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Thursday, October 24, 2013
Paths to the top recruiting class

By Adam Finkelstein

We’ve been talking a lot about class rankings in recent weeks. North Carolina and Ohio State have both been in the lead at various points this year while strong finishes from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and even Baylor could put them all in contention for the top spot before it’s all said and done.

With that in mind, we took a speculative look at those six programs, breaking down what they would likely need to get to the top of the mountain.

Probability of finishing on top: 45 percent

ESPN 100 SG Grayson Allen might be the only prospect currently in Mike Krzyzewski’s incoming recruiting class, but the Blue Devils have as many top prospects left on the board as anyone. They’ll host Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones this weekend, along with Justise Winslow, leading to speculation that they could be on the verge of a massive package deal. They also remain in the mix for Myles Turner, Kevon Looney and Reid Travis. If they land Okafor and Jones, they’ll have a good chance of finishing in front. If they can add Winslow, Looney or Travis, their chances will be even better. If they could ever put Okafor, Turner and Jones in the same group, the rest of the class would be gravy. Suddenly we’d be talking about one of the best recruiting classes ever.

Probability of finishing on top: 25 percent

The Jayhawks landed their first score earlier this month with Kelly Oubre, and continue to work diligently to replace what is expected to be a slew of NBA defections. They hosted Okafor and Jones last week, and are widely considered to be Duke’s competition for the package deal. A trio of Okafor, Jones and Oubre would give them three of the top 10 players in the country and an excellent chance of finishing on top. It’s conceivable Kansas could lose out on Okafor and Jones and still end up with three of the top 10 should it instead get Turner and Cliff Alexander. Then the top spot would likely be decided by two of their other top remaining targets, Rashad Vaughn and James Blackmon Jr. Like Duke, Kansas has a dream scenario which includes Okafor, Turner or Alexander, Oubre, Vaughn and/or Blackmon.

Ohio State
Probability of finishing on top: 15 percent

The nation’s top-ranked shooting guard, D'Angelo Russell, headlines a class that is currently best in the land. Fellow ESPN 100 prospects Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate, along with local big man David Bell, fill out the rest of the four-man class. Thad Matta and his staff are focusing almost all their efforts on Turner at this point, and hosted him for his first official visit this past weekend. If they get him, they’ll have a very good chance of finishing on top, although there are scenarios where even Turner's presence wouldn’t be enough to overtake Duke and/or Kansas.

Probability of finishing on top: 10 percent

They’ve got a skilled big man and true point guard already locked in with Karl Towns Jr. and Tyler Ulis. Those two were on campus last weekend along with Trey Lyles, Stanley Johnson and Blackmon for Big Blue Madness. Turner is the fourth of the top prospects who remain atop their board, and assuming that either Duke or Kansas (if not both) comes through with a monster class, it would likely take a clean sweep for Kentucky to be in the mix for the top spot.

Probability of finishing on top: 4 percent

The Bears are the dark horse in the Okafor/Jones sweepstakes as the third school that remains on both players' respective lists. They also appear to be in pretty good shape with Vaughn. So there is still a shot, albeit an unlikely one, that the trio could come together in Waco and give the Bears the basis for what could end up being the top-ranked class in the country.

North Carolina
Probability of finishing on top: 1 percent

The Tar Heels currently have the second-ranked class in the country, which includes the top overall small forward Justin Jackson along with Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. Nevertheless, chances are they could be done in the 2014 class, and even if that’s not the case, they aren’t involved with any of the best available prospects in the ESPN 100. So unless something totally unexpected happens, North Carolina won’t be this year’s title holder.