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May 25, 2011

Ask the experts: SEC, Bama soaring

MORE EXPERTS: May 18 | May 11 | May 5 | April 21

Rivals.com basketball recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi weigh in on four current topics.

With last week's big signing of Trevor Lacey, how do you feel Anthony Grant is doing overall recruiting to Alabama?

Bossi: Of course we will never fully know until we've had a few years to evaluate what these guys have done in the SEC, but it would appear that Grant is doing a great job. He's identifying talent early, locking up in-state kids and showing that he's not afraid to go up against traditional powers such as Kentucky and Kansas to land a kid. With his current recruiting class and what Grant has coming back next season, the future looks bright for Alabama basketball.

Meyer: I was extremely impressed with Grant's coaching during the season. His Alabama team played with a lot of heart and grit on the defensive end, and played overall unselfish basketball. The Tide ran some nice action offensively to overcome skill area deficiency, namely shooting. It is that precise area of shooting that Grant has taken care of in this recruiting class. Not only did he retain the three top prospects in the state of Alabama, they are also three of the better shooters in the 2011 class.

At this point Grant is doing as great a job recruiting as he did coaching last year. Now that he is working with the momentum of a strong season and a No. 5 national recruiting class, there is the strong possibility of Alabama emerging as the dominant program in the SEC West.

Is the SEC becoming the new trendy conference for basketball recruits?

Bossi: I don't know if it is that the SEC has become trendy, but I do think Kentucky's dominance in recruiting has started to have a trickle down effect. In order to compete, nobody else can afford to sleep and the conference as a whole seems to have gotten much more aggressive on the recruiting trail.

Additionally, basketball has gained in popularity in traditionally football-dominated SEC country. Because of that and increased scouting, the SEC region is not only producing much more talent but it's being identified more by national scouting services.

Meyer: I don't know if I'd use the word trendy, but the SEC is definitely on the uptick as a basketball conference. For one, there is a ton of talent in the Southeast. Basically the SEC is sitting on a gold mine of talent. Secondly, there are some very good coaches in the SEC. John Calipari has it rolling at Kentucky. Billy Donovan and Kevin Stallings are established as great coaches at Florida and Vanderbilt, respectively. And Grant at Alabama and Mark Fox at Georgia have their programs moving quickly in the right direction.

What's wrong with the Big Ten in recruiting? Check out the total number of top 100 prospects going to the Big Ten in 2011 and it appears to be way down?

Bossi: It's a combination of a few things. First of all, recruiting is cyclical. It seems that each conference will go on a hot or cold streak for a bit and the Big Ten is perhaps in a bit of a cold streak. Also, there seems to be so much emphasis from today's kids on "getting up and down the court" and those recruiting against Big Ten schools portray the conference as a place where slow play rules. That's something that is backed up by Ken Pomeroy's ratings for tempo of play. In the last five seasons, as a conference, the Big Ten has only one team place within the top 100 for adjusted tempo (Indiana at No. 96 in 2010).

Also, Big Ten schools only did an average job of keeping local talent within the conference. Of the 31 prospects in the 2011 Rivals150 from states with Big Ten schools in them, only 16 elected to play in the Big Ten. Even more disconcerting is that only two Rivals150 prospects - Laquinton Ross and Andre Hollins - from outside Big Ten country chose to play in the Big Ten. In order to attract more touted players, it will be important for the Big Ten to change its image as a grind-it-out league and expand the recruiting base.

Meyer: In the last several years the Big Ten has been in the bottom half of the high-major conference recruiting rankings. So I don't necessarily think the Big Ten is down in 2011 but more so just in line with where it has been recently. The class of 2012, however, is shaping up to be a different story for the Big Ten.

Presently, the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10: Indiana at No. 1, Michigan State at No. 3, Michigan at No. 8 and Purdue at No. 9.

Outside Duke and North Carolina, has the ACC lost its appeal to recruits?

Bossi: To me, the problem in the ACC seems to be more of a problem of turnover in the coaching ranks. Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Wake Forest and N.C. State have all gone through recent coaching changes. There would appear to be some stability in the conference now and I would expect that recruiting will start to make a return.

Meyer: It is losing the appeal. The ACC is still a great basketball conference, and a lot of recruits want to play in the ACC. Nonetheless, outside Duke and North Carolina, the ACC is down. Along with the ACC being down, the Big East is as strong as ever, while the Big 12 and SEC are emerging as great basketball conferences.

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