Do the elite recruits care about winning a national championship anymore?

  • Let me just start by saying that I’m a very competitive person and played sports my whole life. Winning was everything. It still is. Its engraved in my DNA. There was none of this “everybody wins” bs in the school systems when I grew up. You either won or you lost. Anytime I experienced a loss it would effect my mood at least the rest of the day, sometimes much longer. It proved to be a valuable tool that helped me excel through school, career, and everyday life. I always assumed this was how most competitive athletes are. Especially the elite ones, because its that desire to win that normally separate the good players from the great ones. However, this year’s trends are making me question whether that is actually true or not anymore.

    Lets look at the top 10 recruits per ESPN. Three of the final four teams from last year (UK, Duke, and MSU) each landed a recruit. Makes sense, success typically breeds more success. Perennial 1 or 2 seed and top contender Kansas who also has a top returning class landed one. Makes sense. Maryland, a team on the rise coming off of a good year, 4-seed in the tournament, lands one. Can understand that. LSU, a 9-seed last year lands the #1 overall. Definitely unusual but not crazy. Now lets assume Brown chooses Michigan which is where most “experts” are predicting. That will mean that 4 of the top 10 recruits (that’s 40% for anyone reaching for their calculators) have chosen a school that didn’t make the tournament last year (Cal, Marquette, Miss St., Michigan). Even more interesting is that none of those four teams even made the NIT tournament last year!

    There is no way that these kids are going into next season actually thinking that their team is going to win the NC. Therefore, the conclusion must be that they do not care about that. At least not enough in relation to other things. Is going to a crappy team the wave of the future? Is the thought to go to a crappy team and shoot as many shots as possible, put up the best stats possible, and count on that boosting their draft stock higher? Maybe that is viewed as the “safe” route. Its possible that after seeing the biggest collection of young talent ever assembled fail to make it to the championship game last year that the recruits are making other things a priority. We may be seeing the beginning of a shift in thought process. Whatever it is, I hope the steady stream to Lawrence doesn’t dry up anytime soon.

  • @RockkChalkk

    I realized your point more in analyzing kids who leave school early than in where a kid decides to play. Drew Gooden is the best example of that. Roy would have won a title before UNC had he stuck around 1 more year. It was obvious we would have won that year. So, no, kids don’t seem to care that much about it.

    There are exceptions, see Wisconsin this year. Frank came back for a variety of reasons.

    I’m not sure who the 4 of 10 recruits are you mentioned going to schools that didn’t dance last year besides Michigan. Going to Michigan is a natural I believe because it’s a power conference school that has a decent history, great fan support, great rivalry, etc.

  • @RockkChalkk Good post.

    To me wanting to win and wanting to play for a team that has the possibility to play for a National Title are two different things. A few of these kids will instantly make their somewhat bad teams better. Mississippi State, Marquette, LSU, etc. They will all be very improved with the top 10 players coming in and they certainly will win games. Will they compete for national titles? Probably not but they may be pretty good. I actually think Michigan will be a very good team next year. LaVert is back as are a few other guys who contribute. Last year was just rough for them with injuries, etc.

    I guess the reason this doesn’t bother me (recruits going to schools that won’t be in the Final 4) is that in many ways I consider it a breath of fresh air. For an elite recruit to not just say “Hey, I am going to go play for Kentucky with 8 other All Americans” is a good thing for college basketball. It will certainly give me a reason as a viewer to watch the Miss. St. game…or the Marquette game or other teams I would probably never watch. Last year I just had to watch Kentucky or Duke to essentially see the NBA draft.

    I like this. I like the idea of kids going where their heart is. Family ties to a school is a big deal. I personally went to KU because of family connections and it worked out quite well for me. If the top 20 recruits are spread out more evenly across college basketball we will see less and less of these UK and Duke type teams from last year that win solely based on freshman and I would love if that happened.

  • If kids wanted to guarantee titles, they would do what UK did - cluster top players together.

    However, that’s not the case. There are only about 7-10 teams in a given year that realistically have a shot at the national title. A few more teams will move in or out of that group as the season goes based on injuries, etc. That means that the top 10 recruits would either have to cluster at one school or would have the choice between one of 7-10 schools.

    Then you have to consider the other factors - things like location, family, relationships.

    Henry Ellenson is from Rice Lake, Wisconsin. He committed to Marquette, which, on the surface, looks odd. But Ellenson committed to Marquette in part for the chance to play with his brother, Wally. If he wants to play with his brother, no other school can match that.

    Ivan Rabb is from Oakland. He also stayed close to home and went to Cal.

    And of course, Malik Newman stayed in state and is going from Jackson to Starkville to attend Mississippi State.

    That’s three guys that chose to stay close to home for non-basketball reasons.

    Brown would be the outlier here. If he were to choose UGA or GTech, he would keep the trend going, but if he goes to Michigan, he’s a clear exception.

    Stephen Zimmerman stayed home (UNLV). Dwayne Bacon stayed close to home, heading from Lakeland, FL to Florida State. PJ Dozier stayed home (South Carolina). That’s six of the top 20 players that chose to stay close to home.

    As discussed in another thread, that’s not an option in this part of the country because we don’t have many high ranked recruits. That’s one reason that K-State has struggled to become a consistent power. They just don’t have the pull to attract top players from outside Kansas, but they also struggle because there aren’t a lot of local players to lean on, either.

  • @RockkChalkk Great point. This trend towards the safe home school where you’ll get all the minutes and dominate compared to your peers and [in some case] weak conference opponents seems to be the natural extension of the down classification / up classification gimmick that all the top recruits are now doing in high school.

    Same net effect. Shine and get all the minutes, mask your weaknesses against mostly bad opponents. Enhance your stock.

    Same as going overseas and playing against weak competition. Seems to be working for Emmanual Mudiay in China. So why not do the same thing if you can do it in your backyard instead of on the other side of the planet?

    And 2x in the year, if you can hold your own athletically for 40 minutes against the guy you man up on the uncoached team of athletic freaks in your cruddy conference, nobody will be able to infer much about your lack of basketball acumen because the rest of your team got dominated. You were the one slightly bright spot by comparison. Don’t need to learn a thing about basketball. Just show up.

    Keep gettin’ dem checks!

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