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Is Michigan State basketball the premier recruiting program in the Big Ten?

Tom Izzo is an elite recruiter.



Michigan State basketball

A recent ranking of the top recruiting programs in the Big Ten recently came out. Is Michigan State basketball really the best?

If you’re on Twitter, you probably know of the account “College Basketball Report” and its rankings lists. Michigan State basketball fans often find themselves interacting because, well, sometimes we feel slighted.

A recent ranking of the best recruiting teams in each power conference had plenty of Spartan fans disagreeing.

CBK Report ranked Indiana No. 1, Illinois No. 2, and Michigan State No. 3 in terms of recruiting.

Is this a legit ranking? Are Indiana and Illinois really better than Michigan State basketball when it comes to recruiting? I found that hard to believe, but I dove into some numbers to really weigh the three.

Suffice to say, I think Michigan State is the best recruiting program in the Big Ten.

By the recruiting numbers

Since recruiting rankings are based more so on class size in basketball, I don’t think that’s an incredibly fair tool to use to compare the programs. Sometimes MSU will need a bigger class than Indiana and Illinois, and sometimes the latter two will have 3/4-man classes and the Spartans will have 1-2.

So for the sake of fairness, we’ll go by average rating per recruit on the 247Sports Composite. Obviously 100 is the highest possible average rating so anything close to that is a quality class.

Here’s how Michigan State has compared to Indiana since 2011 (the furthest back ratings go) in average rating:

2011: MSU (92.35), Indiana (90.59) — MSU
2012: MSU (96.95), Indiana (96.58) — MSU
2013: MSU (87.58), Indiana (94.78) — Indiana
2014: MSU (92.11), Indiana (88.27) — MSU
2015: MSU (95.55), Indiana (92.47) — MSU
2016: MSU (99.0), Indiana (89.83) — MSU
2017: MSU (96.66), Indiana (91.69) — MSU
2018: MSU (95.24), Indiana (95.89) — Indiana
2019: MSU (95.01), Indiana (95.94) — Indiana
2020: MSU (97.76), Indiana (95.17) — MSU
2021: MSU (98.29), Indiana (98.05) — MSU
2022: MSU (97.31), Indiana (96.14) — MSU
2023: MSU (97.84), Indiana (96.66) — MSU

Michigan State has had a higher average rating in 10 of the past 13 seasons over Indiana. Mike Woodson has never had a higher average rating that Tom Izzo.

Now let’s take a look at how the Spartans compared to Illinois in average rating since 2011:

2011: MSU (92.35), Illinois (93.16) — Illinois
2012: MSU (96.95), Illinois (NA) — MSU
2013: MSU (87.58), Illinois (93.45) — Illinois
2014: MSU (92.11), Illinois (93.87) — Illinois
2015: MSU (95.55), Illinois (92.70) — MSU
2016: MSU (99.0), Illinois (90.75) — MSU
2017: MSU (96.66), Illinois (90.48) — MSU
2018: MSU (95.24), Illinois (90.22) — MSU
2019: MSU (95.01), Illinois (92.59) — MSU
2020: MSU (97.76), Illinois (92.95) — MSU
2021: MSU (98.29), Illinois (95.68) — MSU
2022: MSU (97.31), Illinois (97.20) — MSU
2023: MSU (97.84), Illinois (92.97) — MSU

Just like the Spartans’ advantage over Indiana on the trail, Michigan State has had a higher average rating than the Illini in 10 of the past 13 seasons. They’ve also had a higher rating in nine straight cycles. Brad Underwood has never had a higher average rating than Izzo.

Since I want to be fair to every team that made the list, here’s who holds the average rating advantage between Michigan and Michigan State basketball since 2011:

2011: MSU
2012: MSU
2013: Michigan
2014: MSU
2015: MSU
2016: MSU
2017: MSU
2018: MSU
2019: MSU
2020: MSU
2021: MSU
2022: MSU
2023: MSU

As you can see, in 12 out of the past 13 years, Michigan State has had a higher average rating than Michigan. And Juwan Howard has never had a higher average rating than Izzo

Now let’s do Ohio State:

2011: Ohio State
2012: MSU
2013: Ohio State
2014: Ohio State
2015: Ohio State
2016: MSU
2017: MSU
2018: MSU
2019: Ohio State
2020: MSU
2021: MSU
2022: MSU
2023: MSU

Chris Holtmann has only had a higher average rating than Izzo one time and Michigan State has been higher in seven out of the past eight seasons. From 2011-15, however, Thad Matta was an elite recruiter.

Is Michigan State basketball the premier recruiting program in the Big Ten? I think it can be safely stated that the Spartans have been recruiting at a higher level than the rest of the conference over the past decade-plus.

The average rating for each program since 2011 is as follows:

Michigan State: 95.51
Ohio State: 94.81
Indiana: 94.00
Michigan: 93.98
Illinois: 93.00

This recruiting success does not shock me one bit.

Writer, co-owner of Spartan Shadows. Michigan State and college football expert at FanSided and formerly of The Detroit News. Expert on all things Michigan State. Connor Muldowney has written about Michigan State since graduating from the university with a degree in journalism back in 2013. Ten years of experience as a Michigan State writer/reporter.