A long and unpredictable ride during the recruitment of four-star point guard Xavier Simpson is nearly over, as Simpson prepares to announce his collegiate destination on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. CT.
Illinois and Wisconsin were the most recent official visit spots for one of the top playmakers in the Midwest. Simpson was in Madison this past weekend, and the Badgers appear to be confident going into the decision - after extending an offer exactly two weeks ago.
There were positive vibes for the Illini after Simpson's trip to Champaign the weekend prior. Many believed that John Groce and Illinois had a slight edge going into the visit to Wisconsin. There was even a feeling that Miami could be the bigger threat of the remaining trips, but the Hurricanes are now out of the mix after Simpson canceled his official visit there slated for this weekend. Iowa State was Simpson's first official visit, and they seem to be on the outside looking in as well.
The twists and turns of this race have been impossible to predict. Back in May, Simpson nearly committed to Xavier before cancelling the decision announcement. There have been plenty of curve balls to follow.
Simpson hesitated on locking in an official visit to Illinois earlier in August. But after being on campus, Quincey Simpson said the Illini proved to be a "great fit". As early as last week, Wisconsin seemed like an unlikely match with Bo Ryan's future, but there has been buzz that Ryan could extend the length of his 'Last Ride.' His success in recent years has been nothing short of elite.
The Illini haven't beaten Ryan and the Badgers on the court since Groce took over in Champaign. High-profile recruitments haven't been Ryan's expertise, but he has had some good point guards at his disposal. Simpson could join the likes of Devin Harris and Jordan Taylor has early impact playmakers in Ryan's system.
Meanwhile, Groce had a record-setting point guard at Ohio in D.J. Cooper but he hasn't found the answer at Illinois heading into Year Four. Simpson could be the one to change that, or he could be the latest high-level point guard target to give the Illini the 'bridesmaid' designation.
If He Chooses WisconsinAdding Simpson would be big for Wisconsin. Wisconsin signed five prospects in 2015 (four forwards and a shooting guard) and would love to find Bronson Koenig’s successor with its one available scholarship in 2016. Simpson is an improving shooter and an impact player. It would awesome show the Badgers’ brand is still at a high level, especially since UW had not recruited Simpson nearly as long as Illinois had.
If He Doesn't Choose BadgersSimpson would mesh with veterans Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Leron Black during the 2016-17 season, and the Illini would be contenders in the Big Ten. Wisconsin would then put all of its focus on Gig Harbor (WA) Peninsula four-star point guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who is slated to take an official visit to Madison next weekend. If McLaughlin goes to another school in his top five, UW would be scrambling.
What's The Buzz?
There was quite a bit of buzz for the Illini after Simpson's official visit to Champaign. It was considered to be an eye-opening trip for the family, and there are a laundry list of reasons why Illinois makes sense. The Illini have been in the mix the longest, they offer the best immediate opportunity and supporting cast, and they are the closest to home. In fact, Simpsons have family in the Champaign area.
"We got a lot of family that is here in Champaign. So it'd be like a home away from home for Xavier," Quincey Simpson said after the visit. "He'd be around family here and I'd feel real comfortable with him being here."
With that being said, Wisconsin has been all the talk since the decision date was announced on Monday. That makes sense given that they were the last visit, and recent history suggests that the final visit on the slate generally turns out to be the landing spot. But that isn't always the case.
It's only natural to make predictions, but there hasn't been a feeling of complete confidence with this situation. The Simpson camp has kept people guessing throughout and that isn't likely to change until the decision is officially announced. It's logical to think that the Wisconsin visit could have been the nail in the coffin for Illinois, or it could have confirmed that Illinois was the right destination.
According to an Illinois source, the Illini staff was still up in the air about the pending result on Monday. They still feel good about what they put on the table with their sell, even if most people believe the odds are going against them. Simply put, the Illini feel that they deserve to land Simpson and it seemed like a strong possibility heading into this past weekend.
The wild winds of recruiting can shift up until the final hour, and that should certainly be taken into account. The Illini shouldn't be written off just because Wisconsin got a visit, and it wouldn't be shocking if Simpson picked either one of those schools.
Stay tuned to IlliniInquirer.com, BadgerNation.com and Scout.com for the latest.