Who will announce?
Information has been trickling in about who plans to announce their college choice during the initial signing period. At this point, De'Aaron Fox, T.J. Leaf, Seventh Woods, Mario Kegler and De'Ron Davis have set times to make their decisions public. Other possible commitments this week could be Edrice Adebayo, Dewan Huell, Udoka Azubuike and Charlie Moore. Jarrett Allen, Marques Bolden and Bruce Brown are ones to watch. None of the three have indicated that they could make an early choice, but Allen and Bolden have taken four official visits and Brown has taken three. Among the players that will definitely wait are Josh Jackson, Malik Monk, Thon Maker, Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins, Andrew Jones, Taurean Thompson and Bruno Fernando.
Who finishes No. 1?
One of the biggest questions heading into the initial signing period centers around who closes out their 2016 class well enough to finish No. 1 in the class rankings. With so many elite prospects still on the board, there are a handful of different scenarios that could lead to a different number one. What we do know is the No. 1 class will be one of these three: Duke, Kentucky or Michigan State. Duke is the clear No. 1 right now with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson & Javin DeLaurier all on board. But it’s not a guarantee (although they are the clear favorite) they keep it and a lot of depends on where the remaining elite prospects go. Kentucky appears to be the favorite for De’Aaron Fox (No. 4), plus is strongly in the running for Malik Monk (No. 5), Marques Bolden (No. 12), Jarrett Allen (No. 16) and Edrice Adebayo (No. 15). If Kentucky lands Fox, plus two of those next three, Kentucky would certainly be underconsideration. Michigan State could still land the No. 2 player – Josh Jackson – and that could certainly make things interesting.
SEC teams emerge
We are all used to Kentucky sitting at the top of the recruiting class rankings, but much like last year when LSU and Texas A&M put together top 10 recruiting classes, there are some new SEC teams sitting among the best classes in the country. Ben Howland’s recruiting class is notable, as he currently sits at No. 4 with four four-star prospects and has a good chance of moving up even higher. Alabama sits at No. 10, while their rival is at No. 15. While the SEC won’t bring in the sheer number of top 100 prospects that the ACC will, the league continues to get strong, which is a result of the recent hires within the league.
Where does top PG -- De’Aaron Fox -- end up?
With De’Aaron Fox being the highest rated prospect set to announce during the evaluation period, his destination is certainly a major storyline. But at the same time, the destination doesn’t appear to be in question. Fox has taken official visits to Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and LSU. With that said, Kentucky seems to have had a stronghold on this recruitment for quite some time. Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne has done a tremendous job recruiting and Fox and when the 6-foot-4 guard announces on Thursday, it will almost certainly be for the Big Blue.
T.J. Leaf decision big for UCLA
On Thursday, five-star power forward T.J. Leaf will announce his college decision between UCLA, San Diego State and Oregon. The Bruins have been the presumed leader for Leaf ever since he decommitted from Arizona and should the El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian senior choose UCLA, it would be a significant pickup for Steve Alford and company. UCLA already holds a commitment from the West Coast's top 2016 point guard in Lonzo Ball and the top center in the region in Ike Anigbogu. If the Bruins land Leaf, they'll have the west's top prospects at point guard, power forward and center in the same class, to go with an athletic wing with upside in Kobe Paras. It's a class that would really booster UCLA's chances at competing nationally in the coming seasons.
Can Mississippi State continue their recruiting success?
Ben Howland and staff are rolling in recruiting at Mississippi State and may not be done yet. The Bulldogs have commitments from three Top 100 prospects in Schnider Herard, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter to go along with four-star Eli Wright. On Wednesday, Mississippi State could add to that list with a commitment from Mario Kegler, Scout's 46th ranked prospect in 2016. On Thursday, Howland and company have the chance to add to the class again when Scout's 48th ranked 2016 prospect, De'Ron Davis, chooses between Mississippi State and Indiana. Mississippi State already has Scout's 4th ranked class in 2016, but a good next couple of days and the Bulldogs could rise even further up that list.
What is up with the Big XII?
To this point probably the biggest disappointment has been the performance of the Big XII on the recruiting trail. After a subpar class last year, the thought was this would be a bounce back recruiting cycle, but that quite simply hasn’t happened. The Big XII has only landed five top 100 prospects, and none of them are five-star prospects. Texas does have a pair of four-star prospects committed, but overall the conference has struggled in a big way. Kansas is still in the mix for some big fish such as Jarrett Allen, Marques Bolden, and Andrew Jones, but it is tough to say they lead for anybody. Either Kansas has to pick things up or Texas has to rally in order for the conference to remain among the nation’s elite.
Can Indiana close strong?
Tom Crean and his staff knew coming in to the 2016 recruiting cycle that they needed a lot of reinforcements. In fact they planned on adding as many as six prospects to the class. As of now the Hoosiers only have two commitments. However Indiana has the chance to close extremely strong. Indiana is considered the co-favorite for De’Ron Davis, is a finalist for Mario Kegler, and is right there in the mix for Bruce Brown. All three are expected to decide, and while landing all three is a bit of a stretch, if the Hoosiers can get two their class would include three four-star rated players. That would do a lot to secure the future of Indiana’s roster. Given that players such as James Blackmon and Troy Williams are at least eyeing the NBA, and Yogi Ferrell is a senior, the Hoosiers need to land a key class, and right now they don’t have a top 100 prospect. If Indiana closes strong then things definitely are looking up. If they come up empty then Crean and his staff are going to be scrambling for answers in the spring.