The conference looks like it's going into a recession similar to that of the U.S. economy.
If you look at how the conference has recruited in the last two years, projecting down the line, the Pac-10 conference looks bleak in terms of talent. The conference has recruited shockingly poorly with the last two recruiting classes.
The coup de grace has been Arizona's recruiting demise. It not only lost Brandon Jennings to Europe, but then imploded after the retirement of Lute Olson. Yes, the conference retained a couple of Arizona's recruits (UCLA got Mike Moser and Washington got Abdul Gaddy), thankfully, but the conference, as of this date, lost Arizona commits Solomon Hill and Greg Smith, and also 2008 post Jeff Withey, who has chosen to transfer.
Arizona was clearly recruiting at a very good national level, and a solid #2 in recruiting in the conference for the last two years behind UCLA. Its demise really exacerbates the conference-wide recruiting cold streak of the Pac-10. Without Arizona, only UCLA has recruited particularly well in the last two years.
Now, Bruin fans might be celebrating that fact because it probably means more Pac-10 championships in the near-future for Ben Howland's Bruins. But a strong Pac-10, in the long run, is good for UCLA; without it, UCLA's RPI wilts, as does its chances at higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and overall a less competitive conference won't prepare the Bruins well for its out-of-conference opponents or the NCAA Tournament.
If you throw out UCLA, the last two seasons have been the worst for the Pac-10 overall in recruiting that I've seen while doing this job in the last ten years.
Taking UCLA out of the equation, there were only six recruits ranked in the top 20 at their position nationally that came into the conference in 2008. Among 2009 prospects, the conference signed only two. Two.
If you consider elite talent, UCLA is recruiting as well as the rest of the conference – combined. In 2008 UCLA brought in five recruits in the top 20 at their position, compared to the rest of the Pac-10's six. In 2009, UCLA signed three, compared to the rest of the Pac-10's two.
And it wasn't a matter of the programs being filled up with talent and without scholarships available. Plenty of schools, including Stanford, Cal, Arizona, and Oregon State, had available scholarships in both the 2008 class and currently in the 2009 class. And not just one here or there, but many. Arizona hasn't signed anyone for 2009 and Stanford has signed one recruit, while both have upward of 5 scholarships available.
It has been a bit down in talent on the west coast in the last couple of years, but the bigger factor in the Pac-10's poor recruiting is not retaining the talent that is in the west. In the 2009 class, here are the Top 100 players who committed to schools outside of the Pac-10: Elijah Johnson committed to Kansas; Michael Snaer committed to Florida State; Travis Wear and David Wear committed to North Carolina; Peyton Siva to Louisville; Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton to Texas; Hollis Thompson to Georgetown; Greg Smith to Fresno State; and Anthony Marshall to UNLV.
All of those players, or at least a majority of them, should be in the Pac-10.
It's happened because of the downward dives of the Arizona, Stanford, Cal, and Oregon State programs. Mostly, because of Arizona and Stanford. Much has been publicized about Arizona's situation, but Stanford, which not too long ago was a Pac-10 and national power, and recruited accordingly, has fallen on very hard recruiting times. Not only is the Cardinal not bringing in Top 100 national caliber players, but they're struggling to attract considerably less talented recruits. The early signing period ended last week, and Stanford currently has five scholarships open.
Those are nine rides (and possibly 11) between Arizona and Stanford that are unfilled, and traditionally have been populated mostly by players rated in the top 20 at their position nationally. That's a considerable hit to take talent-wise for a conference.
Cal, too, is just righting itself after Ben Braun's departure and Mike Montgomery's hire. The Bears are usually good for at least a few Top 100 caliber prospects over the course of a couple of recruiting classes, but only have one among 2008 and 2009.
Even with USC getting Demar Derozan in 2008 and Noel Johnson in 2009, and Washington getting Abdul Gaddy in 2009, those two schools were bringing in more talent 2-6 years ago than in the past two recruiting classes. Washington was reeling in the likes of Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes, and Martell Webster. USC was getting Taj Gibson, Davon Jefferson, and O.J. Mayo. Oregon, too, despite Michael Dunigan, isn't getting the level of talent it did just a few years ago when it brought in Malik Hairson, Bryce Taylor and Maarty Leunen. All three of these schools have dipped a bit in the last two years, and that's taken a toll also on the overall conference talent pool.
Here's a rundown on the recruiting of the other schools in the Pac-10 for the last two recruiting classes:
||Video||HT/ WT/ PPG||Commit Date||Signed LOI?||Commit School|
(Frederick K C Price HS)
Los Angeles, CA
(South Kent School)
South Kent, CT
(CC of San Francisco)
San Francisco, CA
(Pleasant Grove HS)
Pleasant Grove, UT
Washington Analysis: If this were any other elite conference, you'd put the Huskies in the middle of the pack, but the Pac-10's recruiting for two years has been so horrendous overall these two classes probably get the Huskies ranked #2 behind UCLA. But it's a long ways behind the Bruins. Easily the best on these two lists is Gaddy, but it's a good bet he's only there for two years before jumping to the NBA. Suggs is a good player, Turner will be a starter down the line, but we think that Thomas is more of a detraction from any team than he is a positive. Trent has some talent, but there are character issues and it will be interesting to see if those pan out.
(Timothy Christian HS)
(Farragut Career Academy HS)
(Hales Franciscan HS I)
(McKenzie River HS)
(South Medford HS)
Oregon Analysis: The Ducks, probably on Dunigan alone, get ranked third. Sims is also a solid player, already breaking into the starting lineup. But the 2009 class is very lean.
(Joel E Ferris HS)
(Santa Margarita Catholic HS)
Santa Margarita, CA
(South Medford HS)
(Australian Institute of Sports)
(Charlotte Latin School)
(Pleasant Grove HS)
Elk Grove, CA
(Shadle Park HS)
Washington State Analysis: The headliner is Thompson, who has All-Pac-10 caliber talent. Casto has a chance to be a solid interior player. Thames will be a starter. Wazzou looks better than many others merely because of Thompson and having eight bodies in the span of two years at least gives them better odds at developing some players. Plus, Tony Bennett gets more from his players than most of the conference.
(Mount San Antonio)
(Beverly Hills HS)
Beverly Hills, CA
(La Mirada HS)
La Mirada, CA
(Fayette County HS)
USC Analysis: Without DeRozan among these two recruiting classes, this is a pretty mediocre effort by the Trojans. If they bring in Solomon Hill, the wing who de-committed from Arizona, that would bolster 2009. But still, USC will have to do better than this over the course of two years to continue to be an NCAA tournament team.
St Joseph, MO
Arizona State PF
(St. Mary's HS)
Arizona State C
Arizona State SG
Arizona State Analysis: Given how Herb Sendek has turned around the ASU program, it's really not paying off in terms of recruiting. 2008 was a real swing and a miss; Rohde isn't a Pac-10 level player. For 2009, Walker isn't either. Trent Lockett is good, and Pateev is someone we haven't seen but heard is a project.
(Mountain View HS)
Arizona Analysis: Fogg might be a bit under-rated, but that's about all we can say to spin the Arizona recruiting situation. Hopefully they will hire a coach who will be able to sign some quality players in spring. If not, Arizona looks like they're falling into a black hole that will take them at least a few years to climb out of.
(Village Christian Schools)
Sun Valley, CA
(De La Salle HS)
Salt Lake City, UT
Stanford Analysis: Green is a solid get for the Cardinal. Bullock is a walk-on. Brown is a guy who Arizona also pursued out of desperation who we think isn't a Pac-10 level player. Stanford needs to sign some talent in the spring. They are looking at that same black hole we were talking about for Arizona.
(Santa Barbara HS)
Santa Barbara, CA
(West Valley HS)
Oregon State Analysis: We don't know Rose. Nelson has some talent but issues. Burton is a guy, if he continues to work and improve his body, could over-achieve against more highly-rated guys in the conference. But perhaps Head Coach Craig Robison needs to bring his brother-in-law into some in-home visits with him, because the Beavers will have to do quite a bit better than this to pull out of the conference cellar. Robinson's predecessor, Jay John, recruited far better and he couldn't do it.