Starting Five: Maryland heating up, Florida State scores in 2021
Is Maryland a legitimate Final Four contender? How good is Florida State's newest recruiting score? That and much more from Eric Bossi in this week's edition of the Starting Five.
MARYLAND HEATING UP
It didn't wait as long as it did earlier this season to erase a double-digit deficit against Illinois, but for the second time Maryland scored a comeback win against the Illini and the Terps are one of the hottest teams in the country.
Riding a six-game win streak, Mark Turgeon's group has moved to the top of the Big Ten at 9-3 and have really found its groove. So, can it be a legitimate contender for the Final Four?
I don't see why not. Especially in a year like 2020 where next to nothing has gone as planned and parity seems to rule.
Going in the Terps favor, they have a very experienced point guard in Anthony Cowan who is capable of carrying a team for long stretches. They've also got a new age big man in Jalen Smith who protects the rim and has the tools to go for big numbers as an inside out scorer. They aren't the most reliable shooting team from top to bottom, but guards Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell can all get it going on the offensive end as well, so at least there are multiple scoring options. I also like that they've proven they can win close games.
In addition to their streaky shooting from deep, a general lack of size and quality depth could be issues down the road for Maryland. But, the fact of the matter is that those things are issues for pretty much everyone else out there as well.
At least headed into this week, the Terps are playing as well as anybody in America and they are certainly a squad to track closely for a potential postseason run from here on out.
FLORIDA STATE LANDS 2021 FOUR-STAR
Florida State's 2020 recruiting class only has two members so far, but five-star Scottie Barnes and four-star juco wing Sardaar Calhoun are good enough for the Seminoles class to rank among the top 15 nationally in 2020.
Leonard Hamilton and the gang got off to a great start for their 2021 efforts when they landed a verbal commitment from Piedmont (S.C.) Wren small forward Bryce McGowens, who ranks No. 50 nationally.
A smooth athlete who wields a pretty jump shot, I love the upside of McGowens and he's another example of FSU locking in and getting a guy with tremendous upside. McGowens is excellent in transition and while skinny, has a prototypical basketball body and the type of length that Hamilton and his staff covet.
MOVEMENT COMING IN 2020 TEAM RANKINGS
It wasn't a huge week for commitments in the class of 2020, but there were some notable choices that will have an impact on the team rankings.
Currently ranked No. 30 in 2020 based on the strength of signing five-star point guard Daishen Nix, UCLA's class will jump all the way up to No. 13 once Clark's commitment gets added into the team rankings.
Down in Baton Rouge, Will Wade and the Tigers already had a top 20 class headlined by five-star guard Cameron Thomas. Now thanks to the addition of the high-flying Wilkinson, the Tigers will move all the way up to No. 9.
ELITE IMPACT NOT BEING FELT
Thank goodness for Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. Because without the potential All-American big man who ranked No. 5 nationally coming out of high school and his team performing, there could be a pretty surprising lack of representation of the class of 2019's elite players in the NCAA Tournament.
As it stands, Carey may be the only player from 2019's top eight who participates in March Madness. No. 1 James Wiseman is out. He bailed on Memphis to prep for the NBA Draft rather than ride out an NCAA suspension. No. 2 Isaiah Stewart and No. 7 Jaden McDaniels are part of what may be the most disappointing team in the country, Washington. No. 3 Anthony Edwards is putting up big individual numbers at Georgia, but it hasn't helped the Bulldogs to much team success and they are currently 13th in the SEC.
No. 4 Cole Anthony? He missed much of the season due to injury. He and North Carolina are going to need a pretty epic run (as in only an ACC Tournament title is likely to do the trick at this point) if they are going to make the NCAA Tournament. No. 6 R.J. Hampton is out because he chose to play professionally in Australia. Maybe with the most hope of actually making it is No. 8 Scottie Lewis of Florida. While the Gators haven't come close to matching the preseason hype, they are at least above .500 in the SEC and have a fighting chance to go dancing.
Certainly not the impact that any of us would have expected from the elite of 2019's elite prospects.
TALKING DIOR JOHNSON
The class of 2022 is a long way from graduating and lots can change between now and then, but let's choose to assume that newest Syracuse commit Dior Johnson does make his way back to his home state of New York for college.
Friday night, Corey Evans helped break the news that the No. 4 player in the class of 2022 has decided to end things early and I wanted to take a look at what kind of player he could be for the Orange.
Johnson isn't the typical highly ranked point guard we've become accustomed to seeing. While he's not without athleticism, he's not the high flyer or speed merchant that you typically see at his size at his position. What he is, though, is ridiculously skilled and crafty.
Look, I'm not trying to put Johnson on the same level as Kyrie Irving or to say he'll go on to have the same type of career. But, there are some similarities between Johnson and a young Irving. The changes of pace, the hesitations, the tight handle, the flair and the ability to finish with either hand from every conceivable angle around the rim. Not to mention he's a very entertaining watch.
There's going to be plenty of time over the next few years for worry. But for now, Syracuse fans should just enjoy having Johnson committed because he's got the potential to be a game-changer the moment he arrives on campus.