CBS Sports examined the top seven college basketball programs thriving on the court without highly touted prospects earlier this week. Now we take a look at five programs that have consistently signed top recruiting classes but struggled to translate recruiting accolades to on-court success.
The cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament robbed some of these programs of the chance to shed that label. But even after recent recruiting victories, two of them were not projected to make the 68-team field by CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic slowing the 2020 coaching carousel, all five programs on the list are moving forward with the same leader on the sideline, meaning they will each have a chance to shed the underperforming label in the 2020-21 season. For now, though, these are the five college basketball programs doing less with more. All recruiting class rankings are courtesy of the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
- 2019: 17
- 2018: 8
- 2017: 6
- 2016: 6
- 2015: 18
Shaka Smart managed to land the nation's No. 18 class immediately upon taking the job for the 2015-16 season. His recruiting has only picked up since with a run of three straight top-10 classes between 2016 and 2018.
But success has not followed. The Longhorns have only finished with a winning record in Big 12 play once in Smart's five seasons, and that was in his first year. The 2019-20 team salvaged a bad start by winning five of its last six games to re-enter the NCAA Tournament conversation. But the fact remains that Texas has underperformed significantly relative to its talent level over the last five seasons.
Getting basically everyone back from that team and landing five-star prospect Greg Brown in the Class of 2020 will give Smart another great opportunity — and potentially his last chance — to get results on the court that match the program's results in recruiting.
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- 2019: 10
- 2018: 41
- 2017: 27
- 2016: 33
- 2015: 7
Washington landed two top-10 classes between 2015 and 2019 and its worst haul in that span was ranked 41st nationally. But even with a five-year class average of 22nd, the best result the Huskies mustered in the stretch was a second-round NCAA Tournament exit in 2019. That team finished 27-9 and won the Pac-12, but it's the only Washington team to make the NCAA Tournament since 2011.
The Huskies flopped particularly hard in the 2019-20 campaign, even after landing two top-10 prospects in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels in the Class of 2019. Losing point guard Quade Green to an academic issue during the season stung, but the Huskies still had enough talent to fare much better than their final record of 15-17 (5-13 Pac-12).
- 2019: 32
- 2018: 4
- 2017: 17
- 2016: 51
- 2015: 10
LSU made the Sweet 16 in 2019 and was in position to be a potential second weekend NCAA Tournament team again in 2020 before the season's cancellation. At what price, though? The program has been recruiting well without getting major results since before Will Wade arrived and brought FBI scrutiny on the program.
But Ben Simmons' lone season with the Tigers in 2015-16 did little but hasten Johnny Jones' demise as coach, and the big breakthrough has not come under Wade even with the help of five-star prospects Emmitt Williams, Naz Reid and Trendon Watford.
Now it feels like the clock is ticking on Wade, who signed yet another five-star player in Cameron Thomas in the class of 2020. Will the Tigers get a Final Four payoff before the hammer drops on Wade, assuming it eventually does?
- 2019: 60
- 2018: 16
- 2017: 65
- 2016: 10
- 2015: 22
When Ben Howland took the Mississippi State job and promptly landed five-star, in-state shooting guard Malik Newman from the Class of 2015, it felt as though big things were on the horizon for the Bulldogs. Many expected Newman to be a one-and-done prospect, but not in the way it ended up. Mississippi State struggled to a 14-17 record and Newman transferred to Kansas after a good but not great freshman season.
Mississippi State landed the No. 10 class in 2016 but only a couple of players from that seven-man class panned out for Howland, who is still looking for his first NCAA Tournament victory after five seasons at the school.
The Bulldogs recovered nicely from an 0-3 start to league play in the 2019-20 season with the No. 31 overall prospect from the Class of 2018 leading the way in Reggie Perry. But even after securing a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, Mississippi State was still left out of the projected NCAA Tournament bracket.
- 2019: 7
- 2018: 18
- 2017: 31
- 2016: 34
- 2015: 45
USC has been close; the 2015-16 team lost by one to Providence in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the 2016-17 team lost by four to Baylor in the second round and the 2017-18 team narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament after being ranked as high as No. 10 early in the season. But the 2018-19 season was a disaster, even with five-star guard Kevin Porter Jr. on the roster.
The Trojans peaked late in 2019-20, securing a projected No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning three straight games to end the regular season. So it's possible they would have gone on a postseason run and made it past the first weekend of the Big Dance for the first time in Andy Enfield's seven seasons as coach.
But the fact is USC has underperformed on the whole relative to its recruiting success under Enfield. He is on track to have a golden opportunity to shake that trend in the 2020-21 season. The Trojans landed Evan Mobley, the No. 3 prospect in the 2020 class, and he will pair up with his brother Isaiah Mobley, a five-star prospect from the 2019 class, to make USC one of the most-talented teams in the Pac-12.