Rivals Roundtable: Final Four revisions, 2020 predictions, more
The Rivals Roundtable is back this weekend and analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald have plenty to discuss entering the new year. How do the guys feel about their preseason Final Four picks? What are their bold predictions for the class of 2020 and who can most impact the situation they are headed to?
1. Would you care to revise your Final Four predictions?
Bossi: Let’s see, in the preseason I had Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Villanova as my Final Four picks. I still feel pretty good about Kansas because of their depth and ability to defend, but they have got to shoot the ball more consistently from deep. Also, despite some ups and downs, I still like Kentucky to put things together before the end of the season and be in good position to make a run at the Final Four. If they can get either Nick Richards or E.J. Montgomery to be consistent in the post, I’ll feel even better about them.
After those two, give me Gonzaga and Duke. Gonzaga’s ability to score is an awful lot to deal with but they aren’t going to be tested much from here on out and that’s always a worry come tournament time. If Duke continues pounding the ball to freshman star Vernon Carey Jr., it will be awfully tough to deal with. And I’m not ready to throw them in there just yet, but keep an eye on that Auburn team. Their still undefeated and in my eyes a legitimate contender to make a return to the Final Four.
Evans: I am one of the more stubborn ones out there so I am not budging from my prediction. I think Kansas and Michigan State, despite some of its shortcomings during the non-conference portion of the season, have what it takes to win at least four games in March.
Florida State remains my dark horse; I love Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams as X-Factors but do worry about them lacking an alpha piece that can take over a game. My one worry might be Maryland, but Big Ten play will toughen them up and prepare the Terps for what could be ahead. I guess replacing Maryland with fellow inner-league foe Ohio State wouldn’t be a bad idea but I am sticking with it…FSU, KU, Maryland, and MSU will still be dancing in Atlanta…lock it in!
McDonald: I’m scrapping all four of my previous picks (Florida, Louisville, Michigan State and Texas Tech). I really like this Gonzaga team. With the field being so open this year, this feels like the year Mark Few could finally cut down the nets after being so close against North Carolina a few years ago. Baylor is another team I’ve been really impressed with and I feel like they have the firepower to make a real run. I’ll round the Final Four with a couple bluebloods, Kansas and Kentucky.
2. What's your boldest prediction about the class of 2020?
Bossi: I touched on this in Bossi’s Best earlier in the week, but if the Ziaire Williams that showed up to play against No. 1 overall Evan Mobley and Rancho Christian during his first game of the season shows up the rest of the year, look out. After sitting out for transfer rules, Williams looked like the best player on the floor and that’s with Mobley and Williams’ five-star teammate B.J. Boston both playing at a high level. Keep that level of play up with skilled facilitating for others, shot-making and explosiveness in the open floor and Williams turns the current three-man race for No. 1 in 2020 into a four-man race.
Evans: For all of the talk surrounding the demise of college basketball, the 2020 class will infuse it with transcendent talent and make it a more watchable game for the average fan. I get it…the bluebloods aren’t as great as they were in recent years and there is no Ja Morant or Zion Williamson this winter. That is okay because Jalen Green is built in a similar mold as the two super entertaining figures, Evan Mobley has Greek Freak qualities, Cade Cunningham will make Oklahoma State appointment television similar to what Trae Young did at rival Oklahoma, and Duke, North Carolina and UK will enroll another premier freshmen class.
McDonald: I think UCLA adds undecided five-star shooting guard Josh Christopher to the backcourt with five-star point guard Daishen Nix and that the Bruins make a big run in the 2020-21 season. Nix is going to have a Lonzo Ball-like impact in Westwood with his ability to make others around him better.
3. Which committed player you've seen will have the biggest impact on his future program?
Bossi: I just can’t decide between North Carolina bound Caleb Love or UCLA-bound Daishen Nix. The five-star floor generals are both exactly what their respective destinations need and both look more than ready to step in and make a monster early contribution. Love is going to be a more-than-capable replacement for Cole Anthony and keeps improving as a deep shooter to go with his athleticism and length at the point. Nix, well he’s a born leader and just the rock solid, steady and tough guy that Mick Cronin needs at the point of attack.
Evans: It has to be Cunningham. While the Cowboys, whenever they are at full health with Isaac Likekele, can beat anyone in America, the impact that Cunningham can have could be so special that Pokes’ fans might be talking about it many years from now.
There really are no major holes in Cunningham’s game. An unselfish leader that is about making others better, placing a quality cupboard of talent and scorers around him at OSU next year should only enhance his abilities. Cunningham is not one that fails to make the right decision.
With an elite rim protector in Yor Anei at the five, perimeter firepower in Rondel Walker, Chris Harris and Likekele surrounding him, and the all-encompassing abilities of Cunningham, OSU might not just be a Big 12 title contender but also one that could reach the Final Four.
McDonald: I’d have to go with Deivon Smith, who is headed to Mississippi State. He’s playing at a really high level to start his senior season at Grayson, but most importantly he looks like an improved shooter. He’s always been an elite athlete and a really good passer, but becoming a more confident shooter would be a big step towards making him a star in Starkville where Ben Howland and company could really use a point guard that is ready to step in and play big minutes.