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Early Signing Period: Winners and losers

John Calipari
John Calipari (Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated)

Who has the early signing period been kind to? Which programs have faced some obstacles. Today, we look at who got the job done during the early period and who still has work to do between now and the spring.

MORE: Isaiah Jackson picks Kentucky


Mike Krzyzewski
Mike Krzyzewski (Associated Press)


It has been a strong early signing period for the ACC as a conference, with seven programs ranking among the top 25. But it has been particularly good to a trio of schools along Tobacco Road in Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

With the second ranked class, Duke and Mike Krzyzewski find themselves dueling with Kentucky, again, for the top spot. Their class headliner is Jalen Johnson a gifted playmaking combo forward. What may be the best thing about the class, though, is that with guys like D.J. Steward, Henry Coleman and Mark Williams, the Blue Devils are also getting some good program pieces they won't have to replace after nine months. One-and-done talent is fun, but ideally teams have a blend of young talent and experience and they are getting a better balance of that in this class.

If the No. 1 order of business in Chapel Hill was finding a replacement for Cole Anthony, getting more skilled overall was 1b. Roy Williams and his staff did all of that. Five-star Caleb Love should fill in nicely for Anthony but the real story is how much more skilled the Heels have gotten. Five-star bigs Day'Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler have more scoring tools than any current Heel and Puff Johnson and R.J. Davis should give them shooters that they badly need.

Over in Raleigh, Kevin Keatts is off to a good start for 2020 recruiting and he's probably going to reel in another big fish before the period ends. The Pack's class already ranks No. 20 nationally with Shakeel Moore, Cam Hayes and a pair of big men in Nick Farrar and Ebenezer Dowuana. The real story, though, is that there's a good chance five-star forward Josh Hall ends up at N.C. State and it should be happening sooner than later. If they do land Hall, the class grades out as an easy A.



I wrote earlier in the fall that I expected Kentucky to make a return to the top of the recruiting rankings. It didn't quite go down as might have been predicted early on, but we are talking about John Calipari here and the man always has a plan.

The Wildcats class moved to No. 1 thanks to five-star guard Devin Askew's decision to reclassify to 2020 and Isaiah Jackson's weekend commitment. Already on board were high scoring and skilled wings Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston who should be able to give Coach Cal the kind of shooters he needs to open up the floor. Four-stars Lance Ware and Cam'Ron Fletcher are both athletes with upside.



The Big 12 has brought it during the early signing period. Led by Texas Tech at No. 5, the conference also landed Kansas (7), Oklahoma State (8), Baylor (13), Kansas State (18) and Iowa State (25) in the top 25 of the team rankings.

Last year's National Championship appearance is sure is paying off for Chris Beard and Tech. For the second year in a row they landed a five-star guard thanks to Nimari Burnett and wing Micah Peavy is a top 35 prospect.

Facing NCAA allegations, Bill Self and Kansas had a strong effort. Their relationship with five-star Bryce Thompson allowed them to win out and they had a terrific find in juco wing Tyon Grant-Foster.

Speaking of relationships, Oklahoma State assistant Cannen Cunningham's relationship with his brother Cade Cunningham surely played a big role in 2020's No. 2 player picking the Cowboys. Mike Boynton's team could still move into the top five, especially if they land forward J.T. Thor.

Baylor has a trio of four-star prospects on the way including in state scorer L.J. Cryer. A recent Elite 8 and Big 12 Conference title are paying off for Kansas State who picked up four Rivals150 players led by tough wing Selton Miguel. Iowa State won out over rival Iowa in a duel for coveted seven-footer Xavier Foster.



Penny Hardaway
Penny Hardaway (Jasen Vinlove/USATSI)


What a difference a year makes for Penny Hardaway and Memphis. After landing 2019's No. 1 class, the Tigers are without a commitment in 2020. Now, much of their 2019 class came onboard late and they will return plenty of talent next season so they aren't in desperate for replacements just yet. But, taking a collar on the early period isn't ideal.

Also not ideal is their very public feud with the NCAA over the eligibility of star freshman center James Wiseman. How things play out with that could have a big impact on their ability to recruit.

Their prime target remains 2020's No. 3 player Jalen Green. Originally scheduled to commit on Christmas, Green is going to take his time and more time for Memphis is a good thing.



Throughout much of the fall, hopes were high that Nate Oats' first class at Alabama would be a memorable one. They did land a four-star stretch forward in Keon Ambrose-Hylton and he certainly fit a need. But, imagine what this class would have looked like with either five-star big man Isaiah Jackson or five-star guard Nimari Burnett.

A huge part of Oats ascension has been his ability to identify under-the-radar talent. He and his staff are going to need that throughout the winter and spring as they look for SEC-level talent.



Only USC (12) and Utah (17) of the Pac-12 currently rank among the top 38 of the team rankings. That's, not good. It's pretty bad in fact.

The league has been getting picked on by national media for a few years now and looks to be up for the 2019-20 season. So, it's a bit of a disappointment to not see more success on the recruiting trail.

Now, that could change greatly over the coming months and it's probably Arizona and UCLA who have the best chances to make some noise. That's because they both have good shots to land difference makers. Sean Miller has Arizona right in it with top 10 wing Ziaire Williams (they are battling USC and Stanford). UCLA is hoping to pair their five-star point guard Daishen Nix with five-star shooting guard Josh Christopher.

There are too many good coaches and too much talent out West for the conference to not do better. If they want to continue the momentum they are getting on the floor this season, then they are going to have to do much better in the late signing period.