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March 8, 2011

Ask the experts: March Madness impact

MORE EXPERTS: Comparing McD's talent | Top overachievers | Moving up? | Duke loaded

Rivals.com basketball recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi weigh in on four current topics.

Of all the bubble teams, who would benefit most in recruiting by making the tournament?

Bossi: That's a good question and one that is tough for me to answer. I do my best to go out of my way to avoid all of the constant bubble talk and tournament projections because I find it pointless to spend so much time fretting about who is in or who is out prior to Selection Sunday. I really don't know who it would benefit most in recruiting, but I think making it into the NCAA Tournament would be a huge boost for Brad Brownell in his first year at Clemson. Conversely, if Virginia Tech were to miss again I think people might start questioning whether or not the formula it has been using can get it done.

Meyer: This is a tough question because it is difficult to quantify the recruiting boost from making the tournament, and making the tournament helps any team with its recruiting. One thought, though, is that making the tournament can really give a new coach a boost in recruiting. Alabama, Boston College, Colorado and Georgia fit this category. Also, these teams haven't necessarily been fixtures in March Madness. Michigan comes to mind as well as a program that could reap recruiting dividends by making the tournament. And any mid-major school gains a significant recruiting advantage by making the tournament.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin was doing a heck of a job recruiting without having proven he can win there. Now that he's proven it, what kind of impact do you see St. John's making in future recruiting classes?

Bossi: I've always felt that Lavin walked into a perfect situation. St. John's is a team that is playing this year with double-digit seniors, featuring some legitimate talent within the group. Former coach Norm Roberts probably would have had similar success with this group this year. That's why he was let go last year because many felt the group had underachieved and others were afraid he'd be able to play his way into a few more years at St. John's with this group. Lavin proved that he could coach and win at UCLA. Looking ahead, everything is in place to continue recruiting success. He's got buzz, he knows how to land talent and he has connections.

Meyer: If it were possible, I would buy stock in St. John's recruiting. Don't know that there is a rebuilding program with more buzz surrounding it than St. John's program. Momentum is a major factor in recruiting, and St. John's has a whole lot of it right now. Lavin is a proven recruiter, who now has the ability to recruit nationwide. I expect future recruiting classes to consistently be in the upper echelon of the recruiting rankings.

Is the Pac-10's lack of success on the court the past couple of years hurting league schools when recruiting the West?

Bossi: I don't think any schools have really been hurt by any lack of success. I think that it's been more a case of lots of coaching turnover, some misses in talent evaluation and perhaps a bit of a down cycle in West Coast talent during the previous two or three years. Now that there is some stability with the coaches in the league, I fully expect the league to make a comeback.

Meyer: I don't think this is a significant issue. UCLA's recruiting has taken a dip, but Arizona's recruiting is on the rise, Stanford's recruiting is improving, while Oregon and Washington are holding steady. The Pac-10 landed nine of the 16 committed western prospects in the 2011 Rivals150. It's no surprise that St. John's snagged a couple. The West Coast conference landed a couple. Then Kentucky, Marquette and Harvard grabbed one apiece.

Who is a surprise star in college basketball right now that you scouted in high school and never thought they could play at such a high level in college?

Bossi: This is a pretty easy one for me: Jacob Pullen of Kansas State. It wasn't that I didn't think he could put up decent numbers over the course of his career because I knew he would score. However, watching him play in high school he was often selfish, didn't want to play defense much of the time and had a questionable attitude. During his years at Kansas State, all of that has gone away and he's turned into one of the best leaders in college basketball, a threat on both ends of the floor and a guy who thrives in the clutch. He's going to go down as one of the most successful and beloved Kansas State players of all time.

Meyer: I was skeptical of Ben Hansbrough as a high-major recruit when I scouted him, much less as a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year and an NBA prospect. Evidently, all but the Mississippi State coaches were in the same boat as me. Hansbrough exceeded my expectations at Mississippi State and then blew my expectations out of the water after transferring to Notre Dame. With his competitiveness, toughness and physical strength, I thought he would be a successful college player just below the high-major level. Obviously, I severely underestimated what type of college player Hansbrough would be. He refined and improved his skill level to go along with his other positive traits and is now one of the best players in college basketball.

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