At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: The early signing period began Wednesday; were there any surprises to you among the top 25 classes?
Mike Huguenin's answer:
Mike Rice did a superb job in getting Robert Morris to the past two NCAA tournaments. Then he moved on to Rutgers, which is as moribund as program as there is in a Big Six league. Recruiting in the Big East is a huge step up from recruiting in the Northeast Conference, but Rice has put his Big East ties from when he was an assistant at Pittsburgh to good use and signed an unbelievably good class for Rutgers. Not to be snarky, but a No. 15 class in the 16-team Big East wouldn't have been that unexpected. Instead, Rice and his staff reeled in the No. 15 class in the nation. That's a tremendous job in a short amount of time. It also makes Rutgers the biggest surprise in the top 25.
David Fox's answer:
First-year coaches had some good showings in November at Rutgers and Oregon, but none was more impressive than St. John's. At least Mike Rice and Dana Altman have been in the game. Steve Lavin stepped in and produced a top-five class in a matter of months, despite spending the past few years at ESPN. The class includes three small forwards, two in the top 50. Lavin had a ton of challenges, but he proved he could still hang in the recruiting game.
Jason King's answer:
It's tough not to be impressed with the class signed by first-year Rutgers coach Mike Rice. Rutgers' seven-player haul is ranked 15th in the country. It's an outstanding accomplishment for a guy who inherited one of the most downtrodden programs in any Big Six conference. Five of the Scarlet Knights' seven signees are ranked in the top 150. The leader of the group is No. 33 Kadeem Jack, a power forward who will enroll at Rutgers next semester. Rice also is excited about the addition of point guard Jerome Seagears, who could be Rutgers' floor general for years to come. Rutgers' class is ranked fourth in the Big East, behind St. John's, Syracuse and Louisville.
Steve Megargee's answer:
I expected new St. John's coach Steve Lavin to produce an immediate upgrade in the Red Storm's recruiting, but I did not expect his impact to be quite this large. Lavin signed three top-50 prospects in 6-foot-3 guard D'Angelo Harrison (No. 41), 6-7 forward Jakarr Sampson (No. 44) and 6-8 forward Maurice Harkless (No. 45). He also received the signature of 6-6 swingman Dominique Pointer, the nation's No. 81 recruit. I figured Lavin would improve the Red Storm's recruiting merely by signing more of the top prospects in the New York metro area, but he proved this year that he could get players from anywhere. Harrison's a Texan, and Sampson comes from Ohio. Lavin deserves plenty of praise for his ability to get them to leave their home regions to play for a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2002. If the Red Storm's strong senior class doesn't end that drought this season, this incoming freshman class should get the job done shortly thereafter.