Making the case: Five-star forward Brian Bowen
The situation: A native of Saginaw, Mich., "Tugs" has been playing at high school powerhouse La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere for the last two seasons. Early in his recruitment, it was figured that he would be a virtual lock to end up at Michigan State. However, that sentiment started to fade in the late summer and early fall as Bowen kept pushing back his timetable for making a decision. All the while, Arizona was rumored to be making a huge run behind the scenes.
Last weekend, Bowen took his official visit to Michigan State; he has now seen the Spartans, Arizona, Creighton, N.C. State and Texas officially. During January he had indicated that a decision could come within days of the completion of his last official visit. While there is currently no set timetable for a commitment, we still expect that he will decide at some point during the month of February. We asked our team experts to state the case for their respective programs and let National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi issue a verdict.
THE CASE FOR ARIZONA
"When you look at the class that Sean Miller and his staff at Arizona are trying to build for 2017, there is a clear plan in place. The Wildcats have accounted for every position so far with the four recruits they signed during the early period except for one. Although Arizona can use the shooting guard and small forward positions interchangeably on the wing in Miller's system, being able to land a true small forward like Brian Bowen would complete what looks like will ultimately end up a five-man class. Bowen is the missing piece that would help the 'Cats add some more length on the wing and complete the group. It felt like Arizona was closing in on a commitment in December only to have Bowen delay his decision once more. He has established a strong relationship with Miller, Joe Pasternack and the members of Arizona's 2017 class, and adding a piece like Bowen to DeAndre Ayton and the rest of the group would give the program one of its most complete classes in recent memory." Matt Moreno, GoAzCats.com
THE CASE FOR CREIGHTON
"Creighton has been recruiting Tugs since assistant coach Preston Murphy was hired in June of 2015. Coach Murphy and Tugs share the same hometown in Saginaw, Mich. So they have a very good relationship. Tugs has been on Creighton's campus three times. Last season he took an unofficial visit on Feb. 9 and saw Creighton upset then-No. 4 Xavier. He then took his official visit to the Hilltop on Nov. 11 for the Jays' home opener against UMKC. I talked to him after his official visit and he told me that the Creighton staff really rolled out the red carpet for him. Tugs likes Creighton's style of play, Coach Mac and most importantly the fan support. Jays fans thought that would be the last they saw of Tugs in Omaha, but his entire La Lumiere basketball team came to town and attended Creighton's match-up with then-No. 1 Villanova. Personally, I don't think many national recruiting experts have given Creighton much chance to land Bowen, but because of Coach Murphy's relationship with Bowen and his family, I expect them to be in it until the very end." Heath Gunderson, Bluejaybanter.com
FOR MORE CREIGHTON NEWS: BluejayBanter.com
THE CASE FOR MICHIGAN STATE
"Beyond his in-state connection as a kid from Saginaw, Bowen has a link to the Michigan State program through his uncle, Jason Richardson, who won a national championship and played in two Final Fours before being selected No. 5 overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. As a freshman, Bowen would replace one-and-done superstar Miles Bridges as Michigan State’s primary scorer in a potent backcourt featuring elite passing point guard Cassius Winston and versatile battery mate Josh Langford, a McDonald’s All-American. Led by sophomore Nick Ward, an emerging star at power forward, the Spartans should have the pieces necessary for a championship-caliber frontcourt with the addition of five-star forward Jaren Jackson Jr., an elite stretch four, and blue-collar banger Xavier Tillman. Gavin Schilling, who is redshirting this season due to injury, provides the Spartans with a rare high-level ball-screen defender. Without Bowen in this class, however, Michigan State lacks the elite shooting guard necessary for a Final Four run. With Bowen, Michigan State is a national championship contender." Paul Konyndyk, SpartanMag.com
"This is a really tough one, and that it is now looking like Bowen may take a little longer to decide isn't making it any easier. I suspect he wants as clear a vision as possible as to who will be back and who is leaving for the NBA. In that regard Michigan State should benefit, because nobody sees Miles Bridges coming back, and it's easy to pencil Bowen into that spot. Then again, there has been so much talk about Arizona being the leader that it's hard to go against them. For now, I'm going with a gut call and saying Bowen ends up in his home state playing for the Spartans." Eric Bossi, Rivals.com National Basketball Analyst