Three-Point Play: Five-star dilemma, St. John's, make-or-break week
RIVALS ROUNDTABLE: Coaches that need to make the NCAA Tournament
How many five-stars should be in a relatively down class of 2019? Eric Bossi looks at that question, plus the problems at St. John's and which programs have imporant weeks ahead.
1. THERE’S A FIVE-STAR QUESTION IN 2019
We are just a bit over a month away from 2019’s late signing period and we are also growing closer to the time to complete a final ranking of the 2019 class. As we get closer, a huge question is beginning to form in my mind about exactly where we draw the line at five-star status.
As we’ve pointed out for a while, 2019 isn’t the strongest class that we’ve ever seen. Despite that, we have 31 players in the Rivals150 ranked as five-star prospects. Compared to most years, that’s a little on the high side which wouldn’t seem to make sense with a relatively average class. However, whereas most classes can be broken down into pretty definite tiers of players making it easy to decide on a cut line for five- and four-star line, 2019’s is difficult because of pretty extreme parity for prospects.
I do think that from No. 1 Vernon Carey to No. 7 Matthew Hurt, the top seven have separated themselves. However from No. 8 Kahlil Whitney to Jahmius Ramsey, the highest-ranked four-star at No. 32 overall, the difference is minimal, if any. This has been made even more clear to me watching the Texas Tech-bound Ramsey lead Duncanville (Texas) High to the state semifinals over these past few weeks. He’s been dominant and has made a strong case for five-stars.
But, if we elevate him we either have to find somebody who is pretty equal to drop or we are in danger of having a pretty inordinate amount of five-stars. Keep in mind, history has also shown us that a few five-stars from the 2020 class will end up reclassifying up a year so it presents a bit of a dilemma. Do we get really strict about five-star status in 2019 and start taking away fifth stars from prospects or do we just accept that it’s a bit of a funky year and that we may end up with 35 or so five-stars? It’s something we’ll be spending a lot of time discussing over the next month or so.
2. WHAT’S UP WITH ST. JOHN’S?
It wasn’t too long ago that St. John’s was 12-0 headed into Big East Conference play on a high as Chris Mullin looked to have his team turning a corner in what was possibly going to be a make or break year. Now, after losing to DePaul on Sunday the Red Storm sits squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble at 20-10 and 8-9 in the Big East as they prepare for a Saturday game at Xavier that has become a must-win affair.
So, how on Earth did this happen? I get that Mullin inherited a team in rough shape, but after three mostly unsuccessful seasons (with some highlight wins), St. John’s has arguably the most talented roster in the Big East led by an All-America caliber player in point guard Shamorie Ponds. I know the Red Storm don’t have a ton of size, but neither does anybody else in the Big East and there’s simply no excuse for them to be 8-9 in conference and fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives at this point.
If they can’t win this weekend or find a way into the NCAA Tournament by performing in the Big East Tournament, the bulk of the blame will have to fall at the feet of Mullin. He reminds me in a lot of ways of Fred Hoiberg. He’s got an NBA background, he's a legend at his school, prefers an open and fast small-ball style, doesn’t appear to be a fan of recruiting and he’s got a pretty laid back approach. However, the huge difference is that Hoiberg's teams at Iowa State were pretty successful in the Big 12.
I'm not ready to totally write off Mullin and St. John's because they have the talent to get hot again and make some of this season's troubles a distant memory. But if they don't, some hard questions will have to be asked.
3. MAKE-OR-BREAK WEEK AHEAD FOR FIVE
Speaking of make-or-break weeks, there are five teams standing out to me as having incredibly important weeks ahead of them when it comes to their NCAA Tournament chances. I wanted to touch on them real quick.
Arizona State - The entire country has spent the winter banging on the Pac-12 and openly wondering whether or not the league deserves a second team in the Big Dance. The Sun Devils would look to have the best chance as they have some impressive wins (to go with some inexplicable losses). But a win at Arizona to close out the season would be really helpful to their chances. If they lose on Saturday, there’s a good chance they’ll have no alternative but to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
Indiana - It’s crazy that Indiana is even within sniffing distance of the NCAA Tournament at 15-14 overall and just 6-12 in the Big Ten. But beating Michigan State for a second time has kept the Hoosiers' hopes alive. If they can beat Illinois and Rutgers this week and then get at least one (preferably two) wins in the Big Ten Tournament then the Hoosiers would have a great shot at making the field of 68 despite a stretch where they lost 12 of 13 during Big Ten play.
Minnesota - If the season ended today, then Minnesota is likely in. But, the Gophers still have games at home against Purdue and on the road against Maryland. A win over either of them should have Minnesota in pretty good shape but it can’t afford to lose both games. If the Gophers miss the NCAA Tournament again, one has to worry some for Richard Pitino’s future in Minneapolis.
Oklahoma - Despite only being 6-10 in Big 12 play, the NET ranking still likes the Sooners a lot and at No. 42, they would seem to be in good shape. But, they finish conference play by hosting Kansas and going on the road to Kansas State. Not an easy road for a team that is getting closer and closer to the bubble. Win at least one of them and they look pretty good but if they lose them both it’s really hard to see a team with a 6-12 conference record making the field without some kind of minor miracle.
Ohio State - The Buckeyes ship has been taking on water as they’ve dropped to 18-11 overall (8-10 in Big Ten play) and lost star Kaleb Wesson for an indefinite amount of time due to suspension. Luckily, the schedule looks pretty favorable for their final week. If they can’t beat Northwestern they probably don’t deserve to be in the Tournament and getting a chance to host ranked Wisconsin and rack of one last quality win in their season finale bodes well for Chris Holtmann’s group.