A writer from Scouts, Inc. for ESPN.com ranks the Big East basketball classes and Pitt is sixth.
Every now and then when I see these stories, it really gets me to thinking. To be honest, I don't know what amazes me more. Pitt's inability to consistently land higher-rated recruits or their ability to get the most out of the ones they do get.
One argument I'm sick of is the one that says Pitt won't get these types of players until they get to a Final Four. Please. Rutgers landed All-American Mike Rosario didn't they? Through Huggy Bear, Kansas State lured Michael Beasley. Marquette is 2nd on this list and even Providence (yes, THAT Providence) managed to land two ESPNU Top 100 players and ranks ahead of Pitt.
Now it's not as if Pitt has gotten chopped liver. Over the past four years, ESPN has ranked them in the top 25 three times. But they've had no top 15 classes and only one McDonald's All-American in the past ten years.
How much do these rankings mean? In reality, not all that much. DeJuan Blair was ranked somewhere around 50th, but was one of the best players in college basketball as a sophomore. Devin Ebanks of West Virginia was rated below Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones, but is the only one leaving early for the NBA. But for Pitt to not be able to land more top ranked players is kind of a head scratcher to me. Look at the factors:
1. They've put together nearly a solid decade of winning basketball with several Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite 8. Not among the best of the best, but certainly in that next tier. Record-wise, Pitt has been one of the nation's best.
2. Pitt has great facilities and plays in a new building.
3. The Oakland Zoo provides one of the best atmospheres in all of college basketball.
4. Pitt regularly plays on national TV.
5. It's also a very solid academic school.
When I see teams that have not even had a sniff of Pitt's recent success recruiting higher ranked players, I've got to admit I just don't get it. And I'm not so sure the argument of Pitt not allowing star players to 'showcase' themselves applies. To the contrary, I think Pitt would be a school a top recruit could look to and see himself leading an already good team to a championship.
Part of it is due to location - I get that. Great players staying close to home. But what this should really tell you how much of a factor relationships can play into recruiting.
All Pitt can really do is keep plugging away and the more they develop a reputation for sending players the NBA, the better things should get. Pitt has sent four players to the NBA in the past five seasons (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Aaron Gray, and Chris Taft) and Brandin Knight had a sniff appearing in one game in 2004-05 with the Rockets. If Gil Brown ever gets this consistency thing down, perhaps he'll get a look and you've got to think Dante Taylor can get there.
Pitt has had a lot of success, which is why their lack of top recruits is all the more puzzling.