The success or lack thereof in collegiate sports begins with recruiting. The better the recruiting class a coach can bring in, the better the opportunity for success. Obviously having a highly ranked class doesn’t guarantee success, just look at a team like NC State this season, but it certainly helps.
Historically, the Big Ten holds their own out on the recruiting trail with teams like Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan routinely bringing in Top 25 classes. But this season, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the conference hasn’t really made headway with the nation’s top players like they have in previous years.
In what is more of a “dead period” when it comes to actual commitments, most of the activity during this portion of the season revolves around rumors, the trimming of lists and what a player is or isn’t doing during their current seasons.
247Sports is one of the more highly respected recruiting sites/services out there and they update their player and team rankings more than most. 247 released their updated player and team rankings on Sunday and the Big Ten’s lack of presence on both lists stood out to me. Illinois (10th) and Wisconsin (18th) are the only two teams to crack their Top 30 at the moment and while they have 12 of the nation’s top 100 players, only two of those fall in the Top 50 and zero are in the Top 20.
Compare that to last season when they had five teams in the Top 30 Nationally and six players in the Top 50, including the 12th overall player in Miles Bridges. And I say all of that for two reasons.
1. Don’t Panic.
Recruiting is extremely cyclical and there are plenty of players still left on the board, twelve in the Top 100 to be exact. Not to mention the occasional decommitment and transfer that always seems to alter the landscape during April and May. If your team isn’t where you want it to be currently, Michigan State fans would be a good example, don’t worry. Things can change quickly with one commitment.
I referenced NC State above and I’ll use them as an example here again. At this point in the recruiting cycle last season, they had exactly one commitment, from PG Dennis Smith Jr. The Wolfpack lost Cat Barber to the NBA Draft and the Martin Twins to transfer. Things were looking bleak until Mark Gottfried pulled off one of the better recruiting coups in recent memory and ended up with an extremely strong five man class that ranked Top 5 in the country on all recruiting sites.
The takeaway here is to be patient; things can change in a New York Minute with regards to recruiting.
2. The Big Ten is extremely young.
As I watched the Purdue vs. Iowa game on Thursday night, I was blown away at Iowa’s freshman class of players. It got me thinking and so I took a look at the rest of the Big Ten and it seems that the entire conference is a little wet behind the ears. Of the fourteen teams in the conference, only four have 4+ seniors on the roster and the remaining ten teams have 2 or fewer seniors, which means that teams are relying on guys who, in theory, should be back next season and in some cases two to three years from now.
Penn State doesn’t have a senior on the entire roster while Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Ohio State and Rutgers only have one senior. The future is bright for many of Big Ten’s teams and the ones with the biggest questions marks in Michigan State and Wisconsin are two teams that, no matter what happens during the recruiting cycle, are going to be just fine.
Building a roster is a process and it takes more than a player here or a player there to become a contender. Very few teams, or coaches for that matter, ever get to that level where you can simply offer and get a “yes” like the Duke’s and Kentucky’s seem to do. Recruiting is like a roller coaster ride. There are highs and there are lows. There’s excitement and then there’s fear. The key is to not let yourself get too high with the peaks or too low with the valleys.