definitely a priority for the Vols, and recruits can bet they'll get plenty of victories playing for Pearl.
Tennessee has a rabid fanbase as well, and it's right in the heart of basketball country. The environment would have to be the biggest selling point for Tennessee. I can just imagine a pitch: "People here like good basketball, and if you're good at basketball, they'll like you too."
13. Villanova Wildcats
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Once again, a school can really draw on its prestige as a selling point. Villanova has been a solid team in college basketball since the 1940s, and it manages to be among the Big East elite year after year. They just win, and in a conference like the Big East, that's a major accomplishment.
Jay Wright manages to fit his system around his players. It doesn't matter what position you play or what your particular skills are; if you play good basketball, Wright will fit you into his game plan, and it'll work. Look at the work he did with both Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, two fantastic guards.
Generally he doesn't keep a deep bench, so playing time is also a bonus for anyone wishing to attend the Philadelphia powerhouse.
12. Louisville Cardinals
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Louisville is the first school on this list that offers a legend as a recruiting strategy. Just having Rick Pitino want you to play for him is an honor.
Playing for Pitino has to be the top strategy that the Louisville coaching staff employs. He's led three different teams to the Final Four and has dealt with the NBA as well. He's seen everything in his career, and he knows how to use his personnel the best he can.
Another thing Louisville can be proud of is its brand new arena. The KFC Yum! Center just opened this season and is one of the best new stages to showcase talent. Playing in the Big East and at the Yum! Center would be a great way to get exposure as a young player as well.
11. Pittsburgh Panthers
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Head coach Jamie Dixon hasn't relied on recruiting in the past to make his team a winner in the Big East. However, their recruiting class of 2011 is ranked No. 12 according to ESPN, and Dixon has obviously evolved his coaching strategy to encompass new recruits aiming to attend Pittsburgh.
Pitt has plenty of things to like. For one, Dixon is an old-fashioned coach that makes him team better by teaching and coaching his players. Players that play for Dixon always get better as their careers progress. If a player would like to improve his game before trying his luck at the next level, there are few coaches that do a better job of developing talent than Dixon.
Pitt has risen to the top of the Big East as a perennial powerhouse as well. If winning is an important point, then there is no reason not to attend Pitt. There is a great environment as well, as the "Oakland Zoo" is as raucous of a crowd as you'll find.
10. UCLA Bruins
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UCLA presents quite a conundrum with recruiting. Historically and even recently, the Bruins have been a dominant team, but they have fallen on hard times since the mass exodus of players after the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
However, Ben Howland is a great coach, and he has shown that he can coach a team to greatness.
I have no doubt that recruits are led through the trophy room when they visit UCLA. The number of wins in the Bruins history is too big to be denied. It is probably really humbling and enticing for players to see how much the school has accomplished, especially during the run by John Wooden.
The Bruins can also use their location as a possible recruiting strategy. Many people like living in a big city while attending school, and Los Angeles is one of the biggest. There are plenty of things to do, and players won't get bored in the offseason.
9. Ohio State Buckeyes
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The Buckeyes have been very cyclical but still consistent in the past few years. Every few years, Thad Matta works his magic and brings in a stellar recruiting class that helps the Buckeyes ascend to the top.
Ohio State has always taken pride in its athletic programs. Ohio State's best selling point may be its current success. They've had a fairly solid hold in the top half of a very good conference for a solid six or seven years, and in that time they've achieved two No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Most players want to win, and there is plenty of opportunity for that in Columbus, Ohio.
8. Connecticut Huskies
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Kemba Walker has almost singlehandedly pulled the Huskies back into relevance this season in Storrs. However, their struggles last season should not be a concern for recruits because of the man coaching the team.
This season's Huskies are just another reminder of how good of a coach Jim Calhoun is. With less developed talent than last year, he has still managed to put the pieces together to make his team a Top Five team.
Connecticut has been one of the nation's best programs since Calhoun took over in 1986. Winning will always happen under Calhoun, which should be a very enticing way to pull in recruits. Calhoun is the sixth winningest coach in Division I history, and although he went through a bit of a health scare last season, he should be around for a little while longer.
Calhoun is also adept at developing talent for the NBA level. This could also be enticing for players attempting to jump to the NBA.
7. Texas Longhorns
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The main appeal for Texas may be exposure. It the past 11 years, Texas has had five players drafted in the top 10 of the NBA draft.
Rick Barnes is very good at showcasing certain players on a team, and if you happen to be one, then chances are you could be making lots of money in the NBA. Just ask Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, two of the most recent draftees from Austin.
This isn't to say that playing at Texas doesn't have other merits. The Longhorns are consistently among the best finishers in the Big 12 and usually always in the Top 25. Barnes has led Texas to 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and it doesn't seem like that will end this season.
With plenty of young talent on the team already, playing time can't exactly be a guarantee, but playing on a good team is a solid bet.
6. Michigan State Spartans
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Playing for Tom Izzo is a strong recruiting strategy. Although the majority of the teams at this point in the list have Hall of Fame coaches, Izzo's recent success is a recruiter of its own. His run of Final Four appearances in the last decade is astounding.
Apart from Izzo's success, Michigan State is also a very prestigious school.
Aside from all that, there should be some playing time openings in the very near future. Michigan State has a bunch of older players that will soon be graduating and leaving holes on the roster. As a team that gets lots of media exposure, young players looking to boost their hype could certainly choose Michigan State as a viable option.
5. Syracuse Orange
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We've reached the point in the list that includes the all-time elite. The Orange are easily one of the better programs in NCAA history thanks largely to Jim Boeheim. His 2-3 defense has become a national landmark, and his teams are always tenacious.
At this point, all of the teams left can use team prestige as a selling point, so we can basically negate that as a draw for recruits.
Syracuse plays in the Big East, one of the biggest stages in basketball, but they also play many games in Madison Square Garden. As I've mentioned earlier, many players love the spotlight and playing on the biggest stage, and Syracuse is the perfect place for them.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels
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North Carolina is obviously one of the most recognizable programs in college basketball, which makes it a target for recruits. It has so much national coverage that it is one of the biggest targets for recruits. It also helps that one of the best recruiting coaches of all time is running the team.
Historically, Roy Williams has brought in many high-profile recruits due to his system. Williams runs a run-and-gun scheme that needs plenty of bodies that are willing and able to run and play hard. Therefore, Roy has figured out that if all of these players are amazing athletes, there won't be much of a letdown.
Players have fun running his system, and he draws on that as a strategy to land recruits like Harrison Barnes.
Chapel Hill also has the proximity to other great programs to make heated rivalries. Perhaps you've heard of Tobacco Road and the rivalry between UNC and Duke. The ACC is in the heart of basketball country, and come conference play, it is as heated as any conference in the country.
3. Kansas Jayhawks
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Bill Self is one of the best, if not the best coach his age in college basketball. He's as consistent as anyone and can develop even the biggest projects into good players. Kansas may not be the hotbed of the country, but Self has plenty of pull towards America's heartland.
As I said, prestige is a huge factor. But even more than that, Kansas has the best home court advantage in the country, according to the survey ESPN gave to NCAA players. The players said that Phog Allen Fieldhouse is the most difficult place to play in the country.
Everyone loves to play in a place where you have a distinct advantage, but Phog Allen defies belief and adds an atmosphere almost no one can match—except...
2. Duke Blue Devils
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Duke has long been known as the home of the crazies. Cameroon Indoor Stadium is crowded, hot, loud and intimidating, and just like Phog Allen Fieldhouse, it scares the bejeezus out of other players.
A home crowd is very helpful for recruiting purposes, but the Blue Devils have something even more valuable for recruiting, and it is spelled K-Y-Z-R-S, er, K-Z-Y-R, I mean...
Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best coach in the game. He works any player into his system, he makes people better, he works chemistry through his team and most importantly, he wins games. It's anticipated that Krzyzewski can break Bobby Knight's all-time wins record this season.
Playing for the best coach of all time is possibly the best ace up the Blue Devils' sleeve.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
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If nothing else, you have to give credit to John Calipari for knowing how to recruit. We may not know how he does it, but it works.
First, the players have the incentive to come to Lexington, Kentucky because the Wildcats have the second most championships in NCAA history and the most wins of any program.
The even more amazing thing is the fact that Calipari manages to convince a bunch of freshman stars to come and give him their all for at least one season, and then they're free to do what they want.
The strategy has seemed to work for him, but the scary thing is he's actually a good coach. The players come out better than they were beforehand and receive coaching attention they probably wouldn't get in the NBA. I mean, he managed to mature Daniel Orton (a player he didn't even recruit), drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, while only averaging 13.2 minutes per game.
Overall, he's proven he can win with an eternal cycle of players; he just needs to win the big one. If a player wants to make a name for himself, all he needs to do is go to Kentucky and win a title for John Calipari.