Kentucky fans said buyer beware. Tubby Smith can't recruit they said. He didn't get America's top talent to come to play at Kentucky, so how the heck will he be able to get anything resembling top-notch talent at Minnesota of all places?
If you entertained this line of thought, it's time to admit that the UK faithful were wrong. Because fact is, Tubby Smith's 2008 class has been roundly thought of by experts as a top-20 class nationally. Rivals' rankings has Minnesota's class 23rd nationally and it includes two 4-star freshman. By comparison, Rivals ranks Billy Gillispie's class 21st nationally and it includes two 4-star freshman.
Tubby Smith's 2009 class, likely done at this point, features two potential McDonald's All-Americans in Royce White and Rodney Williams and a point guard from California that is nothing less, and perhaps more, than the talent at point guard many other top-level programs are attracting. In Hoopmaster's Top 20, Minnesota sits currently at #10 for 2009. Kentucky? Not ranked.
I want to point you back to the criticisms that came Tubby's way during the final because they were myriad and never really nailed down anything specific to put substance behind perception.
This post from Tru at A Sea of Blue earlier this year is as good a summary as I have seen. Tru throws out various theories as to why Tubby allegedly struggled on the recruiting trail at UK. Among the claims: Smith is lazy, Smith doesn't like recruiting, his ball-line defense is complicated (baloney, I've taught it to 14 year old girls), his flex offense is hard to understand (more baloney) and that Smith preferred to recruit talent that would be around for four years instead of one and done Diaper Dandies.
As FortyYearCatFan pointed out in a fanpost awhile back, Tubby's inability to recruit was indeed a myth perpetrated by Kentucky fans who simply wanted change.
Tubby recruited 6 (of 9) classes at UK that earned Top 15 or better ratings from the RSCI (recruiting consensus) Winners method. No other coach – not Roy Williams, not Billy Donovan, not Mike Krzyzewski, no one – signed more Top 15 rated classes in that timeframe.
Even CBS taking head and Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis admitted as much, pointing out that in 2004 Smith brought in three McDonald's All-Americans that simply didn't pan out. So, on one hand Kentucky fans say Tubby is a great coach but a bad recruiter. And when he recruits the top talent that don't meet unrealistic expectations it's because he's a bad coach? That's not logical.
So, what's been the difference at Minnesota? Nothing. Simply put, Tubby Smith had tremendous success in the recruiting department at UK, though like many others, Smith wasn't perfect. He let Chris Lofton and Corey Brewer go elsewhere, for instance. Tough as it may be for UK fans to swallow, through two recruiting cycles, Smith has recruited on par or better than his successor at UK--at Minnesota of all places.