Three-Point Play: North Carolina, Border War, FutureCast picks
Where does North Carolina’s 2020 recruiting class stack up against the best of the Roy Williams era? Eric Bossi takes a look at that, a rivalry renewed and talks latest FutureCast predictions in today’s edition of the Three-Point-Play.
Rivals Roundtable: Who will be the next five-star to commit?
1. WHERE DOES NORTH CAROLINA’S 2020 CLASS RANK?
On Monday, Roy Williams and North Carolina added a fourth member to their outstanding 2020 recruiting class. Four-star sharp-shooter R.J. Davis committed and now joins a trio of five-star prospects in Walker Kessler, Caleb Love and Day’Ron Sharpe. The Tar Heels are still hoping to add even more high-end talent with the likes of five-stars Ziaire Williams and Bryce Thompson and four-stars Puff Johnson and Kerwin Walton still on the board.
But, the question to be asked is how does the 2020 class compare with the best of the Roy Williams era?
Overall, this is the eighth time since Williams took over in the spring of 2003 that North Carolina has landed multiple five-star prospects (and the third year in a row) but only the second time ever that the Heels have landed three five-stars.
The last time that happened was in 2006 when Brandan Wright, Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington headlined a stellar class. That 2006 class is the best I’ve seen in Chapel Hill since Williams arrived and stacked on top of a 2005 class that featured Tyler Hansbrough helped to deliver Williams' first title with a team built entirely with his own players.
I’ll put the 2020 haul just behind that class and just ahead of the 2010 (Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall) and 2015 (Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson and Joel Barry) as the second-best class of the Williams era. Much like the 2006 class helped win a national championship, I believe that if Williams is going to win another title that this 2020 class is going to be the one to give him the push he needs.
2. BORDER WAR IS BACK
When Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC seven years ago, its departure led to the demise of its series with Kansas, one of the best rivalries in college basketball. The two sides couldn’t agree on scheduling after that – save for an exhibition benefiting charity in the fall of 2017 – and the rivalry died.
Monday night, Kansas and Missouri announced that the rivalry is back beginning in 2020 via a series of six games that will see two games played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and two each in Columbia and Lawrence.
I live in Kansas City and I know firsthand how bitter this rivalry is. I’ve been to games between the Jayhawks and Tigers in Columbia, Lawrence and the Big 12 Tournament. The last year they played in conference, 2012, I was lucky enough to be on hand for both conference games when Marcus Denmon led the Tigers to a huge comeback win in Columbia and Thomas Robinson powered the Jayhawks to an equally impressive comeback win in Lawrence. The games were nasty, competitive and insanely enjoyable.
I get that there are going to be some fans on both sides that are upset to see the return of the game. Many Kansas fans feel Mizzou left them hanging while many Mizzou fans feel Kansas needed to get out of its feelings. If they want to abstain from the renewed rivalry, well then, that’s their loss because this is a win for fans of each program and college hoops fans in general.
3. TALKING FUTURECAST PICKS
The Early Signing Period is now just three short weeks away and the dominoes have been falling. At Rivals, we’ve also been analyzing who is left and where they might end up. On Monday, I logged FutureCast picks for five-star Bryce Thompson along with four-star point guards Andre Curbelo and KK Robinson.
Over the weekend, Thompson visited home-state Oklahoma and he’s now done taking visits. The Sooners are right there and it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Thompson land in Norman. That being said, I ultimately see Thompson ending up at Kansas. Yes, the NCAA’s notice of allegations is a concern but the long standing relationships between the KU coaching staff and Thompson and his family should be enough for the Jayhawks to win out.
When I woke up on Monday morning and checked my phone, it was lit up with speculation that Curbelo was about to end things. Calling around I wasn’t able to confirm a set time for Curbelo to decide, but I do feel comfortable enough to go ahead and predict that he ends up at Illinois, which would be a huge win for Brad Underwood and his staff. There are also rumblings that things have moved into the Illini’s favor with top-30 combo guard Adam Miller. While I’m not quite ready to predict Miller ends up there, things are definitely looking pretty good for the Illini.
Finally, for my third pick I’ve gone ahead and predicted Arkansas for Robinson. He’s been to Illinois, Kansas and TCU as well but I feel the pull of returning to his home state for college, playing for new coach Eric Mussleman and being part of a potentially great class of homegrown players – Davonte Davis is already in and the Razorbacks are battling for Moses Moody, Chris Moore and Jaylin Williams – is going to be too much for Robinson to decline.