Even though Kentucky lost out on Andrew Wiggins on Tuesday, the Wildcats may still have a signing class for the ages.
The Wildcats bring in six McDonald’s All-Americans for 2013-14, and Wiggins, the consensus top prospect, would have added to an embarrassment of riches. Instead, Wiggins heads to Kansas where he headlines the No. 2 class -- a recruiting haul that could be No. 1 in most years.
Where those classes end up no one knows, but all signs point to these being some of the best on paper.
These are the freshman classes Kentucky’s and Kansas’ freshmen are up against -- national champions, All-Americans and NBA lottery picks.
In this ranking, we put most weight on college production, particularly for classes that had mutliple high-level contributors. We also considered longevity and pro potential in assembling this ranking.
TOP COLLEGE BASKETBALL RECRUITING CLASSES SINCE 2000
1. 2011 Kentucky
The class: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer
John Calipari’s best recruiting class produced a dominant regular-season team (38-2, 16-0 SEC), the national champion and the top two players in the NBA Draft. Anthony Davis joined Kansas’ Danny Manning and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor as the only players to win the Naismith Award, to win Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors and to go first in the NBA Draft. Kidd-Gilchrist was a second-team All-American and the second overall pick while the point guard Teague was the No. 29 pick in 2012.
2. 2004 Florida
The class: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Joakim Noah
The ‘04 class formed the core of Florida’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2006 and 2007. When they all left for the draft in 2007, Horford, Brewer and Noah were top-10 picks, and Green was a second-rounder. Noah was the only All-American in the group, earning second-team honors in 2007, but he and Brewer ended up as NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Players.
3. 2002 Syracuse
The class: Carmelo Anthony, Billy Edelin, Matt Gorman, Gerry McNamara
Before one-and-done players were commonplace, Anthony had one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history, leading Syracuse to the national title in 2003. After averaging a double-double and earning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, Anthony went on to be the third overall pick in the NBA Draft after LeBron James and Darko Milicic. McNamara stayed all four years to become a beloved player for Syracuse, vociferously defended by Jim Boeheim in a famous tirade.
4. 2002 North Carolina
The class: Raymond Felton, Damion Grant, Sean May, Rashad McCants, David Noel
Signed under Matt Doherty and unleashed under Roy Williams, this trio was the nucleus of North Carolina’s 2005 national title team. Three became NBA lottery picks -- Felton at No. 5 overall, May at No. 13 overall and McCants at No. 14. May was a consensus All-American his last season, and Felton won the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard.
5. 2006 Kansas
The class: Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs, Brandon Rush, Julian Wright
Rush and Chalmers were the keys to Kansas’ first national title in 20 years when the Jayhawks won the 2008 championship. Chalmers hit the game-tying three-pointer to send the title game against Memphis to overtime before winning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. Rush was a three-time All-Big 12 selection. A year earlier, Wright, Chalmers and Rush won 33 games en route to the Elite Eight. Downs played one season at Kansas before finishing his career at Gonzaga.
6. 2001 Connecticut
The class: Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor
Gordon and Okafor led Connecticut to a national title as juniors in 2004 to cap a 33-6 season. A shot-blocker extraordinaire, Okafor was a consensus All-American and the second pick in the NBA Draft after Dwight Howard. Gordon followed his teammate as the third overall pick.
7. 2002 Illinois
The class: James Augustine, Dee Brown, Aaron Spears, Deron Williams
A class recruited by Bill Self enjoyed most of its success under Bruce Weber. Brown and Williams led Illinois to a 37-2 season in 2004-05, reaching the national final that year. The Illini, though, lost to the North Carolina team led by May, McCants and Felton. Brown was a consensus first-team All-American in 2005 while Williams was a second-teamer that year. Williams left for the draft where he was selected third overall, but Brown stayed for his senior season to become a second-team All-American.
8. 2006 Texas
The class: D.J. Augustin, Kevin Durant, Matt Hill, Damion James, Justin Mason, Dexter Pittman, Harrison Smith
In retrospect, Texas going 25-10 with a second-round exit with Kevin Durant in 2006-07 looks indefensible. Durant was dominant in his only season in college as one of two freshmen to win the Naismith Award (Anthony Davis was the other). The class paid off over the years with Augustin, a first-team All-American and ninth overall pick, leading Texas to a 31-7 season and the Elite Eight in 2008. James was a third-team All-American in 2010 and the No. 24 pick.
9. 2006 Ohio State
The class: Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, Othello Hunter, David Lighty, Greg Oden
The “Thad Five,” Thad Matta’s first major recruiting class at Ohio State, produced two top-five picks (Oden and Conley) and the No. 21 pick (Cook). Though his NBA career has been injury plagued, Oden was a star college player, earning second-team All-America and National Defensive Player of the Year honors. Besides Oden, Conley was a second-team All-Big Ten pick, and Cook was the league’s sixth man of the year for a team that reached the NCAA final. Lighty stuck around to be a leader and key cog on the Buckeyes’ 2010-11 Big Ten title team.
10. 2010 Ohio State
The class: Aaron Craft, Jordan Siebert, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas
This star-studded class for Thad Matta had more of a lasting impact for the Buckeyes than the Thad Five. Sullinger, Thomas and Craft led Ohio State to an Elite Eight in 2011 and a Final Four in 2012. Sullinger was a two-time All-American before leaving school after two seasons. The team led by Thomas and Craft reached the Sweet 16 in 2013. This class has formed the core of teams that have won at least 30 games in each of their three seasons.
11. 2006 North Carolina
The class: Wayne Ellington, William Graves, Ty Lawson, Alex Stephenson, Deon Thompson, Brandan Wright
Along with Tyler Hansbrough from the 2005 class, the Tar Heels’ ‘06 class formed the core of a team that went to the Elite Eight in 2007 and the Final Four in 2008 before winning a national title in 2009. Wright was the highest draft pick of the group at No. 8 in 2007, but Lawson was the 2009 ACC Player of the Year and Ellington was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Lawson (No. 17 overall) and Ellington (No. 28) were drafted in 2009.
12. 2009 Kentucky
The class: Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, John Wall
Calipari’s first class at Kentucky would be outdone by later classes both in the NCAA Tournament and in the NBA Draft, but this was a dominant class nonetheless. This class went 35-3 overall and 14-2 in the SEC before falling in the Elite Eight to West Virginia. All four were first round picks -- Wall at No. 1 overall, Cousins at No. 5, Bledsoe at No. 18 and Orton at No. 29.
13. 2005 North Carolina
The class: Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough
Hansbrough was one of the most accomplished four-year players in recent decades, earning first- or second-team All-America honors all four seasons. The consensus national player of the year as a junior, Hansbrough led North Carolina to a national title in 2009, his final season. Green wrapped up an underrated career in which he averaged 9.4 points on rosters never lacking for talent.
14. 2004 UCLA
The class: Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Josh Shipp
This class set the bar for Ben Howland at UCLA as Afflalo, Farmar and Shipp were the top three scorers on the 2006 national runner-up (32-7, 14-4 Pac-10). Farmar was a first-team Pac-12 selection in 2006 while Afflalo returned in 2007 to become an All-American and the top player on another Final Four team. Shipp, who played in three consecutive Final Fours, ended up the No. 12 scorer in UCLA history, only 37 points behind Bill Walton.
15. 2007 Purdue
The class: Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Scott Martin, E’Twaun Moore
A bad-luck recruiting class left Purdue fans wondering what could have been accomplished. Even so, this group turned out pretty good. The trio of Hummel, Johnson and Moore went 52-19 overall and 26-10 in their first two seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2009. Hummel, however, endured a season-ending injury in February 2010 and missed all of 2010-11. The Boilermakers still went 28-8 in the Big Ten in that span. Johnson was a first-team All-American in 2011, Hummel a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and Moore was a two-time first-team all-conference pick. Martin finished his career at Notre Dame.
16. 2003 Connecticut
The class: Josh Boone, Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Williams
The class produced three first-round draft picks, but also the core of the 2004-05 team that was a No. 2 seed bounced in the second round of the NCAAs by NC State, and the 2005-06 team that was a top seed but lost to 11th-seeded George Mason in the championship game. All were role players for the 2004 title team.
17. 2010 Kentucky
The class: Terrence Jones, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb
This haul lacked the oomph of the class that preceded it (led by Wall) and the class that came after (led by Davis), but formed the nucleus of a Final Four team even without the ineligible Kanter.
18. 2007 Kansas State
The class: Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen, Bill Walker
Beasley broke many of Durant’s Big 12 records and, like Durant, topped out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Pullen led K-State to an Elite Eight appearance in 2010.
19. 2010 Syracuse
The class: C.J. Fair, Baye Keita, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters
Waiters (fifth overall) and Melo (22nd) were first-round picks. Fair and Keita played in the Final Four this year.
20. 2007 Syracuse
The class: Jonny Flynn, Donte Green, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine
The class produced first-round draft picks (Flynn and Green), regular season success ... but unfulfilled promise in the NCAA Tournament, never advancing past the Sweet 16.
21. 2006 Duke
The class: Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek
Henderson was a lottery pick (No. 12), while Scheyer, Thomas and Zoubek were key players on the 2010 title team.
22. 2006 Connecticut
The class: Jerome Dyson, Curtis Kelly, Stanley Robinson, Hasheem Thabeet
Led by 2009 Big East Player of the Year Thabeet, this class produced three starters on the Huskies’ Final Four team in 2009.
23. 2008 Kansas
The class: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor
Marcus Morris was the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year. Markieff was selected one spot ahead of his brother at No. 13.
24. 2008 Butler
The class: Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, Chase Stigall
The class formed the core of the 2010 national runner-up. Hayward was the ninth overall pick in the draft.
25 or better? 2013 Kentucky
The class: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dominique Hawkins, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, Derek Willis, James Young
Calipari may have outdone himself by landing six of the nation’s top 15 prospects.
25 or better? 2013 Kansas
The class: Joel Embiid, Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins’ announcement Tuesday means Kansas will be just fine despite losing five starters.