More than any other sport, college basketball relies on an influx of talent each and every year. With four-year careers happening less and less often, freshmen are necessary to keep the sport alive. We’ve seen elite freshman campaigns in the past. Kentucky had an all-time class that helped carry them to a deep NCAA Tournament run in 2015.
Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett took over the ACC in their single season with the Blue Devils. Recruiting has an immediate impact, and it’s clear that the best teams have to rely on young talent to stay relevant.
However, it’s becoming a bigger challenge to recruit well. There are more options for high school athletes to make money before declaring for the NBA Draft. With other players knowing their college years will be limited, they simply go to the best opportunity to shine as opposed to worrying about development or a chance to win a title.
With this in mind, here’s a look at the three best recruiting classes of the 2021 season. This will pair the rankings with the context necessary for the upcoming year of college basketball.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Now, let me explain. There are other teams with more talent in their classes. Still, Alabama pairs the talented class with team needs and perfect timing. Alabama has a top-10 class on talent alone. The crown jewel is JD Davison, an electric point guard that plays like Ja Morant. He will be the focal point of Alabama’s offense this year, and he fits perfectly in Nate Oats’ system.
Behind him, Alabama adds crucial depth in the post. The Tide will be without Jordan Bruner and Alex Reese from last year, so it will help to add players like Charles Bediako to the mix. Alabama also landed some nice transfer players who will compete for starting minutes. Nimari Burnett is looking for a new start, and Noah Gurley seems like a lock to start this season.
Alabama is coming off of an elite year, but they are losing many key players. Even if Shackelford and Primo return from the NBA Draft, Alabama will need to see production from this class. Thankfully, the talent is there to help the Tide become national champions. Alabama has +1400 NCAAB odds to win a national title this season.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is finally embracing the value of recruiting. The Bulldogs have been elite for many years now, but they have yet to win a title despite all their talent. Last year, they had the best roster in college basketball. They’ll sweeten the pot with a top-ranked class as well.
The class begins with Chet Holmgren, the highest-ranked player of the 2021 class. Holmgren is an elite center with the ability to stretch the floor. With his size and versatility, he is simply impossible to stop without an elite defender. He alone gives the Bulldogs a distinct 2021 advantage.
The Bulldogs will be without Jalen Suggs this year, but they still look to compete for a national title. They were one game away from a fully undefeated year, so we’ll see what Mark Few and the Zags can do this season with such a great class.
Suggs proved that Gonzaga can win with elite freshman play, and they will continue that tradition in 2021. The roster looks ready to dominate, and we’ll see if they can finally win it all.
1. Michigan Wolverines
Michigan has four players ranked in the top 50, but all prospects have a chance to contribute if things go right. The top player is easily Caleb Houstan, but the Wolverines will need production from the entire class.
Michigan proved that they can win in the Big Ten last year, but they now want to prove that they can be a perennial contender. That goes hand-in-hand with recruiting, and they made moves with the 2021 class.
Michigan needed more talent to get over the hump last year, and they got it with this class. With another year of coaching consistency and this influx of talent, the Wolverines seem poised to win the Big Ten this season. Perhaps they can win more than just the conference.