How is one player ranked 11th by one outlet and 34th by another?

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

The most interesting number in the charts we put together in the Consensus Recruiting Rankings database is the last number you see to the right.

Deviation.

That number is an average of the difference between each individual site’s ranking and the mean ranking for the five sites. In simpler terms, it’s a stat that will give you a sense of how spread out the five rankings are. In this first chart, you’ll see Devonta Pollard and Glenn Robinson III:

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Pollard’s average rank is 0.4 points higher than Robinson’s, meaning that the total difference between the two players was two spots from the five outlets. You can’t get much closer than that. What is interesting to not, however, is that Robinson’s deviation is almost four times as high as Pollard’s. All five outlets ranked Pollard somewhere between 22nd and 28th, while Robinson was rated as high as 11th by Rivals and as low as 34th by CBS.

Another example of a difference in deviation is between Gabe York and Prince Ibeh. York finished a full five spots ahead of Ibeh in the Consensus Recruiting Rankings, but the range at which he was rated was much more vast than Ibeh. York’s deviation was almost nine times that of Ibeh. While all five outlets had Ibeh somewhere between 52nd and 59th, two outlets pegged York as a top 40 recruit (CBS had him at 32nd) while two also had him outside the top 60 (Scout was the lowest, putting York at 82nd):

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My question: How does this happen? How can there be so much variation in how one player is viewed while another player is more-or-less a known quantity? Could it really be as simple as seeing a great game versus a mediocre game?

“Eric Bossi (who is in charge of the Rivals rankings) has probably seen Glenn Robinson excel at certain events,” CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello, who is in charge of the CBS rankings and had Robinson the lowest of the five outlets, said. “I have personally not seen him play five-star worthy at any event. To me, it kind of just depends of when you see him. I haven’t seen Glenn Robinson that much since last spring. I know he’s gotten better, but how much better?”

Well, it’s safe to assume that he has gotten significantly better. Robinson has jumped up 28 spots in the rankings since last July, which is a sign that he’s starting to reach the potential that he has shown over the years. The problem is that these evaluators trust their gut instinct, so while Borzello may be hearing stories of the incredible games that Robinson has had, if he doesn’t witness it in person, it’s difficult to change that first impression.

Different evaluators will also have different criteria they are looking for when determining the level that a specific prospect can reach. Some value potential over production. Some value leadership and a winning mentality over potential. Some trust a feeling they get talking to a kid off the court and judging his dedication to getting better. Some will penalize a kid for hopping from school to school and AAU program to AAU program; if they can’t decide on where they want to attend high school, how are they going to last longer than a year at a college?

“We all have different things that we’re looking for and we all have different things that are more important to us,” Evan Daniels, Scout.com’s lead recruiting analyst, said. “A lot of it comes down to when we see the guy play and that kind of stuff. At the end of the day. I don’t look at anybody else’s rankings. I don’t really care where anybody else has them. I’m going off my gut and where I think that guy fits in. I think it just comes down to we evaluate differently and value different things.”

Borzello agreed, saying “People have different criteria. Some value winners. James Robinson (a Pitt commit, Robinson is 73rd in our rankings, topping out at 43rd according to ESPN but going unranked by 247) is a winner, and some people like to value that more.”

“It just depends on what you focus on. Some people focus on potential, some people focus on how much you win,” he continued. “It’s kind of useless arguing one kid over another when you are looking at a specific thing, so I try to bring in everything when looking at players.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.