|Rick Pitino is a national brand -- his recruiting strategy won't change in the ACC. (US Presswire)|
One of the more underrated aspects of conference realignment has been the ever-changing recruiting landscape. Schools expand their geographical target area when switching conferences, and that can be a good or bad thing.
Louisville officially announced on Wednesday morning that it will leave the Big East for the ACC, and that means the Cardinals will be going head-to-head with the North Carolinas and Dukes of the world for prospects. Does that change anything?
Let's look at coach Rick Pitino's most recent recruiting class, his top-10 2013 group.
Louisville beat out Miami and North Carolina State for North Carolina native Anton Gill.
It edged West Virginia and Cincinnati to get Ohio guard Terry Rozier.
Nebraska was its biggest competition to land Midwest big man Akoy Agau.
Memphis native Chris Jones chose the Cardinals over Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas and Florida State – even though he's now at a Florida junior college.
What do those situations have in common? Nothing -- and that's what the conference change will mean to Louisville's recruiting strategy. As you can see, the Cardinals have not been limited by location recently, and Louisville's recruiting strategy has not been dictated by geography.
Pitino is a national brand in college basketball, and that allows him to go into any region in the country and recruit competitively. He had no problem going into North Carolina, Florida, Nebraska and Ohio for his 2013 class, and that wasn't an isolated class. Pitino's 2012 group consisted of one player from Florida and one player from North Carolina. 2011? Two Kentucky natives, one from Chicago, one from Georgia and a New York native at a New England prep school.
Pitino has assistants who are able to work different locales and be competitive. Kevin Keatts is a former prep school coach at Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) who has strong ties to the Southeast. Kareem Richardson is very heavy in the Midwest due to his time at Xavier, Drake and other schools in the area. Wyking Jones has relationships everywhere because of his time working with Nike.
And that doesn't even count Pitino, who is one of the more recognizable personalities and faces in the sport. High school players from all over the country know who he is and know what Louisville is about. It doesn't matter if the Cardinals are in the Big East, ACC, Big 12, Conference USA -- Pitino would be able to get players from anywhere.
Need proof? Louisville's last season in Conference USA was 2005 -- and the Cardinals' recruiting class that year was one of the best in the country. It was a group that included prospects from California, Washington, Alabama, New England and Chicago.
Louisville is one of the best programs in the country. High school coaches know that, AAU coaches know that -- and elite-level prospects know that. Will the Cardinals start targeting the Southeast more than the Northeast? Perhaps, if only because prospects might want to play in front of their family more often. Will they begin to get involved more in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area? Wouldn't be surprised.
But those are small adjustments, ones that will come naturally if certain prospects arise and necessitate an alteration of focus.
While Louisville's move to the ACC means the Cardinals will have to consistently reload on the recruiting trail in order to keep up with the rest of the league, actual changes in recruiting strategy are going to be minimal.