The Deep Three: Who's cruisin', dreamin', hurtin' after October?
Unveiling our newest monthly series, The Deep Three, we wrap up the month gone by and look ahead to month in front of us in three categories: Three cruisin', three wishin' and three hurtin'.
1. NORTH CAROLINA
The clear winners of October, North Carolina entered the month facing questions pertaining to the pending NCAA investigation into sham classes and how it might round out its 2018 class. Entering November, the shadow cast over the program is now replaced with sunshine as the Tar Heels will no longer face sanctions from the NCAA and also received their highest-rated commitment since Harrison Barnes. Five-star forward Nassir Little kicked off the month by committing and, to the surprise of many, the Tar Heels ended it by hosting five-star forward Zion Williamson. Boasting a top-five recruiting class and making inroads with Williamson, Romeo Langford and Simi Shittu, all is good for the Tar Heels as they prepare to begin the defense of their third national championship under Roy Williams next week.
2. MIKE WHITE
There was more heat on the Florida basketball program heading into the month of October compared with its contemporaries on the football side. Jim McElwain had his team in first place in the SEC East while Mike White’s bunch had yet to strike in the 2018 class. How things change in a month. The Gators enter the new college basketball season with a top-25 group and a recruiting class that now boasts arguably the top passer, Andrew Nembhard, and top shooter, Noah Locke, as the first signing period approaches. The Gators are in the pole position for Rivals150 wing Keyontae Johnson. It was a great month it was for White; not so much for McElwain.
3. FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACHES
The coaching carousel brought a handful of brand-name program openings this spring and already, a few of the newly minted head coaches have made noise on the recruiting trail. In Raleigh, Kevin Keatts added two Rivals150 prospects to his first full class at NC State featuring Jericole Hellems and Ian Steere. Georgetown's Patrick Ewing surprised many by landing Rivals150 Louisiana native Josh LeBlanc along with explosive lead guard Mac McClung. Oklahoma State's Mike Boynton, despite the FBI investigation hanging over his program, nabbed two under-the-radar frontcourt prospects in Duncan DeMuth and Yor Anei. LSU’s Will Wade added further to his top-10 class with four-star forward Darius Days, and Mike Hopkins has continued to replenish the cupboard at Washington thanks to last month’s commitment of Nate Roberts. However, no one made a bigger mark than Brad Underwood as Illinois’ head coach celebrated the school’s first five-star commitment since 2002 coming in the form of 6-foot-4 guard Ayo Dosunmu.
The Ducks already sit with a strong 2018 class, one that is bolstered by the pledges of five-star small forward Louis King and top-60 big man Miles Norris. However, Oregon needs to fill some of the minutes that will be left by grad-transfers Elijah Brown and MiKyle McIntosh following this season. Fortunately for Oregon fans, the Ducks are on the cusp of having a monumental month of November as they look to have gained the edge with five-star center Bol Bol and have also caused a stir of late with their work on top-ranked 2018 wing RJ Barrett. Toss in that they will receive an official visit from top-50 scoring guard Tyler Herro and Oregon might jump from dreamin' to cruisin' in the next month.
The easiest statement to make as we enter the month of November: Kentucky will not leave the early signing period with just one letter of intent in John Calipari’s hands. Immanuel Quickley, a top-10 point guard in the 2018 class who is built in the mold of past Calipari greats, is a definite to suit up for the Wildcats. Who might join him is up for debate but there is no way that he is the lone UK pledge this time next month. Zion Williamson, Keldon Johnson, Darius Garland, Bol Bol and Quentin Grimes each boast offers from the Wildcats, and after watching him on Tuesday, the Wildcats are now in full pursuit of top-50 guard Tyler Herro. All could come off the board in November and chances are, at least one of the elite group of prospects will head to Lexington.
The Archie Miller era is now in place at Indiana, and he's already locked in with a top-10 recruiting class. For Miller, the gems of his 2018 recruiting class could still be out there this month. Romeo Langford, while he may decide to put off his college commitment, has taken a great liking for the Hoosiers as has his good friend and fellow five-star guard, Darius Garland. Could IU land both elite prospects this month? If so, Indiana would easily win November and have an argument for the best 2018 recruiting class nationally.
NBA pedigree, skill development and ample playing time: Those are the three topics that, the majority of the time, are what high school prospects want in a college program. Xavier is offering all three to class of 2018 prospects but unfortunately for Chris Mack’s program, its top targets have declined the offer. Xavier does hold the commitments of Keonte Kennedy and Jake Walter, but it also has giant shoes to fill due to the upcoming graduations of potential All-American Trevon Bluiett and multiple-year starter JP Macura. The losses have added up in Cincinnati as Xavier missed on seven targets already this fall. Mack and his staff are hoping that next month might bring better days.
Where to begin with Louisville? The Cardinals suffered the loss of their lone 2019 pledge, Rivals150 four-star guard David Johnson, but that was quickly forgotten due to the dismissal of both head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich. It has been 46 years since a Hall of Fame head coach was not directing the program and enlisting first-timer David Padgett as its new lead boss, someone who as recently as three years ago was its director of operations, is no easy task. Thankfully for Padgett, he has a roster chock full of talent and experience that might be able to navigate the newness that lies ahead.
Just like the folks in Louisville, Miami has not had the best of months on the recruiting front. Named in the FBI investigation that saw 10 people arrested on bribery and wire fraud charges, the Hurricanes have already been hurt greatly for their inclusion in the release. They entered the month with giant voids to fill in the backcourt as they could lose their entire perimeter core following this season. Miami was in a great spot for five-star Nassir Little, top-50 guard Jalen Carey, four-star guard Eric Ayala and Rivals150 wing Saddiq Bey. A month later, the former three are now off the board, as Bey is likely going to decline Miami’s offer, too. On the bright side, Miami’s staff has the chance to face no further legal troubles and sport the roster that could fight for ACC supremacy this winter.