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February 22, 2011

Ask the experts: Top overachievers

MORE EXPERTS: Moving up? | Duke loaded | Look out for Villanova | Fast risers

Rivals.com basketball recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi weigh in on four current topics.

What school overachieves the most in recruiting, based on what it has to offer and a local/regional talent base from which to draw?

Bossi: I would think that Gonzaga is a program that has to be up there. Spokane is no thriving metropolis of hoopsters and isn't the easiest place to get to for most. Mark Few has built a brand and his assistants have done a great job of talent evaluation over the years. Gonzaga consistently gets high-major talent and supplements its recruiting by looking outside of the United States. Another program that I always think does a great job is New Mexico. Steve Alford has used a terrific fanbase, top-notch facilities and recruiting contacts to the max in bringing in talent on a yearly basis.

Meyer: The recruiting standard at Gonzaga has always impressed me. Spokane, Wash., isn't necessarily a talent-rich area and Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference. Nonetheless, Gonzaga consistently is recruiting against top Pac-10 schools, along with Kansas and other high-major conference schools for highly regarded prospects. The coaches at Gonzaga also do a nice job recruiting internationally. It isn't unusual for Gonzaga to have a nationally ranked recruiting class.

What school underachieves the most in recruiting, based on what it has to offer and a local/regional talent base from which to draw?

Bossi: I hate to use the word underachieve and we haven't given Oliver Purnell much of a chance to turn things around, but DePaul has been struggling for years. That's something that Purnell is looking to address. He and his staff have done their best to make some inroads locally, but it will take time before they can compete for the studs from the Chicago area. More recently, one could argue that good and bad calls recruiting locally have led to UCLA's slide since making three straight Final Four appearances from 2006-08. Ben Howland has even openly admitted to some recruiting mistakes hurting his team.

Meyer: Maryland and Notre Dame both are successful basketball programs but rarely land highly ranked recruits. I get emails from disgruntled fans all the time. Michigan is trying to bounce back off a recruiting dry spell. And I have always thought DePaul could do more recruiting-wise, being in Chicago, with all the talent in its backyard.

As March Madness nears, how much of an impact does making the NCAA tournament for current bubble teams have on recruiting?

Bossi: Kids are always talking about how they want to play for a team that can compete, so in theory making the tournament should be a boost. I do find it interesting that so much time is spent talking about the teams that "could" make the tournament that it almost turns into small infomercials for those teams as analysts break down their styles and their strengths and weaknesses.

Meyer: The publicity a team gets by playing in March Madness has a significant impact on recruiting. I don't know how you would quantify the effect, but the exposure of playing in the tournament is a huge branding piece. And the publicity grows exponentially with every round a team advances. Making the tournament is also a strong sales point going into the next recruiting season and creates greater job security for the coaching staff.

We've been hearing a lot lately about the St. Louis area. Which metro area has better talent right now: St. Louis or its rival city, Chicago ?

Bossi: This year the St. Louis area gets the edge in terms of top-level production with guys such as Brad Beal. B.J. Young and Ben McLemore hailing from there, while Otto Porter grew up just a few hours south. However, on a year-to-year basis, from top to bottom, Chicago is generally going to pump out way more college prospects than St. Louis.

Meyer: St. Louis has a marquee elite prospect in Brad Beal and one of the top point guards in the country in B.J. Young, as well as some other fine prospects. But St. Louis still doesn't match Chicago, which consistently is one of the top metropolitan areas for basketball talent. Just the number of high-level travel teams coming out of the city tells you how much talent is there. Anthony Davis, Wayne Blackshear, Mycheal Henry, Sam Thompson, Ryan Boatright and Tracy Abrams are all Chicago-area prospects ranked in the top 50 of the 2011 Rivals150.

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