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A Look at Recruiting vs. On-Court Success in College Basketball Since 2005

A contributor took a look at recruiting since 2005 to see which teams have either over performed or underperformed on the court relative to recruiting rankings.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Wisconsin vs Florida Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: This research was done by Chris Woodward (‘14) and originally posted to OGBoards. We reached out to him because it is excellent material and he had no issues with it being shared here. The work done here is all his and he should get all the credit. We simply wanted to broadcast it on a wider scale because it is fantastically done.

“I was interested in seeing how teams’ on-court success compares to their recruiting level over the last decade (since one-and-done began). I want to emphasize that this is supposed to be a very rough estimate. There are a lot of limitations. I knew before I started the results would not be kind to Wake. Looking solely at the pre-[name redacted] era, things might look a little better, ha.

To measure on-court performance over the last decade, I took each team’s KenPom adjusted efficiency margin (AdjEM, which is how KenPom ranks teams within seasons) from each season, starting with the 2006-07 season and concluding with the 2016-17 season, and simply summed them all up. The summed AdjEMs from all teams were then ranked from highest to lowest to create an on-court performance ranking for all teams.

To measure recruiting ranking, I was originally just going to use 247’s class rankings; however, I quickly realized they are really, really off once you go back a few years. Also, in the 2005 class, the calculation includes players who originally committed to a college before deciding to enter the NBA draft (Gerald Green at Oklahoma State or Monta Ellis at Mississippi State, for instance).

So, using 247Sports’ rankings, I (slowly) compiled individual player rankings for all players committed to each team in the top 150 (in on-court performance), starting with the class of 2005 and ending with the class of 2016. So, the class of 2005 were sophomores when on-court success began to be captured (06-07 season), and only one year of on-court performance captured for class of 2016. Perhaps not the best, but there will be a loss of information no matter how you do it. Players without a ranking (NA) were assigned a ranking of 500.

The bottom 15% of players committed (by ranking) to each team were then dropped to mitigate the effect of outliers and because sometimes schools give scholarships to lower-level players without really affecting on-court success (Stilman White at UNC is one example).

The average ranking of players committed to each team during this time period was then taken. I then simply sorted the average player ranking by team (from lowest to highest) to create a recruiting ranking for all teams.

The plot below includes all teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, and Big East, as well as some teams from other conferences. The dashed line is where Recruiting Rank = On-Court Performance Rank. So, the (vertical) distance from each team’s logo to the line is the ranking differential.”

“The top right is a bit crowded. Here is a zoomed-in plot of all teams that had both rankings in the Top 30.”

Top 20 Biggest “Overperformers”

(Rank Differential = Recruiting Rank – On-Court Performance Rank in parentheses)

1. Wichita State (+66)

2. BYU (+52)

3. Saint Mary’s (+51)

4. Butler (+46)

5. VCU (+44)

6. Northern Iowa (+43)

7. West Virginia (+42)

8. Kansas State (+40)

9. Wisconsin (+39)

10. Gonzaga (+36)

11. Creighton (+31)

12. Davidson (+30)

13. New Mexico (+26)

14. San Diego State (+25)

15. Tulsa (+21)

T16. Iowa State (+19)

T16. Utah (+19)

18. Richmond (+18)

T19. Clemson (+16)

T19. Iowa (+16)

Top 20 Biggest “Underperformers”

1. Rutgers (-94)

2. DePaul (-80)

3. Auburn (-66)

4. Wake Forest (-58) (35th in recruiting, 93rd in on-court success)

5. Oregon State (-56)

6. UNC-Charlotte (-53)

T7. NC State (-50)

T7. Georgia Tech (-50)

T9. LSU (-45)

T9. St. John’s (-45)

11. Washington (-38)

12. UCF (-37)

13. Mississippi State (-35)

14. Alabama (-32)

15. Stanford (-28)

16. TCU (-27)

17. Illinois (-26)

18. Boston College (-25)

19. Arkansas (-24)

20. Florida State (-22)

“Like I said, this is supposed to be a very rough estimate. There are a lot of limitations. For instance, KenPom doesn’t add any extra value to postseason games, so UConn, despite winning 2 championships during this time period (2008 and 2011), is only 24th in on-court success. Also, I assumed all recruiting classes are equal in quality, which is obviously not accurate in reality. But it was a fun little project. I think there are some substantive things that can be taken from it. I’m open to suggestions to improve it.”