We'll skip the commentary on these, and go straight to the graphs. If you remember, 2004 was the year of Rudy Gay, Marvin Williams, and Randolph Morris, to name a few:
And now for the rank ranges:
This class fell somewhere between the classes of 2005 and 2006. However, it does seem to have a lot more variance. In fact, there's a good argument that the player ranked #100 in the nation (Toney Douglas) was in fact the best freshman in the country. Even if you think that Malik Hairston or D.J. White were more deserving, Douglas was certainly in the top 10.
Moreover, the top 4 players in this class went to the NBA. Unlike the class of 2005, that un-random sample will mess with the averages, so if we give this class a break on that front, it's close to even with the class of 2006.
Now, on to the legendary class of 2003: the class of King James:
And the rank ranges:
Again, this class seems a hair below the class of 2006. LeBron makes some of that up, but not all of it. What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that the "players know better than evaluators" theory I forwarded in the last post on this subject remains plausible. All 3 of the classes prior to the one year rule appear to be weaker than each of the classes that have come afterward. With the exception of the class of 2004, the NBA departures were not especially top-heavy. That means we wouldn't expect a discernable impact on the averages...unless the guys going to the NBA were really the best high school players in the country, and the rankings weren't accurate in that respect.
Or, maybe these classes were just weaker. That's still an open question at this point. The class of 2008 has long been rumored to be a weak one - we might know more about this story after we see how they do.
Next, we'll put together all five years of data, and give a hopefully-reliable guide to freshmen expectations.