The nation's top high school prospect, Marvin Bagley III, announced live Monday night on SportsCenter that he will be attending Duke as a member of the class of 2017. He chose the Blue Devils over USC and UCLA.
video LAS VEGAS -- July has come to a close. Three weeks of coaches and players crisscrossing the country essentially tracking one another is over, and the recruiting landscape looks much different than it did in early July. The biggest story of July was the Big Baller Brand show, but LaMelo Ball is already committed to UCLA, so there weren’t many recruiting ramifications in the drama and theatrics of the past few days in Las Vegas. But what did we learn? Here are five key items: The race for No. 1 in 2018 if Marvin Bagley reclassifies is wide-open.
Vincent Cole for AdidasIf Marvin Bagley III reclassifies, Zion Williamson isn't assured to move to No. 1.
The gap between Marvin Bagley III and the rest of the 2018 class is huge -- and he would be the No. 1 prospect if he reclassifies to 2017 too. But what happens to the top spot in 2018 if Bagley ends up entering college this fall? Zion Williamson is currently at No. 2, but Cameron Reddish (No. 3) is nipping at his heels and had some high-level performances over the past few weeks. Bol Bol (No. 4) and Moses Brown (No. 6) are both high-ceiling options, but they were inconsistent in July and might be better long-term prospects than present-day options. Romeo Langford (No. 5) was similarly up-and-down this month. Nazreon Reid (No. 7) has as much talent as anyone in the class, and it looks like the light is starting to turn on more consistently. One name to watch in the top is Simisola Shittu (No. 9), who had a dominant Peach Jam week and whose production puts up ahead of most of his peers. Names outside the top 10 that could move up include Louis King (No. 16), Tre Jones (No. 19) and Anfernee Simons (No. 21). A new candidate for No. 1 emerged on Monday, when R.J. Barrett, who was No. 1 in 2019, reclassified into the 2018 class. It was widely expected, but he moves up to No. 3 in 2018 for now. Duke and Kentucky narrow their focus. Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari generally recruit many of the same players near the top of the player rankings, but the two recruiting powerhouses begin to separate somewhat coming out of July. Kentucky is seen as the favorite for Williamson and five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley (No. 14), with Quickley saying as much publicly and Williamson mentioning playing with Quickley in college. Reddish is another player near the top of the Wildcats’ board, and his AAU teammate, Louis King (No. 16), has played in front of Calipari several times in the last month. Calipari spent plenty of time watching Darius Garland (No. 11) after offering him earlier this month, and Shittu has risen on Kentucky’s board, with Calipari flying to watch him on Saturday. Duke hasn’t hid the fact it wants both Tre Jones and Darius Garland in its 2018 backcourt. Perhaps the two best point guards in the class, Krzyzewski has told both players he thinks they can play together -- and the Blue Devils have made both a priority this month. Reddish is the top wing on their board, and Duke has recruiting him heavily for a long time. Williamson is also on Duke’s list, with Krzyzewski continuing to watch him in Las Vegas. Duke coaches also watched Emmitt Williams (No. 12), Quentin Grimes, David McCormack (No. 34), Nassir Little (No. 36) and others. Arizona wants a second point guard in 2018. When Brandon Williams (No. 42) committed to Sean Miller and the Wildcats in early June, most assumed Arizona had its point guard situation figured out for the 2018 class. They already had ESPN 100 point guard Alex Barcello from 2017, and now Williams would be ready in 2018. July made it clear that Miller wants another point guard in the 2018 class, though. Jahvon Quinerly (No. 15) has already taken an official visit to Tucson, and Miller watched him over the last few weeks. Miller was also spotted watching Quentin Grimes (No. 29) and Devon Dotson (No. 33). Arizona then offered Jalen Carey (No. 55) prior to the third live period. Plenty of successful teams over the past couple of years have used two ball-handlers on the court at the same time. Miller seems poised to do the same.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY SportsSean Miller and Arizona are after multiple point guard prospects in this class.
Schools could get left in the cold in the battle for point guards. Point guard dominoes are always a big topic of conversation, and 2018 is no different -- especially when four of the top 10 point guards and seven of the top 17 are already off the board. Considering that schools like Duke, Arizona, Kentucky and Kansas potentially want multiple point guards in this class, the pickings could get pretty thin after a few commitments occur early in the fall. There are a few wild-card possibilities in the class, as well, with Vanderbilt pushing hard for Darius Garland and Marquette making Quentin Grimes a major priority atop its board. It appears that seemingly every top point guard is waiting for someone else to make a decision first, so we might not see much movement in this area for several weeks. August won’t be quiet. While most programs are working on official visits and planning out their 2018 class, there are still several decisions to be made that could shape the upcoming college season. Marvin Bagley is obviously the biggest one, and he has already visited Duke and USC. Arizona and UCLA are also in pursuit, and are expected to get visits. A decision regarding reclassification should come shortly after. Fellow top-10 prospect Jontay Porter committed to Missouri in the spring, and is widely expected to enroll this fall to play alongside his brother, Michael Porter Jr. But we’re still waiting for an official decision. ESPN 100 guard Eric Ayala is another player still waiting to make a reclassification decision, with Ohio State pushing heavily for him to play this season. Oregon and others are also in the mix.

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LAS VEGAS -- After Big Baller Brand’s 111-102 win over Play Hard Play Smart on Thursday afternoon at the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships, a brood of teens and tykes flooded a back hallway and waited for their hero to exit the locker room.

LaVar Ball’s entourage was prepared. An assistant coach told the dozens gathered to form a line. A brother played security guard.

Cameras filming the new Ball family reality show sought favorable positions atop benches and stools.

And then Ball emerged, and it was as if a Luke Bryan concert began -- young fans screamed and cheered, waiting for the polarizing personality to play their favorite song.

LaVar BallPhoto by Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesLaVar Ball appears to have gained immense popularity with young basketball fans across the country.

For the past six months, men and women throughout the country have debated the purpose, intent, longevity, sanity and ambitions of Ball.

It’s clear, however, that the young people here at the Cashman Center don’t care for those adult conversations.

They love LaVar Ball, the father of Lakers first-round draft pick Lonzo Ball. And they’re not sure why many people don't.

After securing a postgame picture with LaVar, one young man seemed baffled by questions about the youth movement that supports the most famous father in grassroots basketball.

“He’s the greatest of all time,” the young man said. “I mean, what do you mean?”

Another teenager approached hyperventilation as he moved closer to LaVar.

“He’s just a comedian, man,” the teen said.

Minutes later, he took a selfie with LaVar, and then the teen held his phone above the fold as if it were a picture of his first child. Those in the hallway during the scrum couldn’t move without bumping into multiple children under 13.

If you’re convinced Ball represents some unique, zany extension of the cultured AAU circuit, you’ve never attended a four- or five-day grassroots event.

On Wednesday, the fire marshal’s threat to cancel, due to overcrowding, the much-hyped matchup between top-10 recruits LaMelo Ball, LaVar's youngest son -- who had 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Thursday’s win -- and Zion Williamson generated national headlines. So did LeBron James’ last-minute decision to avoid the chaos after he entered the parking lot.

South Carolina Supreme coach Leander Anderson coached the entire first half of Wednesday’s game while holding a sleeping child.

On Thursday, a braggadocious assistant for another squad yelled, “That’s what we do. That’s what we do,” whenever his team scored. They were down by double digits then and lost by a healthy margin.

Parents who preach team basketball at home stood in the stands and boisterously demanded more individual, scholarship-producing exploits from their children.

On Wednesday, one head coach of a major college program wondered aloud why he had to pay $600 for a book listing the prospects attending the Adidas event. “Somebody is making a lot of money,” he said.

On Thursday, organizers blasted the Montell Jordan song “This Is How We Do It” through a pair of speakers about 20 feet from North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who perhaps in the moment asked himself how much longer he wants to do this.

LaVar Ball didn’t start the circus. He joined one.

Yes, he drew a technical foul in Wednesday’s loss. Yes, he did sit-ups in the second half of Thursday’s win. Yes, he’s the most eccentric figure on the circuit.

But the oddities of grassroots basketball birthed LaVar Ball, not the other way around.

Lost within the antics of Ball and his peers on the circuit are the stakes attached to the performances of young men. The circumstances can steal the fun from the game.

Young standouts pour their basketball souls onto the floor of these events and hope to attract significant scholarship offers. Some borderline prospects return to the team hotel in tears, fearing a poor effort might have ruined their chances to play at the next level.

The futures of young athletes are shaped in these gyms every year. And they’re all surrounded by men and women who often take themselves far too seriously.

Within the gravity of these events, Ball’s young fans found someone to entertain them. Someone to make them laugh. Someone to make them smile.

To many adults in the room, Ball has stolen the joy from youth basketball.

To his young supporters in Las Vegas and beyond, he has returned it.

Before the game, they approached him and asked for selfies. He obliged.

When he stomped down the sidelines with a cartoonish stride in Thursday’s game, they chuckled. When he pointed toward them in the stands after the win, they pounded their chests in acknowledgement.

And when he entered the back hallway, they chased him to get a piece of something refreshing.

“You know, he’s real, man,” said one middle-school kid after he’d taken his selfie with Ball. “He doesn’t sugarcoat things. I don’t like people who sugarcoat things.”

They’ll all come back Friday morning, seeking more LaVar Ball, when Big Baller Brand faces Team BBC at 11 a.m. ET.

And they’ll wait for the adults in their lives to come around.videovideo


LaVar Ball

Lamelo BallAP Photo/Rich PedroncelliLaMelo Ball's game will be under the microscope in Las Vegas.
Only five days remain in the July evaluation period -- and all eyes will be on Las Vegas for the rest of the month. Nearly every coach in the country will spend some time in the desert during the third live period, with at least four major events heading out west: Adidas Summer Championships, Nike’s The 8, Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic. After Sunday, college coaches won’t be able to evaluate players until Sept. 9. It’s the last chance for coaches and players to make an impression this summer. Here are five storylines to watch:

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Jon Lopez for NikeThe race will continue for No. 1 Marvin Bagley III at Peach Jam.
The three-week sprint known as the July live period begins on Wednesday, marking the first of three five-day stretches when college coaches travel around the country to observe 2018, 2019 and 2020 prospects. Arguably, the biggest event of the month is the Nike Peach Jam, which takes place over the next five days in North Augusta, South Carolina. Virtually every college program in the country will have at least one coach in attendance; what will they be focusing on? 1. Marvin Bagley III: Because there’s very little debate about who’s No. 1 in 2018, there hasn’t been as much buzz surrounding the top of the class as there has in past years. However, Bagley (No. 1) is the top target for several of the nation’s blue bloods. His final six is UCLA, Arizona, Duke, USC, Kansas and Kentucky, but he’s not anywhere close to a decision. He’s reportedly expected to visit Duke this month, but the Blue Devils aren’t considered the clear-cut favorite to land the star recruit. UCLA and Arizona are hoping to keep him out west, while Kentucky has been in a good position for a long time. Kansas watched him often in the spring, and USC is also making a late push. Expect representatives from all six schools to be at his games this week. 2. Individual matchups: There’s no Andrew Wiggins vs. Julius Randle or even DeAndre Ayton vs. Bagley matchup on the docket, but there’s still some intriguing head-to-head battles to watch. Bagley has a couple of intriguing matchups, notably against five-star Missouri commit Jontay Porter (No. 10) and hard-playing five-star forward Emmitt Williams (No. 12). Two skilled top-10 forwards will go at it when Bol Bol (No. 4) faces Simi Shittu (No. 9), while elite wing forward Cameron Reddish (No. 3) and five-star small forward Louis King (No. 16) could have a matchup against five-star small forward Keldon Johnson (No. 13) if Reddish and King’s Team Final outfit wins their play-in game on Wednesday afternoon. We won’t get a point guard battle between Darius Garland (No. 11) and Tre Jones (No. 19), but Garland goes up against Cole Anthony (No. 11), who is in the conversation for best point guard in the 2019 class. Recent USC commit Taeshon Cherry (No. 20) will get an early start on Pac-12 rivalries when he battles against Arizona commit Shareef O’Neal (No. 18). In fact, the play-in game between Team Final (Reddish, King) and Nike Team Florida (five-star 2019 prospects Vernon Carey Jr., Trendon Watford, Balsa Koprivica) could feature the most five-star prospects. 3. Star power: Expect to see the heavyweights come out for several players this week. Reddish will be a primary target for Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari, while Jay Wright will also watch him as Villanova remains in the running. Don’t be surprised if UCLA keeps an eye on him, as well. Bol Bol had a long list of coaches tracking him in the spring -- before his rise to No. 4 in 2018. Bill Self and Kansas were on him heavily for the past few years, but Kentucky has made a strong push since the spring. UCLA is also involved. Darius Garland and Tre Jones have interesting recruitments developing. The Blue Devils have courted both players to be their next point guard, but they are unlikely to get both. There’s been some Vanderbilt buzz for Garland in recent weeks, while Indiana watched him closely in the spring. Jones is the younger brother of Tyus Jones, so there are Duke ties there. But UCLA is also targeting him closely, while Minnesota and USC are pushing.
Jay WrightRich Schultz/Getty ImagesJay Wright and Villanova will join Duke and Kentucky in pursuit of Cameron Reddish.
4. Spring breakout players: A long list of players boosted their stock plenty during the April live period and have seen their recruitments increase considerably. Expect several of those players to attract close attention from coaches who extended offers to them over the past two months, as well as from new coaches looking to see if they can get involved. Noah Locke (No. 80) averaged 18.2 points and shot 49.5 percent from 3-point range on the EYBL circuit, and went on an unofficial visit tour in recent weeks, checking out Notre Dame, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Wolverines have some momentum entering the live period, with Xavier right behind them. Jalen Carey (No. 55) took advantage of his big spring and immediately cut his list to 10 schools in early May: Syracuse, Notre Dame, Florida, Indiana, UConn, Kansas, Temple, Miami, Rutgers, Seton Hall. The Jayhawks picked up some buzz shortly after offering Carey, but Syracuse and others are also heavily involved. Will Richardson (No. 82) might have picked up more offers than anyone during the April live period, and his recruitment hasn’t slowed down. Alabama and Georgia made a push in the spring, while Xavier is also in the mix. UCLA recently started recruiting him, too. BONUS: Reggie Perry: He won’t be at Peach Jam, but a few hours away at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Perry (No. 17) will attract plenty of attention. The five-star forward from Georgia is going to be one of the most-watched prospects during the first live period, after decommitting from Arkansas last week. There will be higher-ranked players, but because Perry committed to the Razorbacks last August, other coaches haven’t truly evaluated or watched him in a year. Expect some bluebloods to take a look, as well as pretty much the entire SEC. It should also be mentioned that Zion Williamson (No. 2) will be playing a short drive from his South Carolina home. The most popular high school basketball in the country already attracts huge crowds. On Williamson's home turf, it could reach unprecedented levels.

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You never know who you’ll meet in Los Angeles.

Just ask UCLA's men's basketball squad.

As the team gathered for its first workout of the summer Monday morning, players gasped when rappers Kanye West and 2 Chainz, who were playing with their group in a private area curtained off from the rest of the gym, walked over to greet them and pose for photos.

West, who is married to social icon Kim Kardashian, is arguably the most popular rapper in the world. And 2 Chainz, whose real name is Tauheed Epps, recently released the album "Pretty Girls Like Trap Music," which ended last week at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 behind Lorde's "Melodrama."

“I think the players were pretty fired up,” UCLA spokesman Alex Timiraos said. “I think they were pretty excited.”

And it all happened by chance.

The Bruins primarily practice at Pauley Pavilion while construction continues on their new practice facility, which is scheduled to open in August.

This week, however, a Nickelodeon event has locked up Pauley, so the team ventured to the nearby Wooden Center, an auxiliary gym where West and 2 Chainz played with a private party Monday morning. Per Timiraos, a UCLA assistant broke the ice and asked West and 2 Chainz if they’d talk to the players.

On Instagram, 2 Chainz, who averaged 2.8 points per game for Alabama State in the mid-1990s, thanked UCLA men’s basketball “for letting me and [Kanye] ball out at the court today.”

But some affiliated with the program (jokingly) weren’t thrilled with the interaction.

Ex-Bruin Bryce Alford, who went undrafted but signed with the Golden State Warriors to play on their summer league team, tweeted a photo of his father, Steve Alford, with West and joked that he worries the encounter might go to the UCLA coach's head.

Krzyzewski/CalipariAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesMike Krzyzewski and John Calipari, the country's top recruiters, will create a stir wherever they are this summer.
Hopefully college coaches across the country are enjoying their Fourth of July weekend -- because the rest of the month is a sprint filled with long flights, crowded gyms, rental cars and very little sleep. July is the most important month on the college basketball calendar for recruiting, with teams looking to fine-tune their 2018 target board and getting a jump-start on the 2019, 2020 and even 2021 classes in some cases. There are three live periods over the next few weeks: July 12-16, July 19-23 and July 26-30. While the three major shoe companies have events that will draw the longest list of coaches, there are dozens of independent events around the country. And coaches will be at each one of them, either looking for their next commitment or babysitting a longtime target. Get ready for a whirlwind three weeks with these storylines: 1. Marvin Bagley III keeping the rest of 2018 at arm's length Looking back at the past several classes, there has generally been some sort of battle for the No. 1 spot. The Class of 2016 had Harry Giles looking to hold off Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, while last season saw Michael Porter Jr. make his big move to pass DeAndre Ayton in July. Can anyone go past Bagley in the coming weeks? It's unlikely. On the Nike EYBL circuit, Bagley was dominant in the spring, averaging 25.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. Chasing Bagley are Zion Williamson (No. 2), a highlight-reel dunker; Cameron Reddish (No. 3), a smooth and versatile perimeter player; Bol Bol (No. 4), who had one of the best springs of anyone; and Romeo Langford (No. 5), the best guard in the class. All four are terrific players, but none has a legitimate case for the No. 1 spot right now. There's more of a debate for No. 2 at this point. Arizona, Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, Duke and USC all watched Bagley in April. Expect more of the same this month.
Vincent Cole for AdidasZion Williamson probably won't catch Marvin Bagley III for the top spot in the ESPN 100, but he'll put on a show for recruiters.
2. New-coach buzz Plenty of eyes will be on coaches at new programs. Several of those coaches spent April getting their feet under them and developing a target list, but July is when we will see their real targets. Archie Miller (Indiana), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Chris Holtmann (Ohio State) and Will Wade (LSU) are among the more intriguing coaches to track as the month begins. Miller is swinging for five-star guards Darius Garland and Langford, but is also making the Midwest a priority with the likes of Race Thompson, Jerome Hunter, Robert Phinisee and others. Ewing has had to answer plenty of recruiting questions, and that won't change anytime soon. So who he targets and what he prioritizes will be key developments of the month. Holtmann only took over at Ohio State a few weeks ago, but he has looked to make quick inroads. He hosted recent decommit Dane Goodwin on an official visit over the weekend, and has his eyes on Hunter, Talen Horton-Tucker and others. Wade has positioned LSU well for high-level prospect Nazreon Reid and landed Javonte Smart Friday., with Darius Days also high on the target list. Expect Wade to be seen early and often for the big names, especially after Reid visited this past weekend. 3. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski When Calipari or Coach K walk into a gym, whispers start, heads turn, tweets are immediately sent out. That's just how it is on the recruiting trail nowadays, where Duke and Kentucky have finished 1-2 in some order in each of the past four recruiting class rankings. So when Calipari and K are seen at a player's games multiple times in one weekend this month, we'll start to see the hot boards for the Wildcats and Blue Devils take place. Things can change drastically from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, but there's some early word on which players each school wants. They are both competing for most of the top players in 2018, including Bagley, Williamson, Reddish and Langford. Kentucky is in great shape with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley and made strong moves for Bol Bol in the spring. At the point guard spot, Duke has zeroed in on Garland and Tre Jones. The Blue Devils also offered a variety of players in the spring, including David McCormack, Emmitt Williams and Jairus Hamilton. Things will get clearer very soon. 4. Who will break out? Plenty of recruiting stories center on a player breaking out in July and earning dozens of high-major scholarship offers. Malcolm Brogdon, this season's NBA Rookie of the Year, had a huge performance at the Nike Peach Jam in the July before his senior year of high school, then committed to Virginia not long after, and the rest is history. Kyrie Irving had very few coaches watching his summer games before the July between his sophomore and junior seasons. Last summer, Alex O'Connell (Duke), Lance Thomas (Louisville), Darryl Morsell (Maryland) and Wabissa Bede (Virginia Tech) were among the players to take advantage of the increased exposure and become clear-cut high-major players. Programs that were in good shape with under-the-radar players before July go into the month hoping their targets won't perform well; they don't want the player's stock to rise in front of big-name coaches.
Jon Lopez/NikeDarius Garland is currently the top-ranked point guard in the 2018 class.
5. Point guard battles Trevon Duval was the clear-cut best point guard in 2017, until Collin Sexton closed the gap late in the process. But going into July, there is a legitimate conversation for the best point guard in 2018. Garland is atop the rankings entering the month, but Quickley and Jahvon Quinerly are right behind him. Tre Jones closed the gap considerably during the spring. Javonte Smart has plenty of natural ability, and Devon Dotson, Ayo Dosunmu and Elijah Weaver had very strong springs. Quentin Grimes is considered more of a 2-guard in the rankings, but several schools are recruiting him as a point guard. Coby White (North Carolina), Courtney Ramey (Louisville) and Brandon Williams (Arizona) already committed to schools, but they’re in the top 50 overall too. There will be matchups between several of these players at one point or another in July, so we can settle the debate. Colleges will look on with piqued interest, too. Point guard dominoes on the recruiting trail are right around the corner.

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If Louisville has to forfeit its 2013 national championship as a result of NCAA rules violations, the Cardinals would end up making the wrong kind of history.

No Division I men's basketball title has ever been vacated.

Final Four appearances have been stripped -- 11 in all. John Calipari is the only coach to have led two separate programs ordered to vacate a Final Four appearance: UMass (1996) and Memphis (2008). In quite a twist, Calipari now coaches at Kentucky, the bitter rival of coach Rick Pitino and the Cards.

Until now, perhaps the most famous Final Four that was vacated belongs to the Fab Five at Michigan. Both runner-up finishes in 1992 and 1993 were vacated as a result of a wide-ranging improper-benefits scandal that involved booster Ed Martin, superstar Chris Webber and several others.

For even more context about just how rare it is for teams to be forced to vacate national championships, consider that only one football title at the FBS level has been vacated: the 2004 BCS national championship that belonged to USC. The NCAA handed down myriad punishments after deeming that star Reggie Bush accepted improper benefits. Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy, 30 scholarships were docked, the school served a two-year postseason ban and its 2005 BCS national championship game appearance also was vacated.

In that case, USC appealed the harsh NCAA sanctions. The NCAA denied that appeal.

Louisville said Thursday it plans to appeal its own NCAA sanctions, hoping to keep its 2013 championship banner in the rafters. Among the many sanctions handed down, the NCAA wants any game vacated that involved an ineligible student-athlete from December 2010 to July 2014.

Chuck Smrt, who is handling Louisville's defense of the allegations, said 108 regular-season games and 15 NCAA tournament games are in question -- including the 2013 national championship game. Louisville made another Final Four appearance in that span, in 2012, and that could be vacated as well.

The accompanying chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, shows nine of the most notable NCAA championships vacated.

Incidentally, the 2007 men’s track and field championship was vacated by Florida State due to NCAA sanctions in 10 FSU sports as part of an academic cheating scandal that involved 61 student-athletes. Football coach Bobby Bowden and the football team were forced to vacate 12 wins, including the 2006 Emerald Bowl victory over UCLA.

Though Florida State has technically made 35 straight bowl appearances, the NCAA doesn’t recognize the game in 2006. Therefore, the NCAA recognizes Virginia Tech as the program with the longest active bowl streak (24). If Florida State’s bowl game had not been vacated, it would be tied with Nebraska for the longest bowl streak in college football history.

The 2018 class is starting to come into focus as we put the 2017 class behind us and inch closer to the all-important July live period. Schools are hoping to close on some prospects before the period begins, while others are planting seeds for a commitment flurry in the month of August. It’s still early in the process, with only five of 23 five-star prospects off the board and only two schools with more than one ESPN 60 prospect in the fold. Which schools have done the best work early, and which schools have a lot of work to do in the coming months?

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Chris HoltmannAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOhio State's Chris Holtmann was recruiting some Ohio prospects while at Butler.
Barring a Tom Izzo departure, the state of recruiting in the Midwest -- more specifically, the Big Ten -- couldn’t have undergone bigger changes than it did the past three months. The three biggest schools in three basketball states -- Indiana, Illinois and Ohio -- changed head coaches, and with that comes a renewed focus on recruiting in the region. Whenever there is a coaching change in a state with a heavy basketball presence, there is talk about keeping the best players home. When Josh Pastner took over at Georgia Tech, he had to focus on the Atlanta area. Ditto for Shaka Smart at Texas and Mike Hopkins at Washington. But to have three huge coaching changes in a 300-mile radius in the Big Ten doesn’t happen every spring. Adding to that, all three outgoing coaches were on the hot seat due, in part, to recruiting.

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Only four schools have been in the top 12 of recruiting class rankings in each of the past three seasons. There’s Duke and Kentucky, which have finished 1-2 in some order in the rankings in each of the past four classes. There’s Arizona, which has finished in the top seven for seven years running.

The fourth? Not Kansas. Not UCLA. Not North Carolina.

It’s Florida State.

Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsM.J. Walker could be the Seminoles' top scorer next season.

And five-star senior M.J. Walker’s announcement on Wednesday that he was picking the Seminoles over UCLA, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Ohio State moved Florida State’s class to No. 8 in the country and ensured the Seminoles would once again have one of the nation’s top incoming freshman classes.

Coach Leonard Hamilton has long had a reputation as an elite recruiter, consistently getting Florida State -- and before that, Miami -- involved with five-star prospects. Florida State has had 10 players selected in the NBA draft since 2004, including four first-round picks. The Seminoles had a top-10 recruiting class in 2008, a top-20 group in 2010 and 2011 and a top-40 class in 2014 -- before the recent three-year run. They just missed on Andrew Wiggins in 2013, not backing off even when Kentucky and Kansas made him a priority.

Walker’s commitment marks the third consecutive class in which Hamilton has reeled in a five-star prospect. Walker follows in the footsteps of Dwayne Bacon in 2015 and Jonathan Isaac in 2016.

The Seminoles have done it by heavily working Florida and Georgia. Bacon and Isaac were both in-state prospects that the Noles got involved with early in the process, while Malik Beasley -- and now Walker -- are Georgia natives. Assistant coach Charlton Young has deep ties to the Atlanta area, while fellow assistant Dennis Gates was the lead on Isaac and helped on Bacon.

Given the early-entry decisions of both Bacon and Isaac, Hamilton badly needed to land Walker. Florida State made him one of its top targets early in the 2017 recruiting cycle, but Walker took his recruitment slowly. He took one official visit in the fall, and it was to Tallahassee. The early signing period came and went without a commitment, though. The longer his recruitment lasted, the further it was since his visit, and other schools began making their moves for Walker. UCLA, Virginia Tech and Ohio State all got him on campus in the past few weeks, while hometown Georgia Tech hosted him several times.

Florida State suffered a difficult recruiting blow earlier this month, when five-star Kevin Knox shocked the recruiting world and chose Kentucky over the Seminoles, Duke, North Carolina and Missouri.

The Seminoles couldn’t let it happen again.

Florida State is coming off a 26-win season that ended in disappointing fashion, going 8-7 in the final two months of the season and losing by 25 to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Bacon, Isaac and double-figure scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes all left early and signed with agents, while starting center Michael Ojo and sixth man Jarquez Smith ran out of eligibility.

When Knox went elsewhere, it looked as if the Seminoles would lack the scoring punch of the past couple of seasons. Walker solves some of those issues. He’s a big-time offensive player who will immediately become one of the perimeter shooters on the team. Walker will have to shoulder most of the scoring load right off the bat, as there is only one player -- Terance Mann (8.4 PPG) -- returning who averaged more than 5.5 points per game.

There’s now reason for optimism at Florida State, though. Former ESPN 100 prospects CJ Walker and Trent Forrest will likely move into starting roles in the backcourt, while Mann will also take on a bigger role. Hamilton focused on the frontcourt in his 2017 class, with ESPN 100 shot-blocker extraordinaire Ikey Obiagu and four-star forwards Raiquan Gray and Wyatt Wilkes entering the fold. Center Christ Koumadje, at 7-feet-4, also took strides as the season progressed and will at least anchor the defense alongside Obiagu.

A step back was inevitable for Florida State without its top three scorers from last season, but Walker’s commitment gives the Seminoles a chance -- and also reaffirms Hamilton’s status as one of the top recruiters in college basketball.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsDuke was in trouble at the point guard spot -- until Trevon Duval's commitment bailed it out.
Mike Krzyzewski didn’t have any other options. Trevon Duval or bust. When Frank Jackson announced last week that he was signing with an agent and keeping his name in the NBA draft, Duke was left without a point guard for next season.

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ESPN 100 point guard Trevon Duval announced his commitment to Duke on Monday morning via the Players' Tribune. Here's a look at what the top-ranked lead guard in the 2017 class will bring to Durham.

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Jon Lopez/NikeMarvin Bagley III has offers from West Coast powers UCLA, Oregon and Arizona, as well as the nation's elite programs like Duke and Kentucky.
It's still very early in the 2018 recruiting cycle and every team discussed below is still recruiting prospects in the 2017 class or transfers for next season. So the true target boards for the powerhouses of college basketball won't be firm until after the July evaluation period, when coaches hit the road for three weeks in the summer to watch prospects. But after tracking coaches during the April live period and seeing offers that went out shortly after last weekend, here's a very early look at the main 2018 targets for six of the biggest recruiting powers:

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Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsKevin Knox is poised to be a matchup problem at the college level.
Kentucky became the first school to have six five-star prospects in one recruiting class last weekend, when top-10 prospect Kevin Knox committed to the Wildcats. It caught many industry people off-guard, because Kentucky already has a couple of similar forwards committed and because Duke, Florida State and even North Carolina were receiving more buzz than the Wildcats. But that’s John Calipari for you.

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