There is a misplaced narrative being whispered in some uninformed corners of college basketball that the Big East is somehow down or evolving into a “Villanova and everyone else type” type of conference.
As preposterous as that notion may seem given that the Big East was the only conference in the country to have multiple #1 seeds this year and got six teams into the tournament field one year after getting seven in 2017, this deep dive into the conference’s recruiting should further end the debate once and for all.
Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider, and Brandon Slater give Jay Wright one of the best recruiting classes of his tenure. Quinerly, a five-star point guard, is as skilled a player as there is in the class while Swider is one of the elite shooting and scoring forwards in the country. Slater, a long lefty wing, plays multiple positions and fits the team’s versatile blue-print on the defensive end. All three are ranked among the top 50 prospects in the country.
Ed Cooley has a pair of top 50 national prospects coming in as well with local New England products A.J. Reeves and David Duke. Reeves is a shot-maker with good positional size on the wing while Duke is a big and athletic lead guard with a very high ceiling. Kris Monroe and Jimmy Nichols Jr. provide a pair of combo-forwards who fit the prototype of what has been most successful under Cooley in recent years.
Marcus Zegarowski, an ESPN 100 national product, should shore up the point guard rotation for Doug McDermott and be poised to take over the teams perhaps as early as his sophomore year. He’s joined by Sam Froling, the latest late-blooming big man that Creighton has taken a chance on developing, along with Christian Bishop, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward.
The Golden Eagles didn’t need a deep class this year, but they needed an immediate impact piece, and they got just that with ESPN 100 forward Joey Hauser. He’s 6-foot-7 with a polished skill set and a natural fit as a stretch-four-man with the potential to maybe even evolve into a big wing. Hauser is also a top 50 ranked prospect in the country.
They’re in a state of flux following Chris Mack’s decision to leave for Louisville but this year’s recruiting class was already uncharacteristic of what we’ve come to expect in recent years. The Musketeers had landed a pair of ESPN 100 products in each of the last two classes prior to 2017 and this year just missed on a variety of high profile guys including Swider, Jermaine Harris, and David McCormack among others.
Patrick Ewing’s first full class has three players capable of seeing immediate time. Josh LeBlanc is ranked among the top 100 prospects in the country by various national media outlets and is best known for his best. Mac McClung, who was originally committed to Rutgers, is a high level athlete, YouTube sensation, and future fan favorite for the Hoya faithful. Grayson Carter rounds out the class with a developing big man from Texas.
Similarly, Seton Hall has three players committed in Anthony Nelson, Valdir Manuel, and Darnell Brodie. Nelson and Manuel, while not on most national top 100 lists, were prioritized and pursued by a variety of other high-major programs. Nelson is a smooth lefty playmaking guard and Manuel a long and increasing versatile big man. Brodie is a physical enforcer in the paint.
6-foot-9 big man Josh Roberts and 6-foot-3 guard Greg Williams should immediate upgrade the athleticism of Chris Mullin’s club. They’ll also make their presence felt on the defensive end of the floor thanks to their versatility. Marcellus Earlington, who made a verbal commitment in late February, is a little bit more of a risk but a calculated one as the Red Storm are betting on toughness, character, and proven productivity.
John Deiner and George Maslennikov both signed Letters of Intent with DePaul in November and while neither is ranked nationally, both have a chance to overachieve. Diener is a 6-foot-4 guard who has earned all-state honors in all four years of high school in Wisconsin while George Maslennikov is a late blooming big man with a high ceiling.
Even in a year in which Xavier has not had their typical class and both St. John’s and DePaul have both had top 100 national prospects de-commit and head elsewhere, the Big East has continued to prove they can recruit with any top national conference.
There are 6 top 50 nationally ranked prospects headed to the Big East next year and two more ranked within the ESPN 100. Comparatively speaking, those six top 50 recruits rank ahead of both the Big 12 (5 top 50 recruits) and the Big Ten (3 top 50 recruits) and behind the SEC (12), ACC (11), and Pac-12 (8). In short, the Big East remains very competitive with other high major conferences when it comes to recruiting the nation’s best.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Big East schools rarely pursue the one-and-done type talent that usually end up at places like Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas among other places.
There are usually between 15-20 of those type of prospects in the country in any given year. The Big East has zero of the top 20 ranked prospects this year, but six of the next 30. In other words, when it comes to the players who will most likely be multi-year impact players at the college level, the Big East takes a back seat to no one.