Evans Seven: Midnight Madness events prompt important visits
The commitments keep coming, which is clarifying how the team rankings might look at the end of the Early Signing Period in November. This weekend could bring even more verbal commitments, thanks to a vast amount of elite talent hitting the road for official visits. In this week’s Evans Seven, we take a closer look at which programs have the most on the line, including Arizona, Louisville, Nebraska and North Carolina, as programs across the nation host Midnight Madness festivities.
The Red-Blue Game always draws a crowd, and this year Arizona will host four official visitors and a slew of other highly coveted younger prospects on Friday evening for its Midnight Madness type of festivities. It will be about securing talent for next year’s roster but also creating a stronger foundation for future years. One of those official visitors will be Dalen Terry, who is already committed to the Pac-12 program. Joining him will be his high school teammate, Puff Johnson. The top 50 wing’s father played with Sean Miller at Pitt and is thought to be an Arizona lean, though he does have visits set for North Carolina and Ohio State. Kerwin Walton could be on commitment watch as the sharpshooter from Minnesota will join the talented duo, as will Nathan Bittle, a top 15 junior. Others, including Jaden Hardy, Devin Askew, Will McClendon, DaRon Holmes, Dylan Anderson, Dylan Andrews and Isael Silva are also expected on campus.
2. FLORIDA STATE
Florida State did a great job of sneaking 7-footer Hunter Dickinson onto its campus last week and according to sources, he should be labeled as the dark horse for the program and it would not surprise if the Seminioles were to land him. Could another heavily touted prospect potentially join Dickinson next fall in Tallahassee? The end of the road may be near for Scottie Barnes. The in-state prospect will make the short trip to the ACC program and get another look at FSU, this being his second official visit there in the past 12 months. Oregon is the leader for Barnes, and defeating the Ducks may be difficult, but the lure of playing close to home and for a program that has invested so much into recruiting him could win out. This is an FSU-Oregon battle. Four-star junior Bryce McGowens will join Barnes on campus Saturday.
Louisville enters the new college season with hopes of making a run at the Final Four, and the Cardinals will kick things off on Friday evening with their Louisville Live event. Top junior college wing and local talent Jayden Scrubb will be on campus, and while he will not commit until the spring and could jump directly to the NBA, if he does choose the college path Louisville is the likeliest landing spot. Jaemyn Brakeifeld has a similar trajectory toward his college decision, but the Cards will do their best to get a leg up with the four-star prospect. Rivals150 big men JJ Traynor and Gethro Muscadin will be on campus, as will five-star junior Khristian Lander, who will be taking an official visit to the ACC program. Zion Harmon, AJ Casey, Trey Kaufman and Bryce Hopkins are among the others who will be on hand, equating to one of the more jam-packed weekends for talent that we will see all year long for one specific program.
Juwan Howard has yet to strike in the 2020 class (though he does have the commitment of Zeb Jackson, who pledged to the previous staff), which makes this weekend in Ann Arbor vitally important. Isaiah Todd is the headliner who will begin his fall official visit tour. North Carolina has hosted Todd a number of times in recent weeks in the unofficial variety, and Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis remain involved. The Wolverines are the sneaky dark horse for the five-star, but they still must beat the in-state Tar Heels for his commitment. Joining him will be Moses Moody, a four-star wing from Arkansas, who played at Montverde Academy this fall with Jackson. The Wolverines have really picked things up with Moody. Arkansas, Florida and Oregon are three others to watch, but no one has gained more ground with him in recent weeks than the Big Ten program.
Much has been said about Minnesota and its inability to keep the very best from its state at home for college. The Golden Gophers have built their roster with a few in-state standouts, but landing the elite has remained out of their grasp. They are hoping to change that this weekend when Dawson Garcia comes to campus for an official visit. The top 35 forward is down to a final seven, but he has decided to speed up his recruitment and is now expected to sign early. Marquette has garnered most of the talk of late, but that could change this weekend. Richard Pitino is hoping the idea of playing in front of his friends and family - all while being the go-to guy - could ultimately win out. Garcia will not be alone, as one of the summer’s top breakouts, Martice Mitchell, will also be on campus. The Rivals150 big man has tremendous upside and will visit the Gophers after seeing Xavier last weekend.
The Fred Hoiberg era will officially begin Friday evening as Nebraska will host the Opening Night, the Huskers' rendition of Midnight Madness, and it will bring some of the nation’s best to Lincoln. Four official visitors will have the chance to see what Hoiberg has set into motion upon his hiring this spring, including Tibet Gorener and Frank Anselem, the latter of which could reclassify into the 2020 class later this year. Also on hand will be juniors Jordan Nesbitt and Wilhelm Breidenbach. None are expected to commit during their visit, but the Huskers have picked up traction with each lately and are in the best position for Gorener. Joining those four will be Hunter Sallis and Gradey Dick. Both will be taking unofficial visits, with Sallis making a return trip to Nebraska. He previously visited when Tim Miles was head coach.
7. NORTH CAROLINA
It's a huge weekend for North Carolina, as the annual Late Night with Roy festivities will kick off with a plethora of elite talent that holds the blueblood program in high regard. Day’Ron Sharpe will be on campus and the already committed UNC center will be bringing with him the nation’s top available senior, Cade Cunningham. Cunningham was once thought to be a heavy Oklahoma State lean, but his recruitment is a bit more open than previously thought, with Carolina sitting in the best spot to pull him away from the Pokes. His travel teammate, Greg Brown, will take an unofficial visit to UNC, as will his good friend, Ziaire Williams, who will be taking his own official visit to UNC. Paolo Banchero will also begin his official visit tour as rumors continue to swirl around a potential reclassification into the 2020 class. Several other unofficial visits could also take place this weekend, but expect most of the Tar Heels' attention to be geared toward Cunningham, Brown and Williams.