A switcheroo this week as national analyst Eric Bossi takes over tomorrow’s #TwitterTuesday and I get my own shot at The Starting Five. Some of the more pressing activities from the past few days include top-ranked junior Vernon Carey Jr. visiting Michigan State, Texas A&M’s impressive visit list and the ascension of scoring guard Joseph Girard III.
1. CAREY JR. KICKS OFF VISIT TOUR
Vernon Carey Jr., the top-ranked junior, began his official visit tour this past weekend as he took the long trip to East Lansing to see Michigan State. From speaking with him, Carey Jr. had a great visit and was very impressed. That could go a long way when it comes time to making his college decision.
When might that commitment come? Do not expect anything soon. Carey, who is down to a final eight of Duke, Miami, Kentucky, Florida, Kansas, UCLA, UNC and the Spartans, has not been too vocal in assessing where things stand in his recruitment. However, prior to his weekend visit to Michigan State, Miami and Duke have been the most discussed landing spots for the elite big man.
Do the Spartans have a legitimate shot? Sure they do. Carey would not have used one of his five official visits if not. He was able to see a tremendous game, one that saw Miles Bridges hit the game-winning shot to knock off No. 3 Purdue on a day remembering legendary MSU head coach Jud Heathcote.
No other visits are set for Carey.
2. UTAH ADDS A FOURTH MEMBER TO ITS 2018 CLASS
Utah had already accumulated a strong 2018 recruiting class as it signed Rivals150 wing Timmy Allen in the fall, along with Naseem Gaskin and Riley Battin. Coach Larry Krystkowiak added to it on Friday with the commitment of Lahat Thioune.
A 6-foot-9, long and mobile center, is a change-up for the Utes. While the Pac-12 program has become known for its back-to-the-basket, skilled and physical interior scorers such as Jakob Poeltl and Jayce Johnson, Thioune should be the perfect complement alongside Battin in the coming years. Where Battin is more of a hard-nosed center that can extend the defense with the perimeter jumper but is best around the basket, Thioune is from a different mold.
More of a run-and-jump athlete who is at his best when the game speeds up, Thioune should be able to mask some of his fellow big men deficiencies as a defender because he has potential as a quality back line rim protector. A one-time target for Rick Pitino prior to his ouster at Louisville, athletes like Thioune have become a must in the up-tempo Pac-12.
3. AGGIES HIT THE DOUBLE WHAMMY ON SATURDAY
What was more impressive on Saturday: The 59 second-half points that Texas A&M put on the scoreboard against Kentucky or the plethora of five-star and Rivals150 prospects that took in the game? That remains up for debate but to say that Saturday was a good day for the Aggies would be giant understatement.
A month ago, Texas A&M was labeled as one of the top underperforming teams in college basketball this season. There have been a handful of injuries and a few other suspensions that have doomed the team in recent weeks but that still does not excuse the double-digit point losses to LSU, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. Winning four of their past five league games, the Aggies have their foot back on the pedal as sophomore big man Robert Williams is looking like the potential NBA Lottery pick that he was expected to be.
Taking in the Texas A&M second half beat down of John Calipari’s Wildcats were five-star juniors Will Baker and Tyrese Maxey. Along with them were class of 2019 Rivals150 prospects Chris Harris, Samuell Williamson, Avery Anderson and Sahvir Wheeler, the latter having already committed to the SEC program. Others including DJ Thorpe, LJ Cryer and Micah Peavy were also on campus, an onslaught of visitors that make up one of the top visit lists seen this college basketball season.
4. GIRARD BREAKS RECORD & ADDS OFFERS
There may not have been a hotter name in recent weeks than Joseph Girard III. The 6-foot-1`scoring guard is one of the most lethal scorers that the high school ranks have seen in recent memory and having not completed his junior season yet, the New Yorker has already broken his high school’s scoring record, one that was held by the infamous Jimmer Fredette, and his state’s career scoring record, one that was held by Lance Stephenson.
Coaches have started flocking to Glens Falls High School to get a glimpse of Girard. While he is more of a scorer than a playmaking guard, of which may be the reason why some question his value and fit at the next level, others have had no issues jumping in with an offer.
Two weeks ago, Michigan offered the Rivals150 junior, whose father played for John Beilein at Le Moyne College. The Wolverines jumped directly into the pole position before Oklahoma, Syracuse, Rutgers and Ohio State joined the fray with an offer of their own.
A commitment to Michigan would not have surprised following his offer but with visits taken to Penn State and Ohio State the past two weekends, and more schools getting involved by the day, things seem as if they are just picking up.
5. BRACKET REVEAL LEAVES MORE QUESTIONS
The one and only bracket reveal took place on Sunday as the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee produced its top four seeds per each quadrant. While the No. 1 seeds of Virginia, Villanova, Xavier and Purdue did not come as a giant surprise, what did raise some eyebrows was Kansas remaining strong with a two seed, Michigan State being found with a three seed, and Oklahoma remaining relevant with a four seed.
While there is still much to be done before the final brackets are produced on Selection Sunday, what we should come to realize is just how important it is in beating good competition and on an opponents’ own floor.
Another interesting tidbit is that just five of the 16 teams receiving inclusion within the bracket reveal have put together top 25 recruiting classes during the 2017 and 2018 revolutions. UNC, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Villanova have done their best work at landing top shelf recruits but Virginia, Texas Tech, Clemson, Tennessee and Oklahoma have each failed to sniff the top 25 in either year.
All of this says that there is more than one avenue to success; where UNC and Kansas covet blue chip talent, Virginia continues to find under the radar talent, and Clemson takes the transfer route in winning.