The Class of 2018 takes center stage with the release of the ESPN 100 rankings.
Here are five bold statements about this group:
Marvin Bagley III will stay at No. 1
Bagley is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. With strong athletic ability, scoring skills and a game that continues to show improvement, he will not be relinquishing the top spot anytime soon. His upside is obvious, but what’s exciting is his production level in terms of statistical numbers shows no signs of slowing down. Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Bol Bol and Romeo Langford are ultratalents and will jockey for top-five slots, but Bagley would be No. 1 in almost any class.
Bagley would be the top pick in this year’s draft
The 2017 NBA draft could be one of the best in a long time and could have the most one-and-done picks since the inception of the rule in 2005. Even with top talents like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and others, Bagley would go before all of them. Bagley is the best pro prospect in the past 10 years. The NBA looks hard at position size combined with athletic ability, measurables, scoring skills and basketball knowledge. Bagley’s game has a maturity with high-end results as he flirts with a triple-double on some nights. He will be the top pick in the 2019 NBA draft if he continues to do his job.
Cameron Reddish is the second-best NBA prospect in the class
Because he has grown to a legitimate 6-foot-8, with a strong body and emerging skill, Reddish is the second-best NBA talent in this class. His frame allows him to score through and over contact while being a strong threat behind the arc. Defensively, he could stand out if he would make a commitment. When considering positional size, which the NBA deems important, Reddish has the best of any player in the class outside of Bagley.
No one-and-done point guards in 2018
The Class of 2016 had the best group of point guards in a long time. In this year’s class there isn’t one point guard ranked inside the top 10. This group is very good for the college game, but not the type to take over and then immediately jump to the pros. Darius Garland is the highest-rated point guard in the class. In order for him to make the jump he would need to hit the weight room and gain much-needed muscle and maybe even grow some to fit into that category. The great news is college basketball will have some outstanding point guards for multiple years.
Quality, but not quantity, at center
Within the top 100, the center position has only nine ranked players, the least among all five positions. Four of the nine prospects, however, sit inside the top 10: No. 4 Bol Bol, No. 6 Moses Brown, No. 7 Nazreon Reid and No. 8 Jordan Brown all possess dominating qualities that make them difference-makers now and at the highest level of college basketball.
— Paul Biancardi
Top storylines for the Class of 2018
1. Battle for Bagley
Marvin Bagley III is the clear-cut No. 1 player in the 2018 class. He has been the unquestioned No. 1 player since the beginning for this class. Bagley was one of the first elite players in 2018 to cut his list but changed up his final six in April to Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and USC. Sean Miller and John Calipari watched him multiple times during the April live period, while his other four schools also tracked him closely. Arizona, UCLA and Kentucky appear to be the early leaders, but there’s still a long way to go. There was originally some talk of Bagley reclassifying into 2017, but that has quieted down over the past few months.
2. Point guard carousel
The point guard dominoes of 2017 was a significant talking point because there were so few available and so many schools in need. The Class of 2018 has more point guards near the top of its rankings, but there will still undoubtedly be a school left in the cold when the dust settles. Duke is in pursuit of five-star point guards Darius Garland and Tre Jones, while Kentucky is eyeing Immanuel Quickley and Javonte Smart. Arizona already landed ESPN 100 prospect Brandon Williams, and five-star Jahvon Quinerly recently cut his list to include UCLA, Seton Hall, Stanford, Villanova, Arizona, Kansas and Virginia. Coby White committed to North Carolina last summer, and Louisville (Courtney Ramey) and DePaul (Tyger Campbell) also have their targets wrapped up. Kansas likes Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes but also recently offered Ayo Dosunmu. Expect targets to change often in the coming months.
3. Who are Duke and Kentucky targeting?
At the end of the day, it’s more than likely Duke and Kentucky will make up the top two of the recruiting class rankings. Those two have finished 1-2 in some order in each of the past four years, and both schools are targeting the elite of the elite in 2018. Duke and Kentucky are on the lists of most of the top players, with Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish perhaps the most likely targets for a head-to-head battle. Kentucky has looked at each of the top eight players in the 2018 class, and it specifically made up plenty of ground with fast-rising Bol Bol after offering him in the spring.
4. Eyes on Zion
The battle for most entertaining high school player in 2018 is not really a debate, as No. 2 prospect Zion Williamson’s countless highlights and YouTube videos speak for themselves. Even casual sports fans know the name Zion Williamson. But which school will get him at the next level? As mentioned above, Duke and Kentucky are prepared to go head-to-head for Williamson, but North Carolina and Kansas are also involved. Despite the blue bloods in full pursuit, sources have told ESPN the in-state schools are squarely in the mix. Williamson has family ties to Clemson, and the Tigers are hoping to pitch him on being the face of the resurgence of the program. Meanwhile, South Carolina is also looking to take advantage of its Final Four run and keep him home.
5. Can anyone break up the Duke-Kentucky duopoly?
Every recruiting cycle starts the same. A couple of schools get a couple of big commitments early in the process and sit with a top-five recruiting class for the first several weeks of the fall. And then Duke and Kentucky start racking up pledges, and by the time things settle down after the signing period, Mike Krzyzewski and Calipari sit atop the recruiting world once again. But is this the year another program breaks up the 1-2 punch? Sean Miller and Arizona have been the most consistent program on the recruiting trail the past several years and already have two top-100 prospects under their belt. The Wildcats would likely need to land Bagley to have a chance. Louisville landing Romeo Langford in addition to its two top-35 prospects would give them an early boost. If UCLA gets Bagley and Jordan Brown, in addition to a point guard, the Bruins would be in a strong position.
— Jeff Borzello