Notes: Stanford lands Ziaire Williams; SEC has five of nation’s top-eight incoming classes

We don’t have games of any sort right now, but we’ve had a flurry of offseason college basketball news in the past week and change.

On March 12 alone, two of the nation’s biggest recruits left on the board made their decisions. Stanford pulled a major coup Sunday when it scored a verbal commitment from Ziaire Williams, a 6-foot-7 wing who is ranked No. 7 in the ESPN 100 and chose the Cardinal over North Carolina and UCLA.

Bruce Pearl’s incoming 2020 class moved into the nation’s Top 10 at No. 8 (per the 247Sports Composite Rankings) with the addition of Top-50 prospect JT Thor, a four-star power forward out of Norcross, GA. Auburn is still in hot pursuit of five-star combo guard Jalen Green, who is expected to make his announcement Friday afternoon (3/17/20).

Most recruiting analysts consider Auburn to be a heavy favorite over Memphis and Oregon to land Green. Pearl’s Tigers already have one five-star recruit in this class with point guard Sharife Cooper.   

A slew of grad-transfer decisions have been made recently. Michigan will get a lift in 2020-21 thanks to the addition of Mike Smith, the Ivy League’s top scorer at Columbia last season. Smith averaged 22.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game for the Lions.

Several other Ivy Leaguers have defected. Our Blake Von Hagen informed you on Seth Towns returning home to play at Ohio State. Bryce Aiken, another Harvard product who was limited to seven games this past season due to a foot injury, is heading to New Jersey to play for Seton Hall. Aiken, who averaged 16.7 PPG in 2019-20, will make a big impact with the Pirates if he can get and then stay healthy.

Pearl isn’t the only hoops coach doing work on the recruting trail in The Yellowhammer State. Nate Oats will welcome Yale power forward Jordan Bruner to the fold in 2020-21. Bruner averaged 10.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 APG for the Bulldogs this past year.

In addition to Bruner, Alabama has scored three other commitments since March 27 to improve its 2020 class to No. 17 in the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. First, four-star combo guard Josh Primo committed to the Crimson Tide.

Then on April 5, the country’s third-ranked JUCO prospect (per 247Sports) Keon Ellis announced his intentions of coming to Tuscaloosa. Ellis is a 6-foot-6 combo guard out of Florida SouthWestern State College in Ft. Myers, FL. On April 7, Darius Miles committed to ‘Bama. Miles is a 6-foot-7 small forward who is a four-star prospect at Rivals, although most other services have him ranked as a high three star.

The Crimson Tide is probably going to lose rising junior point guard Kira Lewis, who is projected as a late first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. However, Oats is prepared for that loss with the addition of Jahvon Quinerly, a former five-star recruit who sat out this past year after transferring from Villanova.

Louisville landed perhaps the top grad tranfer on the market in former Radford guard Carlik Jones, who is set to join Chris Mack’s Cardinals after averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 RPG this past season. Also, San Francisco guard Charles Minlend (14.4 PPG) is set to join U of L.

However, it hasn’t been all good news lately for the Cardinals. Jay Scrubb, the nation’s premier JUCO prospect, announced last week that he’ll turn pro rather than join the program.  

Virginia Tech took a big loss when Landers Nolley (15.5 PPG) decided to leave the program and transfer. The Hokies will hope to compensate for Nolley’s loss with the addition of Kansas State grad transfer Carter Diarra, who averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 RPG for the Wildcats. They have the nation’s No. 21 class thanks to a pair of four-star prospects in guards Joe Bamisile and Darius Maddox.

Ole Miss went to the 2019 NCAA Tournament in Year 1 of the Kermit Davis Era, only to endure a disappointing Year 2. The Rebels lose Breein Tyree but nobody else of significance.

They have help on the way with Rider grad transfer Dimencio Vaughn, who averaged 14.8 points and 6.6 RPG while making 39.3 percent of his treys for the Broncs.  Also, four-star guard prospect Matthew Murrell is on his way to Oxford and Ole Miss remains in the picture for Samford transfer Robert Allen (14.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG).

The SEC has five of the nation’s top-eight recruting classes, according to the rankings at 247Sports. Kentucky is No. 1, Tennessee is No. 5, LSU is No. 6 and Arkansas is No. 7.

Like Fred Hoiberg during his previous tenure at Iowa State before coming to Nebraska, Eric Musselman made a living at Nevada by scouring the transfer market. He’s trying to do the same with the Razorbacks and has already landed a pair of grad transfers.

Northern Kentucky’s Jalen Tate is a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 APG in 2019-20. Arkansas is also adding New Mexico’s Vance Jackson, who averaged 11.1 points and 5.3 RPG for the Lobos.

LSU’s Trendon Watford has declared for the NBA Draft, but he’s not going to sign with an agent and could return for his sophomore campaign. The Tigers have one five-star prospect (Cameron Thomas) and three four-stars on the way to Baton Rouge.

Tennessee is still waiting on NBA decisions from Josiah-Jordan James and Yves Pons, but Rick Barnes has already lined up reinforcements. Sacred Heart grad transfer E.J. Anosike is ready to join the Volunteers. Anosike averaged 15.7 points and 11.6 RPG this past season.

Most important, five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson are poised to join a backcourt that already has Santiago Vescovi, who averaged 10.7 points, 3.7 assists and 1.2 SPG this past year. The Vols are also adding four-star power forward Corey Walker to provide frontcourt depth with John Fulkerson and Pons (if he returns).

Arizona’s Nico Mannion was one and done in Tucson, but Sean Miller has already found his replacement. Seattle grad transfer Terrell Brown is poised to join the Wildcats. Brown averaged 20.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.9 APG for the Redhawks in 2019-20.

One of my favorite coaching hires of the recent Carousel was Andy Kennedy to UAB. Kennedy has secured a commitment from grad transfer Michael Ertel, who averaged 16.2 PPG for ULM this past year. The Blazers are competing with Arkansas for Ga. Southern grad transfer Quan Jackson, who averaged 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 SPG in 2019-20. Jackson is a Tallahassee Godby High School product.

The best grad transfer that’s still available is 7-foot-3 former Purdue center Matt Haarms, who averaged 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game for the Boilermakers. Haarms is considering 10 schools, including Arizona, Arkansas, Boston College, BYU, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Memphis, Minnesota, Texas Tech and North Carolina Greensboro.

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