For the moment the college basketball signings are over and the analysis has begun.
Who has the nation’s best incoming recruiting class? Where does Indiana fit in? And what’s up with the Big Ten?
For this we turn to Rivals.com, which has just come out with its top 30 classes. Is it etched in stone? Not quite. Reasonable people and experts can disagree, and will.
Still, Indiana’s class of Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington is impressive enough to earn a No. 27 nationally rating.
Zeller is the big gun here, a 6-10 forward rated in everybody’s top 20. Beyond his skills is a strong likelihood that he will be a four-year player. That’s a rarity these days, and if it happens, the championship prospects skyrocket. He’ll need plenty of help, and coach Tom Crean is assembly impressive talent. Some is already on the team, more is coming.
Don’t count out Etherington. He was banged up at the start of last summer, so his ranking dropped, but he’s likely to provide instant impact next year. Why? Because he is 6-6 and can shoot. You can never have enough good shooters.
Anyway, the Hoosiers’ class ranks as the fourth best in the Big Ten.
Ohio State comes in at No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 10 nationally, which is enough to make a Hoosier fan start to hate coach Thad Matta. Yeah, he has Butler roots, and he’s used them to land such Indiana talent as Greg Odgen, Mike Conley and Deshaun Thomas. Beyond that, he keeps bringing in NBA caliber players who keep leaving early. This would be a problem except that he brings them in EVERY year.
This year Matta has signed five players and four are ranked in the top-75 -- small forwards Sam Thompson (No. 46) and LaQuinton Ross (53), point guard Shannon Scott (65), center Amir Williams (73) and unranked power forward Trey McDonald.
Ohio State beat out Purdue and Florida to land Williams.
Illinois is right behind the Buckeyes at No. 11 nationally. It has four top-100 players in small forward Mycheal Henry (36), point guard Tracy Abrams (50), power forward Mike Shaw (58) and center Nnanna Egwu (93).
It seems like just the other day critics were saying coach Bruce Weber couldn’t recruit. Well, he’s starting to get something right. This year’s team will challenge Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship.
Michigan State is No. 3 in the Big Ten and No. 16 nationally. It has a pair of top-90 guys with small forward Branden Dawson (13) and shooting guard Dwaun Anderson (89), plus shooting guard Brandan Kearney and point guard Travis Trice.
The 6-6 Dawson, who is from Gary, once appeared a lock for Purdue, but somehow Michigan State swooped in and got him.
If you believe these rankings, the Big Ten is tied with the ACC for the third best conference behind No. 1 SEC and No. 2 Big East.
The SEC has nine top-30 teams, including No. 1 Kentucky. It’s coach John Calipari’s third straight No. 1 recruiting class. It includes Indianapolis Pike point guard Marquis Teague, rating as the nation’s No. 2 overall player. It also has the No. 3 player in small forward Mike Gilchrist, the No. 6 player in power forward Anthony Davis and the No. 25 player in power forward Kyle Wiltier.
Remember Steve Lavin, the ESPN commentator and former UCLA coach. Well, he’s back into coaching -- this time at St. John’s -- and kicking some recruiting rump. He has the No. 2 recruiting class and it includes six top-82 players, plus two other highly regarded guys.
Remember, this is based on the early signing period. It could change in April with the next signing period.
But for now, Indiana’s rising prospects continue to look really, really good.