Based on the first day of the fall signing period, Illinois has a head start in the recruiting game. News-Gazette staff writer Brett Dawson ranks the Big Ten''s four best early classes: 1. Illinois With Charlie Villanueva, who won''t sign early, this might be the best class in any conference. Without him, it''s still tops in the Big Ten. Warren Carter, Richard McBride and Brian Randle are ranked among the nation''s top 100 prep seniors. 2. Michigan State The Spartans signed three early, including News-Gazette All-Stater Shannon Brown of Proviso East. Tom Izzo stayed in state for point guard Brandon Cotton and center Drew Naymick to round out a strong trio. 3. Wisconsin The Badgers have signed two players, but one of them, center Brian Butch, picked Bo Ryan''s program over North Carolina and Kansas. Pretty good company for Wisconsin. 4. Michigan Even with self-imposed sanctions (and probably worse) looming, Tommy Amaker put together a strong group early, with guard Dion Harris, forward Brent Petway and center Courtney Sims, one of the real sleepers of the Class of 2003.