Ranking the Big East Recruiting Classes

Once again, the Big East has had a monster recruiting haul - one that should keep the league at the forefront of college basketball. And with the debut of the so-called "New Big East" in 2005-06, several of the newcomers parlayed their newfound membership into impressive recruiting results.

But what to make of the numerous athletes entering the Big East? How to go about ranking the classes in a 16-team superconference?

Some recruiting services take a look at individual player rankings, and compute their classes that way. That might work, except for the fact that we know from experience that some guys are going to be universally ranked too high, while others are ranked far too low. Depending on Top 100 lists or Top 200 lists alone is a very inaccurate way to rank recruiting classes as a whole.

Certainly, the Top 100 or 200 lists play a part; it's tough not to take notice of a class filled with Top 50 players. But Friar Insider's method of ranking classes also takes into consideration which school's have best filled needs, and which players, highly ranked or not, have the best chance to step into the lineup and make an impact next season. With the unpredictable player movement of the last decade, it's too difficult to forecast long-range project-type players; FI is more concerned with the here and now in its rankings.

Providence is a perfect example. While the Friars have not been consistently big winners, the program has produced several outstanding seasons recently. That's because several of their recruits have turned out better than they were ranked. PC's classes routinely are undervalued by the gurus; and this year is no exception. But all of the four recruits have the potential to step in and make an impact next season because they fill specific needs, despite the fact that only one of them - Jon Kale - is a consensus Top 125 player. If it works out that way, that's a perfect example of a staff going out and doing it's job.

Now that some of the method to our madness has been explained, here is Friar Insider's annual Big East recruiting class rankings. Take note that the Conference USA newbies made quite a splash, with four of the five entrants landing in the top half of the conference:

1. Marquette
Dwight Burke, 6'8, PF, Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ
Dominic James, G, 5-10, 180, Richmond, Ind./Richmond
Jamil Lott, PF, 6'8, North Dakota School of Science (JC) ND
Wesley Matthews, G/F, 6-5, Madison, Wis./Memorial
Jerel McNeal, G/F, 6-3, 190, Country Club Hills, Ill./Hillcrest
Matt Mortensen, F, 6-5, 185, Provo, Utah/Timpview
Tom Crean has the Golden Eagles perched to make a splash upon entering the Big East. The school's Final Four apperance of a couple years ago continues to reap benefits on the recruiting trail. Lott signed late after an outstanding junior college season, and may step right in at power forward. James will provide big-time pure point guard skills for Marquette. Quick as a jet, James can hit threes, go to the rim and dish with the best of them. Matthews is the son of former Wisconsin star Wes Matthews, and he can play. A fundamentally sound, intelligent player, Matthews does the little things to make up for his erratic outside shooting. McNeal scores in traffic, goes strong to the basket and is a very strong combo guard. Mortensen is a bit of a sleeper, but is a proficient three point shooter and has decided to put off his Mormon mission and play this year for Marquette, while Burke is a long range prospect at the four as a late signee. A great opening recruiting salvo by Crean and Marquette.

2. Pittsburgh
Tyrell Biggs, F, 6-8, 250, Ramsey, NJ/Bosco
Trevor Ferguson, 2G, 6'5, Oldsmar (Christian) FL
Levance Fields, G, 6-0, 205, Brooklyn, NY/Xaverian
Doyle Hudson, F, 6-8, 230, Roane State (TN) JC
Sam Young, F, 6-6, 225, Chatham, VA/Hargrave Military
Jamie Dixon needed to beef up his frontline after this season, and he can consider his mission accomplished. All three of Pitt's frontcourt signees are slightly undersized height-wise, but all three are bulls under the boards. In other words, typical Pitt recruits. Biggs saw his stock drop over last summer but has played better in the fall. He's at his best on the offensive end of the court, and needs to improve his rebounding and defense. Young, on the other hand, is very athletic, and strong to boot. Rebounding, defense and power dunks are his game. Hudson is the sleeper of the class, a juco and originally from the Bahamas. Fields is a strong point guard who verballed to Pitt in December, choosing the Panthers over St. John's. Played with Saiquon Stone at Xaverian and needs to improve his shooting, but is an excellent floor general. Ferguson was the lone late signee, a depth type recruit. This class should help Dixon replace a lot of what he lost from last season.

3. Notre Dame
Ryan Ayers, G/F, 6-7, 200, Blue Bell, Pa./Germantown Academy
Zach Hillesland, F, 6-8, 220, Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit
Kyle McAlarney, PG, 6-1, 170, Staten Island, N.Y./Moore Catholic
Luke Zeller, F/C, 6-11, 240, Washington, Ind./Washington
Mike Brey wotked the junior class hard, and secured all four commitments by July of ‘04. The biggest one, both figuratively and literally, was Zeller, Notre Dame's center of the future. Zeller has bulked up some, and is an excellent passer and uses his body well to position for rebounds. His offense is improving. With Andrew Bynum out of the picture, Zeller is the top incoming center to the league. Ayers is the son of Randy Ayers, and is a glue-type player. He does many things well, and is a decent athlete. McAlarney has big shoes to fill, as he'll be expected to step in for Chris Thomas. He shoots and passes well but isn't exceptionally quick. Hillesland is a lefty who can score out to three point land, but will need time to develop.

4. Cincinnati
DeAndre Coleman, WF, 6'7, Stone Mountain (Stephenson) GA
Devon Downey, G, 5-10, 165, Chester, S.C./Chester
Tyree Evans, G, 6-3, 200, Richmond, Va./George Wythe
Abdul Herrera, C, 6-10, 250, Miami, Fla./South Miami Senior HS
Ivan Johnson, PF, 6'8, Los Angeles Southwest (JC) CA
Cedric McGowan, F, 6-7, 225, Kilgore, Texas JC
Dominic Tilford, PG, 6'0, Jeffersontown (H.S.) KY
Bob Huggins faced a lot of adversity from within, getting no vote of confidence from his school's president, but still managed to land a deep, talented class, with both Jucos and high school stars. Johnson is a JUCO stud, a power forward who can bang against the best in the new Big East. Evans is the plum of the high school group, a big-time outside shooter who has strength and slashing ability to boot. His catch-and-shoot skills are among the best in the nation. Downey is more of a scoring point guard than a playmaking point, and he has quite a bit of playground in his game, but he can defend and he should improve as a floor leader. Herrera is not a great athlete, but he's a rugged low post player who gets by with solid fundamentals. McGowan was the lone juco to sign early, a rugged power forward who will team nicely with Johnson. Coleman and Tilford were nice late pickups, and Coleman may see early playing time.

5. Louisville
Bryan Harvey, G, 6-5, 210, Compton, Calif./Dominguez
Jonathan Huffman, F, 7-0, 215, Birmingham, Ala./Central Park Christian School
Andre McGee, G, 5-10, 190, Moreno Valley, Calif./Canyon Springs
Chad Millard, F, 6-8, 210, Goffstown, N.H./Brewster Academy
Terrence Williams, F, 6-5, 225, Seattle, Wash./Ranier Beach
Rick Pitino always recruits well, and this year was no exception, as the Cards garnered five signees. Pitino likes grand entrances, and his entrance into the Big East will be bolstered by this class, even with losses that included Francisco Garcia. Call this a multi-plum class, which should set Louisville up well for the Big East wars. McGee is another score-first, pass-second point guard, but Pitino has a way of convincing his points to change that mindset. If he improves his decision making, McGee can be outstanding. Williams is a strong athlete who can hit threes, attack the glass and defend either wing position. Harvey is a top three point shooter, which will fit well into Pitino's system, but he sometimes forces bad shots. Millard was a one-time Friar target, and while he does several things well, like shoot from the wing, he doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. Louisville may have reached here. Huffman is a late-blooming big man, who has decent skills but must get stronger. This class would have rated at the top of the Big East had Amir Johnson and Charlie Holloway been able to make it academically.

6. Connecticut
Jeff Adrien, F, 6-5, 218, Wofeboro, NH/Brewster Academy
Craig Austrie, G, 6'2, 175, Stamford (Trinity Catholic) CT
Robert Garrison, PG, 6-1, 170, Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls High
Marcus Johnson, WF, 6-6, 200, Los Angeles, CA/Westchester
Jim Calhoun suffered a major setback to his recruiting class when highly rated center Andrew Bynum bypassed college for the NBA draft. Great choice for Bynum, who was picked 10th by the Lakers, but bad news for fans in Storrs. At Connecticut, though, these are temporary setbacks, as UConn already has verbals from Curtis Kelly and Will Harris for the ‘06 class in hand and is involved with many of the nation's top prospects. Those who are coming include Adrien, a tough, strong athlete who plays bigger than his size. A strong rebounder and midrange shooter in the Kevin Freeman-mold, Adrien can play both ends of the floor with intensity. Johnson is best in a free-flowing running game and can leap. An excellent athlete, Johnson can shoot from the perimeter, slash to the rim and pass the ball with skill. UConn snagged Friar target Austrie late as a peripheral recruit, and the combo guard will provide backup to Marcus Williams (and perhaps A.J. Price) at the point, if they're eligible. UConn picked up a mid-July verbal from Garrison, a skilled point who had been receiving midmajor attention and was going to prep until impressive summer play earned him a second look by some majors. If Williams and/or Price miss time, then Austrie and Garrison get a baptism by fire. Despite the late additions, losing Bynum dropped UConn's class from a top three perch.

7. Providence
Sharaud Curry, PG, 5'10, 160, Marietta (Wheeler) GA
Weyinmi Efejuku, G, 6-5, 200, Wolfeboro, NH/Brewster Academy
Jonathan Kale, F/C, 6-7, 245, Barrington, RI/St. Andrew's
Geoff McDermott, WF, 6'6, 225, New Rochelle (H.S.) NY
Tim Welsh continues to upgrade the talent level at Providence, and this class helps that trend. Kale verballed to the Friars in May, and then exploded in July at the ABCD Camp. Kale is not a springy athlete, but uses his body well, positions for rebounds, scores in the paint, and plays a physical, take-no-prisoners game. During the offseason, he honed his skills in Alumni Hall against the likes of Ryan Gomes and Ruben Garces, and more than held his own. Efejuku is a very strong combo guard who can play some point, some off guard and even some wing forward. Somewhat of a sleeper, Efejuku played well at the point on a loaded Brewster squad, and has one of the quickest and most explosive first steps in all of high school basketball. His flaw is a so-so perimeter game, and his ability to improve that aspect of his game will impact his effectiveness at PC. PC was involved with a number of players in the Spring, and snagged two of the biggest steals in McDermott and Curry. McDermott was a football player who was on nobody's radar in the fall, but he blew up during the season and in the postseason, and chose PC over Duke and Boston College. A versatile "point forward", McDermott will see immediate time and likely emerge as a leader. Curry is a small push point who was one of the top players in Georgia on the top team in the state. The experts will undervalue this class, but there are players who will fill immediate needs, and as a result, have a great impact on the Friars' season to come. A fifth recruit, forward Saiquon Stone, did not make it academically.

8. DePaul
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-7, 185, Benton Harbor, Mich./Benton Harbor
Jabari Currie, G, 6-4, 195, Detoit, Mich./Pershing
Rashad Woods, G, 6-5, 215, Westbury, Texas/Westbury
Dave Leito continued to stockpile talent as the Blue Demons prepared for their entry into the Big East and left his successor a boatload. Rashad Woods is a big-time lefty scorer who plays with aggressiveness and high energy. More of a perimeter player, Woods does finish well. Chandler needs to get stronger, but can stroke the three, runs well and sneaks inside for acrobatic finishes. Currie is a decent point guard, but is a very erratic shooter. Chandler and Woods are nice gets for DePaul, and the Blue Demons should be able to mine Chicago with the Big East as their calling card.

9. Georgetown
Marc Egerson, WF, 6-5, 215, Philadelphia, PA/Berean
Jessie Sapp, 2G, 6'3, Ft. Washington (National Christian) MD
Octavius Spann, WF, 6-6, 218, College Park, GA/Banneker
Josh Thornton, G, 6-1, 165, Camden, DE/Rodney
John Thompson III needed athletes to help restock his depleted roster, and this quartet should fit the bill. Thornton is the most highly regarded, a push point guard who must get stronger. He's a score-first point who takes a ton of shots, but also makes his fair share. Great range, but must improve shot selection and penetration skills. Spann is not a great offensive player, but is strong and hits the boards. Egerson is kind of a do-everything well but nothing exceptionally well type of player. He has decent skills and works hard to improve and is most effective close to the basket. Sapp was a late period signee and will provide depth at the off guard slot.

10. Rutgers
Anthony Farmer, G, 6-2, 185, Millville, N.J./St. Augustine's Prep
Zack Gibson, F, 6-9, 205, Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc Community HS
Jaron Griffin, F, 6-7, 205, Manchester, N.J./Manchester Regional
Gerald "JR" Inman, F, 6-9, 200, Pomona, N.Y./St. Joseph's Regional
Gary Waters, upon taking the Rutgers job, stated that his goal was to keep the top talent home. To that end, three of these four players are from New Jersey, and this is a fairly talented group. Inman is thin, but can run the court, stroke midrange jumpers and can leap. If he bulks up, the sky is the limit. Griffin is a strong wing player, goes hard to the glass and is a decent shooter who needs to improve his range, but is maybe the top player in the class. Gibson is a bit of a project, but has decent size and is fundamentally sound with some skills. Farmer may be the point guard of the future, with speed and strength.

11. St. John's
Tomas Jasiulionis, F/C, 6-11, 250, Richmond, VA/Trinity Episcopal
Anthony Mason, F, 6-7, 205, Memphis, TN/Fairley
Aaron Spears. F, 6-9, Highland (IL) JC
Ricky Torres, G, 6-4, 205, Bronx, NY/St. Raymond's
Norm Roberts has begun the healing at St. John's and has worked hard at reestablishing relations with the City's high school programs. the first dividend of that effort was the talented Torres, a superb three point shooter. Torres will be a building block at the two-guard. Mason is another good deep shooter, but needs to develop more of an inside game to play upfront in the Big East. Jasiulionis is beefy and can help clog the middle for the Storm. He's from Lithuania, and passes well and has good skills for a big man. Spears transferred to junior college from Illinois, and will give St. John's more power in the paint. He had an excellent year in the junior college ranks and should help right away.

12. Syracuse
Eric Devendorf, G, 6-3, 190, Mouth of Wilson, VA/Oak Hill Academy
Arinze Onuaku, C, 6-9, 255, Alexandria, VA/Episcopal
Andy Rautins, 6'5, 2G, Jamesville (Jamesville-Dewitt) NY
Jim Boeheim has experienced a lot of turmoil, at least for Syracuse, during this past offseason. One of his top recruits, Tiki Mayben, was declared academically ineligible, and there have been other player personnel issues. But these problems, like at UConn, tend to be temporary. The players who are coming in, are typically impressive. Eric Devendorf can score inside, on midrange jumpers and long threes. A tough defensive guard, he's the complete package. Onuaku is a developmental big man, but he's strong, and catches the ball well. At this point, his defensive abilities are way ahead of his offense, but he's an improving athlete. Rautins is an excellent shooter, but needs muscle, and is a redshirt candidate. With Mayben, this class would have rated much higher; without him, Devendorf is the only marquee performer.

13. Villanova
Dwayne Anderson, F/G, 6-5, St. Thomas More (Conn.)
Bilal Benn, F, 6'5, Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA
Dante Cunningham, F, 6-7, Potomac (Md.)
Frank Tchuisi, F, 6-8, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Jay Wright's latest recruiting efforts weren't quite up to his past Top 100 efforts, but the quintet that inked will fill some pieces of the puzzle. Nova's efforts were hurt when Shane Clark backed out of a verbal, and reopened his recruiting, but Anderson has a sweet jump shot and can take his game inside, as well. Cunningham is a combo forward who is more effective closer to the basket, jumps well and can hit the glass. Tchuisi is more of a long range prospect who is from the Cameroon. Benn originally looked to Siena but then prepped in hopes of a better offer. Wright was under pressure to land some top recruits in ‘06, as his dream class of four years ago approaches graduation day, and he appears to be securing an impressive group of recruits for the Fall.

14. Seton Hall
John Garcia, F/C, 6-9, 230, Bayshore, N.Y./Brentwood
Paul Gause, 5'10, PG, Pittgrove (Arthur Schalick) NJ
David Palmer, PF, 6'8, Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA
Louis Orr continues to mine the New York/New Jersey area for prospects with mixed results. Some have speculated that Orr might be on the hot seat, and this class is a middling one. Garcia is a tough low post player with solid fundamentals and enough bulk to get the job done down low. Most effective within the paint, he gets to the free throw stripe with frequency, has the strength to push players around for position, and is a good low post passer. Palmer will help some in the paint, while Gause was a point machine in high school, but is small and has had academic issues.

15. South Florida
Zaronn Cann, F, 6-6, 240, Brandon, Fla./Brandon
Chris Howard, G, 6-2, Fort Washington, Md./Friendly
McHugh Mattis, G/F, 6-6, 185, North Lauderdale, Fla./St. Petersburg JC
Melvyn Richardson, WF, 6'7, Lon Morris (JC) TX
David Sills, 2G, 6'2, Bunker Hill (JC) MA
Brandon Stores, PF, 6'9, Cincinnati (Christian Center Academy) OH
South Florida is in need of the biggest talent upgrade for the schools entering the Big East, and they hope that their six man class is a start. Cann should be fully recovered from an ACL injury, and prior to the injury, he exhibited decent quickness and a good midrange game to go along with a rugged frame. Howard and Mattis are both reaches and both need to improve to make an impact in the Big East. Howard is a solid off guard, while Mattis is a good athlete with some perimeter and slashing skills. South made a splash by inking three players late, including two Juco's - Sills, a solid outside shooter; Richardson, a slashing wing and Stores, a late developing frontcourt prospect from Cincinnati.

16. West Virginia
Joe Alexander, F, 6-7, Frederick, Md./Hargrave Military Academy (Va.)
Alex Ruoff, G, 6-6, Brooksville, Fla./ Central
John Beilein continues to bring in players who tend to fly under the radar screen, but are solid players nonetheless. The current Mountaineer team is stocked with just such players, as is this small class. Ruoff is typical of this type of player - he's sound fundamentally, but doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. He's not especially strong, athletic or quick, but he's a winner. Alexander has a good pedigree, having played at Hargrave, but is more of a sleeper than Ruoff. He's a wing, with decent slashing skills, but an erratic perimeter game. West Virginia caught a break when Kevin Pittsnogle decided to stay and it would seem that the Mountaineers on court success last season should pay dividends in future recruiting.

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