28 April 2016

Eyes turn to recruiting trail

As our esteemed AD Dr Jim put it when explaining why he decided to fire CBC NU is now a program that he holds accountable to external benchmarks.  While those benchmarks are undefined there is a commonly held notion that -- barring unusual and extenuating circumstances -- new coaches are given four or five years to establish their program.  If the coach does not make the NCAAs during that period then his seat gets very hot and is normally given his walking papers.

CCC's third season is complete, and under his watch NU hasn't come close to making the NCAAs and is o-fer the NotInvitedTournament.  Although it's been an inauspicious start to CCC's head coaching career some have fairly pointed out that some coaching legends also had slow starts to their careers.  Coach K is commonly held out as such an example, and why not?  You can't argue with his success, and there is the added anecdote that Coach K is CCC's mentor.

Still without any tangible proof that the program has taken the next step one's belief that CCC will lead NU into the NCAAs must come largely on faith.  NU fans place their faith principally on CCC's recruiting chops and to a lesser degree CCC's coaching resources (his Dad, Coach K, his assistants) as well as NUs projected standing within the B1G.  This last point is salient and is best viewed through the recruiting lens -- at least until the teams lace 'em up this fall  The coaching resources point is such a data-free point that to engage would only lead to a meaningless discourse running in perpetual loops.

So how has CCC done on the recruiting front?  According to verbalcommits.com on the whole NU's 2016-17 roster has an average star rating of 3.11.  This is equal to the 9th best average star rating in the B1G.  That's not bad, but it's hardly rock solid evidence for placing one's faith in NU making the NCAAs within the next two years.

Similarly a recruiting trend analysis also doesn't provide much basis for placing one's faith.  According to 247sports.com NU had the 49th best class recruiting class in 2016 and 9th best within the B1G.

Let's take a big leap and assume for a second that the recruiting rankings are infallible.  Once we stopped laughing about such a silly notion we did realize that a roster full of 9th place talent gives NU a puncher's chance at making the NCAAs.  On average one wouldn't expect NU to make the big dance, but if the breaks fall NU's way then who knows?  So the external benchmarks as measured by that silly measuring stick of recruiting stars do not provide great confidence for placing one's faith, but they do provide at least some basis for hope.

If one turns to internal benchmarks then it looks a bit more promising -- at least superficially speaking.  247 has tracked NU's recruiting efforts back to 2000, and the top three recruits and four of the top five were all landed by CCC.  Furthermore all four of these relatively heralded recruits are going to be sophomores and freshmen next year.  That is at least some basis for making the case that NU is priming itself for a run in Year 6 of the CCC era.

An internal benchmarking exercise such as this raises other comparative issues such as Xs and Os.  For example CBC was able to bring comparatively inferior rosters to four straight NITs.  Can CCC lead a comparatively superior roster to the NIT let alone the NCAAs?  TBD.

In sum there isn't any proof that NU will make the NCAAs within the next two years.  However if one places faith in the recruiting rankings then one could reasonably expect that NU has a fighting chance at the NCAAs over the next two years if things fall the right way.  That's not exactly inspiring stuff, but at least there's some basis for placing one's faith in CCC.  Beggars can't be choosers, and when it comes to the NCAAs NU is the ultimate beggar at this point in time.