Once, college basketball recruiting was as much a guessing game as college football recruiting.
Now, with dozens of summer leagues and camps, players receiving heavy publicity as early as the ninth and 10th grades and junior colleges playing an increasingly less significant role, people have a pretty good idea by June who the next winter's have and have-nots will be.
There are exceptions. Two years ago, the so-called experts looked at a Maryland recruiting class that included none of the previous year's top 100 players and picked the Terps sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They finished first. Last year, with that team back and two "name" recruits, Maryland was picked first in the league and, by some, first in the country. The Terrapins finished fourth in the league.
Nonetheless, some predictions can be made in the wake of the recently completed recruiting season:
North Carolina, with five top recruits, will be a heavy favorite in the ACC and is likely to be the No. 1 team in the country in preseason polls. Only Georgetown was its rival in recruiting success.
UCLA, after embarrassing fourth- and third-place finishes, will return to the top of the Pacific-10 Conference.
Indiana, even without Ray Tolbert and Isiah Thomas, will remain a force in the Big 10.
Georgetown will have the ability to play with any team in the country, and by March will be a legitimate final-four candidate.
Wichita State will have as much talent as any school -- but may not be eligible for postseason play. The NCAA is expected to announce the results of its investigation of Wichita's program in August, and probation is a possibility.
Traditional powers Maryland and Notre Dame may be in for lean years. Both Lefty Driesell and Digger Phelps lost key players and do not appear to have replacements.
Georgetown's John Thompson was the favorite to get 7-foot Patrick Ewing, considered the nation's best high school player, from Cambridge, Mass. He got Ewing early. William Martin, 6-7, from McKinley High School in the District, and Anthony Jones, 6-6, from Dunbar, will join Ewing. All were rated among the top 15 players in the country.
At North Carolina, Dean Smith started by getting the one thing this year's national runner-up lacked, a solid swing guard. Michael Jordan, 6-5, from Wilmington, N.C., is more than solid; he is superb, "another Walter Davis," according to those who have seen him.
Add 6-4 Buzz Peterson, 6-1 Lynwood Robinson, 6-10 John Brownlee and 7-foot Warren Martin, who some say is reminiscent of Marvin Webster, and the Tar Heels have five freshmen who could form their own ACC team.
Other ACC schools picked up some outstanding players. Clemson got 6-5 Joe Ward, a great leaper; Wake Forest got 6-7 Sylvester Charles from Dunbar; North Carolina State picked up 6-10 Cozell McQueen and 6-5 Dinky Proctor; Virginia added 6-8 Jimmy Miller and 6-5 Tim Mullen, and Duke got 6-6 Greg Wendt. All made someone's top 40.
Nationally, UCLA's rookie coach, Larry Farmer, needed a big man. He got two, 6-11 Stuart Gray, a tough and graceful big man rated only slightly behind Ewing, and 6-10 Brad Wright.Both are Southern Californians. Farmer also signed 6-5 Niguel Miguel to give the Bruins quickness and depth at the swing spot.
Wichita State, which made the final eight a year ago, picked up 7-1 Greg Dreiling, rated on a par with Ewing by some, and 6-4 Aubrey Sherrod, an outstanding shooting guard. These two will be among the best freshmen in the country.
Indiana is so deep that Bob Knight didn't even try that hard to get 7-3 West German transfer Uwe Blab, the player Maryland chased all winter. Knight got Blab, anyway, because his high school coach wanted the ungainly, unpolished redhead to play for the best teacher around. Don't expect to see Blab much, however. Do look for 6-9 John Flowers of Indianapolis, one of the nation's best big men.
Iowa lost both its big men, but replaced them with Michael Payne, 6-11, from Quincy, Ill., and Greg Stokes, 6-8, from Hamilton, Ohio. The Hawkeyes also added a fine guard, 6-4 Greg Berkenpass, an in-state player. Eric Turner, 6-3, from Flint, will stay near home, playing at Michigan. Michigan State will get help from another player who will stay in state, 6-2 guard Sam Vincent.
Alabama had a big year, getting two players to stay home. One was 6-9 Bobby Lee Hurt, a player Maryland recruited heavily. The other is 6-3 Ennis Whatley, who changed his mind about attending Alabama-Birmingham at the last minute.
Florida Coach Norman Sloan also did well, keeping two top players in state, both forwards. They are 6-8 Eugene McDowell and 6-7 Rodney Williams, who was so certain he was going to Duke he invited Blue Devil Coach Mike Krzyzewski to speak at his school's awards banquet.
Louisville Coach Denny Crum had an excellent year, too. He convinced 6-7 Manuel Forrest, a hometown boy with a great touch from outside, to stay in town. He also recruited 6-5 Milt Wagner, who had 50 points against De Matha last season, from Camden, N.J.
St. John's had a disappointing year on the court, but a good year off the court, adding 7-foot Bill Wennington and 6-5 Chris Mullin, two players likely to start. Ed Pinckney, 6-9, another New Yorker, will play for Villanova, and Andre Hawkins, 6-7, will leave Long Island to play at Syracuse.