Rivals Rankings Week: Team rankings storylines to follow
Now that the 2021 Rivals150 is settled and the team rankings have adjusted, what are the storylines to watch? National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi takes a look.
RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK
Tuesday: Position rankings for class of 2021
Wednesday: Team rankings storylines for class of 2021
Thursday: Rivals150 for class of 2022
FLORIDA STATE’S EMERGENCE
Over the last couple of years, Leonard Hamilton has been getting more and more of the credit he deserves. Not only has he built Florida State into a team that is always tough to beat and competitive in the ACC, he and his staff have done an incredible job of finding under-the-radar talent and developing it. Just look at this year’s draft. Patrick Williams was a well-known five-star who did his thing for a year, but Devin Vassell was developed into a potential lottery pick just two years after leaving high school as an unranked three-star prospect.
Now, though, the Seminoles brand is getting some serious run nationally and they are getting a litany of big-time recuits. The FSU class is currently ranked No. 1 nationally and regardless of whether or not the 'Noles add any more pieces, it will finish ranked highly. Matthew Cleveland, Bryce McGowens and Jalen Warley all rank in the top 25 nationally. For as long as Hamilton is at the helm, it is clear that FSU is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
CAN DUKE PULL OFF THE 1-2 PUNCH?
The last time one program landed the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked prospects in the final Rivals150 it was Kentucky. Back in 2009, John Calipari and the Wildcats landed a pair of future NBA All-Stars in John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Others have come close since then but nobody has pulled it off. Could Duke make that breakthrough in the 2021 class?
Having already landed No. 2 Paolo Banchero, the Blue Devils are halfway there but some things still need to break their way. Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have been thought by many to be the leaders for current No. 1 Patrick Baldwin Jr. Can they finish the job and land him or could he choose to play for his father at Milwaukee or pick another blue blood like Kentucky or North Carolina? If he does pick the Blue Devils, can he and Banchero fend off Chet Holmgren and others to remain the top-two ranked players.
By the way, Duke also holds a commitment from the top-ranked small forward in the class, A.J. Griffin. If they could somehow add Baldwin to a class of Banchero and Griffin, then it may be tough to deny them the No. 1 spot.
JUST HOW GOOD CAN THE SPARTANS' CLASS BE?
Tom Izzo and Michigan State had a sizzling summer on the recruiting trail. Thanks to some serious heavy lifting, the Spartans own the No. 5 ranked class in 2021 and the No. 1 ranked class in 2022. But, there’s a chance that the 2021 class of five-star Max Christie and homegrown four-stars Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks could become much stronger thanks to their 2022 success.
High four-star Canadian big man Enoch Boakye is expected by most to eventually move to the class of 2021. If that were to happen today, Sparty’s class moves up to No. 2. The real excitement, though, is what could happen if high school basketball’s best player Emoni Bates chooses to reclassify and spend some time in East Lansing?
A year ago the thought of a prodigious talent like Bates making a stop in college seemed far-fetched, now maybe that thought isn’t quite so far-fetched. Were Bates to make that move, it could make for a special run during the 2021-22 season.
WHO WILL BE THIS YEAR’S SURPRISE TEAM?
Each year there is a team that kind of sneaks up and surprises everybody with what they do on the recruiting trail. Who will it be this year?
At least based on the early returns, it is looking like Baylor. Which is kind of funny. For years, the knock against Scott Drew has been that he can really recruit but doesn’t do much with elite talent. The fact is, this, while Drew can recruit, he’s actually been building the Bears into a Final Four contender through finding under-the-radar guys, developing dudes for four years and winning in the transfer game.
Look at this year’s team. Jared Butler was cut loose late by Alabama before heading to Waco as a lower-end Rivals150 guy. Mark Vital wasn’t a chump, but he wasn’t a five-star either and he’s been built into an elite glue player for the Bears. It goes on and on. Now, though, they are back to landing big time players like five-star Kendall Brown that fit the culture they have built. So who joins them?
Tad Boyle and Colorado are out there putting together a sneaky-good class and may have stolen one in big man Lawson Lovering. Mississippi has some potential to make moves. DePaul is recruiting well even though Dave Leitao is potentially on a hot seat. Texas is putting together one of their best classes under Shaka Smart. Who else out there makes a move?
KENTUCKY OR CAROLINA, WHO GETS THE MONSTER CLASS?
Of course, it’s almost impossible to discuss team recruiting rankings without hitting on other bluebloods. Kansas is off to a solid start and so is UCLA. They could both end up with really strong classes. However, it looks like Kentucky and North Carolina are best situated for a potentially great class. Will it be the Cats or the Heels? Could it be both?
The domino here is going to be 2021’s No. 6 ranked player Hunter Sallis. Sure, he could stay home and go to Creighton or he could give Kansas a real boost. But, if a bet had to be made as of today, it would be for either UK or UNC. They each have a solid four-star to start things off – Nolan Hickman for UK and Dontrez Styles for UNC – but landing Sallis would really jump start things for their classes.
It’s not just Sallis they are dueling over, though, they also appear to be the leaders for 2022 five-star point guard Skyy Clark. Clark is another who could reclassify to 2021. Conventional thought is that they don’t go to the same school, but nobody should completely rule out the idea of Clark and Sallis ending up in the same place.
Kentucky is also right there for former Louisville commit Bryce Hopkins, making a run at coming from behind to beat Texas and Oklahoma for five-star big man Daimion Collins and involved with other big names like Pat Baldwin Jr. Baldwin Jr. remains a big target for UNC as well and they are also targeting the likes of Caleb Houstan, Harrison Ingram, Trey Kaufman and D’Marco Dunn among others.
Looking across the country, there might not be two programs more tied together when it comes to chasing available 2021 talent.