Even though the NCAA tournament is over, there is still a lot going on in College Basketball. Underclassmen have until April 10th to inform their schools if they’re coming back (though they have until the 29th to declare for the Draft) and Coaches are on the recruiting trail trying to replace those graduating, transferring or leaving early for the NBA. Let’s take a quick look at a few big names who are still available out there and where they may end up.
Shabazz Muhammad, 6’6″, 215 lb Small Forward: One of the two best players in the country is still uncommitted, but will be making his decision on Wednesday. Muhammad was thought to be down to either UCLA or Kentucky, but late reports are that Duke isn’t out of it yet. Wait, what? You mean Mike Krzyzewski is going after what would be his third straight “one-and-done” player? He’s making a mockery of the academic system. Prediction: UCLA. The Adidas connection doesn’t hurt and I think Shabazz wants to stay on the West coast.
Nerlens Noel, 6’10”, 215 lb Center: After he reclassified to the 2012 class from the 2013, Noel’s recruitment process went from a year to just a few weeks. He is also announcing on Aprill 11th and talks about the process on his blog at ESPN. He is a tremendous talent and will immediately dominate on the defensive side. Sound familiar? After watching what Anthony Davis was able to do under John Calipari, Nerlens had to have liked what he saw. There aren’t many guys who can step right in and replace the National Player of Year, but Noel is capable. Prediction: Kentucky
Anthony Bennett, 6’8″, 230 lb Power Forward: Bennett is the third ranked uncommitted player (7th overall) and says he will announce his college choice in early May. He is deciding between Oregon, Kentucky, Florida, UNLV or Washington. Prediction: Kentucky. John Calipari can offer a ton of playing time and the best opportunity to win right away compared to the other schools he’s considering.
Alex Oriakhi, 6’9″, 240 lb Power Forward: It’s unusual for a player who started on a national championship team to decide to transfer away, but that’s what happened here. Oriakhi will be eligible right away due to UCONN’s post season ban next year. He’s a skilled, experienced big man who will immediately come in and be a leader for whichever team he chooses to play for. Kentucky, Missouri, Xavier, Duke and UNC are his top five destinations, but if he chooses Kentucky or Missouri he will have to be granted a special waiver from the conference. It doesn’t appear to be a big issue, just don’t tell UNC fans that. Prediction: Missouri.
Update: Duke has been cut from his list, likely due to Mason Plumlee returning for his senior year.
Tony Parker, 6’9″, 250 lb Center: Parker says he plans on announcing on April 11th as well and will likely choose between Duke, Ohio State and Georgia. The Blue Devils and Buckeyes are the heavy favorites, but don’t count out the Bulldogs. Despite having a program nowhere near the caliber of Duke and Ohio State, The Bulldogs can offer the Atlanta native a school close to home. Prediction: Ohio State. I mean, what big man wants Wojo coaching them?
Amile Jefferson, 6’8″, 197 lb Power Forward: Jefferson is a skilled forward who will thrive in a fast paced offense. He is from Philly and is considering hometown Villanova along with Duke, NC State and Kentucky. He appears to be a 2nd option for both the Blue Devils and Wildcats as they are both interested in other, higher ranked, forwards. NC State is returning two big men in Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter, but should CJ Leslie leave for the NBA Jefferson could fit in nicely. Prediction: NC State I think Kentucky will land two of the three forwards above (Noel, Bennett, and/or Oriakhi), eliminating them despite being Amile’s #1 choice.
Kentucky will lose almost their entire team (Doron Lamb could come back), but will again have the #1 incoming class in the country. They will sign at least two forwards from this list and possibly three if guys don’t mind competing on a good team (Jefferson isn’t a one and done player). Shabazz Muhammad is thought to be 50/50 between UK and UCLA (though Duke may still be an option) and if the Wildcats get him as well, they will be the clear favorite to win the National Championship again.
Duke is desperate for a big man, especially if Mason Plumlee decides to leave early for the NBA. You would have to think they’ll get either Oriakhi, Parker or Jefferson but it’s not certain. If they can somehow manage to pull Shabazz Muhammad and one of these big men, Duke will be a top 5 team next year.
NC State is coming off a great season and the addition of three McDonald’s All Americans has 2012-13 looking even more promising. If they are able to either keep CJ Leslie around or add Amile Jefferson, the ACC could have a new look at the top.
While it’s hard to replace a player like Jared Sullinger, Tony Parker could give Buckeye fans a short memory. While they won’t be as good as this past season, Ohio State will contend with Indiana if the big man signs on.
If Tar Heel fans are whining about eligibility waivers in April, you know they’re desperate. UNC is losing four starters and isn’t bringing in a loaded recruiting class as of right now. They could really use Alex Oriakhi to play alongside James Michael McAdoo as they will be extremely thin up front next season.