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Kentucky Wildcats: ESPN Ranks UCLA Bruins Recruiting Class #1 Over UK, but ESPN's Rankings Do Not Support It

Don't look now, Coach Cal, but ESPN says Ben Howland just "pwnd" you.
Don't look now, Coach Cal, but ESPN says Ben Howland just "pwnd" you.

Maybe I'm just not that smart. Or perhaps this recruiting stuff is so much more art than science, you can get away with what looks like a repudiation of your own ranking mechanisms. Not that it matters much, but hey, picking nits is what I do.

So ESPN has this article up, claiming they have discovered that UCLA's recruiting class is #1 in the land, and Kentucky's is #2. That's news, because it would be Calipari's first non-#1 recruiting class since he's been at UK:

UCLA and coach Ben Howland were able to take down the champs and claim the No. 1 spot in the class rankings by edging Kentucky, keeping the Wildcats from their fourth consecutive No. 1 class. Both teams scored four ESPN 100 players, but the Bruins' two top-five recruits put them over the top.

That's fine, as far as it goes, and my first reaction was a hearty "Meh." Honestly recruiting rankings are highly subjective things, and if ESPN wants to call UCLA's class better, why should I quibble over it? After all, there is not much difference between UCLA's class and Kentucky's, and if ESPN wants to make up news by claiming Ben Howland took down Calipari, it's hard to say that we should complain.

You can feel it now, can't you , that "damning but?" BUT, ESPN's own rankings do not support their conclusions. Follow me after the jump and I'll show you why.

Here's my little spreadsheet:

UCLA Bruins
Player Rank (lower better) Grade (higher better)
Shabazz Muhammad 2 98
Kyle Anderson 5 97
Tony Parker 26 96
Jordan Adams 41 95
Average UCLA 18.5 96.5

Kentucky Wildcats
Player Rank (lower better) Grade (higher better)
Nerlens Noel 1 98
Alex Poythress 13 97
Archie Goodwin 15 97
Willie Cauley 40 95
Average UK 17.25 96.75

I don't think this really requires exposition, but let's do a little anyway just in case there are any Louisville Cardinals fans reading the blog today. Kentucky's average ranking, using ESPN's own ordinal ranking system, is 1.25 positions lower than that of UCLA's In an ordinal system, a lower number is better than a higher number when #1 is the best possible. Therefore, ESPN's ordinal system gives the nod to UK.

But ESPN also assigns a "grade" to each recruit, of which 100 is apparently the best. In this case, UK's recruits average out to be 0.25 points better than UCLA's recruits. In this case, unlike the ordinal system we just discussed, higher is better.

So by their own numerical measures, ESPN's conclusion is facially wrong. ESPN explains that the fact that UCLA had 2 top 5 recruits and UK had only one is the justification for their conclusion, so I suppose that means that recruits outside the top 5 just aren't that important.

Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley might disagree. Frankly, I think this is little more than an attempt to enrage UK fans into some kind of irrational attack on Twitter or something, so remember -- don't drink and tweet.

Now if I can just get my tongue out of my cheek...