Rivals Roundtable: Toughest five-star recruitments to read
Once again it’s Rivals Roundtable time. This week, analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald are talking impressive first-year coaches, Final Four picks and hard-to-read five-star recruitments.
1. Which new hire is off the most impressive start at his new job in 2018-19?
Bossi: The 10-5 record isn’t exactly sexy, but given what Chris Mack inherited at Louisville and the gauntlet of a schedule that the Cardinals have had to face early, I feel he’s exceeding even the most ambitious of expectations for his first year on the job. Not only does he have the Cardinals competing on the floor, he’s off to an incredible start in recruiting. Mack’s first class is headlined by soon-to-be five-star wing Samuell Williamson and currently ranks fifth overall for 2019.
Evans: First, let’s give some love to the mid-major ranks where, what Jeremy Ballard, Dusty May and Mike Davis have done at FIU, FAU and Detroit, respectively, is nothing short of impressive. Onto the power conference level where Jeff Capel has already transformed the Pitt program and has the Steel City talking about its hoops program. Sure, there is still some long days ahead and it was just last weekend that UNC came into the Pete and beat the Panthers by 30. However, they have already won more conference and regular season games compared to last year, thanks to the toughness and competitive vibes surrounding the program.
McDonald: I love what Kermit Davis has done at Ole Miss so far. He has the Rebels sitting at 2-0 in the SEC (12-2 overall) going into a big showdown with in-state rival and 14th-ranked Mississippi State. A win could vault Ole Miss into next week's Top 25, which would put Davis and his staff way ahead of schedule in rebuilding the program. His 27th-ranked recruiting class in his first full cycle in Oxford features a pair of four-stars and a pair of three-stars, and should give fans hope that the new staff will sustain this success.
2. Now that we are into conference play, who would you pick for the Final Four?
Bossi: I much prefer to wait until we actually see the brackets to make bad predictions about the Final Four, but hey, why not? Since brackets aren’t set I’ll go with the teams I feel are the best four in college basketball right now: Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan and Virginia. The two-headed monster of R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson is just that, a monster. But, you can’t convince me that point guard Tre Jones isn’t the Blue Devils' most important player and he’s been playing fabulously. Gonzaga has size, skill and loads of talent. Michigan and Virginia, maybe they don’t have totally identical approaches but they have similar teams built on defense, execution and toughness.
Evans: I am sticking to my guns with my preseason predictions. I really liked Kansas and UNC prior to the start of the season and despite Udoka Azubuike's season-ending injury for KU and the troubling start to Nassir Little’s college career, call me stubborn, but I believe that Bill Self and Roy Williams will have their squads playing at their best come March. Alongside the bluebloods is Gonzaga. Mark Few's team has past experience on the biggest of stages and with the versatility that it presents, if it can defend at a better rate, count me in with the Zags. Lastly, there seems to always be a wildcard, which is why I had Marquette playing in Minnesota. Someone like Markus Howard, as we have seen in recent weeks, is capable of single-handedly taking over March.
McDonald: It's hard for me to pick against Michigan because every time I've seen it play, it has been really good; a complete team. I think Virginia bounces back from some heartbreak the past couple years and Tony Bennett finally gets his program to the Final Four. Chris Beard is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks and he has Jarrett Culver to carry Texas Tech to the Final Four in April. And just because there is always an outlier that makes the last weekend, give me a veteran Buffalo team that will stay hot through that cold Western New York winter and make an appearance in Minneapolis.
3. Which remaining five-star senior's recruitment is the toughest to get a good read on? Why?
Bossi: For me it has to be Jaden McDaniels. The super talented and skilled combo forward from Washington doesn’t talk a lot, his people don’t talk a lot and it doesn’t seem as if any of his finalists – Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, Washington, UCLA – well we can probably count the Bruins out considering they don’t have a head coach) – have a great feel for what he might do. Most seem to think he’ll stay out West but I’ve been feeling Kentucky on this one if I had to pick. But, the reality is we are all guessing on him right now.
Evans: Matthew Hurt. Man, he is a tough one to get a read on. He can pick whichever program that he would like to attend and that respective coaching staff would be more than happy to take on such a talent. I thought that Kansas and UNC were the two to beat dating back to last year and that could still be the case but the latest entrants of Duke and Kentucky may have changed some things. Toss in Indiana, Louisville, Memphis and Minnesota, and there is still some time to go with where Hurt eventually lands, as it seems much will be riding on early NBA deferrals regarding his finalists.
McDonald: I have to go with Cole Anthony here. Maybe this one isn't as hard to predict as I think, but he doesn't talk a lot about recruiting, which leads me to believe there could be a lot of faulty information coming out on him. North Carolina has been considered the favorite, and if I had to guess, that's where I would think he ends up. There has been some chatter about Oregon coming into the picture, and the Ducks should never be counted out. Could there be another school involved that we're underestimating here? I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.