The Deep Three: Arizona, USC and Michigan cruisin' in month of May
RANKINGS: 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150 | 2018 Team | 2018 Position
May is usually a slow time on the college basketball calendar, but there was not shortage of action across the nation this past month. In this edition of The Deep Three, we spotlight USC and Arizona as winners of the month, see good things ahead in Lexington and Knoxville - and ponder how Wake Forest bounces back.
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The Wildcats did not finish with a top 10 recruiting class, which has become the norm since Sean Miller took over in Tucson. But the fact that his Wildcats were able to patch together a top 25 class this spring - in light of all that has transpired since the initial FBI sting in September - is one of the most impressive feats in college basketball in recent years. Prior to May, Arizona was able to resupply its cupboard with the grad-transfer commitments of Pitt forward Ryan Luther and Samford guard Justin Coleman. The Wildcats bolstered their 2018 class with Rivals150 wing Devonaire Doutrive and international forward Omar Thielemans.
But what really won the month of May for the Wildcats - and legitimized their argument that they will remain a West Coast power - was the commitment of Brandon Williams. Williams was committed to Arizona until he backed off of his pledge following the allegations that Miller had been caught on wiretap regarding a pay-for-play scam for the talents of DeAndre Ayton. Ultimately beating Oregon and Gonzaga in the final hour for the top available lead guard remaining in the 2018 class is a giant win for the Wildcats and keeps the program in the hunt for a Pac-12 title next season and beyond.
It is about that time for the USC's football faithful to give a greater deal of focus to what is happening on the basketball hardwood. There is changing dynamic on the West Coast with the recent shake-ups on several coaching staffs. As a result, the Trojans look to be in a great spot. Andy Enfield and his program won the month of May, thanks to their commitments of two top 30 prospects out of the 2019 class, the first being five-star center Onyeka Okungwu, who is arguably the best rebounder in high school basketball. He was then followed by travel teammate Isaiah Mobley. An opening is evident on the West Coast, and it's clear the Trojans ran away with it last month.
John Beilein did not see his win streak halt after its national title loss to Villanova. Instead, he carried the momentum into the spring evaluation periods. On Wednesday, Beilein nailed down one of his most impressive wins on the recruiting trail in the form of top 40 wing Jalen Wilson. A multi-positional prospect that can play all across the floor, Wilson became the first commitment that Beilein has received from a Texas native during his tenure at Michigan.
While the abilities of Wilson should be celebrated, what should also be recognized is that the branding of the Big Ten program has grown beyond the Midwest and has now seeped into the Deep South, a terrain that is a hotbed for talent. The commitment of Wilson was a giant win for Michigan, but so was the return of its top returning perimeter asset, Charles Matthews. The Wolverines also sit in a great spot for their top junior target, DJ Carton, as they remain in a battle with Ohio State, Marquette, Iowa, Xavier and Indiana for his commitment.
The Wildcats were winners in the month of April, thanks to the commitments of Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery. They followed that up with the pledge of five-star junior Tyrese Maxey, but even better news may be on the way in June regarding Ashton Hagans. Arguably the top perimeter defender in high school ball, Hagans has spoken openly about hoping to enroll this fall in Lexington. If John Calipari and Hagans had their way, the five-star guard would be already enrolled, but the primary hold-up is achieving the proper grades to make the leap into the 2018 class.
While Hagans’ early enrollment would not make UK the clear favorite to cut down the nets next April, he would give the Wildcats a much better chance of handing Calipari his second national title. Hagans won't answer the shooting woes that hindered Kentucky last season, but playing alongside incoming guards Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley - along with a solid core of returning players - UK will be on the short list for preseason national title favorites. The month of June could bring even more optimism if top available grad-transfer Reid Travis selects the blueblood program. If he does - wow - things could get even better for Big Blue Nation.
Good things could be on the horizon for the Volunteers. Rick Barnes and his staff have done a phenomenal job of getting the best out of their under-appreciated but hard-playing players, but might they be ready to cash in on a recent string of success on the recruiting front? Tennessee is in a great spot for four-star center DJ Burns, a back-to- the-basket scoring weapon who recently reclassified into the 2018 class last month. South Carolina is the other perceived favorite for Burns, but it looks as if a commitment is due soon, and the Vols are the program to beat.
In a similar manner, Tre Mann, a top-five point guard prospect in the 2019 class, could change the dynamic of things in Knoxville with his decision. Florida and Kansas are also in his final three, but Tennessee could be the sneaky favorite for the playmaking and talented guard out of the Sunshine State. Mann is not far off from his decision, so UT could leave the month of June with commitments in hand from its top guard target and also its top big man target.
3. CLASS OF 2017 BIGS
The high school class of 2017 certainly didn't lack talent. It was deep and full of versatility, which was on display throughout this past winter. But as good as Trae Young and Collin Sexton were, the class will always be remembered for its big man crop, an elite group that is expected to cash in – in more ways than one – in June. Whether it is Mohamed Bamba’s gargantuan wingspan, the dominance of DeAndre Ayton when it comes to the looks test alone, Michael Porter’s polished skill set or Jaren Jackson’s abilities that perfectly fit today’s game, it is hard to go wrong with the big men who are expected to be picked in the first half of the lottery portion of the NBA Draft. The month of June should be a boon for the class of 2017 prep superstars.
Coming off a season that saw more than half of its league earn an NCAA Tournament bid, the ACC took a hit this spring, thanks to a plethora of graduations, transfers and early departures for the NBA Draft. Duke and UNC remain strong, and either of those blueblood programs could have a say as to who wins the national title next year. But Miami, Wake Forest, Boston College, Louisville, NC State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Pitt are among the massive group of programs that were hit in one way or another during the month of May. Lonnie Walker, Bruce Brown, Jerome Robinson, Bryant Crawford, Josh Okogie and Ray Spaulding all left early for the NBA Draft, while Ryan Luther, Omer Yurtseven and Keyshawn Woods decided to transfer, leaving giant voids. There is a slew of Rivals150 prospects enrolling in the league this fall, and despite a setback the conference still boasts some of the top national contenders. However, the month of May rocked the middle and lower portions of the ACC, and the ramifications could be felt when bids to the big dance are handed out next March.
2. WAKE FOREST
Things didn’t go as planned for Danny Manning and his squad last year. And while they struggled to replace the prior season’s breakout player, John Collins, optimism remained heading into this offseason because plenty of talent was expected to return. Wake Forest's depth was hit hard with the professional departures of Doral Moore and Bryant Crawford, losses that were not expected just two months ago. But there is still a glimmer of hope in Winston-Salem, as the incoming recruiting class – led by Isaiah Mucius and Jaylen Hoard, along with the expected break out of former top 40 guard Chaundee Brown – could lead to a surprise for the Deacons. Toss in the recent transfer commitments of Torry Johnson and Miles Lester, along with the mutual interest regarding Rivals150 senior Saddiq Bey, and Wake could find its footing quickly. Still, the month of May was not a pleasant one.
3. THE 2020 NBA DRAFT LOTTERY WINNERS
Much had been said about the lack of elite level talent in the 2018 high school class. However, thanks to the progressions made over the past two years by Nassir Little, Bol Bol and Kevin Porter, the elite tier of talent has at least made the group, as a whole, respectable. That should make the 2019 NBA Draft serviceable for those in the lottery portion. However, if Sam Hinkie was still in his role for the Philadelphia 76ers, might he have decided to change his thought process (no pun intended), for acquiring talent in the draft as he looked ahead to the 2020 talent that will be available?
After the spring evaluation periods, the graduating class of 2019 pales in comparisons to its prior ones and if the one-and-done rule is still in effect, NBA franchises might decide to trade out of the 2020 draft for future picks or immediate returns. Newcomers always emerge – the latest being Jaden McDaniels – but outside of a group that includes Vernon Carey, James Wiseman and Cole Anthony, the depth of can’t-miss talent is missing entirely. That places the class in a duel with the 2012 group, which featured Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel and Kyle Anderson, as to who will end up being the worst class of the past 10 years.