The Rivals.com basketball recruiting staff discusses their thoughts on the early signing period, which began on Wednesday.
1. What has been your No. 1 surprise so far in the early signing period?
ERIC BOSSI: What's really stood out to me is how quiet things have been so far. The basketball signing period is relatively calm to begin with, but even by hoops standards this has been a pretty boring early signing period. Now there are enough big-timers left to make decisions that things could be shaken up. But I think a relatively average class from a talent perspective, all of the news in the last month over the college corruption stuff and nearly 80 percent of the class having already made up their minds has contributed to a slow early signing period.
COREY EVANS: Primarily just how eerily silent things have been on the commitment front and for those that may not be signing. In the past, the first two or three days of the period is filled with a slew of commitments and every year, a surprise decision by a prospect not to sign. That has not been the case at all this year. However, if it is one program that has not faced these circumstances this week, it is Wichita State. Chance Moore, one of the emerging names this fall, signed for the Shockers, who then nabbed the signature of Rivals150 guard Alex Lomax. His commitment wasn't a giant surprise but the fact that Wichita State is now taking up the headlines on the recruiting front might be.
DAN MCDONALD: The biggest surprise to me has been just how many prospects have had their recruitment impacted by the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Louisville lost an entire recruiting class. Arizona lost Jahvon Quinerly. Auburn lost E.J. Montgomery. On the flip side, Nassir Little picked North Carolina after many thought Arizona or Miami would be the destination. We likely haven't heard the end of this story, so there could be more fallout during the late signing period.
KRYSTEN PEEK: It's not really that surprising but I'm impressed with how well Duke has done early on compared with where they were last year. The Blue Devils just landed the No. 1 player in the class in RJ Barrett, they have the No. 1 point guard Tre Jones and the No. 1 wing Cameron Reddish already signing their LOIs and their class isn't finished yet. Last year at this time Duke only had two commits in Alex O'Connell and Gary Trent Jr. and it wasn't until late spring that we saw the dominos start to fall. Having three top 10 players in the class moves Duke from No. 6 to No. 1 overall in the team rankings and it is definitely going to be hard to beat.
2. What school faces the most pressure to lock up its targets in the late signing period now?
ERIC BOSSI: Just a few weeks ago I thought Georgia had a chance to put together a really nice class to go with four-star power forward Amanze Ngumezi. Now, I feel like Mark Fox and his staff are fighting for their recruiting lives. Many in the college basketball world think that Fox is on a hot seat and there's no question in my mind that it's had a negative impact on his recruiting. Top 50 point guard Will Richardson – a Georgia native – appeared to be ready to go with the Bulldogs and will now wait until the spring. Top 60 wing Landers Nolley committed to Fox for a span of about 12 hours before backing off and top 50 wing Khavon Moore is another in-stater, who seems to really like Georgia but is hesitant to pull the trigger. I think a great start to the season is going to be important and if things get rolling on the floor into SEC play, then recruiting should follow suit.
COREY EVANS: Miami, a program that was stung significantly by the FBI investigation, was already facing the daunting task of having to possibly replace its entire backcourt next year, yet the Hurricanes remain empty-handed during the early signing period. It will be interesting to see how they sift through the possible legal issues this winter and also fill the shoes of the entire perimeter core.
DAN MCDONALD: Mark Fox's name has been on just about every hot seat list I've seen this year, which means he needs to win now, but a strong recruiting class would go a long way toward helping him solidify the program long term. Signing Amanze Ngumezi, a four-star in-state prospect, was important because the Dawgs will need to replace Yante Maten next year, but Georgia needs more than one player. The Dawgs had four-star wing Landers Nolley commit, but he backed out less than a day later. Will Richardson and Khavon Moore remain available, and both are four-star prospects from Georgia. It'd be a huge deal for Fox to keep both home.
KRYSTEN PEEK: After losing their two top recruits amid the FBI investigation, Louisville is basically starting over in the 2018 class. Rick Pitino was fired, five-star Anfernee Simons and four-star Courtney Ramey decommitted and Romeo Langford dropped the Cards from his list. With new head coach David Padgett, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. Thankfully for Louisville, the current JUCO class is pretty deep with talent so I could see it pulling some hidden talent that way. But as far as the top available prospects left in the 2018 class, Louisville might be striking out.
3. Who do you think will win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes and why?
ERIC BOSSI: I think that it's going to come down to Clemson or Kentucky. Here's my thinking: Clemson is home. His stepfather played there, he's familiar with the campus and he would be a legend if he went there. He would also be the main man, no question about that. At Kentucky, he would be surrounded by way more talent and he would be in an environment and with a coach in John Calipari who knows how to handle and guide one-and-done type players such as Williamson. He'd also be in a better position to potentially win big. Right now there's not much good info out there and I don't think he really has any idea of what he would like to do just yet. I know this, if I were him I would be very concerned about roster structure and style of play. In particular, for Zion to do what he's best at and attack the rim, play bigger than his size and be unique, he's got to have shooters around him. So, finding a place with a reasonable amount of jump-shot threats around him ought to be awfully important to him.
COREY EVANS: Ask me this question two weeks ago and I would say Kentucky. Now, my certainty has begun to diminish. Do I believe the Wildcats remain in a strong spot for the five-star forward? I sure do, but Duke is a program that is not getting enough attention, nor is its rival at UNC. Let's not discount Clemson either, as the idea of playing close to home and being the guy to jumpstart the program that his stepfather once played at is definitely a point of emphasis by the Tigers' staff. I am going to stick with UK for now but I really would not be shocked with whichever program Williamson chooses.
DAN MCDONALD: I'm going to go somewhat out on a limb here and say Clemson. I've heard Brad Brownell's message to him has really started to resonate with him. Staying close to his family and playing at a school where his family has ties could pay off for the Tigers at the end of the day.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I think the bigger stage at Kentucky and playing with a point guard he's familiar with will win out in the end. Coach Cal has a way with closing out these top recruits and the fact that he's so successful in getting these players to the NBA within one year is appeasing to Williamson. Maybe watching what Michael Porter Jr. can do at home in Missouri will help Clemson's chances but as it stands right now, I think Kentucky still has the edge.