How opening weekend of March Madness will impact recruiting
We give our top 10 takeaways and potential ramifications from college basketball’s spotlight weekend.
1. BOB HUGGINS HITS OHIO
West Virginia defeated Notre Dame to secure its place in the Sweet 16 in a game held in Buffalo, N.Y. Less than four hours later in Columbus, Ohio, Bob Huggins was front and center taking a look at two of his top targets for the future. Jeremiah Francis, a 2019 guard out of Pickerington Central, and Jerome Hunter, a top-75 junior forward, went at it in a state playoff game. Most would retreat back to campus and enjoy the day; Huggins showed the priority that the Mountaineer staff has placed on the Buckeye State natives.
2. CREIGHTON MAY HAVE ITS FRONTCOURT IN PLACE
A few dominoes may have fallen this past week for Creighton. While the Jays were knocked out of the first round, their future may have received a bump. Justin Patton, one of the top big man prospects in this year’s NBA Draft, was thought to be long gone for the league as recently as a month ago. However, his lack of strength and efficiency down the stretch may have hurt his cause, which should equate to another year in Omaha. Throw in the recent commitment of Jacob Epperson, a high upside and skilled big man, and Creighton has a duo that could cause headaches together in the paint.
3. IOWA STATE NEEDS A BIG
Look for Iowa State to add another big man from the 2017 class, whether it is through the junior college ranks or the transfer wire, or to pursue a handful of capable low post bigs in the 2018 crop. Against Purdue on Saturday, the Cyclones received just five points from their frontcourt; that is just not going to do it. They do bring in Cam Lard and Tennessee transfer Ray Kasongo and they've been involved with junior college forward Shakur Juiston and prep school forward Alex Yetna this winter.
4. KEVIN KEATTS’ SUCCESS
UNC-Wilmington won more games in three years under Kevin Keatts than it had in the seven years prior to his hiring. The one-time Hargrave Military Academy head coach is now off to the biggest of stages – the ACC. Hired as the head coach at NC State on Friday, Keatts used the NCAA Tournament’s platform to show off his coaching acumen and talented roster in consecutive years. While both of his squads went down in defeat to now two of his conferences peers in Duke and Virginia, NC State may have found a keeper.
5. VIRGNIA COVETS A PLAYMAKER
There has been much griping about Virginia’s inability to score in past years but this season things reached a breaking point. The Cavaliers struggled to score against Florida on Saturday as it was evidently clear they just didn’t have enough playmakers on the floor. Losing London Perrantes is going to hurt and maybe the offseason developments of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall will help, but expect for the Wahoos’ coaching staff to prioritize a shot creator from the 2018 class. Recent names that have been thrown on their radar include Mike DeVoe and Naftali Alvarez while Jahvon Quinerly, Robert Phinisee and Darius Garland remain just as important.
6. KERMIT DAVIS RAISES HIS STOCK
Last year, Middle Tennessee shocked the world by defeating second-seeded Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Blue Raiders took it to another Big Ten program beating Minnesota. While his team was ousted by Butler on Saturday, Kermit Davis has seen his stock soar within the past 52 weeks and because of it, will be atop of the list of coaching candidates at LSU and Oklahoma State.
7. RHODE ISLAND IMPROVES NAME
Dan Hurley has slowly built Rhode Island's roster full of NBA prospects. The Rams were finally able to break through and earn a place in the NCAA Tournament this year where they went a step further by upsetting Creighton on Friday. What this could equate to in the end is a greater reach with some of its top local targets. Located in a talent-heavy region, Rhode Island could use this success to further impress its top targets in the 2018 class: Anthony Nelson, Omar Silverio, Cole Swider and Malik Martin.
8. COACHING CHANGES
Illinois, South Florida, Missouri, Washington and NC State have already found their head coach. Indiana, LSU and California remain open, which could mean a very hasty spring recruiting period with a bevy of top talent reopening their college recruitments. Illinois and Washington had secured a top-10 class nationally, Indiana and California were one step behind with a top-25 group, and the Michael Porter/Jontay Porter saga only adds more intrigue to the next month or so before the late singing period begins.
9. SMALL GUARD BACKCOURTS GAIN VALUE
Are we at the stage where college programs may begin to place greater value on smaller guard backcourts? The rage in recent years has been on the small-ball power forward, the guy that can defend various spots, make shots and plays. The next rage may be on throwing out multiple point guard lineups. Look around the remaining field of contenders and many of these schools are already doing just that – West Virginia, Purdue, Kansas, UNC and Florida are just a few that have gone in this direction. Expect for the crop of backcourt prospects in 2018 to be trounced by the top college programs as one lead guard might not be enough.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA GAINS POWER
Frank Martin has beaten some of the big boys for top-tier recruits in recent years (PJ Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell), but by knocking off Duke on Sunday evening, the South Carolina name may ring loud and clear. While the area doesn’t boast a litany of top flight prospects, it does hold three elite players from the 2018 and 2019 classes. Five-star junior Zion Williamson along with top-30 sophomores Christian Brown and Juwan Gary hail from South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ win could go far in luring one of these prized recruits to Columbia one day soon.