-Bumped. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
Warning: this post is long overdue and thus contains an amalgam of thoughts that have been gathering for the last few college basketball recruiting cycles, it may be a little scattered.
Earlier this week
today, DC an TY posted a nice back-and-forth in which they discussed a few questions/concerns about the forthcoming Bruin basketball season. Amongst their topics of debate was the question "what's different about this top ranked class?" While I think that they made several solid points, I think they missed on one key difference between this class and almost every other recruiting class that college basketball has seen over the last 10-15 years; *we're bringing in two consensus top five talents and that's a very big deal.*
One of my big issues with recruiting rankings and people's perception of those rankings is that people tend to believe that being a top 100 player really means something. Truth is, there are plenty of top 100 players who will never amount to much on the next level, let alone the level after that. Hell, you can say the same about plenty of McDonald's All-Americans. Ray Young anybody. James Keefe anybody. But the more important truth of the matter is that consensus top 4-5 ranked players are close to can't-miss commodities.
In looking through the RSCI (Recruiting Services Consensus Index) numbers from the past 14 years (that's as far back as they go) I found that if you plot recruits' consensus rankings against their eventual success or lack thereof in the NBA the resulting chart shows an exponential rather than linear relationship. In that 14-year stretch there have been 46 players who have achieved an RSCI score that was 96.2% or better of the max possible score. Of those 46 players, 45 are in the League or will be after the next draft and 23 have played at or near all-star level. Meanwhile if we look at the next 3.8% of the pack (just to keep things symmetrical) there are 39 players, 22 of whom are in the NBA, 3 of whom are all-star level players.
Those numbers serve to support a longstanding theory of mine that there is generally a larger disparity between the talent level of the #1 and #50 players in a given class than there is between the #50 and #400 players in that class. It is this firm belief that has me pulling my hair out when folks say things like "I'll reserve judgement on so-and-so, Jerime Anderson was supposed to be a stud in high school too." NO HE WASN'T. Yes, he was much better than your average high school player but having watched both play at various points throughout their development I'd argue that Brandon Jennings (the #1 player in that class) was better at age 16 than Jerime is right now.
This talent gap between the best of the best and the rest of the rest is the reason why the Miami Heat (sans Bosh) can destroy the Indiana Pacers despite the fact that the Pacers might have 8 of the 10 best players in that series.
Which brings me back to our current class and it's two consensus top 5 guys. Just to give everyone an idea of how rare it is to put two such players together in the same recruiting class, this is only the third time it's happened in the past 14 years. The previous two occurrences were of course Kentucky squads under Calipari - one, this year's national champs with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the other, the 2009-10 Wildcats with John Wall and Demarcus Cousins.
All things considered, I'd say that the '09-'10 Kentucky squad is about as close as you can get to a match for the '12-'13 Bruins. Kentucky was coming off a 20-win regular season against a weak SEC, they were returning 57% of their scoring and 76% of their rebounding and they were bringing in two monster recruits. The result for the Wildcats was a 35-win season and a trip to the Elite 8.
We are coming off of a 19-win regular season against a weak Pac 12, returning 65% of our scoring and 73% of our rebounding and bringing in two monster recruits. If you're a glass is half full type of guy you might say the biggest differences between the '09-'10 Wildcats and the '12-'13 Bruins are A. our two monster recruits aren't head cases B. we could play four NCAA tourney games in our home state
Sorry for the rambling but it's just something to think about when setting expectations for next season.