By landing the top three players in the class of 2018, Duke has done something that no college program has ever done in the Rivals.com era. How does their 2018 class compare to some of the other top classes in Rivals.com history?
Before we get into the list it’s important to understand how I put it together. The 2018 class is the first class to which we’ve applied a strict scoring system. The scoring system starts with the No. 1 player in the class being assigned a score (1,500) and then each player is given a score that goes in line with their ranking. The totals are added up and the team with the highest score is the No. 1 team. Since the scoring system is new, I went back and applied it to previous top classes to order them by score over the course of time.
Perhaps most interesting to note is that of the top 10 classes - according to our newly implemented scoring system - only three had players who played any part in winning a National Championship. Not surprisingly given their recent dominance on the recruiting trail, Duke and Kentucky have combined to produce nine of the top 10 classes - six of them since 2015. Also incredible to discover during this lookback was that neither Kentucky’s Anthony Davis-led 2011 class that won the 2012 title or Duke’s one-and-done laden 2014 class (led by Jahlil Okafor) that won in 2015 made the top 10 list. The Davis group was No. 11, while Okafor’s group was No. 13.
With that, I present the list.
1. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2013
The class: Julius Randle (No. 2), Andrew Harrison (No. 5), Aaron Harrison (No. 7), Dakari Johnson (No. 9), James Young (No. 11), Marcus Lee (18), Derek Willis (No. 115), Dominique Hawkins (NR 3-star).
How it panned out: The 2013 class consisted of an incredible six five-star prospects. After early struggles, the group came together during the 2014 NCAA Tournament, making it all the way to the National Championship game, where they lost to Connecticut. Clearly, the sheer size of this class helped it when it came to cumulative score. Randle and Young were one-and-done NBA Draft picks. Lee is a redshirt senior at California.
2. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2009
How it panned out: Led by Wall, who won national player of the year awards, the Wildcats stormed through the SEC and finished the season ranked No. 2 nationally. They were upset in the Elite Eight by West Virginia, but Wall, Cousins, Orton and Bledsoe were all first-round NBA Draft picks after their lone season in Lexington. Wall and Cousins have gone on to become NBA stars, while Bledsoe is a better-than-average pro. Though he didn’t play big minutes, Hood was a member of the Wildcats' 2012 title team.
3. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2017
How it panned out: Interestingly enough, this class actually finished No. 2 behind Duke in our final 2017 class rankings. However, that was before we implemented the scoring system, and as you will see below the separation between the classes was minimal. Anyway, this group has been up and down during its first year in Lexington and continues to be a tough group to gauge as they currently rank No. 24 in the AP poll. Gilgeous-Alexander’s play has been a very pleasant surprise.
4. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2015
How it panned out: Jamal Murray is turning into a very good pro and Skal Labissiere is showing signs that he can be a good pro. But, for the most part this class has to fall into the category of "bust." Briscoe is no longer on campus and went undrafted by the NBA. Matthews transferred to Michigan (where he’s a key part of the No. 20 team), Humphries is playing in Australia and Wynyard doesn’t look like he’ll ever provide much of a meaningful contribution.
5. DUKE'S CLASS OF 2017
How it panned out: Duke is currently ranked No. 9 in the AP poll and it’s largely due to the contributions of its freshman class. However, the Blue Devils' youth has also been evident with inconsistent efforts on the defensive side of the ball. Bagley is in the conversation for All-American and No. 1 Draft pick, while Carter, Trent and Duval could all be first-round picks after this season.
6. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2016
How it panned out: This group backed up the hype and lofty incoming rankings. Led by the high-scoring backcourt combo of Fox and Monk, the Wildcats won the SEC in 2017 and were denied a trip the Final Four by a buzzer-beating shot from eventual National Champion North Carolina’s Luke Maye. Fox, Monk and Adebayo were all NBA Lottery picks in the 2017 draft, while Diallo (who arrived mid-year and redshirted the second half of the 2017 season), Gabriel and Killeya-Jones are all key contributors on this year’s Kentucky squad.
7. DUKE'S CLASS OF 2016
How it panned out: In terms of college performance, this group has been a bit of a disappointment, and nobody ever got to see them at full strength. Tatum and Giles were both limited by injuries for some of their lone season in Durham. Despite only finishing fifth in the ACC, the Blue Devils earned a No. 2 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, but had a disappointing run, as they were bounced in the round of 32 by a No. 7-seeded South Carolina team during the Gamecocks' improbable Final Four run.
8. KENTUCKY'S CLASS OF 2010
How it panned out: Despite Kanter being ruled ineligible by the NCAA and never getting to play a game, this class turned out to be huge for Kentucky. Before leaving for the NBA after one season, Knight helped the Wildcats all the way to the 2011 Final Four. In 2012, Jones and Lamb were key parts of a National Championship team, while Vargas was a contributor.
9. DUKE'S CLASS OF 2018
How it panned out: Since they’ve yet to arrive on campus, we don’t yet know what the future holds for this group. But, as it stands they are the first group to feature the nation’s top three players. The Blue Devils are also heavily in the mix – if not the favorites – for No. 11 overall E.J. Montgomery. If the Blue Devils can land him their class score would jump to 5,945 - and give them the second highest overall score. Considering that the class currently only has four players and that every class currently scored ahead of them has at least six, it’s an incredibly remarkable group.
10. NORTH CAROLINA'S CLASS OF 2006
How it panned out: In terms of success at the college level, this group probably ranks No. 1 of these top 10 recruiting classes. Wright left for the NBA after one year, but the Heels made the Final Four in 2008 and won the National Championship in 2009. They also won the ACC regular season title in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and took home ACC Tourney honors in 2007 and 2008. Ellington was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2009 Final Four before becoming a first-round NBA Draft pick while Lawson was an All-American that year before getting drafted in the first round.