Starting Five: Baylor-Kansas lives up to hype, Futurecast picks and more
This college basketball season has been one for the books because of the unexpected. Baylor and Kansas, though, they were every bit as good as expected over the weekend. Immanuel Quickley has Kentucky angling for an SEC title, some FutureCast picks and a look at Maryland's newest commitment in this week's Starting Five.
BAYLOR AND KANSAS LIVES UP TO THE HYPE
This college basketball season has been one for the records because of how the unexpected has become the expected. On Saturday, though, Baylor and Kansas lived up to the pregame hype as college basketball's game of the year as the Jayhawks went into Waco and scored a 64-61 victory to pull even with the Bears -- who had won a Big 12 record 23 straight games -- at 13-1 in Big 12 play.
The win and losses from Gonzaga and San Diego State over the weekend should make Kansas a clear No. 1 in the polls and pretty much any college fan would be up for seeing a third or fourth game between Baylor and Kansas come conference and NCAA Tournament time.
Jared Butler was tremendous for Baylor down the stretch keeping them in the game with his shot-making and Mark Vital did all the little things like he always does. Kansas got a boost from grad transfer Isaiah Moss while Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett did their thing. But mostly, the game illustrated again why Udoka Azubuike should be the favorite for Big 12 Player of the Year after a dominant 23-point, 19-rebound and three-block effort.
No, Azubuike isn't the biggest scorer in the league, but he sure is efficient and anybody who watches the Big 12 regularly has to see that there just isn't an answer for him. He is big, he's strong, he's learned to move his feet defensively and his presence on the floor allows the rest of the Jayhawks to play knowing that they have a guy who can clean up mistakes on both ends.
QUICKLEY LEADING KENTUCKY
There have been some shaky moments for the 2019-20 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats. There was a bad loss at home to Evansville, five-star freshman Kahlil Whitney bailed early and like everybody else in college basketball, there have been struggles with consistency.
Yet, here we are nearing the end of SEC play and here are the Wildcats holding a commanding two-game lead the league with four games remaining as they angle for another conference championship.
A big part of that has been the play of Immanuel Quickley. The sophomore combo guard has turned into their best scorer and is making a serious run at Player of the Year honors in the SEC.
The Baltimore product has been awesome this season, but he's really turned things up during the month of February. The Wildcats' leading scorer at 15.7 points a game while making over 40% of his three-point attempts, Quickley has bumped it up to 20.6 per outing during February and has keyed a six-game winning streak.
I would bet on Quickley and Kentucky finishing off the SEC strong and the more he continues to play well, the more I feel good about my belief that the Wildcats should be among the favorites to reach the Final Four in Atlanta.
HOW DOES PRIMO FIT INTO 2020 AND WHERE COULD HE LAND?
So, Canadian guard Josh Primo has officially moved to the class of 2020 and looks to be on his way to making a college choice. How does he fit into the 2020 landscape? Where might he land?
First of all, because Primo is now playing his basketball outside of the States, he won't be included in the final Rivals150. He began his season at Compass Prep in the Phoenix area and ranked among the top 75 in 2021. Prior to his return to Canada and move to the 2020 class, he was well on his way to moving up those 2021 rankings. He has good size, he has a good looking jump shot and he's a fine athlete with a good frame to build on.
Now, as I've written in the past, skipping a year of development is always a big concern and given that Primo won't turn 18 until during his freshman season, there are likely to be some early bumps in making the jump to college. But, based off of what I have seen from him in the past and what my colleague Corey Evans saw from him at the recent Basketball Without Borders event, it wouldn't be unreasonable to look at Primo as a top 35-50 type recruit in 2020.
Based on everything I've heard, Alabama and Creighton are out in front on this recruitment. However, when push comes to shove I'll give the Crimson Tide the slight edge here and I've gone ahead and logged my FutureCast pick for them.
A FUTURECAST FOR ERIC GAINES
Speaking of FutureCast, I'm liking the chances of another SEC team with another four-star guard.
Eric Gaines, a 6-foot-3 guard of Lithonia (Ga.) High, has had a monster senior season that has taken him from not even ranked among the shooting guards to the top 100 nationally. He's long, rangy and a big-time athlete with scoring instincts who only seems to be scratching the surface of what he can do as a player. He looks like a potential multiple-year starter at the high major level.
Not surprisingly, Alabama, Dayton, Georgetown, Georgia State, Nebraska, Saint Louis, TCU and many others have come calling. However, it's Will Wade and LSU who seem to be gaining traction here and at this point I'm comfortable putting in my prediction for the Tigers to land the talented Gaines.
WHAT COULD AQUAN SMART BRING TO MARYLAND?
On Sunday night, Corey Evans reported that Maryland has landed a commitment from three-star point guard Aquan Smart.
So, what can fans of the Terrapins expect from Mark Turgeon's newest recruit?
The answer to that is that we are still learning. Smart is somebody that we did not have a chance to see during the summer. I did watch some film on him during his junior season and felt comfortable giving him a three-star rating thanks to his athleticism and length at the point guard slot.
However, late last week when rumblings came up that he would soon be committing the Terps I did some more investigating so I could have a reasonably formed opinion on him.
I don't know if he'll make our final Rivals150, but at a minimum Smart needs to be included in our positional rankings and I like what I see from him as a long-term prospect with upside. He likes to play fast, he attacks the rim, he gets into passing lanes for deflections and steals and he's got a lot of physical upside once he hits a weight room. His jump shot is one that can be worked with and I can see why Turgeon and his staff decided to go on him.