NCB On The Trail: Ivan Rabb

What do Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan State, Connecticut, Syracuse, Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville and North Carolina State have in common?

Yes, they’re all among the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country, but they’re also among the programs battling it out for the 10 remaining prospects left available in the ESPN 100, eight of whom are among the top 12 ranked players in the country.

They’re not alone either as Mississippi State, California, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, UNLV, Iowa State, St. John’s, Arkansas, Missouri, Ole Miss and Memphis are chasing prospects from the very same group.

The supply doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the demand, and with literally every prospect in the bottom half of the ESPN 100 already off the board, the simple truth is that the programs that miss on these prospects will be left without many good options.

Kentucky is bound to get a couple more, and most likely Kansas too, but for some elite programs, the potential of coming up empty is especially daunting:

North Carolina

The Tar Heels own only one commitment, ESPN 100 power forward Luke Maye (No. 95). He plans to walk on next season and consequently didn’t sign a national letter of intent. Coach Roy Williams is still in the market for both Jaylen Brown (No. 2) and Brandon Ingram (No. 12), and with virtually the entire core of this year’s rotation expected to return, either could push North Carolina among the top programs in the country next year. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario isn’t just that they miss out on both, but that their lack of quality contingency plans becomes particularly costly should freshman Justin Jackson opt for a jump to the NBA. Worse yet, should the academic scandal and NCAA investigation motivate Marcus Paige and/or Kennedy Meeks to consider such a move, suddenly things would look very bleak for the Tar Heels.

videoNow that the rosters are set for the 38th annual McDonald’s All American Game, let's take a closer look at the West team and its strengths as it prepares to take on the East squad. The most anticipated high school all-star game in the country takes place April 1 at United Center in Chicago (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).


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The player rankings in all three high school classes (ESPN 100, 60 and 25) have been updated. We base our rankings on the four Ps: Performance, production potential and projection, among many other factors. First we analyze and evaluate a prospect's individual performance, his production level now and possibly at the collegiate level, his potential in the college game, and where he could land on a possible professional draft board.

The player rankings also affect a school's class rankings, which have also been updated. Since our last update in September, some of our evaluations have changed or been confirmed. We are midway through the high school season in our rankings and there's still time for more movement, as this is a fluid process.

Here are five things to know about the new rankings.


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Recruiting Roundtable: Hoophall Classic preview 

January, 15, 2015
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The Hoophall Classic, a five-day event that features some of the nation's best high school teams and prospects, begins Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our experts discuss the biggest storylines heading into the action.


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Kansas finally got on the board in the 2015 class Thursday, when five-star forward Carlton Bragg announced his commitment to the Jayhawks (after initially saying Kentucky).

There probably wasn’t any real concern in Lawrence about the lack of commitments in the senior class, but there is a segment of the Jayhawks fan base that breathed a slight sigh of relief late last week.

Now, where does Kansas go from here?


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What to watch: Montverde vs. Bishop O'Dowd 

December, 12, 2014
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The high school basketball season is now in full swing and ESPN2 will feature a marquee matchup on Friday at 6:30 pm ET where No.1 Montverde Academy (Fla.) will host No. 16 Bishop O'Dowd out of Oakland, California.

Here's what to watch for in this game that is headlined by two ESPN 100 Top 5 prospects in No. 1 Ben Simmons, who is headed to LSU, and No. 5 Ivan Rabb who has cut his list to California, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and UCLA.


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Recruiting has quieted down a bit since the end of the early signing period and the start of the high school and college seasons, but there are plenty of teams still looking for players. Where will these schools find them?

Available players

The most obvious route is the remaining uncommitted players in the 2015 class. We’ve gone over the top 100 players countless times, and while there aren’t too many of that caliber still on the board, that’s the straight-forward option for teams still in need. The premier programs in the country are gunning for the Jaylen Browns, Diamond Stones and Ivan Rabbs of the world, but lower-tier high-major programs and mid-major programs have to keep their eyes out. They’re looking outside the top 100 and will also be on the prowl for players set to emerge during their senior seasons.

As those borderline high-major prospects continue to wait to commit to a school, though, they see their recruitment rise significantly. And therein lies the danger for schools: The talent pool among seniors dries out, schools still need players -- and desperation kicks in. That’s when you’ll see programs reaching for players, just to fill a void or get a body on the roster. For new coaches taking over programs, it’s a necessary evil; they simply need guys. But in some cases, it’s better to hold onto a scholarship for next year instead of reaching for a guy who won’t cut it at the high-major or mid-major level and will therefore transfer or take up a scholarship for four years.


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After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.


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Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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Roundtable: Analyzing the early signing period 

November, 12, 2014
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College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and while 78 of the ESPN 100's prospects have committed to schools across the country, it's time to put pen to paper. Our RecruitingNation analysts break down what they expect to see before the signing window closes on Nov. 19.


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Ivan Rabb cuts list of schools to five 

October, 24, 2014
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After winning a gold medal with USA Basketball this past summer, Ivan Rabb, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 100, narrowed his list of finalists. The No. 3 power forward in the senior class told ESPN.com he will focused on Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. Georgetown and North Carolina were cut from the list.


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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Big men dominate in class of 2015 

September, 29, 2014
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A closer look at the class in 2015 shows that 10 of the top 15 prospects are either power forwards or centers. But don’t be mistaken as not all big men are the same. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all talent pool.

Let’s look at how they are different in size, body type, skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ.

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NEW YORK -- The Under Armour Elite 24 game is loaded with ESPN Recruiting Nation ranked players from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and can be seen at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU live from Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Let's take a look at five matchups that we are most excited to see.

POINT GUARDS

ESPN 100 No. 62 Jawun Evans 6-foot, 180 (Dallas, Texas/Justin F. Kimball) vs. ESPN 60 No. 9 Dennis Smith Jr. 6-1, 173 (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School): In this all-important lead guard matchup, it will exciting to see who will run their team, push the ball and set the tone. Evans -- a great finisher for his size -- has blinding speed and quickness and can get teammates involved. Smith beats defenders off the bounce with ease and is a playmaker for himself or teammates. He is a highlight finisher on the break who can simply put the defense on its heels and create help situations all over the offensive end of the floor.


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Five takeaways from Adidas Nations 

August, 6, 2014
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Adidas Nations, one of the final team events of the summer, finished its four-day run on Monday. The talent included outstanding players in the United States to top global prospects. In the championship game, 2016 adidas U.S. Lillard defeated 2016 adidas U.S. Wall, 106-78. 2015 adidas U.S. Howard won the consolation over team Europe, 52-46.

My five takeaways


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