November is the busiest month on the college basketball calendar as the early signing period collides with the start of the season. In this month’s edition of The Deep Three, we look at the celebration in Durham and Nashville, some sobbing in Columbia and Tucson, and hopeful thinking in several NBA front offices.
RIVAL VIEWS: Which teams have filled needs, and which haven't?
Bryce Drew and his staff are still at an all-time high thanks to the commitments of two five-star prospects last month. The first was Darius Garland, the area’s top local product, who decided to call the city of Nashville as home for another year, at least. Joining him a week later was Simi Shittu, one of the most productive bigs in high school ball. Garland and Shittu join previously committed Rivals150 wing Aaron Nesmith, a shot-making prospect with plenty of upside. Vanderbilt has also recently made the final three for five-star wing Romeo Langford. The Commodores do need to get back on even footing after dropping a few games this season that they should have won but there is still plenty of optimism in Nashville.
What hasn’t gone well for Duke during the month of November? The Blue Devils kicked things off with the surprise commitment of top-30 junior forward Joey Baker before finishing the early signing period by nabbing three top-10 prospects, including top-ranked senior wing R.J. Barrett. Duke is also deeply involved in the recruitment of five-star standout Zion Williamson. Oh yeah, Coach K’s squad also has the top-ranked team in America. It is all glamour and sunshine in Durham at the moment.
Not everything has been a win for the Ducks during the month of November after finishing 1-2 during their time at the PK80 Invitational last week. The long-term future of the program, well, that is sparkling clean thanks to its run on the recruiting front last month. Not only did the Ducks sign top-60 forward Miles Norris and five-star wing Lou King, but they also celebrated the commitments of top-50 guard Will Richardson and, more importantly, top-five center Bol Bol. The Ducks may have taken a step back on the court this season, but they will be taking two steps forward next year.
Why might Montgomery be on the cusp of winning the month of December? Following the early signing period, just eight five-star prospects remain available and, of that group, Montgomery and Anfernee Simons are the only ones that have yet to trim their lists. Simons has been a heavily discussed name of late but with programs needing multi-dimensional forwards that can play various lineups, Montgomery fits the bill perfectly. The one-time Auburn pledge was downright dominant last weekend at the Holiday Hoopsgiving event as he looks to be playing his best basketball yet. With programs missing on their top targets and the transfer wheel about to get put into motion, Montgomery’s suitor list will only grow.
2. KEVIN KNOX
John Calipari has continually boasted one of the most talented rosters each season during his time in Lexington. This year’s group is nothing different. While there doesn’t seem to be any can’t miss NBA prospects on campus, Knox could be the closest thing. The former five-star prospect is trending in the right direction and, after making just six of his first 26 shots to begin the year, he has made 34 of his last 61 attempts. With games upcoming against Harvard, Virginia Tech, UCLA and Louisville, Knox has the chance to add some vigor to this year’s Kentucky basketball unit and, in doing so, better his standing within NBA personnel’s eyes.
3. TANKING NBA TEAMS
We are in the midst of one of the most competitive NBA seasons in recent times as just four teams sit more than four games outside of the playoffs. For the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings and the Dallas Mavericks, teams that have already focused their eyes to the future, they have the chance to celebrate their losses with hopes of getting their hands on one of the elite talents in the 2018 NBA Draft class. June’s draft promises to be a top-heavy with potential game-changers including DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr. and Mohamed Bamba from the 2017 class. While each NBA unit will continue to accrue further losses, the month ahead will better position them for the future.
Could it have gone any worse for Sean Miller in November? The Wildcats boasted arguably the most talented roster in America but all that they have to show for it is a program with their backs against the wall after failing to win a game in the Bahamas. Arizona looks totally lost on the defensive end, is still facing issues regarding the pending FBI investigation that saw former assistant coach Book Richardson arrested, and, on the recruiting side, things remain in a waiting pattern of what is to come next with the Pac-12 juggernaut. Arizona did get some good news with top-50 commits Shareef O’Neal and Brandon Williams signing financial aid papers. This was supposed to be the year that Miller got to his first Final Four. If that's going to happen, the Wildcats better pull a 180 in December.
Porter Jr., the top-ranked prospect in the 2017 class, was supposed to be the catalyst of change for the Missouri basketball program. Porter Jr. will now have to sit out his likely lone season of college basketball this winter due to back surgery. His draft stock may slip, eyeballs drawn towards the Tigers team will lessen and the sport as a whole will lose one of the supposed transcendent talents of the game this season. It’s a lose-lose for everyone involved.
3. BIG TEN CONFERENCE
First, the good news for the Big Ten: The league placed six of its members in the top-25 of the Rivals.com 2018 Team Recruiting Rankings after the early signing period. That should bode well for the conference as it already boasts some of the top college basketball and NBA prospects in the country. However, the play on the floor this season has not been the best. The league capsized against the ACC during its annual inter-league battle and now the Big Ten sits with the eighth-best conference RPI in basketball, behind such others as the Missouri Valley and the American Athletic. Michigan State is a contender to cut down the nets in San Antonio, while Minnesota and Purdue have the weaponry to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The other 11 members need to get their butts into the proper gear.