McDonald's Nuggets: Two top 25 teams that could really surprise
This week’s edition of McDonald's Nuggets includes thoughts on a couple teams that could outperform preseason rankings, an under-the-radar recruiting class, a visitor to watch and the Commit of the Week.
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Two under-the-radar teams heading into 2019-20 season
College hoops is just a few days away, and I CANNOT WAIT!
As we all get ready for what should be a really fun season, I want to call out a couple teams that could outplay their preseason ranking in the AP poll. All the talk in Waco right now centers around Matt Rhule’s undefeated football team, and rightfully so, but once again Scott Drew has a team at Baylor that will contend for the top spot in the Big 12. Tristan Clark is back to lead the way after averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year, but it’s two newcomers that lead me to believe Baylor could surprise. Auburn transfer Davion Mitchell and UNC-Asheville transfer MaCio Teague join sophomore guard Jared Butler to give the Bears a lot of firepower in the backcourt to complement Clark in the post. Don’t be surprised if this Baylor team makes a deep run come NCAA Tournament time.
Xavier is the other team that I really like coming into this season. The Musketeers lost a ton of production off the 2017-18 team that earned a No. 1 seed and also lost head coach Chris Mack to Louisville. Last year was a rebuilding year as Travis Steele was a first-year head coach with a roster with very little returning experience. After a slow start, Xavier played really well down the stretch in Big East play to the point where they were considered a “bubble team” on Selection Sunday. Fast forward to year two for Steele and he returns four of his five starters from last year and brings in an impressive recruiting class that should help the Musketeers compete for a Big East title and more. Being an older, experienced team is a huge deal in college hoops, and Xavier has about as much coming back as any team in the Top 25.
RECRUITING NOTE: An under-the-radar 2020 class
I really, really like what Purdue's Matt Painter and his staff have done so far in the 2020 class. It’s only two commitments, but it’s quality over quantity here. The Boilermakers locked down one of the better scorers in the Midwest back in April with four-star shooting guard Jaden Ivey. He’s a sniper from three-point range that will help Purdue from the minute he steps foot on campus. Just a couple weeks later in early May, four-star guard Ethan Morton jumped on board. He’ll be the facilitator that will help Ivey and all the other talent on Purdue’s roster maximize their ability, but he’s also capable of scoring on his own when needed. With his size, at 6-foot-5, he gives Painter some flexibility from a lineup standpoint.
VISITOR TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND: Ziaire Williams visits Arizona
Ziaire Williams, No. 6 overall, is one of the highest-ranked prospects in the 2020 class yet to announce a college decision. This weekend, the California native makes the trip to Arizona to get a closer look at Sean Miller’s program. Over the past decade, the Wildcats have been really tough to beat on the West Coast for top talent and this is an opportunity to keep that trend going.
The other contenders in this one are North Carolina, Stanford and USC. He’s been on campus at all three schools already. There has been some chatter that he would prefer to stay out west, but the Tar Heels have been hot on the recruiting trail in the 2020 class and Williams could put their class over the top.
Stanford and USC both are pushing the opportunity to stay close to home while also getting a top-notch education, which I’m told is a big a deal here. It doesn’t sound like Williams will be signing early, and he’s not giving much away right now in regard to favorites.
COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Kadary Richmond to Syracuse
Syracuse picked up a really nice commitment earlier this week from four-star guard Kadary Richmond. Richmond had initially committed to the Orange a couple weeks ago, then backed off it to make sure it was the right decision. He eventually decided he made the right call, and this is a good fit. The No. 96 overall prospect in the 2020 class has length and athleticism at 6-foot-5, combined with effort and energy to be a real problem in the front of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Offensively, he’ll fit right in with the type of attacking guards that have flourished under Jim Boeheim.