This fall's crop of freshmen will enter the Big Ten at one of its most talented points in recent memory. Multiple returning all-league selections from the vaunted Class of 2007 make the Big Ten a trendy pick to be the nation's best basketball conference.
To jog your memory, the '07 class brought in 22 of the top 150 prospects in the country, including six in the top 40, according to Rivals.com. After objectively examining these subjective recruiting rankings again, it appears that the Class of 2010 is well-equipped to contribute early and bridge any gap that might have developed over the past two recruiting cycles. The Big Ten ranked fourth among all conferences with 20 recruits in the final Rivals150 list that was released back in April. When you consider the number of signees per league member, the Big Ten ranked third (1.8 per school), behind only the SEC and ACC.
Not only did the conference nab more top players than in '08 or '09, but the incoming recruits look to be of higher quality as well. Superfrosh like Jared Sullinger, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Jereme Richmond are expected to contribute immediately for Big Ten title contenders. Seven newcomers are ranked among the top 40, including three in the top 25. That beats the '09 (2 and 1), '08 (3 and 3), and '07 (6 and 2) classes.
Locally, however, Wisconsin did not have a player on the final Rivals list for the first time since the site has kept such data ('03). That is surprising considering the Badgers signed four players in the class. But by taking a look at the tables below you can see one major reason why that is understandable.
Big Ten Recruits in the Rivals150
|Total ranked recruits||20||19||16||22|
The 20 recruits appear to be pretty evenly balanced among centers, forward, shooters and point guards. And thanks to the regional talent this year, only five prospects came from outside the conference footprint. Yet the state of Wisconsin only produced one recruit on the list (and that player, as we all know, had verbally committed to UW at one point). Iowa also produced one and signed none, but the talent in both states starting in 2012 appears to be on an upswing.
Regional Players in the Rivals150*
|Total ranked players||29||27||30||41|
The 2010 increase in top-rated recruits league-wide mirrored the rise in ranked prospects from the Midwest. The traditionally talent-rich areas of Big Ten country were slightly more fertile (though not near the level of 2007). Illinois, Ohio and Indiana produced almost double the combined number of ranked players they did in 2009. Ohio was especially bountiful, coinciding with Thad Matta's hyped six-man class that includes four Buckeyes and one each from Illinois and Indiana. I would guess that one or two borderline players got a slight boost in the rankings because of their commitment to Ohio State. The Buckeye State was nearly blanked on the list a year ago when Matta did not sign any freshmen.
With an eye toward expansion in 2011, I noticed Nebraska has had only one player ranked in the entire history of the Rivals150 list (Ed. note: that's since 2003). Another unsurprising fact? Nebraska has produced just one McDonald's All-American since 1977. Wisconsin has had four. So much for opening up valuable new recruiting territory ...
And lest you protest my use of the Rivals rankings exclusively, a quick look shows that the Big Ten has improved over last year by RSCI's count as well, with six different Big Ten schools pulling in 12 RSCI Top 100 players into the conference this season. Let's just hope they all pan out better than Royce White did.
*Note: Players who attended prep school hoop factories for their senior season were counted for their "true" home state. Indianapolis' Lawrence North High School lost two such players last season: Dominique Ferguson went to Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and Justin Martin attended Mountain State Academy in West Virginia. Dayton native Juwan Staten also played his final season in Virginia at Oak Hill Academy. None of the three will play in the Big Ten.