Basketball Recruiting - Rivals Roundtable: Looking to 2021, surprising Draft entrants
basketball Edit

Rivals Roundtable: Looking to 2021, surprising Draft entrants

This week in the Rivals Roundtable, national analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald are looking ahead to 2021 recruiting and the Final Four among other things.

*****

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75

MORE: Three-Point Play | Bossi's Best | Wednesday's Leftovers | Evans Seven | McDonald's Nuggets

*****

1. Looking ahead to the class of 2021, which big-timer is going to have the most intriguing recruitment? How is it looking so far?

Paolo Banchero
Paolo Banchero (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Bossi: Give me No. 4 overall Chet Holmgren – who Corey did a great update with earlier this week – here. Not only does he already have an interesting group of schools including Georgetown, Gonzaga, Memphis, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio State and many others recruiting him, he’s pretty unique. A 7-footer with legit perimeter game and some swagger to him, he’s going to be a fan favorite and one that I can see our readers clamoring for information about. He’s also pretty wide open right now and I just see his recruitment taking lots of twists and turns.

Evans: There is intrigue throughout the elite tier of the 2021 class but Paolo Bachero’s recruitment has caught my eye. He could pick Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina and immediately become any of the blueblood’s most important piece in the class. He could also go a different path and pick Michigan or Tennessee to potentially team up with Kennedy Chandler, someone that Banchero has discussed playing with in college. Staying home at Washington, the program right down the street and a place that his father and mother both played varsity sports for, is also in play. There is a load of storylines with Banchero thanks to his talent and pedigree which makes him that much more intriguing to follow.

McDonald: I'm still trying to figure out why five-star forward Jabari Smith hasn't received more attention from the blueblood programs. He's one of the top players in the 2021 class and has continued to improve over the last 18 months. He holds offers from most of the ACC and SEC schools nearby, but yet to crack the code on getting one of the traditional powers offering him a scholarship. Right now, it looks like Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU and Tennessee are the main players.

*****

2. We didn't get to have this year's Final Four, but we can still speculate about next year. Who are your way-too-early 2021 Final Four favorites?

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few (Dennis Wierzbicki, USA Today)

Bossi: Obviously, who stays and goes to the NBA and how the transfer cycle ends up could influence this. But, as of today, give me Gonzaga and Villanova and then I’m going to go off the beaten path a little bit with Houston and Iowa. Assuming Filip Petrusev is back, the Zags will have the best frontline in America and as long as Jalen Suggs doesn’t opt to play overseas, they’ll have a big-time point guard too. Even if Nova loses Saddiq Bey, it has too much coming back and I can see Jeremiah Robinson-Earl competing for All-American honors next season. Houston will have one of the deepest and most talented backcourts in America and Kelvin Sampson is a big-time coach. Finally, Iowa was my sleeper in 2020 and the Hawkeyes should be even better next season. I’m expecting Luka Garza back and the return of Jordan Bohannon will be big. That Hawkeye team will be one of the best offensive squads in the country.

Evans: Gonzaga has all of the talent in order for Mark Few to make his way to the Final Four again, especially if Petrusev returns. I will throw Virginia in there; people know that Sam Hauser is good but I don’t think they know that he is THAT good. Oh, and there is no way that UVA shoots as poorly as it did last year. Tennessee makes it as well. The Vols have a perfect blend of returners featuring John Fulkerson and Josiah James, and enrolling a blue-chip class featuring Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer along with a proven graduate-transfer in EJ Anosike should work. Lastly, it came down to Florida and Ohio State for my final selection and I have to go with the Gators. It’s crazy to me that no one is giving them any love despite only losing Kerry Blackshear when they are enrolling a top-25 class and returning Scottie Lewis, Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson. They also have two sit-out transfers that could start for them next year. They are 10 deep.

McDonald: It's hard to do one and not include Gonzaga given what its roster looks like today. The Zags could and probably should be No. 1 in preseason polls. I like the way Kentucky's roster looks for next season as well. Immanuel Quickley will be a national player of the year candidate if he returns and he'll be surrounded by a nice mix of returning and incoming talent. UCLA looks like a team ready to make a big jump next year, especially if Chris Smith comes back, so I'll take Mick Cronin's squad to make a run in March. And after a bit of a rebuilding season this year due to several key departures, I like Tennessee's incoming class teamed up with Josiah James, John Fulkerson and Santiago Vescovi to propel it back to the top of college basketball and into the Final Four.

*****

3. Whose decision to enter the NBA Draft has been the most surprising to you? If he remains, does his school have a suitable replacement?

Kofi Cockburn
Kofi Cockburn

Bossi: I’m going to go with Kofi Cockburn of Illinois. He was way better than pretty much everybody expected him to be as a freshman and was a big-time piece in the middle of the floor for them. For as good as he was, giant space-eating bigs just aren’t as sexy to NBA teams and another year could have been very valuable for him. If he comes back, the Illini should be in pretty good shape to keep 2020’s momentum moving forward. However, if he stays in the draft it would be a huge blow. Incoming freshman Coleman Hawkins has a chance to be pretty good, but he’s not ready to replace Cockburn.

Evans: I am not really surprised anytime someone enters his name into the NBA Draft but if there was one person that raised some eyebrows, it would have to be Missouri's Jeremiah Tilmon. I get it, maybe Tilmon is just tired of college and wants to move onto newer and better things. But deciding to take the plunge when he played in just over half of the season due to injuries and having maybe his worst season on paper doesn’t add up.

I expect for Tilmon to return for his senior year but, if not, all of the momentum the Tigers built up toward the end of the season could be for naught. Maybe Mitchell Smith could ramp his numbers and usage and that incoming center Jordan Wilmore can pitch in greater than expected but with no Tilmon, greater questions arise with where Mizzou might find its production in the frontcourt next season.

McDonald: Like Corey said, there isn't really a college player that could declare for the NBA Draft that would surprise these days with the way rules are. One that did catch my eye though was Clemson forward Aamir Simms. He did have an impressive year averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but doesn't strike as a guy that will get drafted if he stays in. My prediction is he does come back to school for one last ride, but if he doesn't, it means incoming four-star prospects P.J. Hall and Olivier-Maxence Prosper will need to be ready to contribute to make up for Simms' production.