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Big East Conference Hitting a Lull in Recruiting

We’re almost a month away from the start of the college basketball season and this is usually the time when schools stockpile commitments for the 2016 class. And thus far, the Big East is not really capitalizing and building on the stellar class it brought in last year.

Don’t get me wrong, the recruiting effort has been solid for the most part, but it certainly can be better. The Big East has snagged six of 247 Sports’ top-100 recruits, and only one in the top-50.

With Villanova the gold standard of the conference, it is no shock to see them nab the only top-25 recruit in 6’9” center Omari Spellman (who is ranked as the No. 22 recruit according to 247 Sports). It was a key pickup for a team set to lose Daniel Ochefu after this season. The Wildcats also got a commitment from rising three-star prospect Dylan Painter.

The other five top-100 recruits that have made pledges to play for Big East teams includes Shamorie Ponds (No. 54, St. John’s), Quentin Goodin (No. 77, Xavier), Sam Hauser (No. 80, Marquette), Joey Brunk (No. 81, Butler) and Myles Powell (No. 86, Seton Hall).

What is also disconcerting is the fact that the Big East is not necessarily semi-short on quality this year, but also on quantity.

The ten teams that comprise the Big East have combined to get pledges from just 16 players. Seven schools (Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s) have commitments from  just one recruit. According to VerbalCommits.com, Big East teams in total have 14 scholarships to dole out.

With the early signing period a little more than a month to go, there is time to make up ground.

Things did get a little better for the conference as a whole on Wednesday, when Xavier was able to secure a commitment from rising Canadian star Eddie Ekiyor. With the commitment of Ekiyor, Brian Snow of Scout.com now places Xavier in his top-25 class rankings. Xavier joins Villanova in Scout’s top-25 rankings.

Slowly but surely, it’s getting better for the conference.

However, the chasm between the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom is widening, as Scout.com’s Rob Harrington points out.

But a gulf has emerged between the Wildcats’ class and the rest of the league. Most painful for Big East programs is that players within the league’s natural geographic footprint — including New Yorker Mustapha Heron (Auburn) and New Jersey native Tyus Battle (Syracuse) — have chosen regional programs in other conferences or else will leave the area altogether for college.
Programs such as Kentucky have targeted New York and made life even more difficult for league programs. Momentum is a difficult concept to pin down in recruiting — particularly on a collective, conference-wide basis — but Big East schools must maintain a foothold in the Northeast while the new, Midwestern members continue to integrate successfully.

Still, you shouldn’t be shedding any tears for the Big East. It still has positioned itself as conference that has a lot to sell. With the Big East solely about hoops and the conference sporting four of the top-eight TV markets (St. John’s-New York, DePaul-Chicago, Georgetown-Washington D.C., and Villanova-Philadelphia), while also having a exclusive television deal with Fox Sports 1, this conference has much to offer recruits.

It would be nice to see a doormat program like DePaul—which is standing on a recruiting goldmine in the city of Chicago—rope in some local stars, too. New head coach Dave Leitao just came back for a second run with the program, so he needs time to re-cultivate relationships. DePaul has had major trouble getting the local stars of their city to stay home. Then again, they also need to show results on the court.

Plus, I’ve already detailed how Chris Mullin is shaking things up at St. John’s in this column. In due time, St. John’s can become a force naturally in recruiting.

So far there are no true difference makers on par with a Henry Ellenson and Jalen Brunson from this year’s batch of recruits. Fear not, though. The Big East is a conference that was built to recruit, they just hit bit of a lull.

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