It’s a here-and-now decision made by most college recruits.
I have suspected for a number of years that kids don’t care about history today as much as we did when we were their age. History was important, whether it was world wars and politics or the greatest movies and athletes of all time.
Today, not so much — and it’s backed up by statistics. In the case of Carolina basketball, what the Tar Heels have done in a recruit’s lifetime is more important than any history beyond that. UCLA still has 11 national championships, the most of any school, but why aren’t the Bruins parlaying that into 5-star freshman classes?
Because, frankly, tradition only gets you so far if you haven’t done anything for me recently — and UCLA’s last NCAA title was in 1995.
According to analytics compiled by Stadium.com, UCLA isn’t even in the top 11 programs high school recruits consider these days. John Wooden, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton are names that students could find in basketball history books, if they ever read them.
The top three schools that have compiled the best overall records in the last 18 years – the lifetime of most rising seniors in high school and members of the 2020 recruiting class – are Carolina, UConn, and Duke. But since memories don’t go back that far, the real top three schools are Carolina, Duke and Kentucky.
The Tar Heels under Roy Williams have the second most regular-season conference championships with 9 behind 16 for Kansas in the Big 12 the Jayhawks have dominated for years. Carolina has the second most NCAA tournament appearances behind Duke, Kansas and Kentucky, but in the last nine years (or since the recruits were 9) the Heels are tied for the most.
They are tied with Kansas for the most Final Four, 5, and have 3 national championships, compared to UConn’s 3, and 2 most recently by Villanova, Duke and Florida. But records and titles don’t tell the whole story, and certainly not the most important part of it.
High brand recognition is most important to the next class of recruits, which has 22 of the top 24 players still uncommitted and waiting to see where the best opportunity for exposure is for them.
UNC, Kentucky and Duke play the most games on national TV, in front of the largest viewing audiences, each season. Of that, star power makes the most impression on recruits. No question, the Blue Devils have that with a bevy of 1st-round draft picks.
The Tar Heels and Wildcats are also in that picture, so most kids are dreaming blue, one shade or another.