Three national powers looked at last weekend’s Midnight Madness and passed. Duke, Arizona and Indiana bucked the traditional opening night of the season and tabled their main fall recruiting weekend to this one.
It appears that tweaking the calendar to suit their needs worked well. Each program has elite visitors on campus, plenty of underclassmen and plans to ring in the season with their own flair.
My take on the package deal has always been clear: I’ll believe it when I see it. When it comes to the nation’s best junior big man and top point guard, I’m apt to believe the conspiracy theory. USA Basketball teammates Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor are visiting Durham. These kids enjoyed their time together with Team USA and have openly spoken about playing college basketball together.
For now, I’m buying their spiel. They have common schools -- Michigan State, Kentucky and Ohio State, to name a few. Mike Krzyzewski’s pitch to Jones has Olympic overtones: Be my Chris Paul (or Kyrie Irving).
Duke has spent a ton of time on Swiss Army knife junior Theo Pinson. The Blue Devils are also taking direct aim at elite freshman power forward Harry Giles. Karl Towns Jr., the No. 1 sophomore in the country, is also on campus. The Blue Devils invited only recruits ranked in the single digits in their particular classes.
Sean Miller knows this is his shot to pull off the pledge from Blake Griffin-play-alike Aaron Gordon. California, Washington, Kentucky, Oregon and Kansas offer stiff competition. Miller will be selling that he’s on the verge of developing three freshmen who should be first-rounders at some point. The Wildcats have done well with members of the Oakland Soldiers, Gordon’s AAU team.
Committed wing Elliott Pitts will be in Gordon’s ear. ESPN 60 members Parker Jackson-Cartwright, small forward Justise Winslow and winger Stanley Johnson are among the plentiful number of underclassmen coming to Tucson this weekend. Sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and 2015 guard Drew Edwards will also be on campus.
The sheer number of requests that Indiana received from regional recruits to attend Saturday’s festivities had to be daunting. Tom Crean has left himself no free time this weekend. The Hoosiers have six seniors coming to campus, four of whom are already committed. Top-tier targets Troy Williams and BeeJay Anya will hang out with Hoosier pledges Stanford Robinson, Devin Davis, Collin Hartman and Luke Fischer.
A parade of underclassmen has the opportunity to mingle with the older fellas. JaQuan Lyle, Hyron Edwards, Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Coleman, Bryant McIntosh, James Blackmon (committed, Class of 2014), DJ Blackmon, Eron Gordon, Ryan Witlich, Chandler White, Reggie Jones, Gary Bonds and Jalen Brunson are the youngsters.
This weekend has often been a launching pad for Crean’s Hoosiers in recruiting. Indiana embraces the early commitment, and there’s surely a Hoosier or two in this bunch who'll eventually be on campus.