The 2019-20 NCAA basketball season may have ended prematurely due to COVID-19, but it was still an interesting one. This was thought to be a year of parity. There did not appear to be any traditional dominant teams, other than maybe Kansas. Instead, teams like Dayton and San Diego State joined Gonzaga as the mid-majors attempted to steal the show. Unfortunately, no champion was crowned, hurting those mid-major teams, like Dayton, more than anyone. Now, the Blue Bloods are back with a vengeance.
The Return of the Blue Bloods
For most, when the words Blue Blood are mentioned, the teams discussed are often the Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Kansas Jayhawks. Excluding the Jayhawks, the prior three teams make up the top three of team recruiting classes, according to 247 sports. Not only do they have five stars coming to campus, they have enough to field a full team. Usually, these Blue Bloods are bringing two to three new highly touted players to campus. This year, that number is reaching closer to six!
The Wildcats rank first in the recruiting class, by a slim margin over the other two. They have six recruits coming to Lexington this season, including two four-stars and four four-stars. All six recruits are within the top 60 in the nation. Most notably, BJ Boston, from Sierra Canyon, and Terrence Clarke, from Brewster Academy, join the fray. Both are projected lottery picks in the 2021 NBA draft.
They also add three forwards in Cam’ron Fletcher, Lance Ware, and Isaiah Jackson. Finally, and possibly most importantly, is point guard Devin Askew. These six freshmen are going to see a ton of playing time next season. The key for the Wildcats freshmen will be sharing the ball and knocking down outside jumpers. While Boston and Clarke will get all the attention, Askew may be the best of them all. Look no further than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a few years ago.
Kentucky will likely have to replace Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, EJ Montgomery, and Tyrese Maxey as they all look to remain in the NBA draft. This is a typical Kentucky problem. There is a mass exodus every year, but John Calipari brings in a high profile recruiting class to replenish the cupboard every year.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels rank second in the 247 sports class. They also add six recruits, three of which are five-stars and the other three are four-stars. The biggest name in the class is Caleb Love, a five-star point guard ranked 12th in the nation. He will look to take over the reins in Chapel Hill and continue their history of solid guards. There are two top-20 centers joining Love in Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe. These three are excellent. However, Love will clearly be the best of this bunch. It will be interesting to see how much freedom Roy Williams gives him.
Joining the aforementioned talented trio are RJ Davis, Puff Johnson, and Kerwin Walton. With Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot back on campus, North Carolina is going to have a ridiculous four-man rotation in the paint with plenty of height, strength, and athleticism.
North Carolina is coming off one of the worst years in a long time for the storied program. They suffered several crucial injuries, but it also was not one of Roy Williams’ best jobs. He even said that his team was one of the least talented that he has had while in Chapel Hill. This year, that sentiment will not be uttered.
Duke Blue Devils
The third-ranked class belongs to Duke. They also have six recruits with four players coming in as five-stars and the other two as four-stars. For the first time in several years, Duke does not have a recruit in the top ten. Unfortunately, Jalen Johnson is criminally underrated and easily one of the best seven high school players in the nation, but he ranks 11th after moving around this year and missing some time.
Along with Johnson, DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach, and Mark Williams are the other five-stars. Roach, Steward, and Johnson are going to make a massive impact this season and score a ton of points. Joining these four are four stars Jaemyn Brakefield and Henry Coleman. Brakefield is going to be passed over when people discuss Duke this season, but that will be a mistake. He will have a massive impact in Durham.
The Blue Devils return Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore from last year’s class. These two plus the six freshmen and Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire have Duke poised for a deep tournament run. Roach will be very important. This team will lack some leadership as there is minimal college experience on the roster. Roach has the keys to the offense and is in a leadership position, so it is important he acts that way.
Who Will Cut Down the Nets?
Obviously, the season is very far away and much needs to be discussed still. The deadline for early NBA Draft entrants to return to school has been extended, but for the most part, rosters have taken shape. It seems clear that the traditional powerhouses will garner all the attention and hype this season. The last time a true freshmen driven team cut down the nets was 2015 with Duke, but that does not mean it is impossible.
This year seems as good a year as any for one of these teams to win the National Championship. Obviously, who is included as a Blue Blood is up for discussion, but ignoring Villanova who may have recently joined that group, deep tournament success has not been frequent in the last five years. This year will be the return of the Blue Bloods.
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