Below are the early signing period team basketball recruiting rankings for the class of 2006.
1. North Carolina - The Tar Heels may not be winning another national championship this season, but the class of 2006 will certainly help the ACC school climb back toward the top. Headlining is Brandan Wright, the nation's No. 5 player. Adding to the arsenal is the best incoming backcourt in the nation, which features Wayne Ellington, the No. 9 player in the country, and Oak Hill point guard Tywon Lawson. All three players will make an instant impact and could use the college game as a quick springboard to the NBA.
That's why guys like Alex Stepheson (No. 57) and Deon Thompson (No. 69) are so valuable in this class. The California natives are in for the long haul and could be the difference between an Elite Eight appearance and winning it all down the road. Interior depth is a lost art in today's game. North Carolina native William Graves, a 3-star prospect, rounds out the class.
2. Ohio State - It's almost sacrilege to list the Buckeyes second with their stellar class this year. How many guys like Greg Oden, the best big man in the high school ranks since Shaquille O'Neal, come around? Not a lot. And now with the new NBA age limit, Oden will fine tune his pro-ready game in Columbus for at least a year. Coming along with him is his long time teammate and close friend Mike Conley, the No. 3 ranked point guard in the country, with him. OSU coach Thad Matta was able to grab two of the top players from his own backyard in Daequan Cook, who played alongside Oden and Conley on the AAU circuit, and David Lighty. Both are five-star prospects and check in at No. 20 and 21, respectively. Junior college forward Othello Hunter rounds out the "Thad Five".
3. Connecticut - Jim Calhoun was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this summer and was able to parlay that on the recruiting trail. The Huskies have been involved in some of the more juicy stories of the year. They parted ways with Ramar Smith, a five-star guard from Detroit, and Will Harris, a multi-faceted forward but were able to pick up some guys to help ease the blow. Leading the way is Alabama forward Stanley Robinson, the No. 14 ranked player in the nation and one of the most versatile players from coast to coast. The Huskies continue to hit the Big Apple hard and scored big in Curtis Kelly, the No. 36 prospect in the country, from Rice High School. Georgia center Jonathan Mandeldove gives the team a defensive presence inside while Washington D.C. native Jerome Dyson gives the team a big-time perimeter threat. Englishman Ben Eaves is a sleeper. Finally, point guard Doug Wiggins spurned St. John's for the home state Huskies.
4. Oklahoma - The talent in Texas is crossing the banks of the Red River and finding a home in Norman, Okla. Leading the way is Damion James from Nacogdoches. The 6-foot-8, 5-star forward is one of the most difficult players to defend because of his size, strength, ability to drive to the rack, rebound and score in the post. San Antonio native Tony Crocker, a 6-foot-5 forward brings versatility to the squad while 6-foot-10 forward Jeremy Mayfield was a huge get just this week for the Sooners. The Texas trio is joined by a pair of talented four-star prospects. Oklahoma native Keith Clark is staying close to home and his a good inside/out game. Virginia guard Scottie Reynolds brings a big time scoring reputation to the Big 12. His aggressive style of play has drawn comparisons to former OU great Hollis Price.
5. Texas - The Longhorns have become a national recruiting force during the last five years on the basketball front and reinforced that when Kevin Durant, the second ranked player in the country, picked the Big 12 school over North Carolina and Connecticut. Rick Barnes got the news he's been hoping for all year long this week when New Orleans native D.J. Augustin, now attending school in the Lone Star State, said he was ready to hook 'em. He glues the backcourt of Justin Mason and Harrison Smith, both Texans, together. Nebraska native Matt Hill went from a coveted mid-major target to a high-major stud this summer and now he'll bring his trademark afro to Austin. He'll be joined by 3-star big man Dexter Pittman inside the paint.
6. Louisville - Rick Pitino tapped into his northeastern roots and secured commitments from some of the top players in the New Jersey-New York area. Earl Clark, the No. 15 ranked player in the senior class, is a 6-foot-9 prospect that can play all over the floor. Another Jersey 5-star player Derrick Caracter is a mammoth of a player with incredible passing skills from the post. The Big Apple yields up four-star point guard Edgar Sosa to the Big East school and he'll be joined by Wisconsin native Jerry Smith, a talented shooting guard.
7. Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets have a tradition of producing top-notch point guards so it only made sense when Atlanta native Javaris Crittenton picked the local school. Rivals.com ranks him as the top point guard in the nation but perhaps he should be the recruiter of the year, too. Crittenton played a major role in Thaddeus Young's decision to attend Georgia Tech. Young, the No. 3 overall player in the country, picked the Jackets over interest from Arkansas, Kentucky, Memphis and North Carolina. Rounding out the class are three-star big men Brad Sheehan and Zach Peacock.
8. Washington - Lorenzo Romar has people talking about something other than Microsoft and Starbucks in Seattle. For the second straight year, the Huskies head man was able to keep the top area home and away from the ACC. This year it was Spencer Hawes, the No. 8 player in the country from Seattle Prep High School. Romar struck gold out west when Phillip Nelson, a 6-foot-8 lights out shooter from Oregon, Quincy Pondexter, a skilled 6-foot-7 wing from California and the 50th ranked player in the nation and California point guard Adrian Oliver all picked the Pac-10 power.
9. Stanford - The Cardinal isn't bringing in the big class like so many other schools but they are bringing in big time talent. Brook Lopez, the fourth best player in the country, is thought to be a future NBA forward by many observers. His twin brother Robin Lopez isn't too shabby either at No. 17 overall in the country. 6-foot-9 Texas forward Will Paul was a guard before he hit a huge growth spurt.
10. Georgetown - There is a renewed sense of basketball excitement in the nation's capitol thanks in large part to the efforts of John Thompson III and his staff. The excitement began when Baltimore native Dejuan Summers picked the Big East program. After a great summer, he elevated into the top 25 rankings. Then came the big ticket in Vernon Macklin. The No. 12 player in the country chose the Hoyas over a number of the country's best programs. Jeremiah Rivers, the son of NBA head coach Doc Rivers, will play for the Hoyas.
11. Kentucky - Tubby Smith has the backcourt of the future in Georgia power guard Jodie Meeks, the No. 34 ranked player in the country, and California 4-star guard Derrick Jasper. Together, there are few better incoming backcourts in the country. Another four-star prospect, Perry Stevenson, brings a defensive presence to the paint. California two-star guard Michael Porter is from the same school that produced former Wildcat Chuck Hayes.
12. Tennessee - Bruce Pearl has Knoxville talking about something other than who should line up under center on Saturdays this year. Why? How about the addition of Virginia forward Duke Crews, who happens to be the No. 29 ranked player in the nation. Landing in-state forward Wayne Chism, a 4-star stud, was a major coup for the Vols. Marques Johnson, a 3-star guard from Indiana and former Southern Illinois signee Josh Tabb join the fold.
13. Duke - After hitting it big in 2005, Coach K and company are adding key components to their stellar freshmen class. Gerald Henderson is the slasher that the team is missing and should be a major player for the Blue Devils next year. New Jersey native Brian Zoubek is a rarity in college hoops - a skilled 7-footer. Jon Scheyer, a four-star guard from suburban Chicago, is a versatile winner that will shine in Duke's system.
14. Florida State - Leonard Hamilton can certainly recruit and he's proven that since he's been in Tallahassee. This year he stayed within the state borders and locked up a trio of talented players. The Semioles landed one of the best big men in the nation in five-star center John Kreft, an aggressive center from Florida. Josue Soto, a four-star guard, is one of the best players at his position and Aaron Holmes, a former N.C. State commitment, is a strong shooter with above average athleticism.
15. Villanova - The Big East is not an easy conference to win. It takes toughness and talent. Jay Wright and his staff made sure they loaded up with both. Leading the way is New York native Antonio Pena. The 6-foot-8 power forward checks in at No. 68 overall in the country. Philly wing Reggie Reading is an old school player with big game flair. The 3-star prospect is joined by two other ranked players in Casiem Drummond and Kraidon Woods (No. 122, 3-star). Philly big man Andrew Ott rounds out the class.
16. Arizona - Lute Olson went hard after San Diego wing forward Chase Budinger and his hard work paid off when the No. 10 overall prospect picked the Wildcats over several other Pac-10 schools. He's one of the highest ranked players to ever commit to Arizona. He's joined by 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Hill and Houston point guard Nic Wise, who will finally sign with the school three years after he committed.
17. Michigan State - The Spartans have had much success with top-notch guard play but the class of 2006 group is loaded with size and versatility at the forward positions. Ohio stud Raymar Morgan leads the way. He checks in as the No. 48 player in the country. Minnesota forward Isaiah Dahlman, the No. 106 ranked player in the nation, gives Tom Izzo a scoring punch on the wing. The class was capped off when in-state center Tom Herzog, a four-star prospect, picked the Spartans.
18. Maryland - The Terps added key players at key positions. Gary Williams has versatility in the backcourt and he finally has his point guard in Eric Hayes. Greivis Vasquez, a likely signing day commitment, is another player that can run the offense. Landon Milbourne is a skilled 'tweener that will shine in the open floor. Georgia forward Jerome Burney is a bit of a project but has a high ceiling.
19. Wake Forest - Skip Prosser has to be happy with this crop of recruits. He's added a potential star in Boston native Anthony Gurley and North Carolina's likely Mr. Basketball in Jamie Skeen, a versatile forward that should help right away. L.D. Williams is a super freak athlete while Ismael Smith is a national sleeper at the point.
20. Memphis - 2006 may have been one of the best classes to ever come out of the city of Memphis and John Calipari was able to keep point guard Willie Kemp home. He checks in at the No. 46 in the Rivals150. He's joined by AAU teammate Pierre Niles, who is now at Florida Prep. California guard Trevon Willis rounds out the class and is the nation's No. 136 best player.
21. Baylor - The Bears don't have the big numbers with their class but they are bringing in a pair of high-impact guys in point guard Demond Carter and 7-foot center Josh Lomers. Both players are among the top 65 prospects in the country.
22. Arkansas - The Razorbacks have a wide variety of talent coming to the Hill next year. The prize is a local product in Michael Washington, a 5-star forward prepping in Mississippi. JUCO stud Sonny Weems was a major get. He grew up in West Memphis and has vastly improved at Arkansas-Fort Smith over the last year and a half. He should be a starter from the outset. Virginia native Stefan Welsh brings versatility and toughness to the backcourt.
23. UAB - Mike Anderson recruited a bunch of guys that fit his system perfectly and that's why the Blazers sneak into the top 25. John Tiller and Taurus Dortch will shine in the "40 minutes of Hell" defense that UAB employs. And then high school teammates Howard Crawford and Curtis Nickson will stay together at the next level.
24. Notre Dame - The Irish's class is small but important. Mike Brey is brining in two guys that can start from day one in Tory Jackson, who surprised a number of folks when he picked Notre Dame over Michigan and USC. Indiana native Luke Harangody is old school toughness that Indiana traditionalists love.
25. Wisconsin - Quietly, the Badgers have put together a class full of guys that fit their style of play perfectly. Staying in their own backyard, the Big Ten school kept Trevon Hughes, the No. 87 overall player in 2006, and J.P. Gavinski, a 4-star forward home. Iowa guard Jason Bohannon is a nice compliment to the duo.