Rivals Roundtable: Five-star decisions, R.J. Hampton, bubble teams
It’s the weekend and that means Rivals Roundtable time. This week analysts Krysten Peek, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald discuss the last five-star decision, where they each believe five-star junior R.J. Hampton will end up at and a bubble team that could make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Which remaining five-star prospect is the last to commit and to where?
Peek: I'm going to go with Cole Anthony. The five-star point guard is down to a final six schools of North Carolina, Miami, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Wake Forest and Oregon but talks behind the scene seem to think it's a close race between Oregon and UNC. When I talked to Anthony at the City of Palms Classic in December he said he has no idea when he's going to decide. Anthony is a must-get for UNC and would be another big-time player for Oregon to land and bring some life to the Pac-12 next year after five-star Isaiah Stewart chose Washington a few weeks ago.
Evans: It is between Jaden McDaniels and Precious Achiuwa and while I think that McDaniels is still some time away from making his college decision, at least he has completed all of his official visits. On the other hand, Achiuwa has yet to set a school list, better yet schedule any sort of visits. He did visit Memphis and Western Kentucky back in the fall and while he could use the excuse that he has been away at school and thus, been unable to take any college trips, much still remains to be done before a commitment takes places. Coming up with potential suitors is difficult as North Carolina has pushed its way into the mix. However, I don’t see things ending in the good fortunes of the Tar Heels but rather this being a battle between Kansas, Memphis, St. John’s and UConn. Penny Hardaway had some traction earlier but this might be an old school, Big East battle with UConn winning out in the end, though giving a timetable for such a choice is still impossible.
McDonald: Cole Anthony has been doing the recruiting process at his own pace and the way he wants to do it the whole way so far, so I don't expect that to change. Knowing he has the leverage in this deal, I don't expect him to come off the board any time soon. My guess is whenever this one does come to an end that he will be wearing a lighter shade of blue playing for Roy Williams at North Carolina.
Top-five junior RJ Hampton narrowed his school list to five schools earlier this week (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and TCU). Where does he ultimately end up?
Peek: R.J. Hampton has said repeatedly that he's not reclassifying and staying for his senior year but wouldn't it be something to see him running the point alongside James Wiseman at Memphis? I know the Tigers might not be the popular choice here but what Penny Hardaway has managed to get done at that program in his short time there is pretty incredible and I wouldn't be surprised if they continue to roll in the five-star talent coming down the line like RJ or fellow 2020 five-star Jalen Green.
Evans: I don’t see TCU being a landing spot, and while Memphis will give him a reason to look at all that they can offer, this one is going to evolve into a blue blood battle. Duke has the Brotherhood pitch to offer but with Hampton likely wanting to have the ball in his hands more times than not, that might be difficult if Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis stay for longer than one season, and don’t forget that the Blue Devils are in a great spot with juniors Jalen Johnson and Jeremy Roach. Kentucky is in a similar situation and while I do believe that the platform that John Calipari can offer is exactly what Hampton envisions for college, Kansas will be where he ultimately signs. The backcourt should be fairly bare by the time he enrolls and having the ball early and often, and at a program like KU, will be too great of an opportunity to decline.
McDonald: Memphis seems to be one of the schools that has done a lot of work with him early on and I think a lot of what Penny Hardaway is selling was validated by landing James Wiseman in the 2019 class. But beating Duke, Kansas and Kentucky is this one will be a tall task because he doesn't have the same advantage he did with having coached Wiseman. I'll take a wild guess on this one and roll with John Calipari adding to his collection of really good guards to have played for him.
Which bubble team not only makes the NCAA Tournament but makes a run to the Sweet 16?
Peek: I really like the way Alabama has been playing recently. They beat a tough Kentucky team and took Tennessee, the No. 1 team in the nation, down to the wire. A relatively young team led by freshman point guard Kira Lewis and sophomore sharpshooter John Petty, the talent is undoubtedly there to make a run come tournament time. Sure there's some inconsistencies with some bad losses to Northeastern and UCF but that's to be expected with a young team. With the leadership of senior forward Donta Hall, Alabama could be peaking at the right time to be a sleeper late in March.
Evans: I will go with the coach that knows all about making a surprise run in the NCAA Tournament with his brand of havoc basketball. Texas will not only receive an invite into the bracket of 68, but it will make it to the Sweet 16. Am I worried that the Longhorns have won just once on the road this season? A bit, but they are rounding into form. Jaxson Hayes has cemented his case as one of the most intriguing but also efficient posts in the game, while Kerwin Roach has begun to make shots with greater consistency, Courtney Ramey has infused energy into its backcourt and an X-factor has emerged off of its bench in Jase Febres. Add it up and you have an up-and-coming outfit down in Austin.
McDonald: I'll side with a team that has shown an ability to make surprising runs through the tournament in recent years and go with Syracuse. Jim Boeheim has tons of experience in the NCAA Tournament and his 2-3 zone is very well-suited to have tournament success. I could see him riding Tyus Battle to the second weekend of the Big Dance.