Calipari, Coach K and Self hoard talent like robber barons. Izzo’s Izzo.

Another draft, another June, another Calipari recruit.

Another draft, another June, another Calipari recruit.

Tonight Kentucky (ranked No. 1 in the nation), Michigan State (2), Duke (4) and Kansas (5) will get together in Chicago for what is being billed as the greatest concentration of college hoops talent under one roof since…take your pick. (The 2008 Final Four? The 1979 national championship game? Anytime Oscar Robertson is indoors?)

Blue-chippers will indeed be lurking under every set of Beats in the United Center this evening, but before we get to counting those noses let’s acknowledge one curious analytical note. Tom Izzo is a bold iconoclast on this whole “winning requires NBA talent” thing. 

Michigan State hasn’t produced an NBA first-round pick since 2006, when Shannon Brown and Mo Ager both heard their names called. The Spartans did of course send four first-rounders to the next level in just two seasons at the dawn of the century (Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph), and to be sure in more recent years there’s been at least one near-draft-miss. (Draymond Green was selected with the 35th pick in 2012.) Nevertheless, the fact remains that in Chicago this evening one of these things is really not like the others pipeline-wise in the 2000s.

Not that it seems to matter, of course. Since the 2006 NBA draft all Izzo has done is go to five Sweet 16s and two Final Fours. Tom Izzo, I salute you!

For the rest of us mere mortals, recruiting the best players in the country is important. And John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self may be three of the best recruiters ever. (Yes, ever! See below.)

Here’s how each of these three coaches has done at producing first-round draft picks in the 2000s. That’s a time period encompassing 14 drafts, but Calipari was still in the NBA for the first of those, so I gave him a break and tossed in his last draft that took place before he left for the next level, the one with Marcus Camby in 1996. While I was at it I gave Self a similar break and noted that, while he was shockingly deficient in producing first-rounders during his time at Tulsa, he’s come on pretty strong in the last nine drafts.

John Calipari: 17 first-rounders in 14 drafts (1996, 2001-13)
1.  Marcus Camby (No. 2, 1996)
2.  Dajuan Wagner (No. 6, 2002)
3.  Rodney Carney (No. 16, 2006)
4.  Shawne Williams (No. 17, 2006)
5.  Derrick Rose (No. 1, 2008)
6.  Tyreke Evans (No. 4, 2009)
7.  John Wall (No. 1, 2010)
8.  DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5, 2010)
9.  Eric Bledsoe (No. 18, 2010)
10. Daniel Orton (No. 29, 2010)
11. Brandon Knight (No. 8, 2011)
12. Anthony Davis (No. 1, 2012)
13. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 2, 2012)
14. Terrence Jones (No. 18, 2012)
15. Marquis Teague (No. 29, 2012)
16. Nerlens Noel (No. 6, 2013)
17. Archie Goodwin (No. 29, 2013)

Mike Krzyzewski: 14 first-rounders in 14 drafts (2000-13)
1.  Shane Battier (No. 6, 2001)
2.  Jay Williams (No. 2, 2002)
3.  Mike Dunleavy (No. 3, 2002)
4.  Dahntay Jones (No. 20, 2003)
5.  Luol Deng (No. 7, 2004)
6.  Shelden Williams (No. 5, 2006)
7.  J.J. Redick (No. 11, 2006)
8.  Gerald Henderson (No. 12, 2009)
9.  Elliot Williams (No. 22, 2010)
10. Kyrie Irving (No. 1, 2011)
11. Nolan Smith (No. 21, 2011)
12. Austin Rivers (No. 10, 2012)
13. Miles Plumlee (No. 26, 2012)
14. Mason Plumlee (No. 22, 2013)

Bill Self: 11 first-rounders in nine drafts (2005-13)
1.  Deron Williams (No. 3, 2005)
2.  Luther Head (No. 24, 2005)
3.  Julian Wright (No. 13, 2007)
4.  Brandon Rush (No. 13, 2008)
5.  Darrell Arthur (No. 27, 2008)
6.  Cole Aldrich (No. 11, 2010)
7.  Xavier Henry (No. 12, 2010)
8.  Markieff Morris (No. 13, 2011)
9.  Marcus Morris (No. 14, 2011)
10. Thomas Robinson (No. 5, 2012)
11. Ben McLemore (No. 7, 2013)

Needless to say there’s nothing magical about judging a coach’s recruiting according to the last 14 drafts in particular. Krzyzewski, to take one example, rather famously had a big impact on the 1999 draft (Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette, and William Avery), so if we draw the lines from that year to 2012 he produced 17 first-rounders.

By the way, Roy Williams is pretty good at this recruiting thing too. What’s he up to tonight?

Roy Williams: 15 first-rounders in 14 drafts (2000-13)
1.  Drew Gooden (No. 4, 2002)
2.  Kirk Hinrich (No. 7, 2003)
3.  Nick Collison (No. 12, 2003)
4.  Marvin Williams (No. 2, 2005)
5.  Wayne Simien (No. 29, 2005)
6.  Brandan Wright (No. 8, 2007)
7.  Tyler Hansbrough (No. 13, 2009)
8.  Ty Lawson (No. 18, 2009)
9.  Wayne Ellington (No. 28, 2009)
10. Ed Davis (No. 13, 2010)
11. Harrison Barnes (No. 7, 2011)
12. Kendall Marshall (No. 13, 2012)
13. John Henson (No. 14, 2012)
14. Tyler Zeller (No. 17, 2012)
15. Reggie Bullock (No. 25, 2013)

It should also be noted that Jim Calhoun put 13 first-rounders through to the next level in NBA drafts between 1999 and 2012. He was good at this too.

But how do all of these current youngsters with their “text messaging” and “color television” compare to the Man himself? Fortunately I’ve run those numbers before, so here they are:

John Wooden: 15 first-rounders in 14 drafts (1964-77) 
1. Walt Hazzard (No. 5, 1964) 
2. Gail Goodrich (No. 10, 1965) 
3. Keith Erickson (No. 21, 1965) 
4. Lew Alcindor (No. 1, 1969) 
5. Lucius Allen (No. 3, 1969) 
6. John Vallely (No. 14, 1970) 
7. Sidney Wicks (No. 2, 1971) 
8. Curtis Rowe (No. 11, 1971) 
9. Steve Patterson (No. 18, 1971) 
10. Swen Nater (No. 16, 1973) 
11. Bill Walton (No. 1, 1974) 
12. Keith Wilkes (No. 11, 1974) 
13. David Meyers (No. 2, 1975) 
14. Richard Washington (No. 3, 1976) 
15. Marques Johnson (No. 3, 1977)

(For Wooden’s era I’ve retroactively defined “first round” as “being among the first 30 players selected in a given year.” If you’re really interested drafts back then were very funky in structure. Would you believe a 20th round?)

Cross-era comparisons are best treated with caution, of course. For instance any coach that was in the college ranks in the early 2000s saw their numbers for “first-rounders produced” dip because a lot of first-rounders were being culled directly from high school.

Still, all of the above numbers lead me to two conclusions:

1. Calipari, Krzyzewski, Self, and Williams may be even better at recruiting than commonly understood. In the last nine NBA drafts 227 of the first-round selections have come from the college ranks, and these four coaches alone have produced 21 percent of those picks. It’s no mistake these four guys won five national championships in those nine seasons.

2. It’s conceivable that the acknowledged greatest coach of all time could actually be underrated, and that may be the case here. Wooden’s record exceeded his talent. Of course it was open for Alcindor and Walton (and Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, et al.) to dominate the sport in a way that’s impossible today with a three-point line and the NBA beckoning after your freshman year. Then again half of Wooden’s national titles were won without an “Alcindor” or “Walton” on the roster.

BONUS fine print! My judgment calls in list-making were as follows:

–Patrick Patterson was selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2010 draft, but he wasn’t recruited to Lexington by Calipari.

–Enes Kanter was selected with the No. 3 pick of the 2011 draft, but he never played for Calipari.

–Wayne Simien committed to Kansas under Williams and graduated under Bill Self.

–Elliot Williams played his freshman season at Duke under Krzyzewski, transferred to Memphis, and played his sophomore season under Josh Pastner before jumping to the NBA.

–Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May — 2005 first-rounders all — were recruited to North Carolina prior to Williams’ arrival in 2003.

–Wooden retired in 1975 but he recruited Richard Washington (No. 3, 1976) and Marques Johnson (No. 3, 1977) to UCLA, and both players were key parts of the coach’s national championship team in his final season.