Something that remains constant in message board fodder, year after year, is comparison of a person’s favorite team to another’s favorite squad. Once an argument shifts from on field performance, a favorite point of comparison would be caliber of recent recruiting classes. It’s no secret that John Calipari has mastered that ability, but how do some of his recent hauls compare to the best classes in college basketball since recruiting rankings became wildly popular in 2002? Regular contributor to ESPN.com and BasketballProspectus.com, Drew Cannon, wondered that same question as well, so he devised a simple rating system to compare the best classes since ’02 against one another. First, note the players counted by Cannon are ones who appeared in Dave Telep’s Top-100, all others were “generally ignored.” To make his system, Cannon simply created a curve that assigned point values to players; the #1 player was worth ten points, 10th rated players were worth seven, five points for the 25th ranked player, three for top 50, and one point for top-100. Also, half credit was awarded to players that never took the court. The article and complete rankings, which see 2006 North Carolina take the top spot can be found here,
It’s very difficult to find a flaw with those rankings, everything seems to be fair and in order, except for one flaw. This system not only gives credit for the relative strength of a class, but it also gives credit for sheer number of people recruited, which to me seems unfair. It’s hardly fair for teams like 2002 North Carolina (who signed three in Telep’s Top-100) to be compared to the likes of 2006 North Carolina who signed six. So, to correct this issue, I simply went back and divided the total amount of points a respective school scored by the total number of recruits. Below is the top-10 list of teams since 2002 put on the same scale.
Now that average point total is measured instead of raw total of points, a giant shift has occurred. The most noticeable changes are 2006 North Carolina who was atop Cannon’s original list, but is now out of the top-10 (finishing 18th, scoring a 5.43), and 2002 Duke who was #4, but dropped to 13th. One noticeable shift to the top would be the 2004 Kentucky Wildcats, who were 20th originally, but have now moved to the #4 spot (Ramel Bradley was not a Telep top-100). Perhaps the most notable change would be 2011’s Kentucky class, rated 2nd previously, who now holds the title of strongest recruiting class since 2002.
Overall, Cannon created a very fair and agreeable system, but it was lacking one final step that would’ve made it even better. When the strength of a class is measured by average, not addition, an even more effective and unbiased system can be made. Of course, you may not even need numbers to prove whom the top class of all-time was, so here’s a picture that seemingly does a pretty outstanding job of that.