From the moment he arrived at Kentucky as head coach in April 2009, John Calipari has been a master of one-and-done-era recruiting. Then, by 2013, Mike Krzyzewski had adopted that same approach wholeheartedly, with the result that Duke and Kentucky have now produced the top two recruiting classes nationally in each of the past five seasons.
For 349 other programs, however, recruiting is a far different matter. None of these "other" programs has been able to attain and hold onto the luxurious position of signing multiple one-and-done stars year in and year out. Programs such as Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA have done so at times; but at the end of the day, the duopoly maintained by the Blue Devils and the Wildcats is still standing.
Here are some rules of the recruiting road that have characterized the one-and-done-era for programs not named either Duke or Kentucky.
No one stays 'on top' in recruiting beyond Duke and Kentucky for long
Granting that Coach K and Coach Cal constitute their own discrete category in terms of recruiting heft, the No. 3 slot nationally has featured a rotating cast of programs over the past few years.
Using Drew Cannon's handy front-loaded sliding scale to measure classes in terms of "recruiting points," for instance, shows that for freshmen arriving on campus this fall, Oregon, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA are all bringing in impressive levels of talent.
Strongest freshman classes for 2018-19
1. Duke 39.0 points
2. Kentucky 24.6
3. Oregon 22.2
4. Kansas 18.1
5. North Carolina 17.0
6. UCLA 16.5
Certainly, the Jayhawks, Tar Heels and Bruins have made recurring appearances among the "best of the rest" over the past few years in terms of recruiting. But like just about any "normal" college programs, these teams are sometimes content to ride with veterans and sign a small number of recruits. We saw this take place with Kansas and North Carolina one year ago, and with UCLA three years ago. In fact, Roy Williams' team won the 2017 national title coming off one of UNC's (relatively speaking) "down" recruiting seasons, so clearly there's something to be said for the value of veterans.
What's most notable about this "best of the rest" level in 2018 is arguably the absence of Arizona. Typically, the Wildcats would be right there at the top of the next tier alongside the Jayhawks and Heels, but the uncertainty attached to Arizona as a result of the ongoing FBI investigation does appear to be taking a toll.
It's good news for Arizona fans, certainly, that Brandon Williams has walked back his earlier de-commitment and will, apparently, play for the Wildcats next season. Nevertheless, having Williams and Devonaire Doutrive in the fold gives Arizona just the No. 18-ranked recruiting class nationally.
True, Arizona coach Sean Miller also is bringing in one player from overseas (Belgian forward Omar Thielemans) and two graduate transfers (Justin Coleman of Samford and Ryan Luther of Pittsburgh). In addition, Duke transfer Chase Jeter will be eligible next season. Still, for a blue-chip program that lost all five starters from last season, Arizona is presenting an unusual look in terms of recruiting. It's tough to stay "on top" below Duke and Kentucky.
Coaches often can achieve their best recruiting results early in their tenure
Speaking of striking aspects of the 2018-19 freshman class nationally, look at Oregon. Dana Altman has brought in quite a haul in Eugene (including Bol Bol, Louis King, Will Richardson and Miles Norris) and, moreover, the head coach has done so heading into his ninth season at the helm with the Ducks.
Altman is therefore an exception to a somewhat more common rule: Whether your favored example is Cuonzo Martin when he arrived at Missouri, Shaka Smart early in his tenure at Texas or, at the risk of sounding repetitious, Cuonzo Martin when he arrived at Cal, we often see new coaches make a splash early in terms of recruiting.
Once that splash has been made, however, duplicating it usually proves to be a challenge. For all the talk of a "game-changer" for a program whenever an outstanding recruiting class is signed, no team outside of the above named "big six" (Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Arizona) has landed more than one freshman class with 15 recruiting points over the past eight years. Splashes are really tough to sustain.
A single one-and-done player isn't guaranteed to change your season, much less your program
Starting with the 2007 NBA draft, 41 percent of all one-and-done first-round picks have fallen into this category of zero career tournament wins. Mind you, the overall tournament average for one-and-done players is very good (1.8 NCAA wins), but these numbers suggest merely that great teams often have one-and-done talent. They do not necessarily show that one-and-done talent always makes teams great.
There's always the Villanova approach to recruiting -- if you can do it
Recruiting ratings are customarily a measure of sheer incoming talent volume; but, of course, volume presumes some degree of player turnover. Conversely, the best teams also can seek to minimize that turnover. Villanova's Jay Wright has won two national titles in the past three seasons without the benefit of one-and-done players.
If you can identify talent from outside the top 15 nationally as high school recruits who will eventually become performers -- such as Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo -- by all means do so. The trick is pulling that off. By comparison, finding playing time for a large group of eager McDonald's All Americans, the way Coach K and Coach Cal do annually, would seem like a piece of cake.