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Early Signing Period: Winners and losers

John Calipari
John Calipari (AP Images)

The Early Signing Period action is dying down, so there’s not a better time to take stock of what has transpired. Today, Rivals recruiting director Rob Cassidy takes a look at the action that unfolded over the last two weeks and explores some of the winners and losers.

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EARLY SIGNING PERIOD BY CONFERENCE: Breaking down the ACC | Big 12 | SEC

2023 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2024 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team

2025 Rankings: Top 40

Transfer Portal: Latest news

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WINNERS

Michigan State commit Xavier Booker
Michigan State commit Xavier Booker (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

ANYONE WHO BET AGAINST JOHN CALIPARI'S ABILITY TO RECRUIT: After finishing sixth and fifth, respectively, in the last two cycles the Wildcats signed the nation’s No.1 class and, arguably, the deepest collection of talent in the John Calipari era. It’s difficult to imagine a bigger signing period winner than Kentucky, which locked up five-stars Aaron Bradshaw, DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Robert Dillingham and Reed Sheppard. No matter what you think about Calipari’s roster management or game-day decisions, it’s abundantly clear that his brand, along with that of the famous program he coaches, is as strong as ever in the NIL era. His 2023 class made up entirely of top 25 prospects serves as a reminder of that, as does this cheeky t-shirt he wore after putting the finishing touches on his historic haul of talent.

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USC: USC’s class isn't in the same stratosphere as Kentucky’s obviously, but the Trojans did win the most important undecided recruiting battle of the early period when they landed the commitment of five-star point guard Isaiah Collier on Wednesday. That alone is enough to land Andy Enfield and his Trojans program on this list. The fact that Collier’s commitment locked up back-to-back top 15 classes for Enfield and company is icing on the cake. Collier, Arrinten Page and Silas Demary Jr. give USC three top 75 recruits in the same class for the first time since 2019.

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DUKE: The recruiting juggernaut in Durham keeps chugging along under its new leadership as the Blue Devils signed the top class in the ACC and the No. 2 class in the country. The Blue Devils’ 2023 haul would have been tops in the nation in most years and features five five-star prospects, led by No. 2 overall prospect Mackenzie Mgbako, a 6-foot-8 forward with a deep bag of NBA-level tools. The recruiting trail transition between the now-retired Mike Krzyzewski and current head coach Jon Scheyer has been almost mind-blowingly smooth, as the program didn’t lose an iota of momentum while the torch was being passed.

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COLORADO: Hello, Tad Boyle. The 12th-year CU head coach landed his most impressive recruiting class to date and has the Buffaloes sitting at No. 22 in the Rivals team rankings. The group is headlined by No. 42 prospect Cody Williams, for whom Colorado beat out programs such as Arizona, USC and others, and also included the four-star forward Assane Diop, who held offers from Kansas, Arkansas, Memphis and others.

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MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans signed the current No. 1 player in the Rivals150 last week, but the school’s 2023 class is bigger than the hyper-talented Xavier Booker. Yes, Booker is Tom Izzo’s crown jewel, but this 2023 class is a deep and well-rounded group that represents one of the legendary head coach’s most celebrated recruiting hauls in his three-decade run as Michigan State’s head coach. Booker is loaded with NBA upside, while four-star guards Jeremy Fears Jr. and Gehrig Normand also have the tools needed to make a big impact as freshmen in East Lansing a year from now. Forward Coen Carr was the last addition to the class and has the type of size and ceiling worth getting excited about.

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MEMPHIS: The Tigers’ 2023 cupboard looked a little bare a few weeks backs, but Penny Hardaway and company pulled off a furious run of commitments leading up to and during the early period. Memphis landed four four-star prospects in less than three weeks and now boasts a seven-member class that ranks fourth nationally. The haul is guard heavy, as top-100 prospects Mikey Williams, Ty-Laur Johnson, JJ Taylor and Ryan Forrest will give Hardaway plenty of options in his backcourt going forward.

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LOSERS 

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (AP Images)

ANYONE THAT LIKES SIGNING PERIOD DRAMA: There were relatively few shocks in the early period, and players that were expected to sign did so, and the programs that were seen as leaders for committed recruits mostly won out. Texas landing Ron Holland, Memphis snagging Mikey Williams and Colorado adding Cody Williams could be seen as mild surprises. Alas, there was nothing massively unexpected, which is a win for those that like when things go as planned … such as reporters.

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SYRACUSE: Not having a single prospect signed at this point in the cycle isn’t as big a deal as it was before the age of the transfer portal, but it’s still less than ideal. The most concerning part is that there doesn't seem to be much left out there for the Orange in this cycle, a fact that could create some serious urgency during transfer season if the program sees much roster attrition.

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THE “COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DYING” CROWD: Remember when various professional leagues were going to raid all the top high school talent and ruin college basketball forever? What a time that was. Anyway, 46 of the top 50 players in the country are signed with or committed to colleges this cycle and that number could increase by one or two in the late period.

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LOUISVILLE: Putting the Cardinals in this list probably isn't totally fair because the current coaching staff is a victim of lofty expectations and has talented prospects in forwards Curtis Williams Jr. and Kaleb Glenn in the fold for 2023. The search for a guard, however, has been frustrating to say the least. Louisville has missed out on a healthy list of players at the position and may well miss again, as its pursuit of five-star AJ Johnson is looking less promising by the week. The fact that the current squad is 0-3 with losses to Wright State, Appalachian State and Bellarmine isn’t ideal either, as recruits in future classes will be looking for stability and upward trajectory when it comes time for them to sign letters of intent. That said, first-year coach Kenny Payne has coached just three games so far, so let’s not pound the panic button too much just yet. Good things take time, even if the start - on both the hardwood and the recruiting trail - is … not what any Louisville fan was expecting.