With it's new membership in the Big East, comes the terrific and challenging distinction for U of L of playing in the best basketball league in the history of the college game!
Knowing that fact, it's important to understand that the only way to survive and prosper in the Big East is to recruit...and recruit well.
Last year, Big East Conference members loaded up on the recruiting trail as four league members landed Top 25 classes, according to TheInsiders.
Syracuse (#6) loaded up with a pair of Top 25 prospects in 6'9 Terrance Roberts and 6'8 Demetrius Nichols.
UCONN (#9) also had a super class, including 6'9 McDonald's All America Charlie Villanueva.
Georgetown (#20) and Pittsburgh (#21) also found success. The Hoyas landed two Top 100 prospects led by 6'9 Darian Townes. While the Panthers landed several big men, including 6'9 Chris Taft, a star of the future in the league.
Providence, Villanova and Notre Dame also finished high in the rankings, just missing the Top 25.
So where does Louisville fall into this mix?
With Coach Pitino in charge, Lousiville's recruiting class fell just behind Syracuse and UCONN, checking in with the nation's #11 class.
Two future Big East members, Cincinnati (#17) and DePaul (#23), also landed Top 25 classes in 2003. The Bearcats found success in the JUCO ranks, landing 6'10 Robert Whaley who is considered one of the Top 5 JUCO tranfers this season. And the Blue Demons landed several Top 100 caliber talents, including 6'6 Sammy Meija and 6'9 Wesley Green. Marquette, who played in last season's Final Four, just missed the Top 25 cut but landed talented 6'8 forward James Matthews.
All told and counting Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, and Marquette with the rest of its future league opponents, Big East Conference members landed a whopping 20 of the nation's Top 100 prospects. That's an unbelievable 20% of the top hoops prospects in America! Folks, Dick Vitale will go crazy about Big East hoops!
And this year looks much the same.
Coach Pitino has already assembled one of the nation's Top 3 recruiting classes, headlined by 6'0 Sebastian Telfair, 6'9 Brian Johnson, 6'5 Lorenzo Wade, each Top 30 caliber talents. And 6'7 Donta Smith is the nation's top JUCO talent!
So with Louisville's past two recruiting hauls, Coach Pitino has certainly shored up the talent that he'll need to make an immediate impact in the incredibly deep and talented Big East during the next few seasons.
And the usual suspects are at it again in 2004, too.
The Orangemen landed their point guard of the future in Josh Wright (#46) and picked up 6'6 Deshawn Wright (#64) for good measure. UCONN also found a talented point guard to replace Taliek Brown in 6'2 A.J. Price (#22). The Huskies also landed ultra-talented forward Rudy Gay (#10) just this week.
Seton Hall picked up a good one in 6'5 Justin Cerasoli (#52). St. John's picked up an important recruit in 6'11 Jermaine Bell (#74). And the Georgetown Hoyas landed 7'1 Roy Hibbert (#95) from the D.C. suburbs.
So the message is clear. The Big East is a beast of a league and only the best and the brightest will do.
And with so many of the nation's most talented prospects lined up to play the next few seasons, Big East hoops will certainly live up to its billing as the "best basketball conference in the history of college basketball."