Following football recruiting is frustrating because you never know that you know. You can land a great quarterback and a blue chip linebacker but will the lines hold up? 85 recruits is a lot.
Basketball? Basketball is so easy. Don't be empty at a position, land three or four great players, and it's fixed.
I mean, obviously, it's very difficult. Everyone else is trying to do the same thing. Four or five schools will see their futures hinge on the decision of one great player. If it was really "easy" everyone would be doing it.
I'm saying that football generally takes a lot of recruiting and building and recruiting and building and basketball can be fixed by Thursday. Like, fixed fixed. I should probably just go ahead and describe what I mean.
If you like Crystal Balls, right now the Illini lead for two Mac Irvin Fire players - Kahlil Whitney and Terrence Shannon. Both are from Chicago, although Whitney is now in New Jersey playing his basketball at Roselle Catholic (Whitney's dad, Kelly Whitney, played at Seton Hall, now lives in New Jersey, and he moved from Chicago to Jersey as a high school sophomore to live with his dad). Whitney has skyrocketed up the rankings this year and is now #18 in the composite rankings. Shannon has also shot up the charts and is now composite #90. And again, the Crystal Ball says both will eventually select Illinois.
I should pause here to talk about Whitney's ranking. Please note that in what I call the "RSCI era" (composite rankings - combining all of the ranking services and coming up with a composite ranking - has been around since 1998), the highest recruit Illinois has landed is Dee Brown at #19. Whitney, currently #18, would be our highest ranked recruit since 1992. Yes, the highest ranked recruit in 26 years. That recruit in 1992? Richard Keene, who (I still have the magazines in the basement somewhere) was #12 on one list (Street & Smiths I think?), #15 on another, and was a McDonald's All American. So landing Whitney - LONG road between here and there - would be a bit historic.
Additionally, 2019 big man Kofi Cockburn has said he will visit Illinois in August. That's more of a longshot. His Crystal Ball is currently 50% Syracuse, 50% UConn, which is typical for a New York City kid. But we've been recruiting him for quite some time and, at least for now, he's saying he'll visit.
Where I'm going with this: we'll get visits from all three. It's not likely - please hear me when I say "it's not likely" because that's not what this post is about - but if we land all three, it's fixed. Completely fixed. The end, we're back. It's just that easy.
Like, FIXED. Totally fixed. A wing with a lot of power forward to his game ranked #18, a big man for the low post ranked #26, and an athletic small forward ranked #90. Combine that with what we already have and it's fixed. FIXED.
Here would be the roster for the first game in November of 2019 if that were the case. From small to big:
Andres Feliz (SR)
Trent Frazier (JR)
Ayo Dosunmu (SO)
Da'Monte Williams (JR)
Alan Griffin (SO)
Terrence Shannon (FR)
Kipper Nichols (SR)
Kahlil Whitney (FR)
Tevian Jones (SO)
Anthony Higgs (SO)
Giorgi Bezhanishvili (SO)
Samba Kane (SO)
Kofi Cockburn (FR)
That lineup right there - junior, sophomore, senior, freshman, freshman - could get to the Sweet 16. All of this handwringing over the 2018 recruiting class and all of the players who left and everything else... just land three high schoolers and it's fixed. Just that easy.
Now, of course, it's really hard. Cockburn will probably stay out east, Whitney is going to have the biggest of big boy programs chasing him now that he's a likely McDonald's All American, and Shannon probably lands even more offers after a summer where he shot up the charts. We could "easily" land zero of these players. And then it's nowhere close to fixed. We'd have to rely on our project recruits (like Giorgi and Higgs) to fill the frontcourt, and if they don't work out, we drop from the Sweet Sixteen to sixteen wins very quickly.
My point: basketball recruiting is SO EASY. You can fix your program overnight. For football, yes, you can get there with recruiting, but it takes longer. Tom Herman is going to get Texas Football on the right path, and he's dominating recruiting, and he's landing four-star after four-star, but it's probably going to be year three before their roster is fully rejuvenated. You can land some freshmen linebackers to fix your defense but they're not going to be ready until their third or fourth year.
In basketball, you can land three players, combine them with your two fantastic guards, and it's fixed. Like, almost immediately. You still need some leadership - the team I described above would need to rely on upperclassmen like Kipper and Trent for leadership - but add a few (superstar) freshmen and you can get there quickly.
And yes, I know, I broke the cardinal rule of recruiting - "don't piece together future lineups". Honest, that's not what I was going for in this post. I'm just showing how incredibly easy it is to fix everything. It could legitimately be fixed by Thursday.
Friday at the latest.