Feelin' blue: Duke, UNC, Kentucky sit atop team rankings
As the Early Signing Period tips off for the class of 2020, the top of the team rankings are looking awfully blue, as Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky hold the top three spots. Can anybody catch them? Which of those programs ultimately lays claim to the coveted No. 1 spot? Well, that still has to play out.
THE BIG THREE
Holding onto the top spot for now are Mike Krzyzewksi and Duke. While the Blue Devils are used to being in the top spot, this year’s class is a little bit different. Unlike other classes that have featured multiple one-and-done players and guys that figure to become instant college stars (a la Zion Williamson), the only likely one-and-done guy in their 2020 class appears to be top 5 forward Jalen Johnson. Point guard Jeremy Roach is another five-star, but the strength of this class is top 50-ranked four-stars such as high-scoring D.J. Steward, versatile big Jaemyn Brakefield, hard-working Henry Coleman and shot-blocker Mark Williams, who are all capable of helping early but give them a core group to build on for the future.
Just down Tobacco Road, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels will sign their best class in a decade, and it's maybe as strong a group as they have ever had since Williams landed in Chapel Hill. Homegrown big man Day’Ron Sharpe is the headliner and the powerful and skilled center is one of a trio of five-stars. Walker Kessler is a big who can really shoot, while point guard Caleb Love will likely be able to pick up where current freshman star Cole Anthony figures to leave off. Combo guard R.J. Davis and wing Puff Johnson are highly regarded four-stars who will add shooting.
Currently sitting in the third spot, John Calipari and the Wildcats could possibly overtake UNC within the next few days. They’ve got a scoring machine on the way in shooting guard Terrence Clarke, and fellow five-star B.J. Boston is a long and skilled wing with huge upside. Currently rounding out the class are top 35 four-man Lance Ware and top 50 wing Cam’Ron Fletcher. On Saturday, five-star big man man Isaiah Jackson picks between UK, Alabama and Syracuse. If he chooses Lexington as his destination then the Wildcats' class will move to No. 2 and be right on the heels of Duke.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP FIVE
Rounding out the current top five are a pair of programs that are cashing in on recent success: Tennessee and Texas Tech. After landing a five-star wing in Josiah James last year, Rick Barnes and the Vols are coming back with two five-stars in shooting guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. Last year was special for Chris Beard and the Red Raiders. They won the Big 12, made the national championship game and signed their first ever five-star prospect in Jahmius Ramsey. This year, they’ve got another five-star in guard Nimari Burnett, while wing Micah Peavy is knocking on the door of five-star status. Bottom line: The future looks bright in both Knoxville and Lubbock.
Outside of the top five there are some teams capable of making more noise. Just on the edge of the top five at No. 7 overall, Mike Boynton’s Oklahoma State Cowboys - whose headliner is the nation’s second-ranked player, Cade Cunningham - still have a chance to push into that top group. Four-star forward J.T. Thor will soon decide, and if the Cowboys land him, as expected, they will make another jump. In his first year in Fayetteville, Eric Musselman could be in position to make a huge leap and he could be doing it with all homegrown players. Arkansas’ class currently ranks No. 33, but given that they are in the top couple of schools for three more local top 100 players, the Hawgs could quickly shoot up the chart.
Finally, out in the Pac-12, USC (No. 12), UCLA (No. 39) and Arizona (No. 49) could still make big runs. The Trojans have the nation’s top player, Evan Mobley, and are in the thick of it for top five wing Ziaire Williams and four-star forward Tari Eason. UCLA has five-star Daishen Nix, but the Bruins are hoping to pair him with another five-star in Josh Christopher before it’s all over. Down in Tucson, Sean Miller and the Wildcats are also in the thick of it for Williams and they are closing hard to try and lure top 30 guard Adam Miller away from his home state of Illinois.