The recruiting class is one of, if not, the most important thing to sustained success in every college sport, but with the overwhelming number of one-and-done players entering the college basketball landscape every year, it is extremely difficult to predict the best teams year in and year out. With that said, here are a couple of predictions of teams that could make a huge impact next year despite some of the major losses each of these teams is suffering.
1. Duke Blue Devils
Losses- Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter
Additions- R.J Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones
Coach K has built one of the most sustained programs in the country when he first joined Duke 34 years ago, but I cannot imagine him having a recruiting class like he has coming in for 2018. Yes he does lose, potential top 3, pick Marvin Bagley as well as Allen, Duval, and Carter, but they gain the top 3 recruits in the country according to ESPN. R.J Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish could be the most athletic front court in the country next year, and to top all of that off, Tre Jones has the potential to be one of the next great duke guards that have come out of the factory that is Duke. Duke does not rebuild, they reload, but they are reloading a shotgun with a missile launcher this year. If the hype matches the production, this could be the best team in the country next year.
2. Villanova Wildcats
Losses- Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges
Additions- Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider, Brandon Slater
When you lose the National Player of the Year in Jalen Brunson, and a potential top 10 pick in Mikal Bridges, it seems like a lot to overcome for a school with the expectation of getting back to the National Championship game. Jay Wright has shown the ultimate form of trust the process with a Villanova team that has won it all two of the past three years after inheriting a team that couldn’t make it out of the of the second round of the NCAA tournament under the previous regime. Now three top 50 players in the ESPN rankings might not seem like a lot, but after only getting three the past three recruiting classes, this is a pretty good haul for the Wildcats. Villanova has a knack for bringing guys in that help more in the long run than the short run but this group could be asked to shoulder some of the burden of losing two amazing college players next season.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
Losses- Kevin Knox, Shai Alexander, PJ Washington
Additions- Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quigley, Tyler Herro
I’m going to start this by saying that all of these are predictions of players that will leave and not an exact list of players that are guaranteed to leave. With that said, Coach Cal has no problem reloading his team as he has done for the last 8 years. 2017 was not one of his strongest recruiting classes so we could see a player or two from the losses list decide to come back, which would greatly improve their standing next season. Tyler Herro is one of the best scorers in the class and Keldon Johnson showed he can battle with anyone at the All-American game. This might not be one of Cal’s most prestigious recruiting classes, but Kentucky finds a way to make a strong case come March to be a tough out.
4. UCLA Bruins
Losses- Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands
Additions- Moses Brown, Shareef O’Neil, Jules Bernard
UCLA might seem like a team that is a little down on its luck and having to deal with all the Ball drama from last year, but they are one of the biggest beneficiaries from the FBI scandal with the addition of Shaq’s son Shareef. They may have lost some very good guards in Holiday and Hands but the front court will be incredibly deep. Moses and O’Neil give them some extreme size inside in a game that is moving further and further outside the arc, UCLA looks like they are building their team from the inside. The drama that surrounded the Bruins has now left and that should lift much of the burden off of this prestigious program so watch out for this team as a sleeper come next March.
5. UNC Tarheels
Losses- Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Cam Johnson
Additions- Nassir Little, Coby White
Speaking of drama, UNC seems to have all of there’s figured out after the 5 year investigation into academic fraud. Well one schools loss is another schools benefit in the signing of Nassir Little. The Tarheels do lose their floor general in Berry, but still have players like Luke Maye and Kenny Williams to lead this young core. Little will be an excellent addition to a veteran group of players and could help lead this Tarheel group to a deep run in the big dance.
Overall we cannot judge a recruiting class by ESPN or Bleacher Report rankings. Most of the additions to these teams will likely be one and done players which is making both the college and pro game watered down. It is a shame there has not been more traction on this rule change but in the meantime, we can all enjoy seeing these young men kill it in college for however long they are there.