Burning Questions for College Basketball's 2018 April Signing Period
After five-plus months of nonstop college basketball action and Villanova's second national title in three years, it's time for a breather, right?
If only. The offseason isn't lacking intrigue, particularly as the regular signing period is coming up. High school and junior college prospects who didn't sign national letters of intent during the early window in November can begin doing so again Wednesday.
There are a handful of top uncommitted players on the board, and where they'll end up—or if they'll even go to college—is among the unanswered questions we have.
Will Anyone Sign with Arizona?
Since coming to Arizona around a decade ago, Sean Miller has perennially had the top recruiting class out West and among the best in the country. That all changed in September when the Wildcats were one of the most prominent schools attached to an FBI bribery investigation, resulting in the arrest of assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson.
That prompted 5-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly to decommit, eventually flipping to Villanova, while other top prospects backed away from Arizona and committed elsewhere. Two other recruits, 4-star forward Shareef O'Neal and 4-star point guard Brandon Williams, signed non-binding financial aid agreements that made it possible for them to withdraw if more revelations about Arizona came up.
Both reopened their recruitment after a late February report by ESPN claimed Miller was involved in a pay-for-play scheme to bring freshman Deandre Ayton to Tucson this past season. Miller has vehemently denied that claim, and no corroboration has come from other media outlets, but its effect was still felt on the recruiting trail.
The Wildcats were dangerously close to reaching the start of the April signing period without a commitment before 4-star shooting guard Devonaire Doutrive, the No. 82 player in the country, came aboard Saturday.
Are Any Other Top Recruits Going Straight to the Pros?
NBA rules call for prospects in North America to be 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduating class in order to be eligible to enter the draft. As a result, the best of the best usually only spend one year in college before turning pro.
But with more and more discussion over paying college athletes but little progress in figuring out how to do so, some players are taking different routes to the NBA. That usually meant playing overseas, as was the case with guards Terrance Ferguson and Emmanuel Mudiay in recent years.
Then 5-star forward Darius Bazley announced March 29 he wasn't going to Syracuse, where he had signed in November, opting instead to play in the G-League for a year before putting his name in the NBA draft in 2019.
Another 5-star player, combo guard Anfernee Simons, decommitted from Louisville in September, and despite making a few visits is instead entering the 2018 draft. He can do so because he's a fifth-year high school student—who was doing a year of prep school at IMG Academy in Florida—and will turn 19 before the draft.
Can Vanderbilt Snag Another Big Name?
A quick glance at the top 2018 recruiting classes features a lot of the usual suspects…and Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt's 2018 recruiting class sits at No. 7 in the nation, despite the Commodores coming off an abysmal 12-20 season and a 6-12 record in the SEC. Coach Bryce Drew, heading into his third year at the school, has signed two 5-star players (power forward Simisola Shittu and point guard Darius Garland), as well as 4-star forward Aaron Nesmith.
All ranked in the top 70.
For perspective, Vandy hadn't signed a top-100 player since 2014, when it landed guard Shelton Mitchell but only had him for one season before he transferred to Clemson.
And the 'Dores might not be done. 5-star guard Romeo Langford is giving Vandy strong consideration.
Will Duke Add to an Already Ridiculous Class?
What Duke has already done with its 2018 recruiting class is unprecedented. The Blue Devils have signed four of the top nine players in the country, including No. 1 R.J. Barrett and No. 2 Cameron Reddish. In January, they got a commitment from power forward Zion Williamson, the No. 3 overall player.
When point guard Tre Jones, at No. 9, is your "worst" incoming player, things are looking good for the immediate future.
But the Blue Devils need to replace at least four starters—five if Wendell Carter Jr. declares for the draft like Marvin Bagley III, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. have, in addition to graduating guard Grayson Allen—there's still room to add reinforcements.
5-star power forward E.J. Montgomery, ranked No. 12 in the country, chose Kentucky over Duke and others. There aren't any other 5-star players in the class reportedly considering the Blue Devils, meaning Mike Krzyzewski may have to rely on the grad transfer market to add to next year's roster.
Which New Coach Makes the Biggest Late Recruiting Splash?
Chris Mack left Big East champ (and No. 1 NCAA tournament seed) Xavier for Louisville, arguably the biggest of the dozens of Division I coaching changes this offseason. He inherited a sticky situation with the Cardinals smack dab in the middle of the FBI's bribery investigation and an empty recruiting class.
Mack hit the ground running after getting hired March 27, extending numerous scholarship offers in hopes of getting prospects to come on board. He also reached out to a former commit, 4-star point guard Courtney Ramey, who backed out of his pledge in September, and Ramey has the Cardinals in his top 10.
Mack isn't the only high-profile coach in a new gig who has some work to do.
Dan Hurley left Rhode Island for Connecticut, but not before all three of its signees asked out of their national letters of intent. Jeff Capel is trying to sign recruits at Pittsburgh while also attempting to convince players who want to transfer to stick around. Tom Crean's return to coaching at Georgia would get off to a better start if he can add a few more players.
Can Oregon Add to Its Record Class?
A little more than a year ago, Oregon found itself in the Final Four and nearly beat eventual champion North Carolina in the semifinals. Then almost its entire rotation either graduated, transferred or turned pro, and the Ducks ended up missing the NCAA tournament in 2018.
Oregon is losing three more starters from this year's team, with graduate transfers Elijah Brown and MiKyle McIntosh out of eligibility and freshman Troy Brown entering the NBA draft. That might make it seem like another NCAA-less season is on the horizon, but a quick look at Oregon's second-ranked 2018 recruiting class says otherwise.
The Ducks have signed two 5-star prospects (center Bol Bol and wing Louis King) and two 4-star recruits (shooting guard Will Richardson and power forward Miles Norris). And they're not done, as they are set to host former Arizona signee Brandon Williams next weekend.
Williams is still considering Arizona, checked out Arizona State and is set to visit Gonzaga, so Oregon has some competition. The Gonzaga visit isn't until June 1, though, so it could be a while before the No. 31 player in the class makes his decision.
Will Loyola-Chicago Get a Final Four Recruiting Boom?
Loyola-Chicago's Cinderella run to the Final Four made it the story of the 2018 NCAA tournament, and not just because of Sister Jean. It was refreshing to see that, in an era of one-and-done prospects and using college as only a stepping stone to the pros, the Ramblers could get to San Antonio without any big-name players.
For Loyola to help ensure that run wasn't a one-year wonder, it must do two things.
The first, holding on to coach Porter Moser, is a work in progress, with athletic director Steve Watson saying the school is "progressing nicely" on a contract extension, per 670 The Score.
The other part is trying to get some better players, since it's hard to imagine the Ramblers will be underestimated in 2018-19 with three of their top six scorers returning.