At 3 p.m. CT Thursday, second-ranked prospect Jabari Parker will make a decision on his destination for the 2013-14 season. While Parker's stay in college could likely be only one season, plenty will be tuned in to see which of the five schools on his final list will win the sweepstakes for the Simeon star.
While Parker's presence at Duke, Florida, Stanford, or BYU would be huge for any of those programs, Michigan State is the team that needs Parker the most. Tom Izzo has not signed another player for next year's recruiting class because he can't without oversigning, as Derrick Nix is the team's lone senior.
At the moment, Duke and Michigan State seem to be the late favorites for Parker, although at this point anyone has a chance still. If Parker does not call Michigan State's name on Thursday afternoon, Izzo will still be able to get a late signee for next season, but who wants to be a team's second choice?
With Parker, Michigan State would be a legitimate top-five team to start next season. Without him, they return plenty of talent (assuming no one leaves early for the draft), but would be lacking the superstar player that they've been in need of ever since Draymond Green graduated.
No, Parker would not be the savvy, all-around veteran player that Green was as a senior, when he won the Big Ten Player of the Year. However, Parker would make up for that inexperience with his athleticism and versatile nature, proving himself to be one of the Big Ten's best and a top-five pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The 6'8", 220-pound small forward from Chicago has helped his high school win three straight state titles, so he'd be no newcomer to Michigan State's winning ways. If MSU is not Final Four-bound this season, Tom Izzo will need a deep run in next year's NCAA tournament to continue an impressive streak.
Since coming to East Lansing, Izzo has never gone four straight seasons without playing in a Final Four. Basically, he can promise any recruit that if he comes to Michigan State and stays four years, he'll play in at least one Final Four.
Surely Parker will not stay four seasons, but he could help get the Spartans to the Final Four for the first time since 2010. Parker would be that player that gets an already-talented group of players over the hump and into becoming an elite team, which at this point they haven't looked like.
Here's a 12-man depth chart of what next year's Spartan lineup could look like with Parker:
PG-Keith Appling/Travis Trice
SG-Gary Harris/Brandon Kearney
SF-Jabari Parker/Denzel Valentine/Russell Byrd
PF-Branden Dawson/Matt Costello
C-Adreian Payne/Kenny Kaminski/Alex Gauna
Without Parker, Michigan State would still bring back four returning starters, once again assuming no one makes the early jump to the NBA (though a few players may be ready). But with Parker, Izzo could have one of his most special teams, and that's saying something.
To close, it's no secret that plenty of top high school players have already signed with schools last month, though Parker chose to wait until now. If Parker does not come to MSU, they will not only have lost out on Parker, but also all the other players that Izzo passed over during this recruiting process because he put all of his eggs into Parker's basket.
You can't blame Izzo for doing so, but, at the same time, he doesn't have the luxury of missing out on Parker like these other teams with bigger recruiting classes coming in next season do. Like many, I agree that Duke and Michigan State are the favorites to land Jabari.
Florida and Billy Donovan are incredibly overlooked, however, while Johnny Dawkins has done a great job at Stanford, landing Illinois Mr. Basketball winner Chasson Randle in 2011. Even BYU (whom I wrote about in this article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1423342-jabari-parker-and-his-chances-of-attending-brigham-young-including-parody-video) has a chance at Parker because of his faith.
At the end of the day, my final prediction is that Parker will go to the current top-ranked team, Duke. While this doesn't kill the future of Michigan State basketball, it certainly does not help either. As a fan of the Big Ten Conference, though not one of Michigan State, I'd enjoy seeing Parker in the best league in the nation a year from now, even if it's at the expense of my favorite teams.