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Evans Seven: Class of 2020 boom-or-bust potential

In less than a week, the lone travel live period will commence and give us an even greater idea of which program is prioritizing which prospect. In this week’s #EvansSeven, we assess which schools’ 2020 classes have the greater boom-or-bust potential reflected by whether those recruits they’ll be watching next week end up committing.

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2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150

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1. NORTH CAROLINA

Hunter Dickinson
Hunter Dickinson (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

It can’t be deja vu all over again in Chapel Hill? While UNC completed the spring in great fashion, if it wasn’t for Buzz Williams and Tony Shaver leaving their former employers, would Carolina fans be as optimistic entering next season? Having already secured the commitment of five-star DayRon Sharpe, the Heels would love to add another big body alongside of him. Hunter Dickinson just landed a UNC offer and so did his high school teammate, Earl Timberlake.

Bryce Thompson has a strong familiar tie to the program and Isaiah Todd lives just 25 minutes away from UNC. Puff Johnson has been on campus a number of times thanks to his brother’s time playing for the program and UNC's chances with Ziaire Williams and Greg Brown remain strong. Jaden Springer, Walker Kessler and Dawson Garcia also hold UNC offers but we have seen this before; the Tar Heels were in a great spot with Tre Mann, Josh Green, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Matt Hurt this time last year only to see things unravel.

It is boom-or-bust time again in Chapel Hill.

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2. ILLINOIS

DJ Steward
DJ Steward (Bob Blanchard / Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame)

Just as always, things begin and end with keeping the top talent from the state home for college. Illinois just hosted top-35 guard DJ Steward and is squarely in the mix for Adam Miller. The Illini will not get both but one would do. They are also attempting to tilt Miller’s travel teammate, Ryan Kalkbrenner, toward their favor.

They must strike at the wing position this year, too, as they have begun to more actively recruit DJ Gordon and Jalen Bridges, and could have a chance with Cliff Omoruyi, Andre Curbelo, Marcus Watson and Nimari Burnett. They just hosted Utah transfer Donnie Tillman and sit in a good spot for him as he could count, in a way, as a class of 2020 pick-up.

However, what if he decides against the Illini, Steward choose Louisville, Miller opts for Kansas and Kalkbrenner nudges selects Stanford? Much is on the line this month as Illinois attempts to resupply its cupboard with regional talent.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH ILLINOIS FANS AT ORANGEANDBLUENEWS.COM

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3. OKLAHOMA STATE

Cade Cunningham
Cade Cunningham (Jon Lopez/Jon Lopez Creative @NikeEYB)

It all revolves around Cade Cunningham. One must be living under a rock if they hadn’t heard the news by now that Mike Boynton hired the older brother of the second-ranked prospect. Very rarely does a family member’s hiring not lead to the commitment of the respective prospect and very rarely does the second-ranked player in America choose a non-blueblood program. If it works out, it was a tremendous hire because, not only is Cunningham well worth it, but he is the type that others would love to play alongside.

The Cowboys are a strong competitor for five-star guard Bryce Thompson and Cunningham’s decision first could be the domino that forces Thompson’s hand. Jaylin Williams, a top-75 center, has been on the Stillwater campus a few times already. Rondel Walker, Mike Miles, and Jon Aku are a few others that they are involved with. If Cunningham comes, Stillwater will be rocking. If not, things could go down the wrong path and in a quick fashion.

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4. MICHIGAN STATE

Bryce Thompson
Bryce Thompson (https://rivals.com)

The Spartans did early work in the 2020 class coming in the form of top-50 guard Jalen Terry. However, who comes next and when is the most pressing question. They might have been in the pole position for CamRon Fletcher just weeks ago but then Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina offered which may have changed things.

No one really knows which way Bryce Thompson or Mady Sissoko might be leaning and while MSU could win out, coming up short with each is definitely a strong option, too. Regional targets Carlos Johnson and Isaiah Jackson are there for the taking but both could feel as if the frontcourt is already crowded and decide that they would rather have greater minutes allotted as freshmen compared with what might be allotted at MSU. The 2020 class could go in a lot of directions and it has the potential to finish as a top-five group.

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*****

5. AUBURN

BJ Boston
BJ Boston (Jon Lopez/Nike @NikeEYB)

Bruce Pearl made a quick push with his 2020 class in the form of Justin Powell. It is also his friendship with five-star center Walker Kessler that could transform Auburn into a national title contender a year from now. To land his commitment, the Tigers must defeat Gonzaga, Michigan, and North Carolina. However, his visit to Auburn last month went great and the Tigers are hoping that Powell gives his first assist as a member of the program.

Sharife Cooper and BJ Boston, travel teammates, have created great chemistry and could potentially play at the next level together. Greg Brown is high on the Tigers as are Jayden Stone and Jaden Springer, two talented guards that visited the campus together. The chances of the 2020 class becoming a bust is very minimal but say Kessler decides to attend UNC, Cooper and Boston go in separate directions and Tennessee and Baylor, respectively, land Springer and Stone … then what?

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6. GONZAGA

Walker Kessler
Walker Kessler

Mark Few’s program has become a destination for some of the top talent across the world. He has already landed the commitments of four-star juniors Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther. If they were to stop there, it would be a solid two-man group but the Bulldogs are now chasing the big fish. Thanks to the hiring of Roger Powell, who was formerly employed at Vanderbilt, they are in a great spot for Walker Kessler. Powell developed a great relationship with the five-star prospect over the years and thanks to their tremendous track record with big men, the Bulldogs might be the darkhorse for the Georgia native.

Another is Jalen Suggs, a five-star guard out of Minnesota. He would be a tremendous addition but he could decide he’d rather play in the Big Ten while Kessler chooses to stay closer to home. It is a good class now; it could also be much better.

*****

7. MIAMI

Deivon Smith
Deivon Smith (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Miami responded to its down 2018 recruiting cycle with a nice bounceback, solid 2019 group. Jim Larranaga and his staff are hoping for much better this time around as they have positioned themselves in a great spot with a handful of Rivals150 prospects. Deivon Smith has been one of their top targets in recent months but Alabama, Louisville and Oregon have done just the same.

Figuring out a list for Andre Curbelo is nearly impossible but the Hurricanes are a potential suitor. Lynn Greer remains a target as Larranaga just attended one of his games last week. Puff Johnson is a possibility as he works out near Miami’s campus for weeks at a time. Matt Cross has already visited Miami and will likely commit next month. Jamille Reynolds is a big man that the Canes sit in his final six for as they have gained traction with Jon Aku, too.

However, there is not one, singular prospect that the Canes lead for which, if things don’t play out accordingly, could blow up in their faces and leave The U scrambling later this fall.

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