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Bossi's Best: The 10 toughest beats of the last five years

DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton (AP Images)

Tom Izzo and Michigan State took a pretty tough hit Tuesday when top 35 junior Romeo Weems picked DePaul over his home-state Spartans.

Time will tell if the decision comes back to haunt anybody, but at least Michigan State has time to find somebody else. And while losing Weems hurts in the short term, nobody is betting against Izzo and his staff bouncing back.

In today's edition of Bossi's Best, National Analyst Eric Bossi looks back at 10 decisions from the last five years that stand out as being tough beats at the time. Did the winners really benefit? Did the losers bounce back? Or did it end up being a wash?

MORE BOSSI'S BEST: Teams most affected by the NBA Draft combine | Top players who moved up in class

RANKINGS: 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150 | 2018 Team | 2018 Position


Winner: Arizona

Loser: Kansas

Bossi's analysis: For the longest time, Ayton looked to be a lock for Kansas, and it got to the point where others weren't even really bothering to recruit him. Then late in the summer before his senior year, Arizona got heavily involved and he ended up on campus for a visit in August and picked the Wildcats shortly after.

It was almost a bit of payback for another big timer - Josh Jackson - that the Jayhawks beat them for the year before. At Arizona, Ayton was a star, but the Wildcats lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and reports - which to date haven't proven to be true - emerged that Miller arranged to pay for Ayton. Kansas landed on their feet just fine after missing Ayton with a trip to the 2018 Final Four.

Winner: Texas

Loser: Kentucky

Bossi's analysis: When you land as much elite talent as John Calipari has in Lexington, there are going to be a few misses along the way. But losing Bamba to Shaka Smart and the Longhorns certainly stung, because Bamba appeared to be the rim protector that the Wildcats really needed, and it's hard to imagine them losing to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 with him on the floor. At Texas, Bamba emerged as one of the nation's truly elite shot blockers, but battled injury over the final month of the season as Texas barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament and then got bounced in the first round by Nevada.

Winner: California

Loser: Kentucky

Bossi's Analysis: The recruitment of Brown was a tough one to call, but when it came time for him to decide in the late spring of his senior year, most figured that Kentucky would be the team to beat. Instead, Brown surprised everybody by choosing Cuonzo Martin and California over Coach Cal.

Brown helped Cal to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016 before moving on to the NBA, where he is an emerging star for the Boston Celtics. In Lexington, the Wildcats didn't miss a beat, and it's likely that the spot left open by Brown choosing Cal allowed them to bounce back by landing five-star guard Jamal Murray when he picked UK over Oregon in June and reclassified from 2016 to 2015.

Winner: Duke

Loser: North Carolina

Bossi's analysis: Yes, North Carolina lost a recruiting battle to heated rival Duke when it comes to Ingram. And yes, it stung even more when Ingram admitted during the spring of his senior year that were it not for the NCAA investigation into North Carolina's academics he likely would have committed during the fall.

As it turns out, though, Carolina was just fine. Maybe Ingram could have helped avoid a buzzer-beating loss to Villanova in the 2016 national championship game, but the Heels returned to win in it all in 2017 when Ingram was playing as a rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers. Would Roy Williams and UNC loved to have beaten out their rivals for Ingram? Sure. But it ended up working out just fine in the long run.

Winner: Kansas

Loser: Arizona

Bossi's analysis: Depending on who you talk to, an even argument can be made that either Michigan State or Arizona was the school blindsided here. After all, Michigan State is the program Jackson grew up following in Michigan. However, Arizona gets the nod here, because to this day sources close to the program insist that Jackson told Sean Miller he was coming.

The addition of Jackson helped Kansas make the Elite Eight in 2017, while Arizona bounced back two days later to land five-star wing Terrance Ferguson - though Ferguson ended up going to Australia to play professionally instead.

Winner: Kentucky

Loser: Arkansas

Bossi's analysis: One of the most celebrated and highly decorated players to emerge from the state of Arkansas during the era, Monk had immense pressure from locals to stay home. Instead, he broke the hearts of the Razorback faithful and picked Kentucky.

At UK, Monk was one of the best freshman scorers that Calipari has coached, and the Wildcats lost to eventual NCAA champion North Carolina in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. At Arkansas, Mike Anderson protected against the loss of Monk by securing JUCO stars Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, both of whom had great careers and helped the Hogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 (where they also lost to UNC) and 2018.

Winner: Missouri

Loser: Illinois

Bossi's analysis: Frankly, Illinois has suffered some really tough beats over the past five years (Cliff Alexander and Quentin Snider also stand out), but missing on Tilmon may hurt the most. He was an in-state kid with NBA potential who was committed to the Illini under John Groce, and he would have been the exact jump-start Brad Underwood needed to begin his time as the head coach of the Illini. Making matters worse, Tilmon chose to attend a bitter rival.

Tilmon has been somewhat inconsistent at Missouri, but all signs are pointing to him being a very good player for Cuonzo Martin. Underwood bounced back to land the state's top player, five-star Ayo Dosunmu, in 2018, but the Illini are still trying to plug the hole in the middle left by Tilmon.

Winner: UCLA

Loser: Indiana

Bossi's analysis: Though Wilkes took several visits to Bloomington and grew up in the state of Indiana, Tom Crean wasn't able to seal the deal. The loss of Wilkes was the last in a string of many high-profile, in-state misses, and helped to lead to Crean's dismissal.

At UCLA, Wilkes had a very good freshman season and the Bruins are waiting to hear if Wilkes remains in the NBA Draft or not. At Indiana, Crean was replaced by Archie Miller, and the Hoosiers landed the most important in-state recruit in the last 10 years when 2018 five-star Romeo Langford picked the Hoosiers. The loss hurt at the time, but all things considered, it hasn't been the least bit devastating.

Winner: Duke

Loser: Clemson

Bossi's analysis: We don't yet know how badly this one will sting in the long run, but it sure hurt in the short term. A homegrown talent, it will probably be a while before the state of South Carolina produces another player as celebrated as Williamson. His stepfather played at Clemson and for a good month or so until the second he announced for Duke, it looked like Williamson was going to pick Brad Brownell's program.

The Tigers bounced back well with a Sweet 16 run in 2018 and look ready to compete again in 2019. At Duke, Williamson will be part of the nation's top recruiting class and one of four five-star freshmen.

Winner: Seton Hall

Loser: St. John's

Bossi's analysis: The Whitehead recruitment was an interesting one in that none of college basketball's bluebloods ever went hard on the five-star prospect. However, his decision to attend Seton Hall bolstered a 2014 class that is probably as good a group as the school has ever landed. Whitehead - whose high school coach, Tiny Morton, ended up getting hired at Seton Hall - left after a year, but Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington were also in that class and part of a core group that helped Kevin Willard and the Pirates to the 2016, '17 and '18 NCAA Tournaments.

At St. John's - where Whitehead took an unofficial visit the night before his announcement - Steve Lavin ended up being fired a year later, and his replacement, Chris Mullin, has failed to manage a record above .500 (overall or in the Big East) in his three years on the job.