Evans Seven: Breaking down top 7 in 2021 team rankings
The past month has seen the number of 2021 commitments multiply. In this week’s The Evans Seven, we assess the current team rankings for 2021 and what each program might do next in improving its already nationally-ranked groups.
1. Texas A&M
Texas A&M is accustomed to being in this spot on the football side but on the basketball end of the spectrum? Sure, the Aggies have had their high years, like the one felt six years ago when DJ Hogg, Tyler Davis and Admon Gilder joined the program.
However, they sit not with just the top-rated class in its league, but also in all of America. It was enhanced that much more when five-star guard Manny Obaseki abruptly ended his recruitment in favor of the Aggies this week. A month earlier, Jaxson Robinson, a top-50 wing from Oklahoma, began things by making the jump. Obaseki becomes the program’s first five-star commitment since 2007 and while their ranking will likely descend in the coming months, this is just the class that should get the Aggies back into the top-half of the SEC.
DePaul? DePaul? That is right. Up until just a few days ago, the Big East bunch sat with the top-rated 2021 class nationally.
It began in the fall thanks to the commitment of Ahamad Bynum, one of the best juniors from the Midwest and a highly respect prospect from the city of Chicago. The solid four-star guard was then joined in January by Keon Edwards. The good-sized forward has not had the best of winters but it is his upside and versatility that places him within the upper-half of the Rivals150. There are questions of whether he might reclassify or not but, either way, DePaul will have no shortage of talent to enroll in a year.
The biggest question is that of the fate of its head coach, Dave Leitao. The belief is that if he were to be relieved of his duties in Lincoln Park, that such a highly acclaimed class would be no more.
What work Greg Gard has done with his 2021 class.The Badgers kicked things off relatively early thanks to the commitment Chris Hodges in August. Likely, if the three-star big man would have remained uncommitted throughout this high school season, a mixture of Big Ten and Big East offers would have come his way. He is expected to be the next interior piece in the mold of a Vitto Brown or Nigel Hayes.
However, it was the daily double that was celebrated on September 29 that really amplified the Badgers’ 2021 class. Chucky Hepburn, a tough-minded guard from Nebraska, and Matthew Mors, an underappreciated prospect from South Dakota, decided to both commit on the same day. Whether Wisconsin actually elects to add another to its top-five class or not is the question, but it is a group that are tailor-made for what Gard and his staff have come to expect in Badger standouts.
It is just one prospect that has made Duke what it is in the 2021 class, but A.J. Griffin is a special one. The five-star junior is the highest rated member of the 2021 class to have already ended his recruitment. He is just the type that Coach K has come to rely on heavily in recent years, which is in the good-sized wing-forward mold that can have an offense run through him along the perimeter.
Don’t expect for Griffin to be sitting by himself as the lone Duke commit for much longer. While the Blue Devils will soon enroll a class that isn’t chock full of one-and-done guys, that will not stop them from pursuing the nation’s best in 2021. They are in a great spot for Pat Baldwin and Max Christie, remain a top suitor for Charles Bediako and Paolo Banchero, and have kept a close eye on Trevor Keels and Kennedy Chandler. Anything but a top-two or three class in 2021 would raise eyebrows.
Things may not last for long for Indiana, which sits in the fifth overall spot in the 2021 class rankings. Not because their lone commitment is expected to back away from his pledge that he made earlier in the month but rather, because a reclassification and leap into the 2020 class is the likeliest option.
Khristian Lander, the five-star junior that Archie Miller immediately tabbed as a must-get recruit upon his hiring three years ago, made every Hoosiers’ day a few weeks back with his commitment. In it, IU is getting one of the quickest endline to endline guards in the game. However, by making the move into the 2020 class later this summer, the Hoosiers will have to hit on a number of others needs, as in a scorers in the mold of Luke Goode, Aminu Mohammed, and Blake Wesley, along with a big man like Trey Patterson or Trey Kaufman.
6. Ohio State
Sitting sixth overall in America but with just the third-best class in the Big Ten, Chris Holtmann and his staff have done a tremendous job of getting a leg up on future classes. In May, four-star forward Kalen Etzler, a product of nearby Convoy, Ohio, gave his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes which was then followed three months later by Meechie Johnson’s, who is a skilled and offensively included guard that is rehabbing from a torn ACL. The two-man group is another promising one that will not have to leave its state’s borders to attend college, which is becoming a a consistent theme for most OSU recruits.
Expect for another Rivals150 prospect or two to join them as they are in the picture for Malaki Branham, Roosevelt Wheeler, Franck Kepnang, Kendall Brown, Hunter Sallis, and Blake Wesley, along with Carter Whitt who could potentially reclassify into the 2020 class.
For as good as Ohio State has been at getting ahead in the younger classes, maybe no one has done it better and more often than Matt Painter. He struck gold again this month when Caleb Furst committed. Just like at OSU, the Boilermakers put a heavy emphasis on keeping the best in the state, which Furst will do whenever he makes the short drive from his Fort Wayne home to West Lafayette in the fall of 2021. A minor upset to a certain extent in which some had believed that Michigan State was the leader for the talented big man, Furst may not have found a better home nor a better system than the one that he will be provided with at Purdue.
The next question is where they go next as a bigger guard or wing may be what completes things which could be done by a commitment from any of the group that includes Blake Wesley, Matthew Cleveland, Max Christie or even Harrison Ingram.