{{ timeAgo('2019-09-28 07:54:01 -0500') }} basketball Edit

Rivals Roundtable: '20 team recruiting, surprises, commit watch

Terrence Clarke
Terrence Clarke (https://rivals.com)

The battle for the top spot in 2020’s team recruiting rankings is looking like a clash of the bluebloods. In this week’s Rivals Roundtable, analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald discuss that race, 2020’s most surprising commitments and give their weekly commitment watch.

More: Auburn lands five-star Sharife Cooper

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

1. There's a serious battle of the blue bloods brewing for the top class in 2020. Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina, who you got? Is there any darkhorse with a chance to beat them?

John Calipari
John Calipari (Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated)

Bossi: I wrote a few weeks ago that I had my eye on Kentucky -- whose class is currently headlined by top five shooting guard Terrence Clarke -- to return to the top spot in the team rankings after a string of No. 2 finishes in previous years. Oddly enough, if they pull it off I think that they are going to have North Carolina to thank for it because when the Heels landed Walker Kessler, it probably took just enough away from Duke’s class to help the Wildcats finish No. 1 by the time all the big-time players finish deciding next spring. Duke is still right on UK’s bumper after getting Henry Coleman on Friday, but for now I still like John Calipari to add enough additional firepower to hold Coah K and the Blue Devils off. As for darkhorses, Oregon should never be counted out and Auburn could still go quite big, but it’s going to be hard for anybody else to top Duke, UK and UNC.

Evans: I am not sure I can recall a year that we saw three blue bloods separate themselves from the pack so early on and it looks like it is going to stay that way the rest of the way. Kentucky has the lead and I just do not see them giving it up. All three will definitely make another strike within the top-50 of the Rivals150 with Henry Coleman just giving the Blue Devils another interior force on Friday, and it would not surprise to see Caleb Love commit to UNC on Tuesday. However, I feel pretty good that Kentucky can snag Devin Askew and that he might reclassify later on in the year, and that the Wildcats will add another piece to its frontcourt along the lines of Isaiah Todd, Cliff Omoruyi and/or Isaiah Jackson which, to me, would look to be enough to finish as the top class in America.

McDonald: It's definitely been a great start to the 2020 recruiting cycle for those three blue bloods. Assuming North Carolina is able to land Caleb Love, I really like the class Roy Williams is putting together. With Love and two five-star big men in the fold in Walker Kessler and Day'Ron Sharpe, adding some firepower on the wing becomes a priority and my guess is it won't be terribly hard to sway another top prospect or two with those three in the fold.

2. Of the 2020 players that have committed, whose choice was the most surprising to you? Why?

Walker Kessler
Walker Kessler (https://rivals.com)

Bossi: Corey and Dan want to peer pressure me into going with Walker Kessler to UNC here and it’s a worthy pick. But, I think they have it covered. Instead I want to mention two that stand out to me. I’m not as surprised that Daishen Nix picked UCLA, but I’m really surprised how quickly the five-star point guard came off the board. Mick Cronin and his staff made up a lot of ground quickly and it wasn’t until a day or two before he announced in August that it became clear Nix was on a much faster track to a decision than expected. Then last week, Ryan Kalkbrenner picked Creighton. Up until the last day or so before he committed, I really expected he would pick a school with a more established rep for playing through their big men like Purdue.

Evans: I would honestly be surprised if Dan and Eric do not pick Walker Kessler here, too, because I don’t see anyone surprising us more than he did by picking UNC. Most thougtht the Tobacco Road program he would picki was going to be Duke. Well, until late Sunday evening when he committed to the Tar Heels. Auburn had garnered most of the talk this summer, while Gonzaga and Michigan were two others that were sneaking around. Not much attention was given to UNC and in light of somerecent recruiting misses, it all adds up to the most stunning commitment in the 2020 class from a five-star prospect.

McDonald: I'm betting Eric and Corey both respond with Walker Kessler here. It's probably the right pick because North Carolina did make a pretty strong of a comeback over the last couple months and there really haven't been that many surprising commitments in the 2020 class. With Kessler, I was more surprised by the timing than I was by the choice. I thought going into the weekend a strong visit could sway him to the Tar Heels because they had been trending in a big way for a few weeks, but I didn't expect for him to call me to announce his commitment at 10:15 on Sunday night fresh off the visit. I thought it would happen this weekend or possibly into early October.

3. It's a fall weekend, so you know what the final question is going to be. Who are you putting on commitment watch?

Deivon Smith
Deivon Smith (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Bossi: The plan here was to go with Sharife Cooper because he seemed like a layup for Auburn. But, he got his commitment out of the way on Friday night. So, with Cooper off the board I'm going to play a hunch and go with Puff Johnson to Arizona. I know, I know. He still has some other visits left, most notably to North Carolina who I see as the Wildcats toughest competition. But, with him in school in Arizona now, his older brother playing for the Phoenix Suns and his family's connection to Sean Miller I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Johnson go ahead and end things.

Evans: There is a slew of midnight madness festivities which will bring plenty of visitors to college campuses across the nation this weekend and while it might be difficult to pin-point one exact commit, there are a few that I am keeping an eye on. Arizona has Puff Johnson and Kerwin Walton on campus; I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the two sharpshooters commits to the Wildcats before Monday rolls around. At Stanford, Noah Taitz is expected to be on campus and I could see the Cardinal pushing for an early pledge from the Rivals150 guard. Lastly, John Hugley will visit Pitt for the second consecutive weekend and while he has been adamant about taking all of his visits before deciding, don’t be shocked if Hugley gives his pledge to the Panthers despite having a Kansas State visit aligned for next weekend.

McDonald: Like Eric, I was going to go with Sharife Cooper to Auburn. So, instead I'll go with another Atlanta area point guard, Deivon Smith. Smith is visiting this weekend Miami after seeing Mississippi State last weekend and Louisville earlier in the month. Georgia Tech is also in the mix. But, it's an unofficial to Georgia a few days ago that caught my attention enough for me to change my Futurecast to the Bulldogs. I don't think this one is over and certainly the others still have good chances, but there seems to be some momentum for Tom Crean on this one.