We all know who is going to be pretty good this college basketball season as the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, along with a slew of others will be in contention to cut down the nets in Phoenix in April. However, that success primarily comes back to the recruiting trail where, if you have the goods on the floor, chances are that winning a good number of games is in your favor.
Now that there is less than two months until the early signing period, we will begin to look ahead and take a brief snapshot at some of the top conferences across the nation. This time around, the Big Ten Conference gets the spotlight. After adding Maryland and Rutgers to the league, a group that now consists of 14 schools, the Big 10 has gained ground further in declaring itself as the best conference in all of the land. On the recruiting front, things remain hectic as usual as some of the top Midwest talent continues to stay close to home.
Nearly half of the conference has already landed more than one commitment from the 2017 class. Hence, those within the league have done some major work early on in replenishing its cupboard of talent with a bevy of top of the line recruits and immediate producers will head to the conference’s affiliates next year. Four schools remain left out in the dark, though it would seem that such others as Maryland and Purdue are due to land a prospect in the coming weeks.
Sitting less than two months away from the early signing period, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin have already bolstered their future by grabbing ahold of three senior recruits, and in Illinois’ case, four. Furthermore, it is Illinois, yes, Illinois, that sits with the best class within the Big 10 and on a national perspective, with a top-five group that will head to Champaign come 2017.
Snagging quality talent has never been a giant issue for John Groce and his staff since his arrival at Illinois. Rather, it has been the health of his players, or lack thereof, that have been the Achilles heel for the Big 10 bunch. While there has been some talk of how hot the seat might be for Groce, one thing is for sure: the talent in tow within the 2017 class is more than promising.
Led by top-30 big man and premier in-state center Jeremiah Tilmon, keeping the 6-foot-10 big man close to home was a giant win for Illinois. Quickly, the staff encircled the big fella with a trio of tough guards. Da’Monte Williams and JaVon Pickett, along with top-125 guard Trent Frazier, are all expected to descend upon the Champaign campus next fall, thus cementing their early case for the top class within the juggernaut of a league.
Who might be lurking behind the Illini in the fight for the best recruiting class out of the Big 10? Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin are right there in the pursuit of the top overall spot but it is only a matter of time before Indiana, Maryland, and Michigan State cash in, a group that holds a combined two commitments from 2017 class members.
There still is a lot of time to play out before the end of the early signing period occurs come mid-November but if we were to select who might be holding the baton as the best class entering the winter months, Illinois will remain atop.
Michigan State already holds the commitment of top-25 forward Jaren Jackson and are heavily involved for the likes of Nojel Eastern and Brian Bowen, both top-50 prospects on the wings of the floor, along with Brandon McCoy, a top-10 big man out of San Diego, though he was born and raised in Chicago. However, a lot of work still must be done and it is asking a lot for all three to commit to the Spartans, especially with a cut down timetable in mind.
Along with Izzo’s crew, Maryland remains in the fight for top lead guard Trevon Duval and are also right there for big man Ikey Obiagu and Darryl Morsell, both top-60 targets. Indiana has struck already with a solid scoring piece in the backcourt with Al Durham as they remain heavy in the hunt for the likes of Justin Smith, Tremont Waters, Clifton Moore, and Jordan Tucker. However, just like MSU, the Terps and the Hoosiers have a ton of work to do by the time November rolls around. Therefore, expect Illinois to keep a vice grip on the top spot within the 2017 Big 10 class rankings, that is until things begin to shake out around March and April.
TOP CLASS TODAY: ILLINOIS
CHANCES OF FINISHING FIRST: 65%
TOP PREDICTED CLASS FOLLOWING EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: ILLINOIS
TOP CONFERENCE COMMIT: JAREN JACKSON JR. – RANKING: 25
PROJECTED TOP FOUR:
1 – ILLINOIS
2 – MICHIGAN STATE
3 – IOWA
4 – WISCONSIN