Ranking the Big East Recruiting Classes

Every year the Big East seems to have a monster recruiting haul - classes that continue to keep the superleague at the forefront of college basketball. And membership in the "New Big East" has, in most cases, turned into recruiting gold for the newer members.

Annually Friar Insider presents the best and most accurate rankings of the Big East's recruiting classes. Last year, FI was one of the few services to rank Marquette with the number one class in the league. In addition, schools like Providence, which typically don't get as much respect from the other services, get a fair shake here. Last year, while every other recruiting service ranked PC's class in the bottom three of the league, FI ranked it sixth. One service, who had ranked PC's class thirteenth in the conference prior to the season, did a postseason ranking and moved the Friars' class, which included two All-Big East Rookie Team selections, up to fourth. Better late than never.

So what makes FI's ratings different? How to go about ranking so many 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… who is going to step in and be a factor next season.

We look at a large number of recruiting rankings and average those together… factor in who best filled needs… factor in who has landed sure-fire immediate contributors… to determine which class has recruits that are likely to play right away next season. What we don't do: Big name schools with big-time reputations get no extra credit from us… nor do they get penalized. Everyone is on a level playing field… or court, in this case.

Now that some of the method to our madness has been explained, here is Friar Insider's seventh annual Big East recruiting class rankings (the numbers after the player's info indicates their highest ranking in the various lists that I checked):

1 CONNECTICUT
Jerome Dyson, G, 6-3, 180, Rockville, Md./Proctor Academy (N.H.) – 42
Ben Eaves, G-F, 6-7, 210, Lancashire, England/Worcester Acad. (Mass.)
Gavin Edwards, F, 6-9, 225, AZ
Curtis Kelly, F, 6-9, 220, Queens, N.Y./Rice H.S. – 34
Jonathan Mandeldove, C, 6-11, 220, Stone Mountain, Ga./Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) – 96
Stanley Robinson, F, 6-9, 220, Birmingham, Ala./Huffman H.S. – 25
Hasheem Thabeet, C, 7-3, 245, TX – 59
Doug Wiggins, G, 6-1, 160, East Hartford, Conn./East Hartford H.S. – 61
Jim Calhoun hates losing. And that includes on the recruiting trail. Once again, the Sultan of Storrs has assembled the Big East's finest recruiting class, and UConn needed it. With departures that included Gay, Armstrong, Boone, Anderson and Brown, the Huskies needed to reload. Connecticut will field an unusual team… one that is made up of all freshmen and sophomores… and that means that a number of the youngsters will see plenty of playing time, especially up front. Kelly is a big-time prospect who runs well, finishes well and can take it inside or out. Mandelove's strength is as a defender and rebounder, although his scoring and shotblocking skills are improving. Robinson is another mobile forward who handles well, is a plus rebounder and can shoot threes. In the backcourt, Dyson is a quick defender who can put up points in a hurry and has great body control. Wiggins is a very quick point who is an erratic shooter but can sneak into the lane for layups. After he decommitted from St. John's, hard feelings ensued but that's died down… for now. And if all that wasn't enough, Calhoun landed Edwards and Thabeet, a tall, raw center, but with huge upside, late. Only Eaves, who was considered a decent prospect but didn't develop much as a prepster, is considered a reach. All in all, quite a haul for the Huskies.

2 LOUISVILLE
Derrick Caracter, F, 6-9, 275, Elizabeth, N.J./Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) – 14
Josh Chichester, F, 6-8, 210, OH (football) – 112
Earl Clark, G-F, 6-8, 200, Rahway, N.J./Rahway H.S. – 18
Edgar Sosa, G, 6-2, 170, New York City, N.Y./Rice H.S. – 71
Jerry Smith, F, 6-3, Wauwatosa, Wis./East H.S. – 45
Most recruiting pubs have the Cards class in the number one slot, but they come in second here… by a nose. Rick Pitino has some holes to fill, and he did a great job in positioning Louisville to challenge for the very top of the Big East. Of course, that depends on how long some of these recruits stay, but that's a story for another day. The keys are Caracter and Clark, two definite New Jersey studs, but both inconsistent performers. Caracter has a wide array of shots on offense, passes well and can block shots. Clark has guard skills in a long body, and rebounds to boot. Much better at slashing to the rim than jumpshooting, though. Chichester is a better football prospect but has great hands, can rebound and takes it to the hoop. Smith is a combo guard who is strong, athletic, can pass, rebound and score from anywhere… a total package. Sosa is thin but is also a scorer, has a great cross-over and can really push the ball. Pitino has successfully mined the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, a red flag for schools like St. John's, Seton Hall and Rutgers.

3 GEORGETOWN
Vernon Macklin, F, 6-9, 215, Portsmouth, Va./Hargrave Military Academy – 12
Jeremiah Rivers, G, 6-4, 205, Winter Park, Fla. – 146
DaJuan Summers, F, 6-8, 240, Owings Mills, Md./McDonough – 44
John Thompson III has made a quick and seamless impact on the recruiting trail and the Hoyas are showing signs of a return to their former success as a result. Thompson has made a habit of securing early verbals, and it's paid off handsomely. The prize recruit is McDonald's All-American big man, Vernon Macklin. Macklin is a tremendous athlete who runs the floor, has good hands, and piles up points off misses and on putbacks. He'll need to improve his shooting, though. Summers is a tough power forward who already can shoot, handles the ball, and finishes. He'll add beef right away to the front line. Rivers is the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers… he's strong, and physical defense is his calling card. Offensively, he struggles and has often had nagging injuries.

4 SYRACUSE
Devan Brennan-McBride, C, 6-9, 240, London, Ontario/St. Thomas Aquinas – 226
Paul Harris, G, 6-5, 220, Niagara Falls, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) – 11
Mike Jones, F, 6-6, 210, Hopkins, S.C./Lower Richland – 49
Jim Boeheim always seems to land an upper-level class in the Big East, and that's why Syracuse wins 20 games and is in the NCAAs every year. The talent keeps replenishing itself. The stud this year is Harris, referred to by opponents as a beast… he is a ferocious competitor, is incredibly strong for his size, very athletic, hits the glass, posts up at will, and drives to the hoop for points with abandon. About his only weakness is his jump shot, but he could be the Big East's Rookie of the Year. Jones had academic issues but those appear to have been cleared up and he's ready to go. Very athletic with a decent outside shot and good hops. Brennan-McBride is more of a project who is more comfortable right now in the high post and probably will be a role player until he develops.

5 VILLANOVA
Casiem Drummond, C, 6-10, 275, West Orange, N.J./Bloomfield Tech – 197
Andrew Ott, F, 6-10, 225, Abbington, Pa./Germantown Academy – 170
Antonio Pena, F, 6-8, 225, New York, N.Y./Lincoln High School – 56
Reggie Redding, G, 6-4, 205, Philadelphia, Pa./Saint Joseph's Prep – 68
Scott Reynolds, G, 6-0, 170, VA – 32
Jay Wright was a busy man this year. Not only did he sign a five player class that will help offset some big losses, but he also received commitments from two '06 stars – point guard Malcolm Grant and power forward Kraidon Woods – who will prep this season and then join the Wildcats next year. The Cats should be in good shape for years to come. For the players who will join the squad this year, Pena, a combo forward, is probably more of an inside forward than a wing. He's more comfortable banging than handling the ball, although he has a nice midrange jumpshot. Redding can score inside despite his height, and is another solid midrange shooter who is not afraid to battle against bigger players. Ott is a face the basket jump shooter who must get stronger to contribute more on defense and the glass in the post. Drummond is a project at this point, a big body who has good hands but no offensive game and lacks stamina… he'll need time to develop. A late pickup was McDonald's All-American Reynolds, originally ticketed for Oklahoma. He's a shoot-first combo guard who defends well, has good range, but is probably better suited for the wing than the point.

6 SETON HALL
Larry Davis, G, 6-4, 180, NY – 77
Eugene Harvey, G, 6-0, Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) – 73
Kashif Pratt, G, 6-4, 185, New York, N.Y./Rice
Seton Hall fans reacted with glee with the naming of Bobby Gonzalez as coach. An energetic recruiter, Gonzalez should be able to mine the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area for recruits, and if he can keep some of the big names home, the Hall will reap the benefits on the court. Gonzalez made his presence felt immediately when he snagged Harvey, a superquick point, who can drive and dish or hit an improved three. He'll be the Hall's point of the future with fancy dribbling and passing ability. Pratt was Gonzo's first pickup and will battle to join Harvey in the backcourt. Davis originally committed to North Carolina State but answered the Hall's call. He projects early on as a role player with a decent, but not great, skill-set. In addition, power forward Joe Cameron will transfer in from Auburn and sit out the upcoming season. Watch out for the Pirates.

7 CINCINNATI
Tim Crowell, Jr., G, 6-2, 170, Albuquerque, N.M./Midland (Texas) JC
Marvin Gentry, Jr., G, 6-3, Forth Worth, Texas/McLennan (Tex.) JC
Lance Jeter, G, 6-3, PA (walk-on from football team)
Marcus Sikes, Jr., F, 6-8, 235, Richmond, Va./Mt. San Jacinto (Calif.) JC
Deonta Vaughn, 6-1, G, 200, Indianapolis, Ind./Arlington – 128
Jamaul Warren, Jr., G, 6-2, Springfield, Mass./Globe Institute (Kan.) JC – Top 25 JC
John Williamson, Jr., F, 6-6, Columbus, Ohio/Cincinnati State JC – Top 25 JC
Hernol Hall, Jr., C, 6-10, 245, Lon Morris JC - Top 25 JC
With Bob Huggins, you always knew that Cincinnati was going to bring in a lot of junior college talent, and that tradition lives on. Six of Cinci's seven recruits are JUCO's, including three that are considered Top 25 JUCOs nationally. Mick Cronin has a huge rebuilding job, and while none of the signees are immediate impact players, a couple could surprise. Warren will hopefully help ease the loss of Devin Downey, while Williamson is a slashing scorer. Sikes averaged a double-double last year and Crowell is a capable point who distributes well. Vaughn has a score-first mentality and can slash to the hoop or pull up for jumpers. Cinci inked Hall in July and he also averaged a double-double last season, and may be the center that Cronin has looked for. In addition, word is the Bearcats may be closing in on another JUCO prospect. All seven signees were late, and it will be interesting to see what Cronin, a strong recruiter while at Cincinnati, Louisville and Murray State, does with a full season under his belt.

8 NOTRE DAME
Luke Harangody, F, 6-8, 250, Schererville, Ind./Andrean H.S. – 104
Joe Harden, G, 6-7, 210, Stockton, Calif./St. Mary's – 284
Tory Jackson, G, 5-10, 175, Saginaw, Mich./Buena Vista H.S. – 64
Jonathan Peoples, G, 6-3, 210, Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph's
Mike Brey always seems to put together a middle of the pack-plus recruiting effort at Notre Dame, and this year was no exception. The big pickup here is Jackson, a quick point who will help right away after some of the program's backcourt losses. Jackson has really improved his decision making on passing and shooting, although his outside shooting is erratic, and he's pesky on defense. Harangody is a burly power forward who is very physical, and while not athletic, understands positioning to be effective on the glass. Harden was a late pickup who can hit the three and is a good passer, while People, another late signee, played for a great high school team and has decent skills.

9 MARQUETTE
Trend Blackledge, Jr., F, 6-8, 185, Southwestern Illinois JC/Carbondale, Ill.
David Cubillan, G, 6-0, 170, Mara Caibo, Venezuela/St. Benedict's Prep – 186
Lazar Hayward, F, 6-6, 205, Buffalo, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep – 118
Tom Crean had the top rated class in the Big East last year. Unless you're a Connecticut, Syracuse or Louisville, that's a tough trick to turn on a consistent basis. This class is far less heralded but should help plug some holes in the program's foundation. Hayward's stock just kept going up and up… a very talented wing, Hayward can slash and score or nail threes. He has the potential to be a good defensive player as well. Cubillan is from Venezuela and can offer a good outside shot, while Blackledge is very athletic. Marquette also picked up a transfer, point Maurice Acker from Ball State, who'll sit out this year.

10 ST. JOHN'S
Qa'rraan Calhoun, F, 6-8, 220, Hazlet N.J./Bridgton Academy (Me.) – 180
Derwin Kitchen, G, 6-3, 180, Jacksonville, Fla./Raines – 160
Avery Patterson, Jr., G, 6-4, 200, Kannapolis, N.C./Iowa Western JC – Top 25 JC
Rob Thomas, F, 6-6, 230, New York, N.Y./South Kent (Conn.) – 131
Larry Wright, G, 6-2, 165, Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw
Four of St. John's five signees happened in the Spring, and Norm Roberts is hoping that all academically qualify. If they do, Roberts will have gone a long way towards restocking the cupboard, but if they don't… Calhoun was the only Fall signee, and he had a decent prep year, although he hangs around on the perimeter too much. Thomas is a combo forward who continues to bulk up, and has been very inconsistent. When he's on, he can be very good, but he tends to be turnover-prone, very erratic shooting the ball and not a great handler. Kitchen is a wildcard academically, but is a strong combo guard who defends well and hits threes. Without Kitchen, the Johnees drop a couple of slots. Wright is more of an athlete than a basketball player right now but is quick. Patterson was a top JUCO, very athletic and a very good shooter who will provide firepower in the backcourt. St. John's still needs to do a better job guarding it's own turf in the recruiting wars.

11 WEST VIRGINIA
Devan Bawinkel, G-F, 6-5, 185, Winnebago, Ill./Winnebago H.S. – 142
Desean Butler, F, 6-7, 205, Bloomfield, N.J./Bloomfield Tech H.S. – 121
Jacob Green, F, 6-9, 210, Clinton, Md./Gonzaga H.S. (Wash. DC) – 290
Joe Mazzulla, G, 6-2, 180, Warwick, R.I./Bishop Hendricken H.S. – 247
Wellington Smith, F, 6-7, 195, Summit, N.J./Summit H.S. – 251
Cam Thoroughman, G-F, 6-7, 185, Portsmouth, Ohio/Clay H.S.
Jonnie West, G, 6-3, 170, Memphis, Tenn./Lausanne Collegiate
John Beilein has done wonders with this program. He runs a system that is unique in it's philosophy and he's been successful in finding and molding players to fit that system. Now he has a huge class that represents a big tranfusion in talent, and it will be interesting to see whether he's brought in players who will buy into the system and how long it will take. Butler had a great senior year, has excellent hands, a decent outside shot and runs well. Bawinkel is unselfish, passes well and is a good midrange shooter although his lack of athleticism could relegate him to role player status. Green needs to improve his strength, but can jump and hit midrange shots. Mazzulla is a lefty who has improved his shot, passes well and run a team, but isn't the quickest point around. Smith is a strong baseline driver and possesses good athleticism and decent skills but needs to improve his shot. Thoroughman can score and West is the son of former ‘Neer superstar Jerry West, who is a good shooter but needs to bulk up. West Virginia also has a transfer coming in who's eligible this year… seven foot, 265 pound center Jamie Smalligan, from Butler. There are no blue chip studs, but Beilein has done well in the past to select the right guys for his system, and with all of the losses, a bunch of these players will play a lot right away.

12 PROVIDENCE
Jamal Barney, G, 6-3, 185, Baltimore, Md./Southwestern H.S. – 278
Ray Hall, C, 6-11, 260, Denver, Colo./Mullen – 164
Brian McKenzie, G, 6-3, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y./Xavierian H.S. - 291
*Brian Rudolph, G, 5-10, 170, New Bedford, Mass./New Bedford
Tim Welsh had an unusual recruiting year. First, the Friars took an early verbal from Corey Lowe, but the Newton North guard got squeamish when he saw the influx of backcourt players, asked for and received his release, and ultimately signed with Boston University. Barney put up big scoring numbers in a weak high school league and was one of the top players in Baltimore, and has reportedly looked impressive in summer scrimmages. He'll be counted on for scoring at the two. McKenzie comes in with a reputation as an outstanding outside shooter, a definite Friar need. Hall could be the Friars' center of the future, and has good size, but may need some time to develop and get into shape. Rudolph remains in limbo due to an arrest for allegedly stabbing a teenager at a party. The legal ramifications should clear up in August, and at that time his future as a Friar will be determined. If he comes, he'll be a quality backup for Sharaud Curry and PC would jump over West Virginia in the rankings. Another guard, Jeff Xavier, transferred to PC from Manhattan and will practice with Providence this season and therefore is not included in these class rankings.

13 PITTSBURGH
Gilbert Brown, F, 6-6, 190, Harrisburg, Pa./South Kent Prep (Conn.) – 115
Austin Wallace, C, 6-9, 220, Bronx, N.Y./LaSalle Academy – 252
Not every class can be a blockbuster and Jamie Dixon has had better years. Brown rebounds well for his size and can get up, but most of his offense comes on drives and finishes at the basket. Right now he's very erratic from the perimeter and that will have to improve. Wallace is mobile and has bulked up some which should allow him to bang in the Big East, but his main strength is his ability to run the floor and clean up on garbage, as his offensive game needs polish.

14 RUTGERS
Hamaday N'diaye, C, 6-11, 235, Dakar, Senegal/Stoneridge Prep (Calif.) – 106
Plan on New Jersey becoming a recruiting battleground with new coaches at Seton Hall (Bobby Gonzalez) and at Rutgers, where Fred Hill will put his reputation as a superb recruiter on the line. He swung and missed with Lance Thomas and Eugene Harvey, but he'll land a whole lot before he's through. He did grab N'diaye, a raw center who'll block some shots. He's active on the glass, aggressive, but lacks an offensive game. He's also prone to foul trouble. Rutgers also landed New Jersey guard Justin Sofman in the fall, but Sofman will spend the year at prep school before landing in South Jersey.

15 DePAUL
Thijin Moses, F, 6-7, 180, IL – 230
Will Walker, G, 6-0, 165, Chicago, Ill./Bolingbrook H.S. – 119
Jerry Wainwright signed two prospects, but lost a good one when forward Manuel Cass didn't qualify and reclassified as an '07 prospect. DePaul may still get him, but it won't be for this year. The Demons grabbed Moses late to fill Cass' slot. At this point, Moses is a project who doesn't figure much in plans for the coming season. The other newcomer, Walker, does. Walker may be the point guard of the future for Wainwright. A good passer, Walker can hit the three, and while he isn't the quickest around, he's a solid ballhandler.

16 SOUTH FLORIDA
Solomon Bozeman, G, 6-1, 175, Magnolia, Ark./Magnolia
Princeton "Dante" Curry, G, 6-4, 175, Kissimmee, Fla./Ponciana H.S. – 184
Amu Saaka, F, 6-6, 190, Decatur, Ga./Columbia
Slowly but surely, South Florida's recruiting is picking up. The Bulls entry into the Big East will help, and if Robert McCullum can convince some of the blue chip talent in Florida to stay home, South Florida could become a player. Unfortunately, this class probably won't be the one to elevate the program. Curry is the key player in this class and he's a wiry combo guard who defends decently and play the point in a pinch. Bozeman is a shoot-first point who has great range and fill the scoring sheet, but needs to get stronger. Saaka is a true sleeper who needs to bulk up and probably needs time to develop.

All recruits will be freshmen unless noted.

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