It often is said that every high school recruit is at least 25 percent overrated. And probably, all those recruits who have been told how great they are for the past six months will be reprogrammed in the fall.

For now, with all but a few of the top high school basketball players officially signed with their colleges of choice, at least a half-dozen schools can feel they have recruited the kind of players who can keep (or put) their teams in contention for an NCAA title the next four years.

As is usually the case, teams already in the top 20 -- Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan -- are among the schools that had the best recruiting success in the country, according to the people who claim to know about such things.

Maryland, after one down year because of extenuating circumstances, signed the kind of class that could put the Terrapins back into national prominence. And several other schools, most notably Cincinnati and Florida State, recruited well enough in successive seasons to make a move from middle-of-the-pack to potential top 20.

Dick Vitale, the ESPN college basketball analyst, said recently seven or eight schools had Grade A recruiting success, and that Coach Bob Wade's recruiting class will help Maryland "make the quickest recovery of any team in America."

But it is no longer enough to judge a school's recruiting success based on the current recruiting class. Players who failed to meet Proposition 48 guidelines last season will in most cases be eligible to compete in the upcoming season as sophomores. As a result, a school such as Michigan will not only celebrate the addition of freshman recruit Sean Higgins, a 6-foot-8 forward out of California, but two Proposition 48 cases, Rumeal Robinson and Terry Mills. They were forced to sit out as freshmen after being two of the five best high school players in the country the previous year. Ohio State's Future

Ohio State Coach Gary Williams, according to recruiting experts, attracted the caliber of players that could vault Ohio State back to the top of the league for the first time in 10 years. The jewel of Ohio State's recruiting class of '87 is supposed to be Perry Carter, a 6-7 forward and Washington, D.C. native (out of Gonzaga High School), who attended the Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine.

Add 6-8 forward Treg Lee and point guard Eli Brewster, and Williams had a good recruiting season. Add 6-11 transfer Grady Mateen, who last played at Georgetown, and 6-5 guard Randy Doss from Chicago, also forced to sit out last season because of Proposition 48, and the Buckeyes have every reason to be giddy.

Bob Knight doesn't get giddy. But signing guards Jay Edwards and Lyndon Jones, backcourt mates at Marion (Ind.) High School, might help soften the blow of losing Steve Alford. Illinois signed only two players this season, but one of them is Marcus Liberty, a 6-8 forward from Chicago, whom some said was the best high school senior in the country. Also, Liberty will be joining Chicago Simeon's Nick Anderson, who had to sit out last season after being one of Chicago's top five players a year ago.

The Big Ten, because of the nucleus of returning players and the number of outstanding recruits, should remain the best league -- top to bottom -- in the country next season. But the case can be made that a Big East school, Pitt, had the best recruiting year. In 6-7 forward Brian Shorter, 6-9 forward Bobby Martin, 6-1 point guard Sean Miller, 6-4 guard Darelle Porter and 6-3 Jason Matthews, Coach Paul Evans gave his team -- which returns four starters -- a strong bench.

In addition, 6-8 forwards Marlon Ferguson and Chris Gatling should be eligible after having to sit out last season. Nate Bailey, a transfer from the Naval Academy, will be eligible. It's still uncertain whether Shorter, said to be the best of the Pitt bunch, will qualify under Proposition 48, but it hardly should matter. "Without Shorter, you'd have to figure Pitt as one of the best five teams in the country," Vitale said. "With him, they're in another world." Pitt's Happy Dilemma

The Panthers' recruits join four returning starters, including national rebounding champion Jerome Lane and Charles Smith, a 6-10 all-America whose change of heart about passing on the NBA draft made him the best recruit of all.

The toughest thing for Pitt could be trying to incorporate eight new players into the lineup. Kentucky has the same problem. Coach Eddie Sutton recruited an entire team. LeRon Ellis, a highly regarded 6-11 center from southern California, won't even be the biggest freshman. Johnny Pittman, a center from Rosenberg, Tex., is 7-1. Then, there are 6-6 all-America Eric Manuel from Macon, Ga., and 6-8 Jon Davis, plus Sean Sutton, a 6-1 point guard and the coach's son. Reggie Hanson, who was ineligible, should be in uniform, as should senior Winston Bennett, trying to come back from a serious knee injury. Vitale hints that he likes Kentucky's class the best "because of the quality {Ellis and Manuel are the stars} and the numbers."

Numbers alone, of course, don't guarantee a good recruiting class. Georgia Tech, for instance, signed one player of impact -- Dennis Scott, the 6-6 all-America from Flint Hill -- but Howard Garfinkel, who runs the Five Star camp, says that's enough to include Tech in his list of the schools who had great recruiting success. The same might be said for Georgetown, which signed McKinley Tech's Anthony Tucker, the 6-8 inside player Coach John Thompson needed, and Georgia, which came away with 6-11 Elmore Spencer. ACC's Top Recruits

Many of the Atlantic Coast Conference schools have signed one player who is expected to have at least some immediate impact. Duke, which may be favored to win the league, has 6-6 shooter Greg Koubek from New York. North Carolina needed a point guard and came up with King Rice, a no-frills ballhandler from Binghamton, N.Y., who may have to play 20 minutes a game as a freshman. North Carolina State got Rodney Monroe, a 6-2 shooter from Hagerstown, who will play a lot if he is eligible under Proposition 48. And Virginia picked up point guard John Crotty from New Jersey and 6-6 Kenny Taylor from Indianapolis, who was said to be heavily recruited by Louisville and Purdue.

Those looking for a new bandwagon to crowd atop for the next couple of seasons might consider Cincinnati. The Bearcats signed 6-6 Louis Banks, a 35-point, 12-rebound player from Camden, N.J., plus two freshman to go with 6-6 Levertis Robinson, who was overshadowed by high school teammate Marcus Liberty. Robinson had to sit out last season along with 6-8 monster forward Kevin Williams, another ex-Liberty teammate.

The Metro Conference, which didn't receive a single NCAA tournament bid last season, will be significantly strengthened through the recruiting classes at Cincinnati and Florida State, which signed several good players, including 6-6 David White from St. Petersburg, Fla. Neither may be significantly behind Louisville, which got two potentially fine players in LaBradford Smith from Texas and Jerome Harmon from Gary, Ind. But the Cardinals desperately needed a floor leader and don't appear to have signed the point guard they neededded.

The coaches who didn't get the exact players they wanted can be encouraged by the fact that the senior high school class of 1988 is supposed to be the best group of recruits since the Ralph Sampson-Dominique Wilkins-Isiah Thomas-Clark Kellogg-James Worthy-Sam Bowie-Quintin Dailey-Thurl Bailey class of '79.