Recruiting rankings get the fans excited. Recruiting rankings get the players excited.
But those rankings can't put the ball through the hoop. Players do.
In the Red Storm's banner recruiting class, there are scorers in the backcourt. Nurideen Lindsey's coming to drop some points, and D'Angelo Harrison's release is quick and true.
There are scorers on the wing, with the so-talented stroke of Maurice Harkless and the skills of Jakarr Sampson.
There is athleticism in the paint with God's Gift Achiuwa and Norvel Pelle.
And there are athletic defenders who can put some points on you in Amir Garrett and Sir'Dominic Pointer.
This is an awesome collection of talent. So why do poo-pooing naysayers sometimes whisper that the recruiting class is... flawed? A look at the arguments that support the idea that the class is flawed, below the fold>>
There are a number of reasons to play a wait-and-see game with the recruiting class, and a number of reasons for folks to yammer about "flaws".
Too much of the same position? Nine players coming onto the team is almost unheard of in college ball, especially on the Big East level. The quantity is there, but many of the players play on the wing. Are there too many players at the same position?
This is a flaw... in the way many good recruiting classes are flawed. The Red Storm staff went after the best available players they could get, and didn't worry about pigeonholing players into positions/ where they can play. That can be a fools' game; different players mature into the college game at different rates, and a good coach knows how to get the best/ most prepared fivesome on the floor, logging major minutes. No player can get too comfortable in his position, because another player can bring something else to the table.
Where some see "logjam," others can see versatility, a la West Virginia with Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler. On defense, especially in the zone, there isn't one "short guy" to shoot over, there isn't a "lumbering oaf" to take off the dribble. There are just a lot of 6'6", lanky defenders - everywhere the opposing offense moves, there's length.
The class isn't perfectly designed to have a starting five and second unit, and that's okay. Some of the players thought of as wings will earn time as backcourt guards, will develop their skills so they get time on the floor. And in the open court, there really aren't positions, just the guy with the ball and the guy trying to get to the hoop for the finish.
No impact players? The bigger issue for immediate success is the seeming lack of an impact player. None of the Red Storm players is ranked in the top-10 of any of the recruiting services. Why does this matter? Don't recruiting numbers go out the window?
Yes. But one thing the recruiting folks have been good at is identifying talent that is NBA-level as freshmen. That kind of NBA-level talent also can carry a college team to NCAA tournaments, when coached decently - think of Kevin Durant, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony - despite their youth. Generally, outside of the top-10 players, freshman performance can be inconsistent (and we'll get deeper into this over the summer).
Not having a player who can carry the team COULD be a problem. One star may emerge; or the versatility and evenness of the talent could lend itself to a rotating cast of star players from game to game. But it's true - the teams where frosh carry the squad usually have higher-ranked incoming talent. It doesn't mean the Johnnies can't make the tournament and make noise. It just means that someone has to emerge and be a high-usage, efficient player.
No true point guard/ Not enough beef? In 2011, the crop of big men was known to be weak. And the point guard class had solid players, but many made their decisions early, while others like Naadir Tharpe and Josiah Turner, turned down the Red Storm overtures.
Can't win them all.
So the Red Storm class ends up with a number of players who can handle the ball, but aren't known as "true" point guards. If you fetishize the "true" point guard, and don't think passing can be learned, then yes, this is an issue. For some players, their urge to score hurts the flow of the offense; but learning how to run an offense can be learned. It's not the same as having an exemplary passer like North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, but other teams (like Duke with Nolan Smith) seemed to do just fine with heady guards who know the game instead of the "true" point guard.
As for the up front, the Red Storm is built to take advantage of speed and quickness, to take advantage of the ability to RUN. On defense, not having more than God's Gift to defend the paint could be an issue, given the skinniness of the other players; but a good defensive plan can often keep the ball away from big men on the college level.
The Red Storm can win, and win big, with the current roster.
Despite the "flaws", this is a spectacular recruiting class.
And not spectacular in the John Calipari way - these players will see their second year of college, developing over that crucial freshman-to-sophomore summer into the ballers they will be on the next level.
Impact players will emerge. And a few players on the roster certainly have professional potential after their sophomore and junior years, the kind of potential that can carry a team. And they will be fed the chance to star very early... even with a roster that doesn't seem to have two of every position.