- Adam Finkelstein
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This time, it's in pursuit of the next crop of program-changing recruits, as the presumed package deal of No. 1 Jahlil Okafor and No. 4 Tyus Jones is widely expected to choose between the Jayhawks and Blue Devils after visiting Kansas, Duke and Baylor this fall.
More importantly, adding a tandem as talented and cohesive as Okafor and Jones to the type of already strong foundations that Krzyzewski and Self have in place would make either team an instant contender for a national championship in 2015, regardless of whom they lose to the NBA this spring.
The implications don’t stop there, though, with added layers heightening the intrigue for both programs. A win for Duke could impact the decision of Justise Winslow, creating the potential for an even bigger package deal. Meanwhile, Kansas is also a finalist for Alexander, giving it the chance to score three of the top four prospects in the country in a matter of minutes.
Equally relevant is what happens to the program that loses on Friday. Both have gone all in on the potential package deal and lost out on other prospects as a result. Kansas would have an opportunity for quick redemption should Alexander’s decision go its way. Otherwise, Myles Turner would become absolutely critical for both programs, as both the big prize of the late signing period as well as the last remaining big man capable of making an immediate impact.
While Friday is likely to be a huge victory for either Kansas or Duke, it could be an equally monumental day for Illinois. Second-year coach John Groce already has built a top 15 national recruiting class, but a pledge from Alexander would skyrocket the Illini toward the top of the list. It also would give Groce the type of early momentum boost that could pay lasting dividends as Illinois looks to make a habit of recruiting successfully against college basketball’s superpowers.
An Alexander pledge to Memphis or DePaul seems less likely at this point, but it would be no less significant for either program. Josh Pastner continues to solidify himself as one of the nation’s elite recruiters, regardless of level, and Oliver Purnell looks to get the type of signature score that can legitimize his budding DePaul program on the national level.
Arizona also has a chance to punctuate an already strong class, where the addition of a true alpha dog such as Johnson not only would give the Wildcats the type of signature recruit they have been looking for in this class but also a notable recruiting win over Kentucky. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are looking to add one final score in hopes of maintaining their status atop the national rankings for the fifth time in the past six years.
It will all play out live on ESPNU as we’ll watch four of the most anticipated commitments in the 2014 class go down in only 30 minutes, with the implications sure to shift the landscape of college basketball for the 2014-2015 season.
Just three days after their current prized freshmen, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, squared off in Chicago, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski will do battle once again on Friday.