As Cat fans await the arrival of a fourth consecutive top-ranked recruiting class in Lexington, Rush the Court decided to take a look at how well recruiting success has translated into tournament success in the last ten years. The folks at RTC took on the fairly simple, but telling, task of analyzing who took in the top classes in a given year and the level of success those classes brought the program over the next few seasons. A little surprisingly considering the run that Kentucky has managed over the last few years, schools with the top recruiting classes don’t necessarily see those classes turn into overall success. A top-three class is apparently just as likely to have a team out before the first weekend as it is to be the driving force behind deep tourney runs.
Kentucky has been the exception to that rule in the last three seasons, as the Big Blue’s recruiting dominance has been mirrored by deep runs in the tournament every year. Other schools, like Texas, have also pulled in multiple top-three classes in the last decade but failed to make any kind of serious run in March. And, while UK has been the model for generating wins based on outstanding recruiting classes in recent years, it wasn’t too long ago that it was in the same boat with other programs that couldn’t match recruiting success with wins on the court. Rajon Rondo’s 2004 class was ranked #1 in the nation, but the class could only manage an Elite Eight appearance as freshmen and none of the players ever made it past the tournament’s first weekend after that. That kind of result is more common for #1 classes than the ones that have come out of Lexington the last three seasons.
It’s not revolutionary to say that big-time recruiting classes don’t necessarily turn into wins, because so much else goes into building winning teams. Seeing it all broken down, though, makes one more aware of a couple of different things. First, that some coaches can bring in talent but can’t manage to get that talent to win games. And second, that Cal is not one of those coaches. Instead, what he’s been able to do in the last three seasons has been as incredible as it has been fun to watch, and it’s something that no one in the last ten years has been able to come close to matching. Here’s hoping it continues with this year’s class.