Friday was a glorious day for multiple parties. Glorious for four players — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Cliff Alexander and Stanley Johnson — glorious for Duke, Kansas and Arizona, and glorious for the respective fan bases.
But the day's announcements carry bigger picture relevance as well. There's no question that the Big Ten in recent seasons has benefited from its reputation as the nation's toughest conference, and now the reformulated ACC is making a push to regain its former luster.
Nearly all of the day's coverage focused on the elite quartet's announcements, but another key commitment served as a double whammy for the Big Ten: Quentin Snider reversing his pledge from Illinois in favor of Louisville.
With Snider to Rick Pitino's program along with obviously Okafor and Jones now headed to Duke, the ACC improved itself enormously on Friday.
The conference now holds pledges from three top-10 seniors, five of the top 25, 10 of the top 50 and 21 of the top 100, which places it tops in all categories.
Okafor and Jones both possess the talent to emerge as superstars for Mike Krzyzewski, whose program appears poised to compete for a national championship both this season and in 2014-15. The Blue Devils also hold a commitment from top-50 guard Grayson Allen to claim the country's top class.
North Carolina landed the conference's No. 2 effort and checks in at No. 4 overall. The Tar Heels appear they may struggle this season, but elite forward Justin Jackson combines with top-30 signees Joel Berry and Theo Pinson to give the program an immediate impact class.
Defending national champion Louisville suffered through an odd fall, with both Snider and JaQuan Lyle backing off previous commitments. But the Cardinals were able to reclaim Snider and add him to a class that includes a total of four top-75 signees and ranks No. 7 overall.
Of course, one must note that the ACC competes with a large, 15-team membership, and that means nine conference programs did not register a nationally heralded group. Moreover, Wake Forest commitment Isaac Haas reportedly has not signed a letter of intent and may consider Purdue, among others.
The first division ACC programs might be gaining some separation from their peers, then, but it's worth noting that 10 league schools signed at least one top-100 player. That fact gives those schools some hope, at least, and obviously the other six must hope that their anemic or sleeper-filled classes surpass expectations.
The Big East finished second in total ranked commitments, with 16 of the top 100. When you consider that the club has only 10 teams, rather than the ACC's 15, in some ways the new, basketball-only conference landed an even more impressive set of classes.
Problem is, most of those top-100 signees rank near the bottom portion of the rankings. Big East schools combined for only one top-25 signee (No. 12 Isaiah Whitehead to Seton Hall) and five of the top 50, making the tally a little light on elite prospects. Still, the reconstituted league clearly exceeded the Big East castaways in the AAC, which signed a woeful three of the top 100.
The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC all roughly tied. The Big Ten at one point held arguably the top class, but Illinois' loss of Snider and miss on Cliff Alexander caused the league's classes to flatline during the early period.
The conference signed 12 of the top 100, including seven of the top 50; the Pac-12 also inked 12 of the top 100 and six of the top 50; and the SEC landed 13 of the the top 100 and seven of the top 50.
D'Angelo Russell ranks No. 16 among seniors and no doubt will become a very good player for Ohio State, but the Big Ten must perform better than 0-for-15 at the top of the class. The league's preeminence won't endure if schools make this fall's results a pattern.
When Johnson announced for Arizona, the Pac-10 had great reason to celebrate. Written off earlier this fall, the conference scored not only with Johnson but a huge coup when Kevon Looney picked UCLA. Sean Miller's Wildcats previously had knocked off LSU for Craig Victor, giving the league three top-20 incoming prospects.
But while Arizona (No. 3) and Stanford (No. 14) landed impressive groups — and the Bruins corralled a much-needed stud — an absence of parity continues afflict the league. Lower division programs face increasing pressure to keep pace with the Wildcats and others atop the standings.
Moving to the SEC, not only is it almost a given that Kentucky will land the best class each season, it's also very likely that Florida will place second. That's exactly what has happened this cycle, as the Wildcats (No. 2) and Gators (No. 10) lead the way. Missouri (No. 24) and Alabama (No. 25) also performed well, but the league's two juggernauts appear to dispatching the competition all too easily.
As for the AAC (three top 100 commits) and Big 12 (six), clearly this class cannot be deemed a success. Only six ranked players remain undecided (seven if Haas ultimately de-commits), so the rankings aren't likely to change drastically between now and the end of the cycle next spring.