When Michigan and Ohio State square off on the hardwood Sunday afternoon it will be a battle of two teams with very different postseason outlooks that are very different. The Buckeyes (19-7 / 8-5) are fighting to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding. The Wolverines (13-13 / 6-8) meanwhile, would need to go on an improbable run to make the Big Dance. As it stands they are on the bubble the NIT. But the disparate standing of these foes won’t keep the players or their fans for being fired up for this rivalry game. The atmosphere in Crisler Sunday should make for a prime recruiting opportunity, and the Wolverines plan to take full advantage.
The day had been setting up as one of the most impressive crop in years thanks in large part to the planned presence of the nation’s #1 player in 2015, Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler SF Jaylen Brown. The 6-7, 215-pounder had planned to take his official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend but was forced to reschedule for after his season. Also scheduled to be on hand was Gladstone (N.J) Gill St. Bernards five-star SG Tyus Battle, but like many others on the East Coast, he is snowed in. And lastly, the state of Michigan’s top player in 2017, Saginaw Arthur Hill five-star SF Brian Bowen was tentatively slated to be on hand, but was a late scratch. However, even with those absences the Wolverines will still be hosting a very impressive bunch.
Headlining the crop of visitors will be 2016 U of D Jesuit PG Cassius Winston. The five-star floor general has become quite a familiar face around in Ann Arbor, having made his way to town over a half-dozen times since attending the Wolverines summer camp back in June. On the hardwood this season he has powered his team to a 14-2 record, reportedly averaging 25 points and eight assists per game. In addition to his Michigan offer he also holds scholarships from Michigan State, Ohio State, Maryland, Iowa, Purdue, and a host of others.
Joining Winston in the recruiting section Sunday will be another Michigan offer recipient and camp attendee, 2016 Columbus Northland SF Seth Towns. The 6-8, 190-pounder is enjoying a strong junior campaign, averaging over 23 points per game en route to propelling his team to a city league title. He also recently cracked Scout.com’s top 100, now checking in at #89. Ohio State added its name to his offer sheet not that long ago, but doesn’t seem to have affected Michigan’s place on his leaderboard. “They are still right there at the top of my list with other schools,” Towns told Scout.com recently. “I have a really good relationship with Michigan and watching them play and continuing to talk to the caches and build on the relationship that we already have.”
A few highly touted underclassmen are also slated to be in attendance Sunday, headlined by Grand Rapids (Mich.) Forest Hills Central PF Xavier Tillman. The big-bodied power forward has lived up to his billing is one of the state’s top prospects in the 2017 class, averaging 16.5 points and over 10 rebounds per game. That has been good enough to power Forest Hills Central to 17-0 record and a conference title. Tillman currently holds offers from Michigan State, Purdue, and Xavier. Michigan under John Beilein has a long-standing policy of not offering prospects until the summer after their sophomore year, but the Maize & Blue has kept a watchful eye on the talented youngster. He camped in Ann Arbor last summer and has been to campus for a number of visits. He also happens to be a Michigan legacy, as his mother Tanya (Powell) Tillman played basketball for the Wolverines from 1986-1990.
Rounding out the big names expected to be on hand is 2018 East Lansing (Mich.) standout Brandon Johns. The 6-7, 200-pounder is regarded by many as the top in-state prospect in his class. Capable of scoring from beyond the arc, off the bounce, and with his back to the basket, Johns impressed coaches and scouts alike at a number of tournaments and camps last summer, including Michigan’s. That led to lofty expectations heading into his freshman campaign, but the talented youngster struggled out of the gate. So did his team. East Lansing went 3-6 over the first half of the season, but that can be chalked up as John’s adjustment period. The second half of the season has been a different story. The versatile forward is now averaging nearly 15 points and over 10 rebounds per game to help East Lansing to a 6-1 record after the midway point.
Other Expected Vistors
2016 Pickerington (Ohio) Central SF Ibi Watson
2016 Pickerington (Ohio) Central SG Jalen Tate
2017 Lowell (Mich.) SG Matt Beachler
2017 Macomb (Mich.) Dakota PG Jermaine Jackson Jr
2017 Saginaw SG Ronquavious Southward
2018 Clarkston PG Foster Loyer