Who will Michigan need to fend off to land some of the nation's top recruits?
With college basketball's early-signing period just over two months away, it is time to assess the University of Michigan's competition for some of the most coveted recruits across the country.
The Wolverines already have power forward Ricky Doyle and small forward Austin Hatch in the fold for their class of 2014, but they are hoping to close out their newcomers with a pair of highly ranked prospects. After whiffing on 4-star standout Trevon Bluiett and losing some ground on a couple of top targets, there has been a bit of angst among the Maize and Blue faithful.
Six targets remain on the Michigan recruiting board. By the time the calendar turns to November, though, things should be all wrapped up.
The Competition: Kentucky and Indiana
Although James Blackmon Jr. has officially reopened his recruitment, this is not a battle the Michigan Wolverines are favored to win.
The 4-star shooting guard's father played for the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1980s, which will undoubtedly come into play when it comes time for James to make a decision. Will it be a major factor? Probably not. Still, it can only help the Wildcats, although they rarely need the extra boost when it comes to locking up top recruits.
"The campus is nice, just like every other campus (of the schools under consideration)," Blackmon told Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal after a recent visit to Lexington, K.Y.. "They have top-of-the-line everything, so that stood out."
Another major player in Blackmon's recruitment to watch out for is Indiana. He originally committed to the Hoosiers back in 2010, so there is still a deep relationship there despite his decision to decommit. An unofficial trip to campus on Aug. 24 is proof that Indiana could still land Blackmon.
Do not count head coach Tom Crean out of this one until the papers are signed.
Several of the nation's top schools will continue to pursue Blackmon, but for now, it appears that Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana are the most formidable contenders.
Top Competition: Arizona and Oregon
At this point, it appears the Wolverines have done everything within their power to secure a commitment from Kameron Chatman. Now, all that head coach John Beilein and his staff can do is wait and hope for the best.
The nation's No. 42 overall prospect, according to ESPN.com's Recruiting Nation Basketball, "enjoyed his (official) visit immensely," reported Joel Francisco of ESPN.com. Chatman and his parents had the chance to watch Michigan's football team take down Notre Dame under the lights at the Big House on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Wolverines' Final Four team reunited and was honored at the game as well, so Chatman was able to interact with both former and current Michigan players.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive trip, it will be tough for Michigan to pull Chatman away from Arizona, tweeted Kyle Bogenschutz of FOXSportsNEXT, as well as from Oregon.
The Portland, Ore. native will make official visits to Oregon (Sept. 13), USC (Sept. 20) and Arizona (Sept. 27) before making his decision.
The Competition: Cincinnati
The newest prospect to earn an offer from the Michigan Wolverines, according to Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com (subscription required), is 3-star small forward Donte Grantham. The Hargrave Military Academy standout got the good news during his official visit to Ann Arbor on Sept. 7.
There is no reason to believe Grantham disliked what he saw at Michigan. Whether or not it vaulted the Wolverines ahead of the Cincinnati Bearcats remains unclear. Cincinnati has ties to Grantham's AAU team, which does not do the Maize and Blue any favors.
The 6'7", 200-pounder will take an official trip to Cincinnati this weekend with a commitment there not out of the question.
A dark horse in this race is Virginia Commonwealth. This would be the most likely option if Grantham were to stay close to home. However, Michigan and Cincinnati are the two biggest players in his recruitment right now.
The Competition: Unclear
Aussie transplant and former Flint, Mich., native Jonah Bolden has made it clear from the very beginning that he likes what the Michigan Wolverines have to offer, according to Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com (subscription required).
Unfortunately for the Maize and Blue, there are going to be plenty of major programs turning up the heat on Bolden in the coming weeks.
The 4-star prospect is starting to attract attention from the likes of Louisville and Arizona. LSU, has thrown itself into the mix as well and Boise State could get a long look since Bolden's father, Bruce, played there in the 1980s. Nebraska has also been mentioned, but Bolden is probably out of its league.
There has not been a whole lot of information about which schools the 6'8", 195-pounder is favoring—other than Michigan, of course. This recruiting battle is wide open and it will take some time to sort out the pretenders and contenders.
The good news, though, is that the Wolverines will likely be in the mix until the very end, whenever it may be.
The Competition: Gonzaga
There have not been too many occasions in which Michigan and Gonzaga have fought over a prospect, but D.J. Wilson's recruitment will likely come down to those two schools.
The Wolverines are scheduled to host Wilson on Oct. 4. The trip will be an official visit and will come just one week after a trip to Gonzaga. Columbia is also in the mix and set to have Wilson on campus Sept. 19 for an official visit.
Again, pulling recruits off of the West Coast is tough for John Beilein, who did manage to snag Darius Morris from Los Angeles, though, so it is by no means out of the question.
The picture should become much clearer once Wilson visits Spokane, Wash., and Ann Arbor, Mich., in back-to-back visits.
The Competition: Kentucky and Michigan State
Only five schools are still in the hunt for Devin Booker. The 5-star shooting guard trimmed his list in mid-August with Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri the programs that Booker is sstill considering.
The stiffest competition Michigan has in this race is Michigan State and Kentucky. The Spartans can offer Booker a chance to play near his mother, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., and the opportunity to potentially share the court with Tyler Ulis. Kentucky is actively recruiting Ulis as well.
"He's not tied at the hip with point guard Tyler Ulis, as some have said, though Ulis (who we believe is a Kentucky lean) will try to get Booker to follow him," wrote Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com (subscription required). "That's a relationship that shouldn't be blown off."
There is a bit of a silver lining when it comes to Kentucky being a factor here, though. The Wildcats could not take on both Booker and James Blackmon Jr. This will help Michigan's chances with the other if one winds up signing with John Calipari at Kentucky.
Booker recently enjoyed an official visit to East Lansing and has three more on tap. The Moss Point High School star will tour Kentucky (Sept. 9), Michigan (Oct. 5) and Missouri (Oct. 19) before making a decision.
Missouri is the dark horse. Booker's father, Melvin, was the Big Eight Player of the Year in 1994 and a member of the Hall of Fame of Intercollegiate Athletics of the University of Missouri. Do not think for a second this does not help the Tigers.
If Booker makes it out of Lexington, Ky., without committing and the Wolverines blow him away on his official visit, Maize and Blue fans should have something to cheer about very soon.