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Hoops Recruiting: What early expectation should we set for Mizzou’s top-5 class?

The quintet won’t hit campus for a year, but a protected seed in March isn’t outlandish — and a sign the Tigers have an elite core set for the long haul.


For Missouri, the early signing period passed with minimal fanfare.

Throughout the day, paperwork will filter in to make a handful of commitments official, and an attentive social media manager will juice engagement with some quality posts. It’s all very pro forma.

Sure, Jayden Quaintance stirred some modest intrigue earlier this week by trimming the G League Ignite from his final quartet of suitors. Yet the five-star forward also hinted last month that his recruitment would likely bleed into spring. And as an aside, the Ignite has a history of swooping in late to pluck talent seemingly bound for college.

The only faint drama: Cooper Flagg and Patrick Ngongba committing to Duke dislodged MU from its perch atop the national recruiting rankings. Still, the Tigers remain firmly ensconced in the top five of 247Sports’ composite index. And for the moment, its class score is high enough to feel reasonably assured of finishing in the top 10 once this cycle winds down.

So, now is as good a time as any to take stock.

Over the next year, we’ll have plenty of time to study, project, and downright speculate about the impact this class could have. However, optimism has an unhelpful tendency to edge toward unrealistic expectations. So, I figured I’d try to establish a faint baseline we can return to once these prospects drop their bags in Columbia next June.

Odd as it might sound, MU’s current crop of talent is slightly below average compared to other Top-10 classes assembled over the past decade. The Tigers’ class score ranks in the 32nd percentile and would likely slot it at fifth or sixth when the cycle wraps up this spring.

Typical Top-10 Classes | 2011-2023

Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range Missouri (2024)
Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range Missouri (2024)
Class Score 67.51 (1.87) 67.44 65.64 to 69.38 66.59
Recruit Rating 96.49 (1.94) 96.64 94.55-98.43 96.75
Count 5.1 (1.2) 5 3.9 to 6.3 5
n=130 Data Source: 247Sports

And if Quainatance comes aboard? Adding a second five-star prospect would nudge MU’s class score into the 64th percentile. However, its adjusted class score might only result in a two-spot bump in the rankings, keeping the Tigers on track to finish between fourth and sixth in the composite rankings.

To be clear, Gates and his staff already carried out exceptional work, and the results are among the program’s best in the past two decades.

As for performance, let’s keep our metrics straightforward: wins, KenPom ranking, seeding in the NCAA tournament, and wins compiled during March Madness. Since 2011, programs that signed a top-10 class have averaged 23.3 wins and an average finish of 35th in Pomeroy’s ratings. Meanwhile, those squads made the NCAA tournament roughly 63 percent of the time.

Next, let’s isolate those programs that earned a spot in the field of 68. Their descriptive stats are below.

How Do Top-10 Classes Perform in March? | 2012-2023

Category Average (SD) Median Range
Category Average (SD) Median Range
KenPom 20.4 (14.7) 18 5.7 to 35.1
Total Wins 25.8 (4.4) 25 21.4 to 29.2
Seed 5.1 (3.2) 4 1.9 to 8.3
Tournament Wins 1.7 (1.5) 1 0.2 to 3.4
n=75 Data Sources: KenPom

While these classes generate considerable buzz, the early returns are often solid but unspectacular: 25 wins, a No. 5 seed, and maybe a trip to the Sweet 16. The picture doesn’t change much when we zoom in on programs with class scores comparable to MU.

How have classes similar to Mizzou performed? | 2012-2023

Category Average (SD) Median Range
Category Average (SD) Median Range
KenPom 19.5 (12.5) 24 7.0-32.0
Total Wins 24.9 (4.8) 25.5 20.1-29.7
Seed 5.3 (3.2) 5.5 2.1-9.5
Tournament WIns 1.7 (1.4) 1 0.3-3.1
n= 10 Data Source: KenPom

And just for fun, let’s say MU wraps up a pledge from Quaintance. Here’s how similar classes performed.

How would adding Jayden Quaintance impact the forecast?

Category Average (SD) Median Range
Category Average (SD) Median Range
KenPom 19.4 (17.2) 15.5 2.2-36.6
Total Wins 26.4 (3.9) 27 22.5-30.3
Seed 4.2 (3.2) 3 1.2-7.4
Tournament WIns 1.6 (1.2) 2 0.4-2.8
N=10 Data Source: KenPom

Scoring that commitment might supply Gates with a critical mass of talent that racks up a couple more wins and – more importantly – moves onto the No. 3 seed line. Half of the teams in our sample also reached the Sweet 16, which mirrored the broader group of 75 teams.

Judging success based on a tournament performance, though, can be fickle. Historically, teams on the No. 4 seed line average 1.6 wins and have a 47.4 percent chance of reaching the Sweet 16. If you reach the second weekend, great. But it shouldn’t be the ultimate gauge of progress.

The data tells us that MU might have assembled a class capable of winning 25 games, finishing higher than 25th in KenPom, and earning a protected seed. It’s been more than a decade since the program was on a similar footing. And unlike 2009 and 2012, this iteration of the Tigers wouldn’t rely on a grizzled core trying to mount a capstone on their careers.

Instead, it would be a launch point for a roster that could feature up to nine underclassmen, all rated higher than No. 120 in the composite index. Finding a proxy for this potentially durable young core means looking back to 2000, when Ricky Paulding, Arthur Johnson, Travon Bryant, and Wesley Stokes comprised the No. 2 class in the RSCI composite. Annor Boateng projects as a multi-year player. Quaintance’s reclassification into the ’24 cycle means he could spend two years on campus. Tantalizing as next season might be, you could argue the true breakthrough might not arrive until the 2025-26 campaign.

The Tigers could expedite that timeline with savvy portal pickups this spring, focusing on veteran ball handlers to stabilize its backcourt. In the near term, however, MU’s sole aim is locking up Quaintance’s services, and next season seems tilted toward a youth movement.

And that’s a familiar linchpin.

Frank Haith landed a top-15 class in 2013. Kim Anderson followed it up a year later with the nation’s No. 11 group, comprised of Haith commitments and supplemented with Montaque Gill-Caesar. And Cuonzo Martin arrived on the heels of a top-five class that would supposedly jumpstart his reclamation project.

All of those proved to be false dawns.

Undoubtedly, Gates has shown enough early progress to inspire confidence he can elevate the program’s recruiting over the long haul. But can he retain and develop it? Can he fashion durable cores that routinely position themselves for deep runs? For more than a decade, that consistency has proven frustratingly elusive.

This class — and its immense potential – offers another chance to crumple up that narrative and draft a new one.