The November signing period is upon us, and while seniors may sign through November 16, most of the action already has taken place. Arizona leads the way at the opening of the period, landing four Top 40 prospects and a pair of genuine elites.
We’ve compiled rankings for the top 25 classes below, focusing as always on quality over quantity. College basketball is about stars, and those classes with more players but lacking a blue-chipper are less likely to imprint as legacy than the aggregations with a potential All-American.
Note: We’ve listed the top prospects in each class here, but other commitments also were factored into the rankings.
The Gist: Sean Miller’s top-rated class included taking care of business in the West while moving east and stunning Kansas for Tarczewski. You can follow recruiting for a long time without witnessing a class that includes three top-40 big men and two within the national top 10. The Wildcats already boast ample young talent and loaded up in the backcourt last year, so this year’s frontcourt emphasis provides the roster greater balance. Meanwhile, York is a flashy scorer who is among the bounciest guards in the class.
The Gist: The Friars are rebuilding quickly after a couple years of turmoil. They didn’t — and typically shouldn’t — leave the Northeast, getting a pair of studs in Ledo and Dunn. Provided they can play off each other (both prefer to score), Providence could field one of the country’s most explosive backcourts in upcoming seasons.
3. N.C. State
The Gist: Without question, Mark Gottfried has breathed new life into the Wolfpack program. The coaching staff inherited flashy playmaker Lewis from the previous regime, but Purvis and Warren were grueling recruitments that appeared at one time or another to be on the ropes. Getting a trio of North Carolina natives also positions the club to compete for future in-state talent with the other Tobacco Road powers.
The Gist: It’s a rare event that neither Ohio State nor Michigan State tops the Big Ten charts, and certainly recruitniks may be surprised to see John Beilein’s program roaming among the top five classes. McGary constituted a gripping victory over Duke, North Carolina, Florida and other juggernauts, but don’t overlooked the rapidly improving Robinson or Stauskas, either. This is a big-time effort for the Wolverines.
Ranked Signees: Isaiah Austin (No. 2), L.J. Rose (No. 76)
The Gist: Austin’s best basketball may lay several years ahead, but even if his greatest contribution to the program is that of an ambassador, the Bears are thrilled to have him. He’s a superlative face-up scorer and shotblocker who simply needs to gain strength. Rose arguably is the top playmaker in the class, even if he isn’t an accomplished scorer.
Ranked Signees: Kyle Anderson (No. 3), Jordan Adams (No. 74)
The Gist: Ben Howland has restored equilibrium at UCLA. The Bruins emerged as a big story in the fall due to their ability to go to the East Coast and pull top-five forward Anderson away from a host of Big East programs. Anderson is one of the most unique prospects to surface in recent seasons; on offense, he legitimately can play any of four positions. Adams needs to firm up but is a talented wing scorer and should benefit from Anderson’s exquisite passing ability.
7. North Carolina
The Gist: There may not be a star in this class — a rarity for a Roy Williams production — but the Tar Heels reeled in four top-75 prospects and the nation’s No. 2 point guard. Paige is a very heady and smooth scorer and distributor, and Johnson resembles elite frontcourt athletes of UNC’s recent past. Tokoto and James may need more time to develop, but each is a legitimate talent as well.
The Gist: After last year’s remarkable win for current freshman Cody Zeller, Tom Crean pieced together a more complete effort with the 2012 class. Ferrell is a big-time floor general while Perea is a dynamic athlete with an aggressive style and non-stop workrate. Hollowell and Patterson are far more physically developed than most high school kids, and the two wings should coexist (Hollowell the shooter, Patterson the slasher) well on the court.
The Gist: An off year for Kentucky? Well, that argument is difficult to support given the Wildcats’ top-10, but it does seem as though UK has dominated national recruiting of late. And don’t bet against John Calipari accumulating even greater talent; the Wildcats remain involved with several big-time prospects. Goodwin is a sensational scorer in the open floor, and Cauley is such a gazelle that he played football this fall and posted big numbers as a freakish wide receiver.
Ranked Signees: Steven Adams (No. 8), James Robinson (No. 54)
The Gist: Adams isn’t your run-of-the-mill elite prospect. A native of New Zealand, he has shone during his time on the American stage and plans to attend prep school in the United States during the latter portion of the 2011-12 season. He’s tremendously skilled and should be an impact performer for as long as he’s on campus. While not always a big production guy, Robinson is tough, wins a great deal and thus is a natural fit for the Panthers.
The Gist: Texas did what Texas does: Wrap up more than its fair share of Lone Star talent. The Longhorns landed a franchise center and paired him with one of the most precocious defensive big men in the class. After a couple years in UT’s strength and conditioning program, both Ridley and Ibeh could become monsters. Felix blew up in the late summer and is a dangerous three-point shooter.
The Gist: While many within Orange nation are dealing with the grief of leaving traditional Big East rivals, Syracuse is set to compete on continued elite ground upon its entrance into the ACC. Despite tense moments, the Orange were able to overcome Kentucky to keep Coleman close to home, and his sheer mass will make him a force. Grant is a slender wing with rapidly improving skills.
13. Oklahoma State
Ranked Signees: Marcus Smart (No. 7)
The Gist: Toughman Smart is the key piece to OSU’s class. He was sensational during the summer period, out-dueling many other touted peers to achieve victory after victory. His leadership is even more impressive than his raw physical talent, and that raw physical talent itself is immense. He could be a star from day one.
Ranked Signees: Daniel Ochefu (No. 38), Ryan Arcidiacono (No. 39)
The Gist: The Wildcats’ class features a great deal of toughness and craft. Arcidiacono is a top-shelf point guard who should be able to play early and projects as a valuable four-year contributor. Ochefu is a dunker deluxe who will give the team legitimate size and athleticism at center.
Ranked Signees: Rasheed Sulaimon (No. 14)
The Gist: Duke’s one-man class nevertheless earns them a spot in the rankings based on Sulaimon’s ample gifts. He’s an excellent defender who also creates his own offense and has easy three-point shooting range. He may remind fans of former Blue Devils Nolan Smith and Daniel Ewing.
[b]The Gist: Utilizing his contacts in Texas, Mark Turgeon snared big-time big man Cleare. The Terrapins enjoyed dazzling success in the frontcourt under former coach Gary Williams, and Turgeon is prepared to carry on the tradition. Layman needs strength but is a jumbo wing with a nice perimeter jump shot and nimble feet.
The Gist: Far and away the big surprise in this set of rankings, the Cougars are poised to make a run at their 1980s glory. House himself shocked onlookers with his transition scoring ability that’s complemented by a capable jump shot. Knowles is thin and unrefined but has quick reflexes and excellent long-term potential.
18. St. John’s
Ranked Signees: Ricardo Gathers (No. 21)
The Gist: After last year’s gargantuan haul — even despite some losses due to NCAA issues — St. John’s had to set its sites on a small group yet one that still upgraded the talent level. Gathers is the main man and is one of the most physical and muscular frontcourt scorers in the country.
Ranked Signees: Perry Ellis (No. 27)
The Gist: A lot of negative ink is making its way onto the local papers these days with respect to KU recruiting, but the Jayhawks do have a couple commitments and a spot among the top 25 classes. Ellis sat in the critical seat: His signature gives the Jayhawks a mobile frontcourt athlete who will beef up an interior that appears thin for 2012-13. An in-state, he also brings with him local support and goodwill to Lawrence.
Ranked Signees: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (No. 28)
The Gist: The Hoyas hope to make Smith-Rivera a key piece of their offense. Blessed with a highly advanced mid-range scoring game, he has been a national fixture for several years. The key for him will be to round out his dribbling and passing, but already he has demonstrated improvement in those areas.
21. Wake Forest
The Gist: Few expected the Demon Deacons to land such a strong crop in the aftermath of last year’s on-court struggles, but Wake’s large class includes three top-100 prospects. Importantly, two of those pledges are North Carolina natives — a good sign for a coaching staff still finding its groove within the state. Miller-McIntyre has the solid frame to play as a freshman, and Moto is a tough and scrappy competitor who is likely to become a fan favorite.
Ranked Signees: Justin Anderson (No. 40)
The Gist: Anderson leads the way in a sizable class for the Cavaliers. He’s a strong, athletic and brash wing who is capable of great defensive performances. A streaky three-point shooter, his ability to finish above the rim also will be appreciated by the fanbase and coaching staff.
23. Texas A&M
The Gist: The Aggies are thrilled to bring in a couple of top-75 Texans. Reese at one time was considered a national elite, and while he still is considered a small combo guard rather than a true point, he’s a talented scorer capable of posting big numbers quickly. Caruso emerged late, has close family ties to the school and could become an early surprise if he can gain muscle.
The Gist: What a bold statement for the Hawkeyes. Needing to revamp the roster to compete against the Big Ten elites, Iowa hauled in a pair of top-100 prospects from within the region. Woodbury isn’t the most athletic big man but boasts an accurate hook shot with either hand and excellent stamina. Gesell is strong, hard-nosed, a talented passer and pretty good outside shooter.
25. Notre Dame
Ranked Signees: Cameron Biedschied (No. 47), Zach Auguste (No. 94)
The Gist: Last year’s strong regular season ended early, but the visibility the Irish achieved helped them lock up two nationally ranked recruits. Biedschied may be underrated and, if he can gain strength, will be a showcase scorer with the ability to fire the ball in from any range. Auguste is fleet and versatile, so now polishing his offense is the next step.