SEC doing least with the most

Elite recruiting hasn't yet translated to on-court success; will it this season?

Updated: June 4, 2013, 1:49 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider
Calipari/DonovanIcon SMIJohn Calipari and Billy Donovan once again have top teams. Will the rest of the conference keep up?

This fall, the SEC will welcome arguably the best conference-wide recruiting class in recent Division I history to its respective member campuses. With no fewer than 10 ESPN 100 top-25 recruits, the conference has almost as much elite talent arriving this season as what the Big Ten has been able to cobble together (11) over the past five seasons combined.

Still, before commissioner Mike Slive pencils in an all-SEC Final Four on his 2014 bracket, he may want to take a closer look at recent history. The conference's recruiting success this season is extreme, but it hasn't come out of nowhere. Over the previous four seasons, the league attracted more top-25 players (22) than any other conference. Yet over that same time span, the SEC managed to win just 27 NCAA tournament games, far fewer than what the similarly sized Big Ten managed (41) despite its relative dearth of top-25 talent.

Put another way, the SEC has recorded just 1.2 NCAA tournament wins per top-25 signee over the past four seasons, while for the Big Ten that number is a rather startling 4.6.

Which is to say recruiting isn't everything. We're told that often, of course, usually by coaches who have just missed out on an elite recruit. That being said, a class as highly decorated as what the SEC is bringing to campuses this fall promises to present this recruiting versus performance question in its cleanest and most conclusive form. Can the league's level of play match its success in attracting talent?