Evans Seven: Programs with big official visits this weekend
The first major official visit weekend of the year begins, and this week we highlight the most important visits. Much is on the line at Louisville, Michigan, NC State and Pitt, among others, as those programs take center stage in this week’s Evans Seven.
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The Cardinals enter the month of September without a commitment from a member of the 2020 class, but they will hope to change that this weekend. They ended August by hosting top junior college standout and local product Jayden Scrubb for another unofficial visit and will bring one of the best sophomores in America, Chris Livingston, and highly regarded Midwesterner, Bryce Hopkins, to campus on Saturday. The fireworks then begin on Sunday. Josh Hall, a five-star small forward, will take his first official visit with NC State on the docket the next week. His commitment is not expected to be made until the fall. Zach Loveday will also be on campus, and he is one of the top available centers. Devin Askew caps things off, and while he has been adamant about remaining in his current 2021 class, the elite playmaker could still take the leap into the 2020 class if the right opportunity is presented. Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon and Villanova sit among the group chasing after the Cardinals, who are in a great spot.
Juwan Howard didn’t wait long before bringing in some top hitters. Michigan will host not one, but two, five-star prospects this weekend. Jaden Springer, one of the most talented and also one of the younger members of the 2020 class, will head to Ann Arbor as he kicks off his official visit tour. He also has visits scheduled for Florida, Memphis, North Carolina and Tennessee, and is expected to sign in the fall. The Wolverines are not looked upon as a favorite, but they do have an in, thanks to assistant coach Phil Martelli, who coached Springer's older cousin, DeAndre Bembry, at St. Joe’s. The Wolverines will also host top-tier center Walker Kessler. Auburn has gained most of the talk of late, but Duke, Gonzaga and North Carolina also remain in the hunt. Kessler is the likeliest of the two to commit to the Wolverines, but they are playing catch-up with both. Each would be key staples to Howard’s takeover of the Big Ten program.
3. NC STATE
NC State will bring to campus two of its commits and is attempting to turn two official visitors into Wolfpack pledges, as well. Nick Farrar committed to the program earlier this month, while junior guard Terquavion Smith did the same earlier this year. Top in-state products, Dontrez Styles, JaDun Michael, Zaharee Maddox and Carter Whitt will be on campus, as will top-25 junior Quincy Allen. Those players will be taking unofficial visits to the ACC program. However, most of the attention will be focused on John Hugley and Deivon Smith. NC State received their first official visits, but are in the best spot for Smith. He will visit Louisville next weekend and the prevailing thought is that the Wolfpack and Cardinals will vie for his signature, which will likely come in November. For Hugley, Miami and Pitt are two to keep an eye on, though NC State has picked up ground in recent weeks.
4. OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes already have two commitments in the 2021 class, but they remain with a goose egg in the 2020 class. They will hope to change that this weekend, though they are playing catch-up with Lance Ware, who will begin his official visit tour. The Buckeyes have an uphill battle to climb against Kentucky and Michigan, but Ware would answer a lot of their frontcourt concerns if they did manage to pull off the surprise. Expect Ware to move on to his following his visits without committing as the Buckeyes attempt to get a leg up this weekend. Another solid four-star prospect, Moses Moody, will visit Ohio State. Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Oregon are a few others to watch with the shot-making wing, but OSU is in a good spot. The Buckeyes have two primary needs this fall: a versatile forward and a giant wing. Ware and Moody would be the ideal two-man class for Chris Holtmann.
Jeff Capel is hoping this fall will be different than last year, when the Panthers came up short with a number of their top targets. They did find a way to finish the year out strong, but it came with great anxiety. That anxiety could be erased this time around with pledges from players on campus this weekend. Cliff Omoruyi, a top 60 prospect, will take an unofficial visit to Oakland. Pitt has been connected with Omoruyi often, but the Panthers remain in catch-up mode. Earl Timberlake will be on an official visit. No one has a great feel with where he's leaning, but the Panthers have developed a great rapport with the versatile wing. Visits will likely be taken to Alabama, Miami, North Carolina and Seton Hall, and Providence and South Carolina also remain involved. The likeliest visitor to commit is Noah Collier, who is down to a final three and would be the ideal, run-and-jump 4-man for Capel and his staff. Cal and Clemson are also in the mix take to land his services.
Shaka Smart has begun most of his recruiting classes in Austin earlier than others, which puts him in a peculiar situation, since he holds zero commitments. That could change soon, as Osa Ighodaro will be making an official visit, and he's expected to announce his college decision shortly after his trip to UT. The Longhorns have some ground to make up, and Marquette and Stanford are the two to beat. Bryce Thompson is making a surprise visit to the Big 12 program. The Longhorns were rarely connected with the five-star before he announced his final seven, and they have a lot of work to do if they want to notch his commitment. Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the three to beat. Lastly, Rondel Walker, the travel teammate of top forward target Greg Brown, will be making an unofficial visit. Texas will be trying to make up ground with all three on campus.
7. WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia already sits with the commitment of four-star big man Isaiah Cottrell, and it will attempt to add another to its frontcourt this weekend. The top in-state prospect that will take a prep year this fall, Jalen Bridges, begins his official visit tour. The Fairmont native will make the short drive to Morgantown and get an even better feel for what the Big 12 program has to offer. Miami and Xavier are the two to beat for Bridges, who has four other official visits scheduled for the fall before a signing is made in November. Bridges could definitely warm up to the in-state program, but Tajj Thweatt is the more likely player to commit. The three-star forward out of New Jersey is down to a final four that also includes Florida, Penn State and Temple. Could the Mountaineers be on commitment watch this weekend? They are in a very good spot with the athletic and tough-nosed forward, and will be doing their best to double their 2020 class before Monday arrives.