Rankings Look Back: The Sweet 16

Julius Randle

Of the 80 players left starting in the NCAA Tournament, how did they all rate coming out of high school, and where they did come from, here is an in-depth look.

Where the players were ranked

There are 80 starters remaining in the Sweet 16. The age old question is how much do recruiting rankings matter, well here is the breakdown of those 80 players based on their star level according to Scout.com.

Five-Star Prospects – 15

Four-Star Prospects – 27

Three-Star Prospects – 20

Two-Star Prospects – 9

Unranked Prospects – 9

So 52.5 percent of all the starters remaining in the mix were either four or five-star prospects coming out. That is a pretty high percentage considering that there are on average only about 25 five-star prospects per year and roughly only another 80 four-star prospects as related hundreds of three-star prospects, and then clearly thousands of two-star or lower prospects who either don't get seen, or aren't added into the database.

Which teams recruited the most talent

Clearly the team that has the most recruited talent per Scout.com's ratings is Kentucky. The Wildcats start five, five-star prospects. All of them are freshman, and though he isn't counted, the sixth man for the Wildcats is also a five-star prospect in Alex Poythress.

Now obviously the talent for Kentucky is young, and they have been inconsistent throughout the season, but it was obvious during the tournament just how good they can be when everything is clicking. With so much five-star talent, the Wildcats are now emerging as one of the favorites to get to Dallas and compete in the Final Four.

After Kentucky, it is Michigan State that comes in with the second most recruited talent in their starting five. The Spartans boast three five-star prospects in their starting five, and then also have a four-star prospect in Keith Appling to go with it.

What is different about Michigan State is that they have two seniors in their starting lineup, one junior, and then a five-star sophomore in Gary Harris. While Kentucky has more raw talent, Michigan State combines that raw recruited talent with added experience as well.

If there is a third school who gets into this category some would be surprised to know it is UCLA. The Bruins have one five-star in Kyle Anderson, and then their other four starters were seen as four-star prospects.

The Bruins are the only school besides Kentucky to have a starting five made up entirely of four and five-star talent. Also it is worth noting that the Bruins do not start a freshman, and do bring five-star freshman Zach LaVine off the bench.

Arizona is the only remaining school with multiple five-star prospects. Both Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon were five-star prospects. Arizona doesn't start a senior, but they do have a junior in Nick Johnson who was a high four-star prospect. Also the Wildcats bring a five-star in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the bench as their sixth man.

Who has found under the radar players

This is actually the list that will probably surprise people. Most would assume that an 11 seed like Dayton or a 10 seed in Stanford would be clearly at the bottom of the recruiting barrel, but surprisingly it is one brand name and a school known for recruiting elite talent that also fit squarely in this mix.

Louisville actually boasts two, two-star prospects, one three-star, and two four-star prospects in their starting five. Both Russ Smith and Luke Hancock were viewed as two star prospects when they came out, and now both are mainstays in the Cardinals lineup.

Most assume that Louisville is rolling out a bunch of highly touted and heavily recruited kids, but the reality is that they aren't. Now they do have a five-star in Terry Rozier coming off the bench, but the reality is through transfer and savvy scouting, the Cardinals have developed some under the radar kids into one of the top teams in the country.

Also there is the Baylor Bears. Shockingly the Bears have three kids who were not rated by Scout.com coming out. Kenny Cherry came from the junior college ranks and didn't receive a ranking, and then Denver transfer Royce O'Neal and Boston College transfer Brady Heslip both didn't receive a ranking coming out.

Now the Bears do have a five-star in Isaiah Austin starting at center, but power forward and leader Cory Jefferson was only a three-star recruit exiting high school. Overall most assume that Scott Drew has loaded up on elite talent, but in terms of recruiting, that just isn't the case.

Then there are the cases of Dayton and San Diego State. The Flyers do have one four-star prospect in Jordan Sibert who transferred from Ohio State and then a pair of two-stars in their lineup, though also two kids that Dayton starts were not given a rating.

San Diego State, which is made up almost entirely of transfers, has one four-star prospect, two three-star prospects, and then a two-star and an unranked prospect. Aztecs star Xavier Thames was only seen a three-star when he committed to Washington State.

Two-star haven?

One of the unique things when looking at the breakdown is that some of the absolute best players left were seen as two-star prospects. The aforementioned Smith and Hancock of Louisville are prime examples, but a few others stand out as well.

Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell might be the one player the Wildcats need more than any other, and when he picked Duquesne originally he was seen as a two-star. Now McConnell is one of the best point guards in college basketball.

Also there is Akil Mitchell at Virginia and Josh Richardson at Tennessee. Richardson was the scoring star for the Volunteers in the round of 32, and Mitchell has been one of the steadiest performers for the No. 1 seeded Cavaliers.

Since only 11.25 percent of the starters left were seen as two-star prospects, it is unlikely that coaches are going to end up flocking to those kids, the reality is some have played absolutely vital roles in helping their teams get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Where do they come from?

Aside from how highly they were ranked, the other question often asked is where do the best players come from. Now clearly there are a lot of different ways to judge and answer that question, but these are the only 80 players still starting in college basketball, so they are the ones that will be broken down.

What makes this year's Sweet 16 interesting is that in terms of school location it is fairly spread out. You have four West Coast schools, three from the Big Ten, three from the SEC, and others spread out across the country.

The state that leads the way with the most starters not surprisingly is the most populated state in the country, California. California is represented by 12 starters still remaining. That is clearly No. 1 for states.

After California, Texas, Michigan, and Canada have seven starters still left. Michigan isn't that surprising since two schools from the state are left in the mix, however Texas only has one program left in Baylor. The Kentucky Wildcats however have three starters from the Lone Star State.

Next on the list is Ohio. The Buckeye State has five natives still in the mix, and only two of them play for the state's lone representative, the University of Dayton.

Scout.com breaks the country down into five regions. They are East, South, Midwest, Midlands, and West. A breakdown of the states in each region can be found here http://recruiting.scout.com/3/bios.html

In terms of where the 80 prospects come from, one region clearly leads the way and that is the Midwest. Here is the exact breakdown.

Midwest – 24

West – 15

South – 13

East – 11

Outside the United States – 9

Midlands – 8

If there is one surprising thing about where the players come from this year is that the state of Maryland is only represented by Antonio Barton. Per capita Maryland has produced the most first round picks in the NBA Draft over the last decade, but this year the state almost got shutout of players.

Just as interesting is that the states of Indiana and Illinois produced zero teams in the entire field of 68, but each state has four natives still left starting in the tournament.

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