Conference wrap: Programs off to fast starts in 2018 recruiting
While the 2016-2017 college basketball season is far from complete, a slew of fan bases are already looking ahead to what could be in the 2018 campaign.
The 2018 class doesn't appear to be as talented as the 2017 or 2019 classes, thus making it even more vital for programs getting a head start on the current crop of high school juniors.
Here's a look at several college teams which have done just that.
ACC: NORTH CAROLINA
Sitting with two prospects from the 2018 class already in the hopper, North Carolina boasts more four-star recruits from the junior class than its four-man 2017 group.
The Tar Heels' 2018 class is led by Rechon Black, a talented 6-foot-6 wing who has his best basketball ahead of him. Black is capable of playing practically all three spots on the perimeter.
The same could be said of fellow North Carolina pledge and in-state prospect Coby White. White is a bouncy guard who can rip the nets with his three-level scoring skills.
Look for North Carolina to hit it out of the park with its next commitment as it continues to track such prospects as five-star forward Zion Williamson, ever-improving forward Jairus Hamilton and super tough and aggressive top-50 guard Devon Dotson.
BIG EAST: ST. JOHN'S
The rebuild in Queens has taken the next step in recent weeks as St. John’s has gone on a quick run in Big East play, displaying just how close that they are to a berth in the NCAA Tournament come next season.
Having little need in the 2017 recruiting class, the Red Storm threw most of their attention into the 2018 crop. Their locale has provided for some of the nation's top prospects.
Already on board is Boubacar Diakite, a 6-foot-8, versatile and high-upside forward who plays for the same high school program that shot blocking sensation Kassoum Yakwe once suited up for. Several more could be ready to join Diakite as Chris Mullin and his staff have laid down the proper foundation in recruiting such others as top-100 prospects Luther Muhammad, Isaiah Mucius, Khalid Moore, Naz Reid and Lou King. A commitment from any of the group would come as no surprise.
BIG 12: KANSAS
The Jayhawks have not landed a junior recruit just yet while fellow Big 12 programs TCU and WVU have, but it would be difficult not to give Kansas its dues given the fact that Kansas is a name brand program and has consistently landed top-10 classes.
Boasting a commitment from 2019 point guard Markese Jacobs, and seeing that Bill Self has become such an advocate for guard-heavy lineups, look for Kansas to go for another backcourt weapon.
Names that continually pop up for the Jayhawks include Devon Dotson, Jamie Lewis, David Duke, Romeo Langford and Quentin Grimes. All would be tremendous snags, and the Jayhawks could come to prioritize the latter two this summer.
In the frontcourt, Kansas recently offered Jairus Hamilton and has remained heavily in the mix for such others as Naz Reid, Bol Bol, Emmitt Williams, Moses Brown and Gerald Liddell. Each can be found in the top-50 of the 2018 class rankings, where at least one commitment from the group should be expected.
BIG TEN: OHIO STATE
While there have been a few misses of late on the recruiting trail for the Buckeyes, the 2018 class already looks primed to get Ohio State back in the mix in the Big Ten.
OSU landed one recruit super early as Dane Goodwin, a 6-foot-3 guard from Upper Arlington, committed during his freshman year. Goodwin has continued to expand his game in the years since, making a case for a top-150 ranking inclusion next time around.
Last fall, the Buckeyes added two more commits -- on the same day -- as travel teammates Justin Ahrens and Darius Bazley gave their pledges to Thad Matta and his staff. While Ahrens brings scoring abilities and Bazley exhibits elite versatility, the major key for concern is at the lead guard spot. The Buckeyes continue to track the likes of Jahvon Quinerly, Dwayne Cohill and Darius Garland; a commitment from any of the three would result in a top-10 class when things are complete.
Both Washington and Oregon State have already landed top-150 prospects from the 2018 class and Arizona has not, yet the position that the Wildcats sit with some of the top junior prospects gives them the edge here within the Pac-12.
Arizona is in the driver’s seat for top-30 guard Brandon Williams, a steady and intellectual playmaker who has already been to campus twice. A commitment to anyone but Arizona would come as a surprise.
Sean Miller and his staff recently hosted Emmanuel Akot, a five-star junior, this past weekend for an official visit. They're battling Utah for his services.
Add in the fact that the Wildcats can be seen as a favorite for top-ranked forward Marvin Bagley and can be perceived as a leader for top-25 guard Quentin Grimes and another top-five finish in the recruiting rankings could be in the cards.
We haven’t quite seen anything like what Arkansas did in landing the entire starting five from last year’s Arkansas Hawks 16-under team, four of which are members of the 2018 class.
The headliner of the entire group is five-star forward Reggie Perry, a tough four-man who can stretch the defense with the 17-foot jumper but does his best work around the basket. Joining him is fellow top-100 recruit Ethan Henderson, a long but slender forward who is a dynamo on the glass and has major upside.
On the perimeter, Arkansas has landed sharpshooting off guard Isaiah Joe and a solid playmaker in Desi Sells. Despite having already picked up four out of the junior ranks and sitting with one of the top classes nationally, the Hogs have remained in pursuit of TJ Moss and Rodgerick Brown. Either could the last piece to a star-studded group.
OTHER: ST. LOUIS
The hiring of Travis Ford as St. Louis' head coach paid immediate dividends for the Billikens. While the Atlantic 10 program hasn’t had the best of campaigns this winter, the firs- year staff hit the ground running on the recruiting trail. And after signing four-star wing Jordan Goodwin and tough-nosed and powerful forward Hasahn French in the fall, the future looks bright.
When you throw in St. Louis' 2018 haul, it's fair to say that the Bilikens could soon be atop of the Atlantic 10 pecking order. Carte’Are Gordon, a 6-foot-8, top-25 prospect, has already committed to St. Louis, turning down overtures from such others as Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. Fred Thatch, another local prospect who is a tough and gritty 2018 wing, has also already pledged to Ford.