- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
On Monday, I nominated five major-conference programs as superior examples of overachievement in recruiting: UCLA Bruins, Alabama Crimson Tide, Texas Longhorns, Kentucky Wildcats and Arizona Wildcats. Looks like kind of a weird group, right? What possible connection can there be between how well Kentucky recruits and how well Alabama attracts talent?
If you read Monday's piece, you already know the answer to that question, so feel free to proceed directly to the list of underachievers below. If not, here's how I went about creating these lists:
I grouped major-conference programs according to how well they've performed in the past five NCAA tournaments. For instance, the following 10 teams have won eight or more tournament games over the past five years: Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, Connecticut, Louisville, Ohio State, Syracuse and Wisconsin. I called those programs "elite." The 41 teams that have won anywhere from one to seven tournament games in the past five seasons are "competitive." And the 24 major-conference programs that didn't win a tournament game during that time are called the "outsiders."
Then I simply compared each team's success in recruiting (also during the past five years, including the freshmen who will arrive on campus this fall) to their peer groups. I defined "success in recruiting" as signing prospects who are judged as top-100 players in their class when they begin their freshman season. I used Drew Cannon's invaluable multiyear data on recruiting rankings and scoring system (signing the No. 1-rated player in the nation is worth 10 points, and values descend until the No. 100 player is worth one point).
The only other note I'd add is one of perspective. When I say these programs are "underachieving" in recruiting, I could just as easily classify them as overachievers in terms of actual on-court performance. Basically they're all winning as many NCAA tournament games as other more talented teams -- at least where "talent" is defined by what we think of these players when they come out of high school. Strictly speaking, what distinguishes the teams below is a relative (and, on occasion, total) lack of top-100 talent compared to other similar programs. As we'll see, however, that hasn't always been a barrier to success.
These programs have recruited less successfully than their "peer" teams in terms in recent NCAA tournament performance.