Kentucky and Duke still bring in college basketball’s best rookies even after NIL changes rules

Conversations about student-athletes one day having name, image and likeness rights began years before student-athletes actually had name, image and likeness rights – and during of those years, many people had strong opinions about what players could enjoy in previously non-permitted ways could do for college athletics. I’ve heard all the theories, legitimate and otherwise. But the main thing I always said, basically every time the subject came up, was that I didn’t think it would change the order of things very much, if at all. I always thought the same schools that generally got the best prospects would continue to get the best prospects, I always believed that the annual recruiting rankings in a post-NIL world would largely be the same as in the world pre-NIL. And Monday night provided the latest reminder that this appears to be true.

Five-star winger Justin Edwards has signed up for… Kentucky.

So guess which two programs now have the top two recruiting classes in 2023?

Yeah, duke and Kentucky. Like before.

To be clear, there’s no guarantee that Duke and Kentucky will end up with the two best recruiting classes in the country (although I’d probably bet on it given that Duke already has four commitments from five-star prospects, Kentucky already has some). three and no one else has more than one). Either way, what’s undeniably already clear is that Duke and Kentucky will continue to operate at the top of the recruiting world, as they have for much of the previous decade. The rules have changed and Duke’s coach has changed, but the programs that kill him on the recruiting track have not. Consider: There are 21 players in the Class of 2023 labeled as five-star prospects, according to 247Sports. Of the 10 who have signed up so far, seven have chosen Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils or John Calipari’s Wildcats.

It’s as if it were 2014 once again. Or 2015. Or 2016. Or 2017. Or 2018.

For five straight years, in a pre-NIL world, Duke and Kentucky (in some order) have had the top two recruiting classes in the nation. Now, in a post-NIL world, they’re well on their way to starting over. As I always assumed it would be, NIL opportunities becoming a reality hasn’t changed the order of things, even though NIL opportunities are widely used as recruiting tools. As I’ve always assumed, the only real difference between a pre-NIL world and a post-NIL world, in a macro sense, is that the country’s best prospects can now legally put lots and lots of money in their pockets.

Which they do a lot now.

But they still largely attend the same schools.

Did you know that the programs with the top four recruiting classes in this post-NIL world (Duke, Kentucky, UConn, Baylor) won four of the last nine NCAA tournaments in the pre-NIL world? It’s true. NIL hasn’t really changed what programs are good and what programs aren’t. If you look the current recruitment ranking of the 247Sports teamor even the latest CBS Sports Top 25 and 1, nothing really seems out of place. They both look as normal in 2022 (after NIL) as they would have looked in, say, 2017 (before NIL). Players get paid now, of course. But the truth is that the programs that always prioritized men’s basketball in a pre-NIL world are mostly the programs that are still thriving in this post-NIL world.

Monday evening provided the final reminder.

A five-star prospect chose the UK.

Everything is as before.

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