Monday, August 15, 2011

Looking Back: Re-ranking the 2006 recruiting classes

Last summer, we ran a series called Looking Back where we went through past recruiting classes to see how the players from those classes developed.


Well, for starters, it was a fun and interesting thing to do. You're not interested in the fact that Josh McRoberts and Gerald Green were once considered the best high school basketball players in the country? Its also an interesting way to keep fans from getting too excited when a top 25 recruit pledges to their school. Projecting the long-term ability of 17 year old hoopers is an inexact science, and never is that more evident than when you look back at past recruiting rankings.

This summer, we are going to go back through the Team Rankings. In other words, we want to see if the team that the pundits said had the best recruiting class really did have the best recruiting class. The science here will be a bit inexact. For starters, its tough to find consistent rankings. Rivals has them dating back to 2003, Scout to 2005, and ESPN to 2007. Its also tough to determine exactly what players had what effect on a given season. Did UConn's 2007 recruiting class -- which featured Donnell Beverly and, well, Donnell Beverly -- really have much influence on the 2011 national title?

For our purposes, we will be looking at the success that each member of each program's recruiting class had individually in college as well as the success that the team at while those players were member of the program. Like I said, it will be inexact, but inexact science makes for better arguments. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.

Re-ranking the 2003 recruiting classes

Re-ranking the 2004 recruiting classes

Re-ranking the 2005 recruiting classes

Re-ranking the 2006 recruiting classes:

1. North Carolina (Rivals 1, Scout 1): Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandon Wright, Deon Thompson, Will Graves, and Alex Stephenson

Its tough to argue with a recruiting class that produces two first round picks, another second round pick, three conference regular season titles, two conference tournament titles, an Elite 8, a Final Four, and finally a national title. That's a lot of hardware. Lawson, Ellington, and Wright were all immediate starters for the Heels. While Wright bolted for the lottery after one season in Chapel Hill, Lawson and Ellington hung around for the 2008 Final Four appearance. They also both decided to return to school -- instead of possibly heading to the NBA -- for their junior year, when the Heels rolled to the 2009 national title. Thompson became a starter on that 2009 title-winning team. He had his best year as a senior, but a very young UNC team struggled, missing the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Graves was a key role player for a couple of seasons before getting kicked out of the program. Alex Stephenson transferred to USC for his last two seasons, averaging 9.8 ppg and 9.2 rpg as a senior for an NCAA Tournament team.

2. Ohio State (Rivals: 2, Scout: 2): Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, David Lighty, Othello Hunter, and Mark Titus

The 2006 recruiting class for the Buckeyes is a tough one to rank. Oden, Conley and Cook all last just a single season in Columbus. But that single season was quite successful, as the Buckeyes won both Big Ten titles and made it to the 2007 national title game. Oden went on to become an all-american and the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft. Conley went fourth and Cook was picked 21st. The following year, OSU failed to make the NCAA Tournament and Hunter graduated. But Lighty, who redshirted his third season due to a foot injury, became a key figure in his last two years, playing a major role in back-to-back seasons where the Buckeyes won both Big Ten titles and made the Sweet 16. Perhaps the most memorable player from this recruiting class will end up being Mark "The Shark" Titus of Club Trillion fame.

3. Duke (Rivals: 5, Scout: 4): Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas

Oddly enough, the 2006 Duke recruiting class only produced three conference championships -- the 2009 ACC Tournament title and both of the 2010 titles. But that doesn't mean this group wasn't successful, especially considering they won the 2010 national title. Henderson was a key role player as a freshman and eventually developed into a star by his junior season. He left after three years, getting selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Scheyer was a starter from day one, becoming one of the best players in the country as a senior and the leader for a team that won the title. Lance Thomas was a career role player, while Brian Zoubek looked to be heading in that direction. But midway through his senior season, something clicked, and Zoubek became the most important piece on that national title team; a guy that could rebound, block shots, and bang in the post.

4. Texas (Rivals: 3, Scout: 3): Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, Damion James, Justin Mason, Dexter Pittman, Matt Hill, and Harrison Smith

Rick Barnes is notorious for being a coach that can lure gobs of talent to Austin but cannot turn that talent into banners. His 2006 recruiting class is the perfect example of that. In a class that produced two lottery picks, another first round pick, and a second round pick, Barnes was able to make it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament just once -- in 2008 -- and only won a share of one Big 12 title -- also in 2008. Durant was a once in a generation talent at the college level and has become arguably the best player in the NBA, but he wasn't quite good enough to lead a very young Longhorn team higher than third in the conference or past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The following season, Augustin played his way into being a lottery pick and an all-american, but Texas lost in the Elite 8 to Memphis. James was a double-double machine over his last three years (and an all-american in 2010) and Pittman become a force in the middle by the time he got into shape as a fifth-year senior, but Texas finished with just nine conference wins in both 2009 and 2010. Mason was a starter and a defensive stopper by the time he graduated, while Hill and Smith were never more than role players.

5. Kansas (Rivals: 12, Scout: 8): Sherron Collins, Darrell Arthur, and Brady Morningstar

There may not be a more consistent basketball program in america than Kansas. They haven't missed an NCAA Tournament since the 80's, they've won at least a share of the Big 12 title every year since 2004, and they have won five of the last six Big 12 titles. Collins, Arthur and Morningstar were all key cogs in keeping that string alive. Arthur was the first to really become a star, moving into the starting lineup as a sophomore and playing well enough during the Jayhawk's run to the 2008 national title that he became a first round pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Collins was a role player his first two seasons in Lawrence, but when Kansas had their talent drain after the 2008 title, Collins became a star and led KU right back to the top of the league and into the Sweet 16. Morningstar started as a walk-on and redshirted the 2007-2008 season, but by the end of his career, he was a starter, a defensive stopper and a key long-range threat for Bill Self.

6. Villanova (Rivals: 14, Scout: 24): Scottie Reynolds, Antonio Pena, Reggie Redding, Casiem Drummond, and Andrew Ott

Villanova basketball may not be at the level it currently is if it wasn't for Oklahoma. You see, Reynolds was a McDonald's all-american back in 2006, but he reneged on his commitment to Oklahoma and found his way to Jay Wright and the Wildcats thanks to Kelvin Sampson's inability to control his cell-phone usage. As a result, Reynolds went from being a stud freshman to an all-american by the time he was a senior. Redding spent his career as a key role player for the Wildcats, while Pena became a consistent double-double threat by the time he graduated in 2011. The irony of Nova's inclusion on this list is that they never won a conference title while these class was in school, although a large part of that was the result of the strength of the Big East conference. They made five NCAA Tournaments, the 2008 Sweet Sixteen and the 2009 Final Four.

7. Davidson (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Stephen Curry, Bryant Barr, Will Archambault, and Dan Nelms

Stephen Curry. Enough said? In terms of production, no player in the 2006 recruiting class comes close to Curry. He averaged 20 ppg from the second he stepped on campus at Davidson, bumping that up to 28.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.6 apg, and 2.5 spg as a junior. In the middle, Curry led the Wildcats on one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs of all-time, taking the SoCon school to within a possession of the Final Four in 2008. In Curry's three years on campus, Davison went 57-3 in league play, winning three regular season titles. Unfortunately, they lost in the title game of the 2009 SoCon Tournament. More impressive, still, is that both Barr and Archambault became key pieces in the Wildcat lineup before their careers were over.

8. Cornell (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote, Louis Dale, Geoff Reeves, Jon Jacques, and Pete Reynolds

Cornell's basketball program had been on the rise for a couple of years, but this class took it to another level and led Steve Donahue to the head coaching gig at Boston College. After finishing third in the conference as freshmen, Cornell started a string of three consecutive Ivy League titles stretching from 2008-2010. In 2008, Dale was the Ivy player of the year. In 2010, Wittman won that honor. Those two, and Foote, were staples on the all-league teams. After losing in the first round of the Big Dance in both 2008 and 2009, the hard work finally paid off with a Sweet 16 trip in 2010.

9. Louisville (Rivals: 9, Scout: 9): Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, and Derrick Caracter

After missing the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Rick Pitino's 2006 recruiting class helped Louisville get back to the top of the Big East. Edgar Sosa immediately stepped in as a starter at the point for the Cardinals. Smith, Clark and Caracter were key role players on that team, who finished tied for second in the Big East. The following season, Clark teamed with Terrence Williams to form one of the most athletic and versatile forward combinations in the country. Smith became a starter at the two and Caracter was a productive malcontent. Sosa struggled to live up to the hype that his successful freshman season gave him. After another second place finish in the league, the Cardinals won both Big East titles in 2009, earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and making their second consecutive Elite 8. Caracter had already been kicked out of the program while Clark went in the 2009 NBA Draft lottery. Sosa and Smith returned for successful senior seasons.

10. Cal (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Ryan Anderson, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, and Taylor Harrison

This recruiting class led to a resurgence in the Cal basketball program. The first two seasons that this group was on campus, they struggled, finishing at the bottom of the Pac-10. Anderson was a 20 and 10 forward as a sophomore and ended up declaring for the 2008 NBA Draft, where he was picked in the first round. Randle and Christopher returned and led the Bears to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and to the 2010 Pac 10 title.

11. West Virginia (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Da'Sean Butler, Joe Mazzulla, Wellington Smith, Cam Thoroughman, Johnnie West, and Devan Bawinkel

After missing the 2007 NCAA Tournament as freshmen, this group ended up going to three straight tournaments -- four if you include the fifth year that Mazzulla, Thoroughman, and West spent on campus. The star of this group was Butler, who became an all-american as a senior and led the Mountaineers to the 2010 Big East Tournament title and the Final Four the same season. They also made the Sweet 16 in 2008.

12. Stanford (Rivals: 11, Scout: 11): Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Landry Fields, Da'veed Dildy, and Will Paul

The Cardinal are an interesting case. Stanford has been down recently. Since this class enrolled in school, they've made just two NCAA Tournaments -- losing in the first round in 2007 and making the Sweet 16 in 2008. After that Sweet 16 run, both the Lopez brothers entered the NBA Draft -- Brook was picked third and Robin went 15th. The next two years were fairly ugly, as Stanford managed just 13 combined wins in the Pac-10. But Fields turned into one of the most underrated players in the country as a senior, averaging 22.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg, and was picked in the second round by the Knicks and becoming a key role player in NYC.

13. UConn (Rivals: 4, Scout: 5): Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, Gavin Edwards, Curtis Kelly, Doug Wiggins, Ben Eaves, and Jonathon Mandeldove

The 2006 recruiting class was a very important one for the Huskies. If you remember, after the 2006 tournament ended, UConn lost essentially their entire team to the professional ranks; five players were drafted. The rebuilding effort was slow, as UConn struggled to an 11th place finish in the Big East in their first season. Midway through their sophomore campaign, things started to click. Robinson and Dyson were making plays with their athleticism, Thabeet was becoming a factor on the defensive end, and AJ Price (who was, for all intents and purposes, a member of this class after missing his sitting out his first two seasons in Storrs) was becoming a star. They made the tournament but lost in the first round. As juniors, everything clicked. UConn finished second in a loaded Big East, earned a No. 1 seed in the tournament, and made the 2009 Final Four. Thabeet went on to become the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft. The following season, the Huskies once again missed the tournament. Edwards became a solid starter as a senior. Kelly, Wiggins and Eaves all transferred out of UConn.

14. Arizona (Rivals: 25, Scout: 19): Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Nic Wise

The Wildcats were never quite able to perform up to their talent level while this group was on campus. They finished just two games over .500 in Pac 10 play in the three years that Budinger and Hill were on campus, although they made the NCAA Tournament every year and did make the Sweet 16 in 2009, but a large part of that can be attributed to a strong Pac-10 during that period. They also had a new head coach each season they were on campus. Budinger and Hill were both eventually drafted, while Nic Wise returned for a senior season that was terrific for him individually but ended a quarter-decade stretch of making the NCAA Tournament.

15. Maryland (Rivals: 19, Scout: NR): Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne, Bambale Osby, and Jerome Burney

Clearly, the name that you are going to recognize on this list is Vasquez, who went from a talented but out of control freshman into arguably the most productive player in the country as a senior. Teaming with Hayes and Milbourne, he led the Terps to the 2010 ACC regular season title and would eventually get picked in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. Hayes and Milbourne were very good players for four years, but Maryland was never able to get through the first weekend in the three NCAA Tournaments they made while this group was on campus.

Take a look at some of the other recruiting classes that didn't make the top 15:

Clemson (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Trevor Booker, David Potter, AJ Tyler, and Karolis Petrukonis

Georgia Tech (Rivals: 8, Scout: 7): Thaddeus Young, Javaris Crittendon, Zach Peacock, and Brad Sheehan

Gonzaga (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Matt Bouldin, Will Foster, Theo Davis, Andrew Sorensen, and Abdullahi Kuso

Harvard (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Jeremy Lin, Pat Magnarelli, and Doug Miller

Hofstra (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Charles Jenkins, Mantas Leonavicius, Sal Patricio, and Greg Washington

Kentucky (Rivals: 16, Scout: 16): Derrick Jasper, Jodie Meeks, Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris, Michael Porter, Marckus Boswell, and LaShun Watson

Northeastern (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Matt Janning, Manny Adako, Baptiste Batille, and Eugene Spates

Northern Iowa (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Jordan Egleseder, Adam Koch, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Kerwin Dunham, Brian Haak, and Stephen Davis

Notre Dame (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Luke Harangody, Tory Jackson, Jonathon Peoples, Tim Andree, and Joe Harden

Oakland (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Keith Benson and Johnathon Jones

Old Dominion (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Gerald Lee, Frank Hassell, Keyon Carter, and Marsharee Neely

Siena (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin, Ronald Moore, and Cory McGee

Texas A&M (Rivals: 22, Scout: NR): Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, Derrick Roland, Chinemelu Elonu, Bryson Graham, Jerrod Johnson, and Bryan Beasley

Tulsa (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Ben Uzoh, Jerome Jordan, Jamel McLean, Mark Hill, Rod Earls, and Sean Coleman

UCLA (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Russell Westbrook, Adam Keefe

USC (Rivals: 21, Scout: 17): Taj Gibson, Dwight Lewis, DJ Hackett, Kasey Cunningham, Kevin Galloway, Kyle Austin, and Davon Jefferson

Vermont (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Marqus Blakely, Joe Trapani, Kyle Robbins, and Nick Vier

Washington (Rivals: 7, Scout: 6): Quincy Pondexter, Spencer Hawes, Adrian Oliver, and Phillip Nelson

Wisconsin (Rivals: NR, Scout: 23): Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, and JP Gavinski

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