Final Predictions for Top NCAA Basketball Recruits on Decision Friday
If there's one day to pay attention to recruiting this year, it's Friday. Four of the top five recruits rated by Rivals.com are scheduled to announce their decisions.
The Andrew Wiggins of this class is a package deal: Jahlil Okafor, the top-rated player in 2014, and Tyus Jones, who most have as the top point guard.
Okafor and Jones are likely choosing between Duke and Kansas, with Baylor also in the mix as a long shot.
Cliff Alexander, a big man out of Chicago, is considering Kansas, Illinois, Memphis and DePaul.
And Stanley Johnson, the highest-rated wing in the country, is down to Arizona, Kentucky, USC, Oregon and Florida.
All four will announce soon after 4 p.m. ET on Friday as part of ESPNU's recruiting special.
Let's get to the predictions.
To give you an idea of why you should be skeptical of anything you hear or read about recruiting, consider this.
On Monday, Okafor's father told Mike Helfgot of the Chicago Tribune that Okafor has made up his mind. "He is confident in his choice," Chuck Okafor said.
On Thursday, Jones wrote in his blog on USA Today that he and Okafor are definitely still going to the same school. "That's 100 percent," he wrote. And Jones also said, "I haven't made up my mind yet."
So, it's a 100 percent that Jones and Okafor will play together. Okafor had made up his mind by Monday, according to his father. And Jones is still not sure where he's playing.
Lesson: Take everything with a grain of salt, no matter the source.
OK, let's get to the prediction...
If Okafor were not tied to Jones, the consensus would probably be that he's headed for Kansas.
Duke has not had a true big man as the primary scoring option since Elton Brand. There have been successful true bigs since—Carlos Boozer, Shelden Williams and Mason Plumlee—but the system caters more to perimeter scorers.
Bill Self's system, on the other hand, is catered to big men. Simply look at the game plans for each team on Tuesday night as an example.
It also appears—again, take this with a grain of salt—that Self has made Okafor his priority. Alexander's high school coach, Mike Oliver, told SNY.tv that he believes KU is focusing more on Okafor and said Self had been to Chicago a couple times the last few weeks and didn't come visit Alexander.
"He was there to visit Jahlil," Oliver said.
The experts have had Duke as the favorite throughout this race, but if Okafor wants to go to Kansas and Jones is unwilling to play without him, maybe Self has a shot.
Still, it's hard to believe Jones wants to go anywhere but Duke, so Duke is still the heavy favorite for his pal.
Duke beat writer Laura Keeley wrote a nice piece this summer on the package deal of Jones and Okafor, and in that story, she reported that Duke offered Jones a scholarship the summer before his sophomore season when he played well at the Peach Jam.
At that point, Mike Krzyzewski must have decided he wanted Jones and wasn't settling for another point guard. Jones, Keeley reported, has been the only point guard target for the Blue Devils in the class of 2014.
Jones writes of Duke in his blog:
With Duke it's the opportunity to play for Coach K and the style that they play there. I love the way they use their guards, and I feel like I can make an impact right away. Plus they have a great fan base.
Coach K has recruited this guy for more than two years. He's a great fit in Duke's system. The Blue Devils have been confident enough that they'll land Jones that they don't have a backup plan.
This all adds up Blue Devils.
Alexander has always been thought to be headed to Kansas. His girlfriend plays for the women's team at KU, and he would be a good fit in Self's high-low system.
And according to his high school coach, Oliver, a few weeks ago Alexander was definitely leaning toward Lawrence.
But, no one wants to feel like second place. And Oliver is sure making it sound like KU looks at Alexander as more of a consolation prize.
Oliver told SNY.tv that Kansas was the only school not to visit Alexander last week.
"Memphis came, Illinois came twice and DePaul came over there twice," Oliver said.
It could be that Self has decided to go all in for Okafor, and if he doesn't land Okafor, the Jayhawks are still in consideration for Myles Turner, the third prize big man in the class.
Or, it could be that the high school coach is reading too much into all of this.
It is worth taking a look at the predictions over at 247Sports.com. Tom Fornelli over at the Illini blog, The Champaign Room, documented how a good number of those predictions have changed from KU to Illinois.
They seem to be buying into the Oliver logic.
If Alexander wants to be the man, he would also have competition at Kansas even if all the star freshmen leave. He could have some competition at Memphis as well, but not as much.
At Illinois and DePaul, he'd be the guy. And if he wants to be the guy and play for a winner, then Illinois would be the best fit.
The consensus is that Johnson will likely end up at either Arizona, Kentucky or USC. He made official visits to all three.
USC is a chance to stay home for the wing from Santa Ana, Calif. Kentucky is the school that recruits consider an automatic ticket to the NBA. And Arizona offers a little of both: A good chance to become a pro and stay close to home.
Here's how they break at down over at ESPN.com on its RecruitingNation Hot Board (subscription required):
If Johnson does sign early—which is unlikely—Arizona may have an advantage. But if Johnson waits until January, which is what is expected, Kentucky will reel in this recruit.
Well, he is announcing early—someone needs to update the Hot Board!—but I'm not so sure that rules out Kentucky.
James Young is off to a great start, and John Calipari could probably convince Johnson that Young is headed for the league. Calipari has been willing to bring Alex Poythress off the bench this year, so if Poythress stays, he could tell Johnson that he'd have a chance to win the job just like Young did.
Kentucky has already signed fellow wing Devin Booker, but Johnson is the higher-rated recruit.
Arizona might have even more competition on the wing next year as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Gabe York and Nick Johnson will likely all be back.
And when in doubt, Calipari is usually a good bet.