Three-Point Play: Elites faltering, three with intrigue, stars shine
WEDNESDAY'S LEFTOVERS: Dishing on Pitt, TCU, Virginia and more
In today’s Three-Point Play, Rivals.com basketball recruiting analyst Corey Evans looks at how blueblood recruiting offers don't pack the same punch as they used to, lists three under-the-radar programs to follow this season and breaks down the debut of several star freshmen.
1. WHY ARE BLUEBLOODS FALTERING ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL?
We have seen programs such as Villanova, Florida, West Virginia and Tennessee topple some of the giants of college basketball for priority targets during the 2019 recruiting cycle, and more could follow. It's not normal to see elite programs struggle to fend off non-traditional powers, but is this just a one-off or the beginning of a trend?
I tend to think this is something that we are going to see more of over time. When I have asked coaches about this very topic, they have pointed to the FBI investigation into college basketball and suggested that many of these prospects are less willing to involve themselves with a program that may have been tangled up in the scandal.
Part of it is that these kids are as savvy as ever before. While they are going to be impressed by the cachet of a Duke or Kentucky, there's not an overwhelming difference between what they can offer compared to others when it comes to facilities, travel, locker room set-up and apparel.
Finally, coaches are underestimating just how smart these prospects are and how often they talk to each other. Recently, I was told a group of highly-regarded seniors received the exact same text message from a college coach. I'm sure they all got a good laugh out of it, but what if that made them re-consider their feelings about that coach and his program? These kids are not dumb.
Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina are always going to get top-level prospects, but they may have to change their recruiting pitches and plans. This is especially true given the fact that the one-and-done rule could soon be a thing of the past.
2. INTRIGUE SURROUNDING THREE PROGRAMS
Here are three programs that might be off the radar to some degree, but are worth keeping an eye on over the course of the 2018-19 season.
Memphis: There has been a lot of questions about whether a former NBA star with zero college coaching experience can cut it on the sidelines. While this concern is a bit overblown, Mark Price, Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing hasn't exactly been lighting it up. Unlike some that have preceded him, Penny Hardaway has coached high school and travel ball. Now can he get it done coaching against Gregg Marshall, Mick Cronin and Dan Hurley?
Vanderbilt: There is a lot on the line this season for Bryce Drew's program. The Commodores welcome the best recruiting class in school history to campus and, with it, expectations for success within SEC play and beyond. While Vanderbilt looks to be a fringe NCAA Tournament team, this will be more about how Drew manages the talent on his roster and how he cultivates the abilities of five-stars Simi Shittu and Darius Garland. If he can showcase their games appropriately, might more high-level prospects take a longer look at Vanderbilt?
Indiana: The Hoosiers have landed the best in-state prospect, now they have to showcase that talent and win with it. Archie Miller was hired last year and was tasked with bringing Indiana back to the blueblood level and he has certainly done his part on the recruiting trail. His use of five-star Romeo Langford will be closely watched.
3. HOW THE STARS SHAPED UP
Here's how the best of the 2018 Rivals150 started off their college careers:
BZR: It sounds like a 1980s rock band but what R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish accomplished on Tuesday evening was extremely impressive. The trio of top-five talent nearly outscored the Kentucky by themselves. Barrett had his typical slash and score prowess on display; Williamson was, as always, explosive but also showed passing and ball skills; lastly, Reddish showcased his quality feel and pace along with his versatility in the backcourt, creating one of the best three-man freshmen trios the sport has ever seen.
A.J. Reeves: He hovered around the top-50 of his class’ rankings, but after one quick look at him on Tuesday, the Providence guard has already outplayed his ranking. A 6-foot-5 shot-making wing that, as you guessed it, can make shots, Reeves made seven of his nine 3-point attempts en route to a 29-points debut.
Xavier Johnson: Unranked in the Rivals150 but looking the part of a key figure in Jeff Capel’s efforts to restart the Pittsburgh program, Johnson filled up the stat sheet in his debut with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. He looks primed to outproduce his three-star ranking.