When do recruiting ratings become relevant?

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When do recruiting ratings become relevant?

It's the first week of June and a consensus of the leading recruiting services in the country indicates that Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Georgia, Auburn and Notre Dame have accumulated the top 10 classes in the nation for 2013.

Rivals and Scout both rate Michigan No. 1 while ESPN favors Alabama, but Rivals rated Alabama No. 1 and Michigan No. 7 before its most recent update. Georgia has made a huge leap to No. 2 by Rivals, No. 4 by Scout and No. 5 by ESPN. Texas remains No. 2 with Scout, No. 3 with Rivals and ESPN.

"Michigan has the top overall class in the nation as June begins," reported recruiting analyst Chris Nee of Rivals.com. "The Wolverines lead the country in total commitments. Among their 20 commitments, 14 are rated four-star prospects. Seven of those prospects are members of the Rivals 100, led by the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback, Shane Morris."

But is any of this relevant? High school football players can make as many oral commitments as they want--until they sign binding letters-of-intent on national signing day in February. So does it make sense to take any surveys that are published in June seriously?

"No," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, who has been evaluating high school talent for 33 years. "They are put together for people who go online, to attract people. The lists will be completely different on signing day because there are a lot more players still to commit.

"Why are they doing it now? Internet websites have to differentiate themselves from one another. It's something to do in the off-season. Recruiting is a 12-month-a-year occupation, so college fans are always wondering who is committing or who is recruiting whom or who is thinking of committing.

"But you an always expect certain schools to be on the list. And you can predict now that most of them will be on the list on signing day. It isn't brain surgery. You can always count on Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame. And now Florida State is back. And LSU will be there at the end."

In fact, Rivals, ESPN and Scout rate only a few wild cards on their lists. Stanford, Auburn, Clemson, Texas A&M and Missouri aren't usually included among the top 10, but they have fielded winning teams in recent years and have been threatening to break into the elite group.

There isn't a secret to all of this. The best players want to play for the best programs in football or basketball. They want to play for coaches and programs that have reputations for grooming players for the next level, the NFL or NBA, and for playing for national championships.

Critics complain about recruiting analysts who evaluate athletes according to 2-star, 3-star, 4-star or 5-star ratings, but history reveals they are right more often than they are wrong. And how many 5-star athletes enroll at Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue or Minnesota?

The SEC is the most dominant football conference in the country and there are reasons why. Conference schools pay their head coaches and assistant coaches more than anyone else. And SEC schools annually recruit the best players and the best classes in the country.

Ratings are based on scholarship offers. It doesn't take a nuclear scientist to figure out the formula that is used by most recruiting services. You don't see a 5-star player without a lot of offers from top 20 programs, do you? The offers come first, then the ratings.

"If the top 10 schools offer a kid, he is a 4-star or 5-star," Lemming said. "It comes down to offers, not ability. Look at the NFL draft. How many 5-star players are selected in the first round? Not many. Recruiting ratings are arbitrary, just one way to rate players."

Of Rivals.com's top 100 players in the class of 2013, Michigan and Texas have seven, USC and Ohio State have five, Alabama and Florida have four.

The nation's No. 1 player by most accounts, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Loganville, Georgia, is considering Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Alabama has commitments from three of the top 35 players--linebacker Reuben Foster (2) of Auburn, Alabama, running back Alter Tenpenny (20) of North Little Rock, Arkansas, and tight end O.J. Howard (35) of Antauga, Alabama.

Foster is the nation's top-rated linebacker and Howard is the nation's top-rated tight end. Texas has the nation's top-rated quarterback, Max Browne of Sammamish, Washington, and USC has the nation's top-ranked running back, Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic.

Georgia has 19 commitments, including the nation's top-rated athlete, Derrick Henry, safety Tray Matthews and Brandon Kublanow of Marietta, Georgia, the nation's No. 2 center.

According to Rivals, Illinois' class of 2013 ranks No. 20 in the nation based on new coach Tim Beckman's ability to land quarterback Aaron Bailey of Bolingbrook, the only four-star prospect in the fold.

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

Horace Grant on current state of Bulls: 'No need to panic'

After the Bulls got off to a 3-0 start, it looked like this would be a team that might be able to give LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls proceeded to lose their next three, tempering those optimistic expectations. What those first six games proved is that they're an inconsistent bunch, and it's been a microcosm of their season past the halfway mark.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Entering Thursday, the Bulls were slotted in as the No. 8 seed in the East with a 21-22 record through 43 games.

Former Bulls forward/center Horace Grant, who was named a special advisor to president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf last year, joined SportsTalk Live on Thursday to talk about the team's current state, and why Bulls fans shouldn't panic just yet.

Check out his comments in the video above.

See what else he had to say during his SportsTalk Live appearance and on In The Loop below:

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

Jimmy Butler acknowledges 'huge accomplishment' but stays nonchalant about All-Star starter nod

ATLANTA — Jimmy Butler insisted being a starter in the All-Star Game means next to nothing, but it seems to go against his never-ending battle for credibility and validation as a legit superstar.

Moments after it was revealed he would be an All-Star starter for the first time and make his third overall trip to All-Star weekend, he sang the same nonchalant tune.

"It hasn't changed at all," Butler said on a conference call Thursday evening. "Obviously, it's a huge accomplishment and honor to be named a starter. But it's All-Star weekend. There are going to be a lot of good players there. I guess it's just another name thrown in with some decent players."

The NBA's format for selecting the All-Star starters changed this season, with fans no longer being the sole group that gets to vote for starters. If it was still a fans-only vote, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid would've started in Butler's place.

But with the new formula that allows the media and the players to take part in the vote, the fan vote accounts for just 50 percent of the formula. So Butler joined Cleveland's LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Milwaukee's Giannis Antekounmpo and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan in the starting five for the Eastern Conference.

Butler's is averaging 24.8 points with 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, career-highs across the board, and had he not been selected as a starter, the Bulls' 20-21 record would not have prevented coaches from selecting him as a reserve as they had the last two seasons.

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Jimmy Butler jersey right here]

He won't be joined in the starting lineup by Dwyane Wade, who finished second in backcourt voting behind Irving, but cast his vote for his teammate anyway and hopes Wade will be selected as a reserve.

"Of course. He's been a huge part of what we're doing here, and I think he has played extremely well the first part of the season," Butler said. "He got my vote. I will tell you that."

Golden State's Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will start for the West, along with Houston's James Harden, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis, a Chicago native.

The fun-filled and busy weekend in New Orleans begins Feb. 17, from the league events to the parties to the festivities and then finally the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

Butler likely views it as more of an accomplishment for his team of trainers and confidants then himself.

"It's fun, man. You get to know the other really good players in the league, and you get to know a little bit about them," Butler said. "And the experience that you get to be a part of, whether it be the Jordan party or taking your guys with you everywhere. That's the most fun part for me, my trainers, my brothers, everybody that's behind the scenes helping me gets to experience it too."