Tomorrow kicks off the early signing period. It is a day that many of those from the 2017 class have been diligently working towards ever since they picked up a basketball as a young kid. Aspiring to be a division-1 basketball player is one thing; achieving such a lofty goal is another. Around the nation, programs will receive the letters of intent from their future stars and while for the majority of the public these kids remain unknowns, in a year or two, they will be well talked about all throughout the basketball universe.
Before things get going, we take a look at a few of our thoughts on where things stand heading into the early signing period and furthermore, how things might play out in the days ahead.
HOT SEAT GETS A COOL DOWN
Entering the new college basketball season this winter, a lot has been said about the hot seats in Seattle, Champaign, and Fayetteville. Sure, Lorenzo Romar, John Groce, and Mike Anderson have reached success at some point in time during the tenures at their respective schools but this year’s class should alleviate some of the pressure that they’re feeling at the time being.
Of course, health and the ability to use ones personnel appropriately, goes a long way into making a winning program. However, everything begins and ends with talent. If you can field a talented roster, then more than not, you’re going to win more games than you lose.
Illinois and Washington both sit with top-10 classes nationally; Arkansas might not boast such an acclaimed group but it does hold a commitment from top-50 big man Daniel Gafford and already sits with a loaded, elite class in 2018. Altogether, if the trio of coaches can keep things intact this season, better days lay ahead for the three head coaches in the not-so-distant future.
PAC 12 REIGNS SUPREME
When we think of the best college football conference, the SEC comes to mind. When we think of the best college basketball conference, the ACC, Big 12, and the Big 10 usually get the most pub. This year though, and beyond, it could be the Pac 12 that reigns supreme.
Is it west coast bias that we don’t argue for the Pac 12 Conference being the best league throughout the land? Not totally sure but it will be difficult to keep the conference from outside of the conversation for much longer.
After producing seven teams into the NCAA Tournament last year, the future may be even brighter for the league as a whole. Four programs take up half of the top-eight of our class rankings entering the early signing period. Washington, Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona have done tremendous work but let’s not forget the work that Arizona State, Oregon State, and USC have done on the trail as each boast a top-100 recruit at the time being. Add it all up and the Pac 12 may be the best league in all of the land, no argument needed.
SEC MAKES A LEAP
While there has been talk about the dominance of the SEC on the football gridiron, could the league make some moves during the early signing period this week? We sure think so.
Despite our peppering of the Pac 12, the SEC might be the conference that makes the biggest strides in the days ahead. Kentucky doesn’t hold a commitment at the time being. Hence, it is in last place in the league’s class rankings. This is no joke. However, that is all due to change and with Nick Richards, PJ Washington, and John Petty all set to sign this week, look for the Wildcats to pick up at least two of the top-50 recruits’ commitments.
Speaking of John Petty, it is Alabama that is the co-favorite for the in-state recruit, a lethal off-guard option that is leaning towards the Tide. Thursday, the day of the JO Johnson product’s commitment, Collin Sexton, a five-star recruit from the Peach State, will also come off the board where the SEC gang is seen as the heavy favorite for his signature, too.
Alabama and Kentucky aren’t the only programs that could make some noise for the SEC this week as Georgia could land its own top-50 recruit with Rayshaun Hammonds. The 6-foot-7 small forward would be a tremendous pick-up for Mark Fox. At the same time, Frank Martin’s USC bunch has gained a ton of ground with top-100 guard David Beatty as a commitment would enable for quite a few days for the league as a whole where Auburn, Arkansas, and Texas A&M have already done great work on the trail thus far.
Coming back around to Kentucky and throwing in Kansas and Duke, it is quite crazy that the three programs hold a combined two commitments at the time being, none of whom come in the five-star variety. The frontrunners every year for the best class throughout the land, expecting for the trio of blueblood programs to stand pat is the same as expecting for Tom Brady to leave his Patriots without a division title every January…it just is not going to happen.
We spoke on Kentucky as they will most likely come away with commitments from five-star big men PJ Washington and Nick Richards, while they remain the hunt for others this week that could pop in the likes of Shai Alexander and John Petty. Duke should see its own fate play out well in the days ahead as Gary Trent and Wendell Carter, each top-15 recruits, are expected to call Durham their future home. Each program will enter the month of December with optimism for another reload but what about Kansas?
Holding a lone commitment at the time being, that coming from top-100 guard Marcus Garrett, a saving grace for the Jayhawks is the current redshirt transfer of former McDonald’s All-American and Mississippi State guard Malik Newman. However, things don’t look too good for their fight for Collin Sexton this week. So, how might KU resupply its cupboard in the week ahead and shortly thereafter?
Kansas is heavily in the mix for Billy Preston and while USC is also right there for the five-star forward, the Jayhawks could come away with a surprise commitment form the Oak Hill product this week. Shai Alexander is another option in the backcourt that Kansas is involved for, though a commitment from the Canadian to the Big 12 gang, at least this week, is very far-fetched. Trevon Duval is someone that Bill Self and his staff could chase after more hastily, just as well with top-25 wing MJ Walker. A final name and a new one, at that, on the Jayhawks recruiting board is Kenny Wooten, where a surprise commitment to the Big 12 program this week would be welcomed with open arms in Lawrence.
Altogether, don’t expect for Duke, KU, or UK to remain left out of the party in the weeks ahead as all three sit nicely with some of the best throughout the land as, once again, each should slide in nicely with the top-10 of our class rankings later on this year.
We all know about the pending commitments of John Petty, Collin Sexton, Gary Trent, Rayshaun Hammonds, Nick Richards, and a few others. Who from the upper-tier of prospects from the class of 2017 might surprise and call off their own recruitment?
Following his decommitment from Florida, Shai Alexander could be someone that pops off the board. Kentucky is more than likely to be the program that the top-50 guard would commit to as he had just visited UK this past weekend and has never been to any of the other finalists on his list, outside of Florida that is.
Matt Coleman is down to a final three with Stanford, Texas, and Duke in pursuit and after talk of a commitment in December, each program would love to close things out this week as the heat is on for the top-50 guard that calls Norfolk his home.
Ikey Obiagu has been around and seen a ton this fall and with Baylor, Maryland, Florida State, Auburn, and Georgia Tech heavily in the mix, the shot blocking connoisseur could be ready to end things in a blink of an eye.
Others on commitment watch? Charles O’Bannon, Nojel Eastern, Isaiah Stokes, and Lonnie Walker could each come off the board without hesitation, changing the landscape of the program of their choosing and college basketball as a whole in the years ahead.