Three-Point Play: Top classes, blue bloods, NBA Draft
In today's Three-Point Play, Rivals.com Basketball Analyst Corey Evans looks at the top of the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings, dives into the lack of blueblood success so far in the 2021 class and previews looming NBA Draft withdrawal decisions.
Starting Five: Toughest-to-read recruitments in class of 2021
2022 Rankings: Top 75
1. TAKING NOTE OF 1-2-3
If you look at the top of the 2021 Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings, you won't see any blue bloods at the top of the list. Instead, you will find the nouveau riche of college basketball: Villanova, Baylor and Florida State.
Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the sport this year, the programs in Philadelphia, Waco and Tallahassee have weathered the COVID-19 storm arguably better than any other.
Jay Wright has always done his best work with the talent in the Wildcats' geographic footprint and, with regionalized recruiting seemingly here to stay, Villanova has capitalized. The Wildcats boast four Rivals150 commitments that live within a four-hour drive of their campus, and they also are in a solid spot for five-star guard Trevor Keels.
Baylor has taken a slightly different approach and while it did a great job of protecting its home turf with top-50 guard Langston Love, the Bears also deserve credit for their early prioritization of top-40 forward Jeremy Sochan and relentless pursuit of Kendall Brown. The Bears could be ready pounce soon in the 2022 class as they are in great position for Lee Dort and Vincent Iwuchukwu.
Leonard Hamilton's program has had a similar strategy in the 2021 class. The Seminoles are no longer just a developmental program but also one that has begun attract the nation’s elite. Two tremendous long-term wings in Matthew Cleveland and Bryce McGowens are already in the hopper, as is John Butler. The Seminoles aren’t done yet and will soon add another center and are the dark horse for top-25 guard Jalen Warley.
Give it up for Wright, Drew and Hamilton for never relenting in their 2021 pursuits.
2. WHERE ARE THE BLUE BLOODS?
Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina topped the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings in the 2020 class. No surprise. But where are they now in the 2021 class? Combined, they sit with only two commitments and just one rated as a five-star. That's a big departure from last cycle, where the trio inked 10 five-star prospects.
No one is going to feel sorry for Cal, K or Roy, but this could arguably be the most difficult period that any of the three has had in recruiting due to how many unknowns they are all facing. With college basketball recruiting trending to a more regionalized model, these three programs aren't exactly known for looking inward.
Furthermore, the Wildcats, Blue Devils and Tar Heels usually focus their time on the current senior class, not prospects further away from signing a National Letter of Intent. The loss of the travel season has limited in-person evaluation opportunities, which has led to fewer offers extended. UK has offered just four in the 2021 class, while Duke offered six.
Factor in how late into the spring all three were still figuring out its rosters for the upcoming season, the now looming threat of the NBA G League initiative, and nearly two times more Rivals150 rising seniors having already committing compared to last year and what you have is an onslaught of questions being levied at these three programs.
It won't surprise anyone if Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina finish with top-ranked classes, but they will go about it in a much different manner than normal.
3. DRAFT DECISIONS UPCOMING
We are finally nearing the deadline for when college stars will need to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft if they want to remain eligible for the upcoming season. We will have a much clearer idea of the national title picture next Monday once we know who will or won’t be returning to college.
Will Luka Garza take one last swing at a Final Four run with his Iowa Hawkeyes? There is not a whole lot more he can do on a college playing floor after averaging close to 24 points and 10 rebounds last season. Keeping his name in the draft would knock Iowa out of Big Ten title contention, but the Hawkeyes could flirt with 'best team in program history' territory if Garza returns to Iowa City.
We already know Gonzaga's Filip Petrusev will be going pro overseas but what about Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert? Neither are likely to be taken in the first round of this year’s draft, but a strong campaign in Spokane this winter could see both receive a guaranteed contact the following year. If that is the case, Gonzaga is arguably the No. 1 team in America. If one or even both leave, BYU could win its first ever WCC title.
The watch continues surrounding Xavier Tillman. Will the Michigan State standout return for one more season or will he make the leap to the NBA? One of the more well-rounded forwards in the draft and a value-play between the first and second rounds, Tillman already has two children to care for, so that could factor into his decision. But perhaps the idea of bringing Tom Izzo his second national title while rounding out his game outweighs all else for Tillman.
Baylor had the chance to go down as undoubtedly the best team in school history last season before the pandemic wiped away any postseason run. The Bears could have a similar campaign this season if Jared Butler returns. Butler has never shown his hand as to which way he might be leaning but if a return to Waco is in the cards, we are talking about the Big 12 favorite and one of the few teams that could win the whole thing in April.
Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu back to Illinois? There is a chance that happens, which would equate to a potential top-10 ranking heading into the new season for the Illini. Brad Underwood would have one of the deepest backcourts in the sport and a unit that could compete for a Big Ten title and more. Even with just Cockburn back in the fold, Illinois should have enough backcourt firepower to hold its own with anyone in the Big Ten.