Rivals Roundtable: Early signing period storylines
The early signing period begins on Wednesday, naturally national analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald have plenty of thoughts leading up to it. During this weekend’s Rivals Roundtable, the guys discuss a handful of signing day related topics.
1. What program stands to gain or lose the most during the early signing period?
Bossi: The clear answer is Arkansas. New coach Eric Musselman got the job just in time to try and load up with a tremendous group of products raised in the Natural State. Four-star combo guard Davonte Davis is the first to say yes. Top 50 wing Moses Moody decides on Saturday night, four-star point guard KK Robinson decides soon, four-star forward Chris Moore has a decision next Saturday and four-star big Jaylin Williams is almost done with his visits. Any two of them would be huge, more than that and it’s cause for a party.
Evans: When it comes to who might commit during the early period, Alabama is the program that has the most on the line. There is a chance Nimari Burnett could sign early now and we already know that five-star Isaiah Jackson is deciding. Four-star Keon Ambrose-Hylton is expected to end his college recruitment sometime in the coming days and that is three of the Tide’s top targets that will either create a tremendous first year class for Nate Oats, or send them back to the drawing board and scrambling through the spring.
McDonald: Alabama is swinging for the fences in Oats' first full cycle as the head coach, and a few of his top targets plan on making decisions during the early signing period. Jackson took an official visit to the school last month and has a commitment date set for next Saturday. Burnett is another coming off the board next week. Alabama has yet to land a 2020 commitment, but could leave the early signing with two instant impact prospects in the fold.
2. Of the players committing in the next week or so, whose decision is most important?
Bossi: I’m going to go with five-star Burnett here. He’s been so tough to read and I can legitimately see him ending up at any of his finalists of Alabama, Michigan, Oregon or Texas Tech and he’s a difference-maker for all of them. His announcement comes on Tuesday and he’s going to get the signing period off to an explosive start for somebody.
Evans: Bryce Thompson. The five-star guard is down to a final four that consists of Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. I don’t see him choosing UNC seeing that they are full for the fall and distance could be factor, too. Does he give OK State another tremendous piece in the backcourt and raise the program’s ceiling even higher alongside Cade Cunningham? Does he buy into the allure of the OU program and have a team entirely built around him similar to Trae Young three years ago? Is he the one to change the narrative at Kansas and make it okay to for a top-flight prospect to commit to KU despite the allegations surrounding it? The importance of his decision weighs heavily on all of those involved.
McDonald: Thompson's decision will be a big one for whatever school lands him, but also for the schools that miss out on him. Kansas is dealing with the NCAA cloud hanging over the program, which is making it harder on Bill Self and his staff to attract top talent, so landing a five-star prospect would be huge. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State could potentially pair him with Cunningham to for a really nice backcourt in Stillwater next season. Thompson's decision is a big one.
3. Heading into the signing period, which class is the most pleasant surprise?
Bossi: Many wondered what, if anything, Juwan Howard could get done on the recruiting trail and today Michigan sits with an impressive two-man class of top 10 Isaiah Todd and four-star guard Zeb Jackson. They’ve been in the mix with several other big-name players and could see their efforts pay off again soon if Hunter Dickinson goes through with a commitment to the Wolverines. Get that done and Howard will have exceeded any first-year recruiting expectations.
Evans: Kansas State. Bruce Weber and his staff have put together a class that boasts four Rivals150 prospects and each fit the mold of a prototypical K-State standout. That would be a pleasant surprise in my book.
Selton Miguel is the ideal point of attack guard-wing that can guard all over the floor. They got their shot-maker with Luke Kasubke, a tough playmaker that can score it with Nijel Pack and a big, rim-protecting center with Davion Bradford. The Wildcats loaded up this fall and only success should follow because of it.
McDonald: For Tennessee to be right up at the top of the rankings just behind Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina is a pretty strong endorsement of the type of program Rick Barnes has built in Knoxville. The Volunteers signed three prospects ranked inside the top 50, two of which are five-star prospects. For a program that built its foundation on under-recruited players like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield just a few years ago to now be recruiting one of the best classes in the country is a pretty remarkable achievement.
4. Which five-star commitment best addresses the needs of the team he is committed to?
Bossi: Laugh at me if you want, but the answer is our current No. 1 Evan Mobley to USC. Look, we all knew he was going there with his brother on the roster and his dad on staff. But, what most of us didn’t know is that rather than Mobley being added to an already young and talented front line, he may be a very necessary replacement. Freshman center Onyeka Okongwu is looking like a sneaky one-and-done possibility and that he might have to be replaced wasn’t something that was really expected when it became apparent Mobley would be a Trojan.
Evans: Caleb Love for North Carolina. The Tar Heels are going to have to find a replacement for Cole Anthony, who looks to be a high-end lottery selection in June’s NBA Draft. Fortunately for Roy Williams, he got another good one in Love. A ferocious competitor that might not be as quick as Coby White, Love could be more explosive around the basket and off of his first step, and just like Anthony, can fill up the box score.
McDonald: After watching Anthony torch Notre Dame the other in his first game at North Carolina, it's pretty obvious he's going to be a big part of everything North Carolina does this year. He's also only going to be around for a year, so Williams needs a replacement that can play right away next year. Love is just that. He likely won't be able to do everything Anthony does this year, but he's still a really good player, who North Carolina will probably have to replace again in the 2021 class.