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Starting Five: Moncrieffe sets decision, Cronin breaking through at UCLA

By the end of the week, four-star forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe is going to make somebody very happy. The rosters for the Jordan Brand Classic have been announced and is Mick Cronin breaking through at UCLA? That and more in this week's edition of the Starting Five.

MORE: Roundtable on league races, more



One of the top remaining players in the class of 2020, Canadian four-star forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe has set his decision date and has three finalists.

The 6-foot-7 senior at Orangeville Prep is down to Georgetown, Oklahoma State and Seton Hall and will announce his choice on Feb. 21.

A big-time athlete who can play on the wing or around the rim, Moncrieffe is a tough and tireless competitor who has seen each of his finalists officially. He saw Seton Hall in November and then saw the Cowboys and Hoyas back to back weeks in late January and earlier this month.

Gauging a leader for him is tough even as he's just days away from a decision. There is plenty of playing time available at each destination and when I spoke with Moncrieffe at the Hoophall Classic last month, his effusive praise of each made it hard for me to get a feel for any potential lean. Because of that, I'm not quite ready to make a Futurecast pick because if I did so it would be a guess.

As things stand, Oklahoma State would move to sixth in the 2020 team rankings while Georgetown would move to 29th and Seton Hall to 43rd if they are able to land him.


The rosters for one of High School Basketball's premier All-Star games, the Jordan Brand Classic, have been set.

Unsurprisingly, 2020's No. 1 ranked player Cade Cunningham headlines the list of players named to the game that will take place on Mar. 27 in Chicago.

A total of 22 five-star prospects made the 28-player rosters and only UConn-bound Andre Jackson ranks outside of the national top 50.

Leading the way on the team front is Duke. Top 10 signee Jalen Johnson wasn't eligible to play in the McDonald's All-American Game, but he gets the nod for Jordan Brand and headlines five (!) future Blue Devils -- Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Mark Williams and Jaemyn Brakefield are the others. Kentucky is up next with four signees (B.J. Boston, Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew and Isaiah Jackson) while North Carolina landed three (Day'Ron Sharpe, Caleb Love and R.J. Davis). Michigan (Isaiah Todd and Hunter Dickinson) and Texas Tech (Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy) were the other programs to land multiple players in the game.

Finally, there are three players in the game who have yet to commit and it would be a bit of a surprise if either Jalen Green, Ziaire Williams or Josh Christopher announces a commitment before the game is played.


Mick Cronin
Mick Cronin (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Things didn't get off the prettiest of starts for the Mick Cronin era in Westwood, but it's starting to look like his message is getting through to his UCLA team and as a result the Bruins are surging as we near the end of the season.

Cronin's initial hire was met with some skepticism from local fans because of his track record of blue collar type teams at Cincinnati. Multiple times this season, Cronin blasted his own team and the rankings that labeled them high-level prospects coming out of high school. I wondered if it might not get ugly and wasn't so sure his brash approach was best.

Well, judging by the recent results, it's looking more and more like Cronin's methods are working. The Bruins have won seven of their last nine and anybody who watches them has to see that they are playing with a level of toughness that is much greater than it was just a few months ago. Junior Chris Smith is starting to develop into a Pac-12 star and they have moved to 15-11 overall and 8-5 in Pac-12 play.

Things also look well on the recruiting trail. Five-star point guard Daishen Nix and four-star wing Jaylen Clark are both physically tough and excellent defenders.

Can the Bruins make the NCAA Tournament this year? That may be a little tough. But at a minimum they look to be building momentum for 2020-21 when the bulk of their production will be back and reinforcements arrive.


I saw an awful lot of entertaining college basketball over the weekend, but two individual displays of toughness really stood out to me. What Marcus Garrett did (and has done all year) for Kansas defensively and Herb Jones playing with a broken wrist for Alabama.

Most close observers of college hoops would have to agree that Garrett has established himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country. He single handedly turned the game around for Kansas at West Virginia during the week and did it again on Saturday as Kansas turned a close game with Oklahoma into a blowout. Garrett basically shut down a side of the floor like an elite cornerback and had the offensive game of his life making six threes and finishing with 24 points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

Then there's Jones. How can you not love a guy out there with a cast on the wrist of his shooting hand going out just a few weeks after injury to grab 17 rebounds. Even better, he banged home crucial free throws with his off hand. You have to tip your cap to a kid doing that and helping his team beat LSU and that's a special effort. It's also the type of performance that helps a program establish an identity and a culture and as the season goes on, it's getting easier and easier to see the type of team that Nate Oats will be able to put on the floor.


Friday night, I was in the Omaha area and checked in a matchup between Omaha (Neb.) Millard North and Bellevue (Neb.) West.

The main reason for stopping in was to check in on the progress of Millard North junior Hunter Sallis, who was recently promoted to five-star status. I'll have a full update on his recruitment on Tuesday, but make no mistake, I feel very good about our decision to move Sallis into the national top 20. He's long, he's athletic, he's a gifted passer and when it got tough in the fourth quarter, he took the game over and led his team to a win in front of a standing room only crowd of around 3,000 screaming fans.

But, it wasn't just about him. It was a game filled with talent. Sallis' senior teammate Max Murrell is a four-star headed to Stanford. Sophomore forward Jasen Green is going to be in the discussion for the 2022 rankings down the road and junior combo forward Saint Thomas is a Division 1 prospect. That's about as much talent as I can ever remember seeing on a high school team from Nebraska and they should be very good again next year.

For Bellevue West, it was good to get an in-season look at Wisconsin-bound junior Chucky Hepburn. With the entire Badgers staff on hand to watch him play, Hepburn was getting buckets early. He's put together like a fire hydrant but is also more explosive athletically than I had realized. He cooled off some down the stretch, but he backed up his status as a Rivals150 member and I like his fit at Wisconsin quite a bit.

Looking a few years ahead, file the name Josiah Dotzler. A freshman teammate of Hepburn's, Dotzler is a guard who looks to have skill, feel and a bright future. I could also see West's junior wing Frankie Fidler becoming a Division 1 recruit because he's got 6-foot-5'ish size and a pretty looking jump shot.