Three-Point Play: Arizona, North Carolina, surprising true freshman
STARTING FIVE: Big-timers making moves
Today in the Three-Point Play, Rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi looks at who could still top Arizona for the top 2019 recruiting class. Plus, the freshman Bossi gets asked about most outside of Zion Williamson and North Carolina’s other potential one-and-done.
1. WHO CAN BEAT ARIZONA FOR NO. 1?
On Friday, Arizona landed top-40 forward Zeke Nnaji. Adding him to the Wildcats' previous haul of five-stars Josh Green and Nico Mannion plus four-star Terry Armstrong and three-star big man Christian Koloko gave Sean Miller and Arizona the top-ranked 2019 class.
Set aside the anger that Miller and company holding the top spot has caused in the Twittersphere, mostly coming from opposing fanbases in disbelief Arizona can recruit so well after negative headlines for the last year, let’s take a look at who could reasonably catch or pass them.
First up is the current No. 2 USC. Andy Enfield and the Trojans are so close to the Wildcats that how each program’s commits finish in the final rankings could determine who stays on top. If any one of Arizona’s current commits drops or one of USC’s goes up while everything else remains the same, the Trojans could regain the top spot. An addition or subtraction to either group would make a difference too.
The next team most likely to catch Arizona is Kentucky. The Wildcats class currently ranks No. 7 and his headlined by five-star scorers Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney. If they are able to add any of their top four remaining five-star targets -- Matthew Hurt, Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart or Keion Brooks -- then they would pass Arizona.
Also within striking range are current No. 8 Memphis (Hurt, Tendon Watford and four-star Damion Baugh on its radar), No. 17 Duke (No. 1 Vernon Carey, Stewart and Hurt still in play), No. 20 Michigan State (Carey, Stewart, Brooks and Anthony Edwards left on its board) and No. 21 North Carolina (Edwards, Cole Anthony, Hurt and Brooks still in play). There could always be a surprise, too, but if Arizona is going to get passed, it’s most likely going to be by one of the six programs I mentioned.
2. THE FRESHMAN I GET ASKED ABOUT SECOND-MOST MAY SURPRISE YOU
Whether it be my friends texting, on message boards or Twitter, the freshman that I get asked about the most might surprise you. Of course, nobody would be surprised that I get asked the most about Duke’s Zion Williamson. But after him, I don’t think I’ve been asked about anybody more than I have Georgetown guard Mac McClung.
The former three-star prospect is a big-time athlete and a YouTube search produces countless videos of his crazy dunks. Earlier this season, he made SportsCenter with an open-court dunk against Illinois and since then I’ve been getting tons of questions about him and why he wasn’t ranked nationally in the Rivals150 or pursued by more programs.
McClung is going to end up a good player at Georgetown and he’s lots of fun to watch. The Hoyas' backcourt of him and former four-star James Akinjo is a fun freshman duo. Most importantly, there’s not a lot of other options for Pat Ewing in the backcourt so McClung and Akinjo are getting tons of minutes and the opportunity to play through mistakes. But so far, I think our ranking (or non-ranking) of McClung is standing up.
He’s playing good minutes but his season averages of 6.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game don’t scream huge rankings miss. At least not yet. So far, McClung is shooting just 33.3 percent from the field (14.3 percent from three) and he’s not attempted a single free throw in 136 minutes. The lack of free throw attempts is the single most surprising thing to me. I’d love to see him apply pressure with that athleticism and find a way to live at the line. So, let’s have fun watching him play, look forward to him getting better and see where he is in a year or two before the debates get too serious.
3. DOES NORTH CAROLINA HAVE TWO ONE-AND-DONE PLAYERS?
Headed into this season, pretty much everybody assumed that North Carolina’s Nassir Little would be a one-and-done player. He finished 2018 ranked No. 2 overall, he’s athletic, he can shoot a bit and he’s productive. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s yet to start through seven games, but has racked up 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. He still looks very much like a lottery pick after this season.
But, it’s looking more and more like fellow freshman Coby White may have a decision to make following the season. A former five-star prospect, White is somebody that I wrote could have an outside chance to go one-and-done, but I never really thought of him as a serious candidate to do so. Maybe I need to be rethinking my opinion there because he’s a dynamic offensive player and big-time shooter who is averaging nearly 16 points and four assists per game while making 43.9% of his three point shots. Today’s NBA loves shooters and with his ability to play on or off the ball, he’s a guy I’ve been getting some serious calls for background information on over the last week.
The possibility that White could leave after a year (assuming he continues to play so well) only ramps up the pressure on Roy Williams and the Tar Heels to land 2019’s top point guard Cole Anthony. It’s also a reason why I would expect they do everything that they can to get involved now that high scoring Anthony Edwards has moved from 2020 to 2019.