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Duke, Rutgers have two recruits in top five, but that doesn’t guarantee instant success in NCAA Tournament

The final 247Sports recruiting rankings revealed Wednesday featured Rutgers signee Dylan Harper jumping one spot to No. 3 and Duke signee Khaman Maluach dropping a spot to No. 4. Harper and Bailey, the No. 2 recruit in 2024, headline a historic recruiting class at Rutgers that became the first school that is not a traditional blue-blood program to sign two top-five players from the same class. 

But subsequent historic success for teams with two players in the top five is far from a guarantee. Consider that Rutgers has reached the NCAA Tournament just twice this century. The Scarlet Knights lost their best player (Clifford Omoruyi) to Alabama via the transfer portal earlier this month, and they’re coming off a season in which they went 15-17 overall and 7-13 in Big Ten play — good enough for 13th. While Bailey and Harper project as impact players from Day 1, surrounding them with veterans will be critical toward future success.

Duke and Rutgers joined eight different recruiting classes that featured two top-five signees. Of those eight, five failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky‘s historic 2011 recruiting class, which featured Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, was the only one to win a national championship.

While the historical data doesn’t favor Rutgers or Duke winning a national championship come March, the latter may be better equipped to make a deep run. The Blue Devils’ incoming recruiting class rivals their 2018 recruiting class that featured RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson for the best high school recruiting class in the 247Sports era. The latest class is headlined by Cooper Flagg — the No. 1 overall prospect and one of the most hyped-up incoming college basketball players in recent memory. 

Duke finished with the No. 1 overall class ahead of Alabama, Arizona, and Rutgers and signed two top-five prospects for the fourth time since 2016. 

Here is how other teams that signed two top-five players in the same class fared the following season:

Kentucky (2023)

Who: Justin Edwards (No. 3) and Aaron Bradshaw (No. 5)

Season result: Lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament 

John Calipari’s final recruiting class at Kentucky ranked as the No. 1 class in the 2023 cycle. The highest-ranked prospect of the group, Edwards, was touted as a player who could become the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, but some early season struggles prompted him to find a reduced role. As for Bradshaw, he missed the first month of the season because of an injury and transferred to Ohio State after an up-and-down freshman campaign. Kentucky lost to Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with this group in the final game of Calipari’s tenure at the school.

Duke (2022)

Who: Dereck Lively lll (No. 2), Dariq Whitehead (No. 3) and Kyle Filipowski (No. 4)

Season result: Lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament 

In the first season without legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke brought in three five-star recruits to jump-start a new era. Lively and Whitehead both declared for the 2023 NBA Draft (where they became first-round picks), and Filipowski elected to return to school for his sophomore season. After dropping to 8-6 in ACC play following a loss to Virginia, Duke went on a hot streak, which included winning 10 consecutive games before falling to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Duke (2018)

Who: RJ Barrett (No. 1) and Cam Reddish (No. 3)

Season result: Lost in the Elite Eight

Perhaps the best recruiting class in the modern era, Duke was able to sign the top-ranked player (Barrett), the No. 3 player (Reddish), and the No. 7 player (Zion Williamson) from the 2018 recruiting cycle. The Blue Devils had an exhilarating NCAA Tournament run that included close wins over UCF and Virginia Tech before losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Williamson is one of three freshmen (Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant being the others) to win the Naismith Award.

Duke (2016)

Who: Harry Giles (No. 3) and Frank Jackson (No. 5)

Season result: Lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament 

Duke managed to sign two of the top players in the 2016 recruiting cycle, but the best signee from the class was outside the top-five. Future NBA star Jayson Tatum was the No. 8 player in his class and helped the Blue Devils secure the top-ranked recruiting class during the 2016 cycle. Duke lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to South Carolina as a No. 2 seed.

Kansas (2014)

Who: Cliff Alexander (No. 4) and Kelly Oubre (No. 5)

Season result: Lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament 

The 2014-15 Kansas roster featured seven players who would play at the next level. Alexander and Oubre were two of them. The Jayhawks entered the 2015 NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed and fell to No. 7 seed Wichita State in the second round. Oubre was selected No. 15 in the 2015 NBA Draft, while Alexander went undrafted.

Kentucky (2013)

Who: Julius Randle (No. 2) Andrew Harrison (No. 3) and Aaron Harrison (No. 5)

Season result: Lost in national title game

Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class (at the time) became the first team in the 247Sports era to sign three top-five players from the same class. The Wildcats entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a 24-10 record and won five consecutive games over Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan, and Wisconsin to reach the national title game. Aaron Harrison hit a handful of clutch buckets throughout the tournament that helped Kentucky reach the title game.

UCLA (2012)

Who: Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2) and Kyle Anderson (No. 3)

Season result: Lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament 

After signing two top players from the 2012 recruiting cycle, UCLA coach Ben Howland was fired after a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Muhammad was drafted No. 14 in the 2013 NBA Draft after a standout freshman campaign but never lived up to the hype at the next level. Anderson elected to come back to school for his sophomore year and later became a late first-round pick the following summer.

Kentucky (2011)

Who: Anthony Davis (No. 1) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 2)

Season result: Won national title 

It’s rare to get a player of Davis’ caliber at the college level. The former Kentucky star is considered one of the best one-and-done prospects in college basketball history, and he helped lead the Wildcats to their last national title in 2012. Kidd-Gilchrist also was one of the best freshmen in college basketball during his lone season at UK. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist would eventually go Nos. 1-2 in the 2012 NBA Draft — just like they were slotted in the final 247Sports rankings.

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