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Top 5 Class Could Make NC State Elite This Season

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Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

(All class rankings taken from 247sports.com and final rankings from KenPom; special thanks to alexjw7 for compiling the stats)

Bobby Bowden once famously downplayed his coaching acumen by acknowledging that it is good-to-great players that should be given the bulk of the credit for a program's success. Even our own Athletic Director, Debbie Yow, has been adamant about hiring coaches who can recruit at a high level. Recruiting well at NC State for all sports is a necessity and, as we saw in the past month, Mark Gottfried is locked in. For the first time in his tenure, Gottfried has landed a Top 5 recruiting class including 2 highly regarded 5-Star players. While not nearly the level of a UK or a Duke, with this class he has shown he can recruit nationally against elite company. Yet one major factor why UK and Duke continue to consecutively pull in these top classes has to do with their on-court success over the years. In order to constantly compete at their level of recruiting we have to start seeing more wins and less moral victories. NC State has yet to put a Top 25 team on the court consistently, but could our recent Top 5 recruiting rank predict how successful we'll be?

Recruiting Classes & KenPom Rankings

Top 5 Class of 2015

Final KenPom Ranking

UK

6

Duke

20

‘Zona

21

TAMU

19

tOSU

80

Top 5 Classes of 2014

Duke

4

UK

1

‘Zona

2

UNLV

100

Louisville

16

Top 5 Classes of 2013

UK

11

Kansas

12

Memphis

37

Indiana

67

Louisville

1

Top 5 Classes 2012

UK

67

UCLA

45

‘Zona

15

Baylor

29

U*NC

32

Top 5 Classes of 2011

UK

1

Duke

21

Louisville

14

‘Zona

52

Texas

30

Top 5 Classes of 2010

UK

5

OSU

1

Memphis

90

U*NC

14

‘Cuse

15

On the left you see the Top 5 recruiting classes for the past 6 years and beside each team is their KenPom finish at the end of the year. Obviously there are teams that make this list multiple times while you can see an outlier here or there. These outliers are important to our analysis because, as of right now, we are an outlier ourselves. Sure we've had 3 Top 25 classes under Gottfried before this one but Top 5 is in a different breath and this is the first time we've seen this at State in over a decade or more. This makes NC State an outlier as of now.

Teams & Order of KenPom Finish

Year-Team

Top 5 Classes

14 UK

1

13 UL

1

11 UK

1

10 tOSU

1

14 Zona

2

14 Duke

4

10 UK

5

15 UK

6

13 UK

11

13 KU

12

11 UL

14

10 UNC

14

12 Zona

15

10 Cuse

15

14 UL

16

15 TAMU

19

15 Duke

20

15 Zona

21

11 Duke

21

12 Baylor

29

11 Texas

30

12 UNC

32

13 Memphis

37

12 UCLA

45

11 Zona

52

13 IU

67

12 UK

67

15 tOSU

80

10 Memphis

90

14 UNLV

100

This section could be extremely telling. 8 of the teams that finished with a Top 5 class completed the season with a KenPom rating in the Top 10 and 14 of them finished in the Top 25 which is about as expected. Top 5 doesn't guarantee success though. 11 of these teams finished outside of the Top 25 and 6 of them finished 50 or higher in KenPom's ratings. How does this relate to a current outlier like NC State? Of the 6 teams that completely bottomed out despite their Top 5 recruiting class, 2 of them (IU, UNLV) were outliers who haven't appeared before or since, while Memphis & tOSU only appear twice. 8 of the teams that finished in the Top 10? Mostly UK, Duke, Arizona, Louisville...the usual suspects in college basketball. The implication here is that nearly 50% of the time, bringing in a Top 5 class means your team will be good the following year, but the teams that haven't appeared but once or twice in the Top 5 could very likely underachieve.

Order of KenPom Finish for Classes w/ Multiple 5 Stars

Top 5 Classes with 2 or more 5*

Year-Team

1

14 UK

1

13 UL

1

11 UK

4

14 Duke

5

10 UK

6

15 UK

11

13 UK

12

13 KU

14

10 UNC

15

12 Zona

15

10 Cuse

20

15 Duke

21

15 Zona

45

12 UCLA

52

11 Zona

67

12 UK

90

10 Memphis

BUT...GOOD NEWS everyone! NC State has the fortune of having something some of these other squads don't and that's TWO (count ‘em) TWO elite-level 5-Star players coming in. Of the 17 teams who brought in two or more 5-Star players, only 4 finished the season outside KenPom's Top 25. And of those 4 there is no particular trend to cause concern. Half of them are these outlier squads (UCLA, Memphis) while the other half are the usual suspects (UK, Zona). Kansas & Syracuse, which have only one Top 5 class, and U*NC, which has only 2, completed the year as KenPom Top 25 teams when bringing in multiple 5-Star players. With over 75% of these teams having great seasons on the court, it may be a sign that we can have more a little confidence staring NC State S*** in the face before 2016-2017 begins.

Average & Median KenPom Finishes

Average KP

Median KP

Top 5 Class

27.6

17.5

Top 5 Class with 2 or more 5*

22.3

14

Lastly, looking at the averages and median finishes gives us good reason to have hope as well. Teams with Top 5 classes finish with a KenPom rating at about 28 on average with a median of 17.5. Teams that more closely resemble State by having multiple 5-Stars, finish at about 22 on average with a median of 14. Good ole Memphis/UNLV drags these overall numbers down while UK, alone, drives them higher but truthfully this is a good sign for NC State going into 2016-2017.

Look there are obviously a number of factors that go into how some of these teams finished. Injuries to account for, sub-par coaching (*cough* Pastner *cough*) but these last 6 recruiting classes show that if you can pull elite talent, you can have an elite team. This year we finished 4th behind Duke, UK, & MSU with UCLA finishing 5th in in recruiting. Note the presence of the usual suspects in the 2016 class but also three other squads who have only one prior Top 5 appearance between them. This year becoming our BEST year is more possible than it has been in a long time. So why not State? With a number of returning upperclassmen, universal depth, elite-level talent and an experienced coaching staff, the numbers say we can do something big this year. Lets hope that for once... numbers ain't bulls***.