Well, define "pillar."
The reality is this - we made the title game two years ago, and the Elite Eight last year, so now at least some of our fans have the expectation - as unrealistic as it might be - that we can do it every year.
No one - not even the best programs in college basketball - does that.
The best recruits we've landed over the past five years - in terms of their impact on the program - are Burke and Stauskas. Hopefully, that's not even reasonably debatable. Both guys were good players as freshmen; neither guy was one that, if you added him to next year's roster, would automatically make it a Final Four caliber team. (I'm talking about their impact as freshmen - if you added a sophomore Burke or Stauskas to next year's team, maybe).
In other words, the "Jaylen Brown or bust" mentality, to me, is somewhat stupid. We have maybe a 1% chance of getting Jaylen Brown, or Josh Jackson, or any other top 5-10 player. Even if we didn't have to compete against rogue programs for him, we'd still have maybe a 25% shot at best.
I know it sucks, given the immediate success we enjoyed in 2013 and 2014, but the reality may be that going forward, we are going to have to build a team with guys who are, for the most part, three and four year players. And thus, we might be a threat to make the Final Four once every four years or so, as opposed to every year.
For the sake of comparison, it has long been a point of pride for Michigan State that each graduating class of seniors made the Final Four once under Izzo (that streak was broken last year).
The key, again, will be the continued development and improvement of our players. There is no question this has been a rough year - not many teams can lose their two best players and continue to compete at a high level - but I've seen a LOT of guys make improvements. Irvin (while his outside shot is still maddeningly inconsistent) has really become a much better ballhandler and passer in recent weeks - he's now running the pick and roll with pretty good success and is finding open shooters. MAAR, to me, has really impressed at times; at worst, he'll be a nice rotation player for us going forward. Doyle - while inconsistent - has had some really good games, and is setting picks and rolling to the basket much better than he did early in the year. Even Chatman, over the past couple games, is finding his stroke again and is playing with much more confidence.
Next year, when you "add" a recruiting class of Levert (hopefully - sounds like he's strongly considering returning), Walton, Robinson, and Wilson, there might be some nice pieces. I'm not predicting a team capable of making the Final Four, but perhaps a team in the 4-7 seed range that can win a couple tourney games and build on that for the following year, where we'll lose only Spike and Levert.
In reality, before Burke came along and was followed by a spectacular recruiting class of Stauskas, McGary, Robinson, Levert and Spike (four NBA players and a very nice backup PG who could start for plenty of programs), that was the trajectory of the program - good but not elite recruits (Morris, Hardaway, Smote, etc.) who, after playing 2-3 years or more together, might be capable of making a deep tourney run as upperclassmen.
And by the way, for those lamenting that reality, and wishing we could be more like Kentucky or Kansas ("reload" every year with a roster capable of making the Final Four), ask yourself this - what team in the Big Ten (you know, the conference we play in) is capable of doing that? As we've seen, Wisconsin has been really successful precisely because they have managed to keep their talented players in school for 3-4 years. MSU certainly isn't a Final Four threat this year. OSU has a great one-and-done talent in Russell, and some solid complimentary pieces, but they certainly don't look capable of making a deep tourney run this year. Indiana - after that great year two years ago - has fallen by the wayside in terms of their tourney prospects. The rest are not even worth discussing.
Indeed, other than Michigan in 2013 and 2014, the only Big Ten school I can even think of that made a deep tourney run with really young players would be OSU with Oden/Cook/Conley. Everyone else has had to build a team and let their players gain experience. And even in the case of MSU last year, with two senior McDonalds All Americans (Payne, Appling), a junior McD AA (Dawson), and a sophmore McD AA (Harris), the best they could do was the Elite Eight.
So, I'd say the notion that we can "reload" every year, and should expect to land top 10 talents, is not based on recent history or reality.
If it so happens that instead of our players reaching the Final Four as freshmen and sophomores, it takes them longer to become capable of making that type of run, well, that would be consistent with the rest of the Big Ten's best teams.