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December 4, 2008

Mid-major early signing period rankings

Conf. rank | No. 1 Big 12 | No. 2 ACC | No. 3 Big East | No. 4 Big Ten | No. 5 SEC | No. 6 Pac-10

More than a dozen Rivals150 players signed with a non-Big Six school this season. Eleven of the high school stars are counted among the top 100 players in the nation.

Want to know who can be a bracket buster in a couple of years? Here are 20 teams that have the pieces to make some noise down the road.

Mid-Major Early Signing Period Rankings
1. San Diego State
2009 commits (National rank)
SF Kawhi Leonard (76)
PG Eric Lawton
SG Chase Tapley
SF Alec Williams
PF Malcolm Thomas
The Aztecs have put together a class that could easily compete in the Pac-10. Coach Steve Fisher and his staff reeled in a group of five players who can all be starters at different points in their respective careers at San Diego State. Leonard is the biggest steal on the West Coast, and he should make a major splash as a rookie for Fisher. Lawton is one of the best point guards in the country, and Tapley will be used for scoring on the wing. Thomas, a 6-foot-8 junior-college transfer, averaged 12 points and eight rebounds as a freshman at Pepperdine two years ago.
2009 commits (National rank)
SG Anthony Marshall (58)
PF Carlos Lopez (108)
SG Justin Hawkins
Coach Lon Kruger is building a program that can recruit with the high-major schools consistently. The Runnin' Rebels are locking up the locals and going to notorious recruiting hotbeds for players. Marshall and Lopez, both stars from the Las Vegas area, turned down power-conference schools to stay at home, while Hawkins is one of the better non-ranked players in the country.
3. Gonzaga
2009 commits (National rank)
SF Mangisto Arop (80)
PF Sam Dower (119)
It shouldn't come as a big surprise that coach Mark Few has his club at the top of this list. The Zags are big in Canada and the program went across the border to snag Arop, a four-star prospect. Dower, a Minnesota native, is a productive big man who over time should become one of the top post players in the West Coast Conference.
4. Georgia State
2009 commits (National rank)
C Rashanti Harris (26)
C James Vincent
Coach Rod Barnes took advantage of an existing relationship with Harris dating back to his days as Ole Miss coach and pulled off the biggest surprise pledge in 2009. Harris, the highest-ranked player to ever commit to Georgia State, will enter college with huge expectations. The big bodied post player should help the Panthers right away. Vincent isn't too shabby either. The 6-9 center missed the AAU season due to a knee injury. He'll be at full strength when he unpacks his bags in downtown Atlanta, and he should be a valued contributor at Georgia State.
5. La Salle
2009 commits (National rank)
C Aaric Murray (35)
PG Nurideen Lindsey
The Explorers won a major recruiting battle when Murray said yes to the Big 5 school. Murray is a major prospect who also considered a number of Big East offers. The Pennsylvania native should start from Day One, and his impact could push La Salle back into the NCAA tournament. Lindsey shouldn't be overlooked either. He's a big-time scorer in the backcourt and brings a toughness to the rotation that the team could use.
6. Nevada
2009 commits (National rank)
SG Mark McLaughlin (76 in 2008)
PF Steven Bjornstad
PF Devonte Elliott
McLaughlin was originally part of the 2008 class but spent a year in prep this season. The former top 100 prospect remains committed to the school and will help right away as a perimeter scorer. Few programs have found hidden gems and developed them into pro players better than coach Mark Fox over the years at the mid-major level. The latest steal is Elliott, a long 6-9 forward with tremendous potential. Bjornstad is a nuts-and-bolts big man who should fit right into the team's style of play.
7. Rice
2009 commits
SG Tamir Jackson
PF Arsalan Kazemi
PG Stevie Rogers
PF Egheosa Edomwonyi
SF Chris Eversley
New coach Ben Braun has made a splash in his first full year to recruit at Rice. Landing Kazemi, an athletic and aggressive forward from Iran, was huge. The 6-8 senior will be included in the next set of Rivals150 rankings. Jackson will score a lot of points during his college career in Houston. Rogers, a local product, is finally back to full strength after a knee injury. He will be a welcomed addition to the backcourt.
8. Akron
2009 commits (National rank)
C Zeke Marshall (39)
The 7-footer is the most decorated recruit to ever sign with the Zips, and those in the Rubber City are excited about having a player like Marshall in the middle for years to come. Marshall gives the team a long shot blocker who is still far from a finished product.
9. Loyola Marymount
2009 commits (National rank)
SF Terrell Vinson (81)
C Edgar Garibay
SG Given Kalipinde
When coach Bill Bayno took over LMU, those in the coaching world knew the former UNLV coach would have the program back in the spotlight. He struck gold with a major commitment from Vinson, a top 85 national prospect who held offers from ACC and Big East programs. Garibay, a fifth-year center, gives the team a big, physical presence.
10. George Mason
2009 commits
PF Paris Bennett
PG Vertrail Vaughns
PF Johnny Williams
SG Luke Hancock
SG Rashaad Whack
The Patriots have taken full advantage of their country-wide appeal and continue to recruit nationally. Bennett hails from New Jersey's storied St. Patrick program and will be a likely all-conference player in the future. Vaughns is a quick-trigger scorer from Dallas. Williams, a three-star forward from Memphis, Tenn., was coveted by Big 12 and SEC schools. Hancock and Whack, both local prospects, give the backcourt depth and an added scoring punch.
11. BYU
2009 commits (National rank)
SG Tyler Haws (138)
PF Brandon Davies
PF Nate Austin
C Ian Harward
The Cougars did a great job in locking up two of the best in-state players in Haws, a Rivals150 prospect, and Davies, one of the best sleepers in the West. Both have a chance to have great success for coach Dave Rose. Both said they will play a season before contemplating a two-year LDS mission. Austin and Harward are also in-state prospects.
12. Massachusetts
2009 commits
SF Sampson Carter
SF Javon Farrell
PF Raphael Putney
SG Freddie Riley
New coach Derek Kellogg wasted little time in locking up top talent at his alma mater. Riley is one of the best incoming mid-major perimeter threats in the nation. Carter, a Memphis, Tenn., native, should thrive in the team's up-tempo style. He's very familiar with the offense thanks to his time watching Kellogg's former team, Memphis. Putney may redshirt but he's also a high-ceiling prospect. Farrell was the first of what will be many players from the Washington, D.C., area to sign with UMass.
13. Utah
2009 commits
SG Marshall Henderson
PF Jeremy Olsen
PF Matt Read
SF Jay Watkins
PF Shawn Glover
The Utes went to Texas and found three players who should help the program right away. Read, a junior-college prospect, plays with the toughness and strength that coach Jim Boylen wants to play with. Glover is a good-looking sleeper, according to Lone Star State hoop mavens, and Henderson is a major threat from deep. Olsen, a post player from Georgia, lived in Utah before moving to the Deep South and gives the lineup a versatile threat inside. Watkins is an experienced combo forward who played at San Francisco as a freshman before moving to the junior-college ranks.
14. Fresno State
2009 commits (National rank)
C Greg Smith (87)
SF Jerry Brown
SG Chris Jones
SF Garrett Johnson
Coach Steve Cleveland was able to keep Smith, a local star, home and away from Arizona. The four-star center was once committed to the Pac-10 school but said later he wanted to stay close to home. Fresno State was happy to oblige. Brown is a fan favorite in the Bay Area, and Jones and Johnson have received high praise from West Coast pundits.
15. Charlotte
2009 commits (National rank)
PF Chris Braswell (78)
PF K.J. Sherrill
A year ago, Braswell was committed to Georgetown and was thought to be a quality Big East contributor in time. Now he's off to the Atlantic 10 and is one of the best incoming players in the conference. Coach Bobby Lutz will find ways to utilize his versatility from the outset. Sherrill is a blue-collar forward who could prove to be another recruiting steal for Lutz and his staff.
16. St. Joseph's
2009 commits
C David Bruce
PG Justin Crosgile
PG Carl Jones
PF Carl Baptiste
The last time coach Phil Martelli had a pair of highly touted backcourt players, his program was the talk of the nation. Some are already starting the hype for the Crosgile and Jones era in Philadelphia. Both guards can put up points and play with great speed. The duo should work well together. Bruce and Baptiste are both big bodied bangers who will give the team some depth inside.
17. Miami of Ohio
2009 commits
PF Drew Kelly
C Drew McGhee
SG Allen Roberts
PF Mark Anderson
SG Orlando Williams
The RedHawks went for size and got it in Kelly, a Tennessee native, and McGhee, an in-state big man. Both players bring something different to the table. Kelly is a banger and McGhee is a skilled post. Anderson, a junior-college transfer, could make the biggest impact right away next year. Roberts and Williams, both high school stars in Cincinnati, are solid signees for the RedHawks.
18. New Mexico
2009 commits
SG Chad Adams
PG Jamaal Fenton
SF Darrington Hobson
PF Matt Staff
With coach Steve Alford at the helm, New Mexico will always recruit well. The Houston pipeline continued with Fenton, a quick 5-8 point guard. He is one of the best incoming point guards at the mid-major level. Hobson, a junior-college transfer, was ranked in the top 50 in high school and could be one of the best players to enter the mid-major ranks next year. Adams is a great signing within the state, and Staff gives the team some interior depth and a pick-and-pop option.
19. Arkansas State
2009 commits
SF Brandon Peterson
SG Brandon Reed
PG Adam Sterrenberg
Coach John Brady should shine at Arkansas State. He and his staff locked up one of the best scorers in the Southeast in Reed. The three-star guard could be the team's top scorer right away. Peterson is a big-time athlete who could be used a lot like Tyrus Thomas was used when Brady led LSU to the Final Four.
20. Western Michigan
2009 commits
SG David Brown
SG Nate Hutcheson
PG Austin Harper
C Shayne Whittington
The last time the Broncos made it to the NCAA tournament was in 2004. If the program doesn't get there this season, the 2009 recruiting class piggy-backed on the 2008 class should get the program into the Big Dance. Hutcheson is one of the top mid-major sleepers in the country, and Brown is a big-time perimeter threat. Harper and Whittington fit the program's mentality well, too.

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