Is losing the No. 1 recruit a blessing or curse

R.J. Barrett

By KEITH PEEL,

Contributing Writer

The College Basketball season is in full swing. So is the college basketball recruiting season. The No.1 rated player in the 2018 class – RJ Barrett – picked his future college destination on Friday.

As most college basketball fans know it wasn’t the University of Kentucky. Is that a big deal?

Some analysts seem to think so. Some are saying Calipari has lost his edge, can’t recruit at the same level as when he arrived at Kentucky. If that’s the case – and some of the facts seem to bear that out – is that the most important factor to winning championships?

Over the past five years Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke has recruited seven top 5 players to Calipari’s two.  Over that same five-year period UK has had two No. 1 classes and three No. 2 classes while Duke had the exact opposite- three No. 1s and two No. 2s. Also during that same time frame Duke has won one National Title while Kentucky has won none.

What does it all mean? Over the last five seasons both teams have had the best players – based on 247 rankings – in the country and have won one title out of 10 tries. A 10 percent rate of success. Some people may say yes, but we made the Final Four or were Runner-up some of those years.

All that is true but nobody plays the game to come in second. If winning the title is the be-all and end-all of accomplishment in college basketball then both programs are falling woefully short.

Maybe the “one-and-done” recruiting philosophy looks good on paper but actually knocks the foundation out from under a program. The foundation being four-year players that learn how to play the game well and play together as a team. Without players like that I don’t think teams like Villanova or Connecticut or even North Carolina – nine of the fifteen players were juniors or seniors on their roster last year – win a National Championship.

Missing out on the top five recruits each year might not be a bad thing if it allows a team to get players that are in the Top 30 and fit their system and will stay three or four years.

As a coach, if you can accomplish that, you may be well on your way to winning a title just like Villanova in 2015 – who by the way hasn’t had a top 20 recruiting class in the last five years.

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