College Basketball Recruiting: Grading the Classes for Each of the Top 25 Teams

Andy BrownAnalyst IIJune 6, 2011

College Basketball Recruiting: Grading the Classes for Each of the Top 25 Teams

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    Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson, Mason Plumlee, Ashton Gibbs and Tu Holloway.

    All names college basketball fans became accustomed to hearing last season (particularly the first three); all of which spurned the NBA and elected to return to college for another season, making their teams even better than anyone had hoped.

    The number of high level talent that decided to come back to college signifies the potential of a truly special season in 2011-12.

    There's also the next recruiting crop, which looks pretty impressive as a whole. There doesn't appear to be any Kevin Durant's in this group, but there are quite a few young ones that could make a huge impact on good teams.

    This list focuses on grading solely the recruiting classes of the teams in the preseason top 25.

    The preseason list I will be using will be from ESPN's Andy Katz as of last month. Please keep in mind that his ranking DOES NOT indicate the relative strengths of each recruiting class, but the strengths of the program as a whole.

    For example, he lists the Missouri Tigers at No. 22, but they don't even have a recruit coming in this season.

25. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SG Gary Bell Jr. (No. 67 overall, No. 18 shooting guard)


    Head coach Mark Few is notorious for bringing in under-the-radar recruits from the west coast, and he's done so again with this large recruiting haul led by 6'2" combo guard Gary Bell Jr.

    Bell is an absolute scorer. He's able to knock down the three-pointer while still being able to drive the lane and finish despite his diminutive stature.

    The Robin to Bell's Batman in this class is point guard Kevin Pangos, a kid who will likely end up being the next great Gonzaga floor general.

    Both Bell and Pangos have a good chance to either start, or at least be key players off the bench with the graduation of Steven Gray and the transfer of Demetri Goodson (both guards).

    The rest of the class consists of 6'5" shooter Kyle Dranginis, 6'8" post Ryan Spangler, 6'0" guard Chris Sarbaugh and 6'5" JUCO Guy Landry.


    Grade: B

24. George Mason Patriots

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: C Erik Copes (No. 55 overall, No. 6 center)


    The Patriots took advantage of some late coaching changes and landed their most highly regarded prospect in school history when Erik Copes committed to George Mason after George Washington fired its coach Karl Hobbs.

    Copes, at 6'8", will probably start from day one. While he's limited on the offensive end, he'll be a game-changer on defense. He's a terrific shot blocker and rebounder that will provide intimidation in the paint. If he's able to score, watch out.

    The rest of the recruits consist of point guard Corey Edwards, who's not much of a scorer but is a solid distributor, and 6'5" wing Vaughn Gray, a long term prospect with some potential to be a solid scorer.

    I wouldn't expect either to see the floor too much in their first couple years, but they're four year guys anyway, so they'll be key players once they mature.


    Grade: B-

23. Michigan Wolverines

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SG Carlton Brundidge (No. 74 overall, No. 21 shooting guard)


    John Beilein managed to build off a surprisingly good season that saw the Wolverines take Duke down to the final minutes in the NCAA Tournament with a quality class.

    Carlton Brundidge (great name), a Michigan native who elected to stay home, is a small combo guard (only 6'1") who can fill it up inside the three-point arc.

    The other highly regarded recruit, and the one who may start from day one, is point guard Trey Burke. Burke actually played on the same high school team as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger (and yes, they were ridiculously good), and has the winner's mentality needed to be an effective point guard.

    Due to the defection to the NBA of star point guard Darius Morris, Burke will be a prime candidate to replace him. Burke is similar to Morris in that he's effective scoring or distributing. He'll need to add some weight (only 170 pounds), but he and Brundidge are the future backcourt for the Wolverines.

    The other recruit coming in is 6'8" forward Max Bielfeldt, an energy big man all teams need.


    Grade: B

22. Missouri Tigers

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    Total commits: 0


    Well, not a whole lot to say considering the Tigers don't have a single recruit coming in. Most of their team returns so there wasn't a huge need to bring in recruits this year. Still, not bringing in any new blood will hurt down the road.


    Grade: F

21. Florida State Seminoles

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 3

    Top recruit: SF Antwan Space (No. 70 overall, No. 18 small forward)


    The Seminoles and coach Leonard Hamilton wanted to bring in wing players for this class, and they accomplished just that by signing three of them, all in ESPNU's Top 100.

    Antwan Space, a 6'7" small forward, leads this class. Space is a do-it-all type player who can score from anywhere on the court, and will help a Seminole team that had tons of trouble scoring the rock all last season. His effort isn't always there, but he has tons of potential.

    Two guards, Aaron Thomas and Terry Whisnant, also found their way into the Top 100 at 71 and 99, respectively.

    Thomas is a scorer who lets the game come to him and has the ability to take games over. His three- point shot still isn't there, but everything else is.

    Whisnant is a pure shooter who unlike Thomas, can absolutely knock down three-point shots. He will probably be the designated bomber until the rest of his game develops.

    The final recruit coming to FSU is a JUCO 6'11" center in Kiel Turpin, who should provide solid depth up front.


    Grade: B+

20. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Total commits: 2

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: PG Jamal Branch (No. 50 overall, No. 9 point guard)


    Despite the departure of head coach Mark Turgeon to Maryland, the Aggies are still bringing in a stud guard in Jamal Branch, along with another wing in Jordan Green.

    Branch is one of the better recruits to come to A&M. He has all the tools to be a great college point guard as he is a willing and effective distributor, but he can also score off the bounce if needed. Defensively, he's no slouch, either. When Branch is aggressive, he's tough to stop.

    With the Aggies losing three guards to graduation, including starter B.J. Holmes, Branch should be a key player from the first tip.

    Jordan Green, on the other hand, is much more of a project. At 6'3" and only 165 pounds, his body is not ready yet for the college game. He's got tremendous upside, but it will be awhile before he's a consistent contributor for the Aggies.


    Grade: B

19. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 0

    Top recruit: SF Shaquille Thomas


    Head coach Mick Cronin elected to focus on quantity over quality with this class, though there are still some quality players that could make an impact sooner rather than later.

    The primary candidate for that is small forward Shaquille Thomas. Talent-wise, he's one of the best in the class. He's incredibly athletic and can make shots from anywhere inside 24 feet. However, for whatever reason, he's never been consistent enough to be a dominant player. If Cronin is able to fix that, then this is the next great player for the Bearcats.

    The rest of the class fills in the holes that will be left by the six graduating seniors.

    On the perimeter enters 6'4" Jermaine Sanders (more of a small forward than a guard), 6'2" Ge'Lawn Guyn (great name and solid defender, but hasn't figured out how to run a team yet), and 6'3" Jeremiah Davis (big guard who can play both positions).

    Up front, Cincy brings in 6'8" Octavius Ellis (skinny shooter who needs to put on weight) and 6'9" Cheikh Mbodj (JUCO transfer with a name impossible to pronounce). Both will be counted on to help replace contributors Rashad Bishop, Ibrahima Thomas and Darnell Wilks.


    Grade: C+

18. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SF Ben McLemore (No. 48 overall, No. 15 small forward)


    With the Jayhawks losing six impact players to either graduation or the NBA, the four incoming recruits will have as much pressure to perform as any in the country.

    Picking up wing Ben McLemore in the late signing period really helped. At 6'5", McLemore is able to play either wing position, and has the talent to be a big-time scorer from the beginning. He's still learning how to play on the perimeter, but his skills and ability to shoot from three will help the transition be less difficult.

    The other highly regarded recruit coming in is point guard Naadir Tharpe, ranked 84th overall. Tharpe is the next great floor general coming into the Jayhawk program. His court vision and ability to make the game easier for teammates is as good as any recruit in the country. He can score using a multitude of shots, but needs to improve on his consistency.

    The other two recruits who will come in to attempt to help fill the void left by the Morris twins down low are 6'8" big men Jamari Taylor and Braeden Anderson.

    Taylor is a more physical player, and will have the strength to survive down low.

    Anderson is not as physical, but is a better offensive player.

    Both are still projects with plenty to learn, but with the Jayhawk roster so depleted, they may end up learning in games instead of on the bench.


    Grade: B+

17. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: C Khem Birch (No. 11 overall, No. 1 center)


    Head coach Jamie Dixon got a big surprise when Khem Birch, originally scheduled to graduate in 2012, decided to graduate early so he could enroll at Pitt this fall instead of waiting another year.

    Birch is one of the best low post defenders in the 2011 class. He can block shots, rebound on both ends effectively, and can shut down opposing bigs as well as anyone. Offensively, he still has work to do, but is capable of using his tremendous athleticism to make shots over defenders, as well as throw down thunderous dunks. Expect him to replace the graduating Gary McGhee in the starting lineup.

    Dixon is also bringing in another highly regarded center in Malcolm Gilbert (No. 57 overall). If Birch isn't the best low post defender in the class, then Gilbert might be. He isn't as athletic, but has the IQ to keep bigs from getting to where they want on the block. His offense is almost non-existent, but for the first few years Gilbert will be used as a defensive stopper, which will allow him to work on his offense for the future.

    The other two recruits help make this class a balanced one, as both Durand and John Johnson (no relation) are perimeter players.

    At 6'7", Durand Johnson is a typical wing player who has a solid jumper but is prone to the bad shot. Playing for a quality team such as Pitt will hopefully alleviate that.

    John Johnson is a 6'1" scoring point guard who's still learning how to play the position, and he's getting better at it. He'll probably see much of the bench this season to help him learn and develop his game.


    Grade: A-

16. Baylor Bears

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: PF Quincy Miller (No. 6 overall, No. 3 power forward)


    Normally when a player like LaceDarius Dunn leaves from a program that couldn't make the NCAA tournament, that team doesn't find themselves in the preseason top 25.

    Such is the case for the Bears, who return Perry Jones and bring in one of the top players in the country in power forward Quincy Miller.

    Miller is a do-it-all 6'9" big who can dominate down low and can shoot three's with solid success. His off-the-charts athleticism and decent dribbling make him a matchup nightmare for any defender. As long as he's not staying on the perimeter all game, Miller is one of the most dominant players in the country and a future NBA lottery pick. Expect for Miller to be a favorite to win the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award.

    The other stud coming in for the Bears is 6'4" Deuce Bello (No. 53 overall). Bello is regarded as arguably the best athlete in the class; his speed and quickness are up there with any player in college right now and he uses that to his advantage with his defensive aggressiveness and ability to thrive in transition. His jumper and dribbling skills need work, but it'll be hard for coach Scott Drew to keep him on the bench.

    The final prospect is junior-college transfer Pierre Jackson, a 5'11" point guard who's highly regarded and is expected to challenge for the point guard position and could become the starter.


    Grade: A-

15. Xavier Musketeers

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SF Dezmine Wells (No. 47 overall, No. 14 small forward)


    With the loss of six seniors, including two starters, the Musketeers are relying on this new group of kids to pick up where guys like Dante Jackson and Jamel McLean left off. Bringing back Tu Holloway for another season makes them the favorites in the A-10, but if this batch of recruits are able to make an impact, X could make yet another run in the NCAA Tournament.

    Highlighting this group is 6'5" wing Dezmine Wells, who may remind X fans of Dante Jackson at first. At 220 pounds, Wells is ready for the grind of a college season. He loves contact and is a solid free throw shooter. His shot inside the three-point arc is consistent. Defensively, he's a pest, and enjoys the challenge of shutting down top players. Dribbling is a concern for Wells, and his quickness is not the greatest. Still, he should be an impact player from the start.

    Xavier rounds out the group with a big in Jalen Reynolds, a 6'9" big that can score and who needs to put on weight, and 5'10" point guard Darwin Davis, a guy who has elite dribbling skills but needs work on his shot and could put on some weight.


    Grade: B-

14. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SG Levi Randolph (No. 29 overall, No. 9 shooting guard)


    One of the bigger snubs of last season's NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide have brought in an excellent class looking to make sure the Tide are tournament bound in 2012.

    Levi Randolph leads a group that brings in a player at every position. Randolph is a versatile scorer and at 6'5", can play either wing position. Chances are he'll provide the scoring punch from the perimeter with the departures of two senior guards who saw major playing time in Charez Davis and Senario Hillman.

    Fellow shooting guard Trevor Lacey is the other ranked prospect coming to Tuscaloosa in the fall. Lacey was one of the final prospects to commit and elected to stay home in Alabama. This kid is most effective off the ball and coming off screens, kind of like Rip Hamilton of the Pistons.

    The two post players of the class are Nick Jacobs (a 6'8", 255 pound truck who can score inside but has trouble rebounding) and Moussa Gueye (a 7'0" center from Africa who has skills on defense, but no offensive game). These two will provide depth at the Tide's already stacked frontcourt.

    The final two players coming to 'Bama are Rodney Cooper, a 6'5" long range shooter, and 6'1" Retin Ojomoh, a point guard who plays for the Belgian U20 National team.


    Grade: A-

13. Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 0

    Top recruit: SF Juan Anderson


    Coach Buzz Williams lost a good one with a graduation of Jimmy Butler, but he is bringing in an under-the-radar class with potential.

    Juan Anderson has similar size to Butler at 6'6", 210 pounds (Butler was an inch taller) and could be his heir apparent. Anderson is a typical small forward in that he can do a little bit of everything. He's a solid rebounder, can dribble, and slash to the basket and draw contact. His only deficiency right now is his jumper, which could use some work. Considering the Golden Eagles are primarily made up of good shooters, it's only a matter of time before Anderson improves it enough.

    The other two recruits are both guards in 6'0" point Derrick Wilson and 6'3" wing Todd Mayo (O.J. Mayo's younger brother). Wilson is a big guard at 205 pounds who can score in the lane but is still learning the position, while Mayo is a pure scorer like his brother but needs the ball in his hands to do so, and he isn't much of a point guard.


    Grade: C+

12. Florida Gators

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    Total commits: 2

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SG Bradley Beal (No. 4 overall, No. 2 shooting guard)


    Losing essentially the entire frontcourt for last season aside from Patric Young, I find it pretty surprising the Gators are listed this high. Then I remember their backcourt is returning, along with transfer Mike Rosario, and I'm not so disgusted.

    And then, I realize that Bradley Beal, arguably the best shooter in the 2011 class, is coming to Gainesville. Beal has been compared to Ray Allen, only the best shooter in NBA history statistically. As for weaknesses, well, there aren't any big ones. His ball handling could use some work as he's only 6'3", but that's about it.

    I fully expect coach Billy Donovan to go small this season with returning guards Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Brad Beal making up one of the quickest and best backcourts in the country.

    With Donovan's other commit, he addressed the frontcourt depth question by bringing in 6'9" forward Walter Pitchford. Pitchford is very raw but has crazy athleticism that will allow him to see some time on the floor, but he probably won't be a major impact player until a couple years pass.


    Grade: B+

11. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: PF Jarrod Uthoff (No. 88 overall, No. 14 power forward)


    It's pretty rare for Wisconsin to bring in highly regarded players to their program. Coach Bo Ryan is known for bringing in guys who may not necessarily be that talented, but who fit his system and are team players. Once again, Ryan is bringing in a quintet of players that don't necessarily jump out at you, but it's clear these guys will one day make a name for themselves in Madison.

    Leading the way for this group are a pair of post players in Jarrod Uthoff and Frank Kaminsky.

    Uthoff is an athletic 6'8" forward who's pretty raw, though he is a solid rebounder. Once he puts on some weight (only 200 pounds), he'll be a quality player.

    Kaminsky is a 6'10", 260 pounder who's a solid outside shooter (a common trait in most Wisconsin big men) and, like Uthoff, a good rebounder with good potential. Expect to see him play sooner than Uthoff because of his more mature frame.

    The other three commits are a trio of guards in Traevon Jackson (son of Ohio State star Jim Jackson), George Marshall, and Jordan Smith.

    Jackson, at 6'2", is a combo guard that's a better slasher than he is shooter. His quickness is lacking, but he's got the scoring ability like his father.

    Marshall is guy who's still developing as a point guard. There have been some comparisons to recent Badger grad Trevon Hughes because of his ability to score.

    Smith is coming to Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on and has the ability to eventually earn a scholarship.


    Grade: B

10. Arizona Wildcats

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 4

    Top recruit: PG Josiah Turner (No. 14 overall, No. 3 point guard)


    Let me say that if Derrick Williams had decided to return to Arizona for another year, these guys would be in the top 3. Not only would Arizona have returned the bulk of its scoring, but it's also bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

    Josiah Turner is the crown jewel of this class simply because the Wildcats had major problems at point guard last season, and Turner is fully expected to start from that position immediately. Turner is one of the top point guards in the country because of his superb quickness, solid size (6'3" and 185 pounds), excellent passing, and his ability to get to the rim. His jumper needs work, but that's about it.

    Joining Turner in the backcourt will be 6'3" swingman Nick Johnson (No. 21 overall). Johnson is a good athlete and a quality outside shooter when he's running off screens. He's a little small for his position and his ball handling could use some work, but he's good enough that he'll be making an impact immediately off the bench.

    Up front, the Wildcats are bringing in a pair of 6'8" forwards in Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson (Nos. 60 and 92 overall respectively).

    Chol is an athletic kid who runs the floor well and can finish in transition with the best of them. His defense is also a strength as he's a good shot blocker and rebounder. His offense can use some work, particularly in the half court. He may take a year or two to develop, but he's got the potential to be a dominant player in the Pac-12 (man, that's weird to write).

    Johnson, no relation to Nick, is very similar to Chol in terms of his athleticism and lack of offense. Physically, he's ready to compete, which may bring him onto the court sooner than Chol, but he also has problems with consistently competing. 

    Regardless, those two have made the future of Arizona's frontcourt pretty frightening for the rest of the Pac-12 to deal with.


    Grade: A

9. Louisville Cardinals

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 4

    Top recruit: SG Wayne Blackshear (No. 26 overall, No. 8 shooting guard)


    Rick Pitino clearly recognized early on that he would need to bring in a quality class in 2011 with the departure of his star Preston Knowles.

    With the vast amount of talent and scoring coming to Louisville in the fall, it's no surprise the Cardinals are believed to be a top 10 team next season.

    The Cardinals' class is led by 6'5" Chicago native Wayne Blackshear. Like most Chicago guards, Blackshear is excellent in transition and is able to finish above the rim. His body (205 pounds) is ready to play at the college level now, making him the likely candidate to replace Knowles in the starting lineup.

    Not far behind Blackshear is his teammate, 6'7" forward Chane Behanan (No. 27 overall). At 230 pounds, Behanan is a big boy, but he's still very athletic. He's best at taking slower guys off the dribble and driving the lane where he's able to finish above the rim. His IQ for the game is also pretty impressive. He'll need to work on the rest of his offensive game, particularly in the paint, in order to be a force down low.

    Joining Behanan in the frontcourt is 6'10" center Zach Price (No. 56 overall). Price is one of the few true centers in the class and is a top tier shot blocker. He's very athletic and has a variety of moves in the paint. His biggest problem is the effort he puts forth. Considering coach Pitino is able to get the most out of his players, I don't see that as being too big a deal going forward.

    The final two players coming in next season are shooting guard Kevin Ware (No. 94 overall), a top notch athlete who's excellent in transition but has problems with his shot, and small forward Angel Nunez, a 6'8" kid who oozes potential, but is still a ways away from realizing it.

    It should be noted that Kevin Ware's recruitment has been nothing short of crazy. He only recently committed, and has yet to enroll at Louisville, so there's no guarantee he'll be there, but as of right now, he's a Cardinal.


    Grade: A

8. Memphis Tigers

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    Total commits: 2

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SF Adonis Thomas (No. 8 overall, No. 2 small forward)


    Even though he's only losing one player to graduation from a team that won the Conference USA crown, coach Josh Pastner is bringing in one of the best players in the country in Adonis Thomas.

    Thomas, at 6'6", is one of those freaks that can't be guarded one-on-one. He's too big and strong for guards, and too athletic and quick for forwards. His intangibles are excellent and has always been viewed as the consummate team player, something the young Tigers will benefit from. His outside shot is a tad suspect, but that's about all he needs to become a dominant force, especially in the C-USA.

    The other recruit coming in provides size in JUCO transfer Stan Simpson. He's 6'11" and will probably help the team replace graduating senior big man, Will Coleman.


    Grade: B+

7. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SG Dai-Jon Parker (No. 32 overall, No. 10 shooting guard)


    I'll admit that I was most surprised by seeing the Commodores so high up, but when you remember that their entire team is essentially coming back from yet another NCAA Tournament appearance along with a solid recruiting class, I wasn't too surprised.

    Dai-Jon Parker is the most highly regarded player coming in next season. He's undersized for his position (6'2"), but is an absolute knock down shooter from long range. He'll remind people a little of fellow Vandy player John Jenkins in his ability to score.

    The other top 100 recruit is 6'3" point guard Kedren Johnson (No. 83 overall). While Johnson isn't the quickest guard in the world, he uses his large body to make it easy to get through defenders. His size also allows for him to take punishment when he drives the lane. His jumper is a big question mark, but he won't be counted on to score for a year or two, which will allow him to develop it in the future.

    Coach Kevin Stallings did not forget about the frontcourt, as the final recruit is 6'8" forward Shelby Moats. He's a versatile big man, but is not much of an athlete.


    Grade: B

6. Connecticut Huskies

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    Total commits: 1

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top (in this case, only) recruit: PG Ryan Boatright (No. 73 overall, No. 14 point guard)


    Losing Kemba Walker to the NBA hurt, although it probably wasn't a shock to coach Jim Calhoun or the UConn fan base. Winning a national title probably helped soften the blow as well.

    Coming in to potentially replace Kemba is 6'2" point guard Ryan Boatright. Boatright is super quick and is a fantastic ball handler. He's also a willing distributor. It's unsure if Boatright has the body to play in the next level right off the bat, weighing only 165 pounds, but if he's able to put on some weight in time for the season, he'll be a solid player for the defending champs.


    Grade: B-

5. Duke Blue Devils

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 5

    Top recruit: SG Austin Rivers (No. 2 overall, No. 1 shooting guard)


    If you haven't heard of Austin Rivers, you're simply not a college basketball fan. I'm not going to discuss him much simply because there's so many articles about him, but I view him as a more athletic J.J. Redick (yes, he's that good of a shooter). The kid is going to be special, and will probably win Freshman of the Year in the ACC, and possibly the country.

    The other, less publicized Duke recruits are led by 6'6" wing Michael Gbinije (No. 28 overall). Gbinije (no idea how to pronounce that) is a typical Coach K recruit in that he's excellent in the fundamentals and can shoot it from the outside. He isn't going to wow fans, but he'll be a solid player for years to come.

    Much to my delight, and probably Duke fans as well, the final Plumlee brother, Marshall, will be coming to Cameron next season. Marshall (No. 34 overall) is a 6'11" center who's a good athlete, plays hard, and is excellent in transition. He's going to need to put on some serious weight (only 215 pounds), but he'll have an impact immediately much like his brothers.

    Coach K made a smart decision in predicting that Kyrie Irving would leave after his freshman year, because he's bringing in yet another quick point guard in Quinn Cook (No. 37 overall). Cook is one of the quicker players in the class, and is a highlight waiting to happen in transition. He can sometimes be too aggressive shooting the ball, but it's better than being hesitant to shoot it. He'll be battling Tyler Thornton for the starting point guard position next season.

    The final incoming recruit is a bit of a surprise.  Alex Murphy, a 6'8" small forward, was scheduled to be a 2012 recruit until a couple months ago, when he decided to reclassify. There's a strong chance he may be red-shirted because of the amount of talent that will be at Duke this season and he needs to put on weight (only 215 pounds), but Murphy is rated the 40th best overall prospect for a reason. He's an excellent shooter and has surprising athleticism.


    Grade: A+

4. Syracuse Orange

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 3

    Top recruit: C Rakeem Christmas (No. 19 overall, No. 2 center)


    Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team had an up and down season in 2010-11. They started off incredibly strong, but faded down the stretch and had a disappointing NCAA Tournament, losing to Marquette in the second round.

    The Orange lose their man in the middle, Rick Jackson, to graduation, but already have his replacement in 6'9" Rakeem Christmas. Christmas is probably the best shot blocker in the 2011 class, and he'll be an integral part of coach Boeheim's 2-3 zone. His rebounding ability is also among the elite in his class. Offensively he's still not much of a threat, but with scorers like Kris Joseph on the team, he won't be counted on to do much of it immediately.

    On the perimeter, the Orange bring in versatile scorer Michael Carter-Williams (No. 20 overall). At 6'5", he's a shooting guard, but can fake it at the point making him the ideal sixth man off the bench his first year. Williams may actually be the most complete scorer for Syracuse next season. He's going to need to put on some weight, being just 175 pounds, if he hopes to make it through a college season driving the lane as much as he did in high school.

    The final recruit for Syracuse is designated bomber Trevor Cooney (No. 64 overall). Cooney is a fantastic long range sniper, and the next in a long line of shooters for the Orange, following in the footsteps of Gerry McNamara and Andy Rautins. Like both of them, his athleticism isn't what it should be, but Cooney will see action simply because of his shot in his first season.


    Grade: A

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 4

    Top recruit: PG Shannon Scott (No. 33 overall, No. 6 point guard)


    Shockingly to most people in college basketball, Ohio State lost no players to the NBA, particularly Jared Sullinger, who kept his promise to coach Thad Matta about staying at least two years. Because of his return, along with Williams Buford and DeShaun Thomas', the Buckeyes are yet again a force to be reckoned with. With the recruits they're bringing in to go with the returnees, the Buckeyes will have a good chance to make it further than the Sweet 16 next season.

    Leading the way for the Buckeyes class is 6'2" point guard Shannon Scott. Scott is the ideal floor general because of his ability to run a team, elite passing and ball handling skills, and an able finisher in the lane. He needs work on his jumper, but it will be interesting to see how Matta uses him and fellow point guard Aaron Craft. Don't be surprised if Matta splits the point guard duties down the middle to get Scott in the game.

    Replacing senior big man Dallas Lauderdale down low will probably be incoming center Amir Williams (No. 42 overall). At 6'10", he's taller than Lauderdale and a much better offensive player (who wasn't) as he can score from anywhere inside 12 feet. Defensively he's not much worse than Lauderdale as his length allow him to be an effective shot blocker. Now, his effort has been questioned and he needs to put on weight being only 220 pounds. Still, his skill make him the prime candidate to enter the starting lineup and form a formidable duo with Sullinger inside.

    The other two ranked players are a pair of small forwards in 6'7" Sam Thompson and 6'8" LaQuinton Ross (Nos. 44 and 52 respectively). Thompson is the more versatile of the pair as he's a quality passer and can play the guard positions as well. Like Williams, his effort and lack of strength is a question, and his outside shot could use some work.

    Ross, on the other hand, is believed to be the candidate to pick up the outside shooting slack left by Jon Diebler, one of the best shooters in Big Ten history. He has an excellent shot and has plenty of talent scoring the ball as well. Effort is yet another concern for him, along with moving without the ball effectively.

    The final player is 6'9" post player Trey McDonald. McDonald is going to be a project, but has a quality skill set and will definitely see time in the coming years, just not this one.


    Grade: A

2. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 4

    Top recruit: PF Anthony Davis (No. 1 overall, No. 1 power forward)


    Ladies and Gentleman, meet the best class in 2011, and possibly the best since the Fab Five; yes, I said it. John Calipari has outdone himself with this group of kids, bringing in four players ranked in the top 20, and three that are the best in their position.

    The class is led by none other than the No. 1 player in the country, Anthony Davis. Davis' story is well publicized, being a 6'3" guard one summer, to a 6'10" do-it-all forward the next. He went from getting offers from Cleveland State, to being the top player in the country. Davis can literally do everything on the court, from scoring inside and out to blocking shots to rebounding in traffic to defending players on the perimeter. His only hinderance is his weight, being only 200 pounds. Growing seven inches in a year will do that, but it won't stop Davis from likely being the next great Kentucky freshman.

    If it's not Davis, then chances are 6'7" small forward Michael Gilchrist (No. 3 overall). Gilchrist is one of the best athletes and most competitive players in his class which has made him arguably the best player in the country. He's extremely versatile on the offensive end and is one of the best defenders in the country. His only real weakness is his outside shot. Expect him to start and replace DeAndre Liggins as Kentucky's best defender.

    The other top position player is point guard Marquis Teague (No. 7 overall), the brother of current NBA player, Jeff Teague. Teague is viewed as the best transition player in the country and is virtually impossible to stop with his combination of quickness and athleticism. He's also big enough (6'2") to drive the lane and take contact without worry. Like Gilchrist, Teague has a suspect outside shot, and is still learning how to run a team. Chances are he'll be the starting point guard, the next in a long line of great Calipari-coached floor generals.

    The final player is seemingly an afterthought compared to the other three, but Kyle Wiltjer is still the 19th ranked player in the country. A 6'9" power forward, Wiltjer is a versatile scorer, capable of scoring from anywhere on the court. He's big enough to post most players up and is a willing passer from there. His prime area of concern is quickness, as he's going to have problems guarding other forwards who can play on the perimeter. Still, expect to see Wiltjer come of the bench and surprise teams.


    Grade: A++

1. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: PF James McAdoo (No. 5 overall, No. 2 power forward)


    How in the world Roy Williams was able to convince BOTH Harrison Barnes and John Henson to return is something I'll never understand since both were lottery picks. Their decisions to return, coupled with a top notch recruiting class, makes the Tar Heels a no-brainer at No. 1.

    James McAdoo is one of the less publicized great prep players I can remember. It's probably because he's not a very flashy player, kind of in the mold of a smaller Tim Duncan. He's at his best with his back to the basket, but can step out and knock down a jumper. Defensively, all the tools are there as he's an effective shot blocker at just 6'8" and is an excellent rebounder. His perimeter game is lacking, but at the college level he probably won't need much of it immediately.

    The other highly regarded player coming to UNC is guard P.J. Hairston (No. 12 overall). Hairston is a huge guard at 6'5" and 220 pounds, and that allows him to destroy smaller guards. He's got the ability to shoot it from deep and can get to lane and absorb contact. The only thing he's lacking offensively is a mid-range game, but seeing as how that's become a lost art, it's not much of a surprise.

    Don't be surprised if neither player starts despite their tremendous talent. That's just how talented UNC is going to be next season.

    The other three players will serve minor roles for the next few years.

    Desmond Hubert, a 6'9" center, will provide some depth up front for the Heels after losing Justin Knox.

    Jackson Simmons, a 6'7" swing man, is coming to UNC as a preferred walk-on despite having offers from mid-majors such as Charlotte.

    Stillman White, a 5'11" point guard, will serve as the backup point guard this year before leaving to do a Mormon mission trip for the following two years.


    Grade: A