SIGNING DAY: The Class of 2016’s best recruiting classes

AP
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(The post has been contributed to by Corey Evans, Managing Editor of HoopSeen.com.)

Duke: Coach K hasn’t stopped bringing in the top talent to Durham and this class only solidifies the Blue Devils’ case as potential NCAA Champions for years to come. First off, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, two of the best prospects in all of high school ball, are headed to the ACC blueblood next year. Throw in versatile combo guard Frank Jackson and hard-playing and super improving forward Javin DeLaurier, and what you have is a four-person class that stands out amongst the elite throughout the land. (CE)

Michigan State: The class that Tom Izzo brought in at Michigan State this season could be the backbone to a potential national title team. Five-star wing Miles Bridges and five-star shooting guard Josh Langford are the headliners of the four-man class while in-state, four-star point guard Cassius Winston and bruising four-star big man Nick Ward are also tremendous pieces. With this class, the Spartans are making a major push to stay with the nation’s elite. (SP)

Kentucky: Another year, another top-five ranking for the Wildcats within the recruiting spectrum as UK welcomes in two of the more skilled big men in America with Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel. However, the SEC frontrunner isn’t done just yet as they are favorites for Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, the latter committing on Thursday. They are also involved for elite bigs Bam Adebayo, Marques Bolden, and Jarrett Allen where all signs point to Calipari and his staff finishing with another top-three recruiting class come the late signing period in April. (CE)

RELATED: HoopSeen.com’s National Signing Day coverage

UCLA: The future is looking bright at UCLA as this class has a lot to like about it. Five-star point guard Lonzo Ball has unbelievable court vision and scores the ball with deep range while four-star 6-foot-10 big man Ike Anigbogu has a lot of long-term upside on both ends of the floor. Kobe Paras, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, has some positive attributes as an athlete and can also hit deep jumpers. The best part for the Bruins? They might not be done with this class yet. (SP)

UConn: Kevin Ollie and his staff traversed all throughout the nation and put together a class full of four, top-125 recruits from Georgia, New York, California, and Florida. The gems of the class are Juwan Durham and Alterique Gilbert, while Vance Jackson, a 6-foot-7 forward from California, is the capable back-up for his former high school teammate and now sophomore forward at UConn in Daniel Hamilton. Throw in super productive and elite rebounder Mamadou Diarra and the class headed to Storrs fills any and every hole the Huskies might have during the 2016 campaign. (CE)

Mississippi State: Since taking over the job this spring, head coach Ben Howland has quickly made the Bulldogs a credible threat in the SEC. This four-man class takes advantage of local recruiting as in-state guard Tyson Carter is one of three guards in the class. Carter is joined by New Orleans native Lamar Peters and Kentucky native Eli Wright to form a talented perimeter trio while center Schnider Herard is a physical big man who should be able to immediately defend and rebound. (SP)

Virginia: The ACC has been led by the Cavaliers these past few years during the regular season but the 2016 class is the revelation of all that built up success on the hardwood. Tony Bennett welcomes in two hard playing and competitive guards with Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, along with an immediate glue forward with DeAndre Hunter. However, the hidden stud within the class is Jay Huff, a 7-foot sharpshooter with innate toughness who will take a redshirt year and can been perceived as an elite recruit within the 2017 crop of prospects. (CE)

Florida State: Even more perimeter talent is coming to Tallahassee in the Class of 2016 after the Seminoles brought in a loaded group for 2015. The main addition is 6-foot-10 wing Jonathan Isaac, a Durant-esque tall wing who should be a McDonald’s All-American while four-star guard Trent Forrest is a two-way guard who is versatile enough to play multiple spots. Hard-nosed point guard C.J. Walker gives Florida State an additional ball handler who can set up their bevy of talented wings. (SP)

Oklahoma: While the Sooners won’t get a ton of buzz with their 2016 class, Lon Kruger has put together a sneaky good class led by 6-foot-5 wing Kameron McGusty. The Texas native is a fine shot-maker from deep and could be the long-term replacement for current All-American senior guard Buddy Hield. Matt Freeman joins the fray at the 5-spot along with 6-foot-7 versatile forward and productive 15-feet and in guy with Kristian Doolittle, which adds up to be a quality, three-man class headed to Norman. (CE)

Alabama: Avery Johnson deserves a ton of credit for putting in the work to secure a top class. Five-star wing Terrance Ferguson was a major coup for the Crimson Tide and the electric athlete is joined by versatile wing Braxton Key and talented junior college guard Ar’Mond Davis. The trio immediately gives Alabama the kind of perimeter talent needed to reach the NCAA tournament and compete in the SEC. (SP)

Five more groups that will help right away 

  • Harvard: This seven-man class has a little bit of everything and a lot of talented players who could have committed to player at higher levels. Point guard Bryce Aiken will eventually replace Siyani Chambers while a good crop of big men like Chris Lewis, Robert Baker and Henry Welsh should keep Harvard among the Ivy League’s best for years. The key could be Seth Towns, a 6-foot-8 wing with the shooting ability and size to be a matchup problem in the Ivy League. (SP)
  • UMass: The Minutemen enter the 2015 season as a middle-class team in the A10 but the 2016 class is a group of individuals that could put the program atop of the conference pecking order. They obtained the services of top-125 recruits DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, two guys that turned down a bevy of high-major programs. Add in hard playing and tough big man Chris Baldwin, along with highly athletic and a defensive stopper with Unique McLean and what this class gives the Minutemen is…well, a unique and impressive future moving down the road. (CE)
  • Penn State: Patrick Chambers is building Penn State into a credible Big Ten threat and this four-man class is one of the best groups to ever come to Happy Valley. Point guard Tony Carr and power forward Lamar Stevens should be immediate impact players while forward Joe Hampton and wing Nazeer Bostick should add quality depth. (SP)
  • George Washington: VCU, Rhode Island, Davidson, and Dayton have been the talk surrounding the A10 in recent months but what Mike Lonergan and his staff have put together these past few months within the 2016 class is nothing short of impressive. They welcome two quality guards that can play either spot with Darnell Rogers and Jair Bolden, along with long-term shot blocker Collin Smith. However, where the star power comes into play is in volume rebounder Kevin Marfo and tough and intimidating big man Arnaldo Toro; good luck scoring in the paint on this A10 bunch in the years ahead. (CE)
  • Butler: The interim tag is gone from head coach Chris Holtmann and he took full advantage by reeling in four talented pieces in a versatile class. Keeping four-star center Joey Brunk at home was a big key for the Bulldogs and the backcourt of point guard Howard Washington and Kamar Baldwin should give Butler some immediate threats. Small forward Henry Baddley is a solid perimeter shooter who should compliment this group well. (SP)

(You can read Corey’s work at HoopSeen.com and you can follow him on twitter @CoreyEvans_10)

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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David Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.