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Predicting where college basketball's top 5 uncommitted recruits will play

The spring recruiting period is heating up. This is our best guess for where the top unsigned recruits will end up.

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Waiting until the spring to make your college choice is a privilege earned by elite basketball recruits. By virtue of being the most-coveted players in their class, five-star prospects can wait out college basketball’s hectic offseason and survey the surviving landscape before tying themselves to a letter of intent.

The major moving parts in this sport are the head coaching carrousel and NBA draft. We’ve already seen multiple players flip their commitment after a coaching change, mostly notably with No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter Jr.’s move from Washington to Missouri.

Early deflections to the draft might have an even bigger impact, especially at the blue bloods. A big man considering Kentucky wants to see if Bam Adebayo is returning to school first. A guard considering Arizona wants to know if Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons will still be around.

There are a handful elite recruits still on the board for next season. This is our best guess at where they will end up.

Trevon Duval, PG, IMG Academy

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Who is he? A 6’3, 190-pound point guard from New Castle, Del.

Where's he ranked? No. 4 by ESPN, No. 5 by 247Sports' national composite

Who is he considering? Duke, Arizona, Baylor, Seton Hall, Kansas

Duval is a strong, explosive lead guard who has drawn comparisons to prime Derrick Rose. How many point guards at any level can finish like this?

Duval’s physicality is what makes him special. He’s a train going to the basket and his combination of length (6’9 wingspan) and quickness should help him smother opposing college guards.

This is a player who has treated his high school career like a professional career since it began. Duval started at St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, transferred to API in Dallas, and then moved to IMG Academy in Florida as a senior. He’s been playing the best competition in the country from an early age and projects as a high-level starter from day one at whatever school he chooses.

Duval doesn’t like to open up about the recruiting process, which makes a prediction very much a shot in the dark. Duke badly wants him after watching last year’s team struggle without a natural point guard on the roster. Arizona could use him to replace Kobi Simmons or as a bigger, faster alternative to Parker Jackson-Cartright. Kansas had great success with a two-point guard look last season. Bill Self would love to make Duval his replacement for Wooden Award winner Frank Mason III.

A player as talented as Duval could also draw some interest from a professional team overseas, as Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Terrance Ferguson once did. It’s all on the table for Duval at this point. Whatever team he chooses will be thrilled to have him.

Prediction: Arizona.

Sean Miller already reeled in one superstar recruit in center DeAndre Ayton. If he gets Duval too, the Wildcats might be the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason polls.

Kobi Simmons has already said he’ll sign with an agent and stay in the draft. Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are still undecided on returning to school. Either way, Arizona will have minutes and shots to fill in the backcourt next year. Duval can take them over the top.

Duke is also a major possibility here. The Blue Devils already have Frank Jackson entrenched in the backcourt. Grayson Allen’s decision to turn pro or return to school could play a big factor in what Duval decides to do.

Mohamed Bamba, C, Westtown School

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Who is he? A 7-foot, 215-pound big man from Harlem, N.Y.

Where's he ranked? No. 5 by ESPN, No. 3 by 247Sports' national composite

Who is he considering? Duke, Kentucky, Texas, Michigan

Mo Bamba looks like nothing you’ve ever seen on a basketball court before. With a 7’9 wingspan and 9’6 standing reach, Bamba’s length is virtually unprecedented in the history of the sport.

Bamba has the potential to be a terror as a rim protector on defense and rim roller on offense. Imagine Nerlens Noel with Stretch Armstrong limbs. Think of a quicker Rudy Gobert who isn’t afraid to take a three-pointer. The mind races when you think of what Bamba could one day become if he adds strength and continues to develop his skill level.

It might be tempting to think of Bamba as some sort of mystery man because of his physical dimensions, but scouts have been tracking his development closely for years. He’s a regular at USA Basketball and went against the best centers in his class frequently on Nike’s EYBL tour. He’s also a warm and engaging personality who would be a great ambassador for whichever school he chooses.

So: Which of Bamba’s four finalists is the best fit? It’s still hard to say.

Duke only likes to play one big man at a time and already has a top recruit in the front court in Wendell Carter Jr. as well as sophomore Marques Bolden. Kentucky has a crowded front court too, with Nick Richards, Sasha Killeya-Jones, and Isaac Humphries already competing for minutes at center. Texas had a five-star freshman center last year in Jarrett Allen and still didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan has Mo Wagner and D.J. Wilson fresh off a Sweet 16 run if they decide to return to school after testing the NBA draft waters.

This one is still too close to call because there are some variables involved.

Prediction: Kentucky

Yes, John Calipari will have a logjam upfront, but Bamba would likely be a starter regardless. Cal might even let him take threes given the shooting issues his roster projects to have.

Michigan is the dark horse here. If Wagner comes back to school and Wilson stays in the draft, John Beilein’s spread attack would be ideal for Bamba’s gifts.

Update: Recent buzz has Texas as the favorite for Bamba after Allen bolted for the NBA draft. More at Burnt Orange Nation:

Kevin Knox, F, Tampa Catholic

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Who is he? A 6’9, 205-pound combo forward from Tampa, Fla.

Where's he ranked? No. 7 by ESPN, No. 8 by 247 Sports' national composite

Who is he considering? Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida State, Missouri

The hardest type of player to find in college basketball is a big, athletic wing who can score from all three levels. Knox is becoming exactly that.

A former quarterback who got too tall to play football, Knox is still growing into life as a basketball star. His skill level seems to be getting better every month, whether he’s flashing a jump shot and getting more comfortable as a ball handler. He’s already a top-flight athlete and that will help him make an impact at the college level from day one.

Knox’s physical tools are everything teams want out of a combo forward. He’ll be too fast for opposing fours and too big for wings. He’d fill a major role for all of his remaining finalists.

Duke needs him to replace Jayson Tatum, North Carolina needs him to replace Justin Jackson, Florida State needs him to replace Jonathan Isaac. Kentucky has been looking for a big wing like this for years. At Mizzou, he’d team with Porter for the ultimate matchup nightmare on the wing.

Prediction: Duke

Coach K decided years ago he isn’t putting two traditional big men on the court at the same time. If Duke’s small-ball attack is going to work for another year, it needs Knox to play the role of the athletic four like Jabari Parker, Brandon Ingram, and Tatum before him.

North Carolina has to be intriguing, too. Assuming Joel Berry II and Tony Bradley return to school, Knox could be an instant starter on a team with dreams of winning back-to-back national championships.

Brandon McCoy, C, Cathedral Catholic High School

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Who is he? A 7-foot, 245-pound center from San Diego

Where's he ranked? No. 6 by ESPN, No. 11 by 247Sports' national composite

Who is he considering? Arizona, Oregon, San Diego State, Michigan State, UNLV

McCoy is the type of center everyone loves to play with. He challenges shots, rebounds, scores inside but doesn’t demand touches. He might not be as explosive or skilled as the other top big men in this class, but he’ll be a major asset for whichever school he chooses simply by being huge and mobile.

McCoy played on Cal Supreme alongside DeAndre Ayton, which allowed Ayton to focus on his jump shot and perimeter defense. Ayton is headed to Arizona and that’s one of McCoy’s finalists, too. But with Dusan Ristic also returning for his senior year, will there be enough minutes available for another five-star freshman in the frontcourt?

Michigan State has a similar problem. Nick Ward returns as a sophomore post scorer after an excellent freshman season, and he’ll be joined in the frontcourt by 6’11 five-star freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson’s shooting ability makes him and Ward a nice fit together. Is there room for Jackson, too?

San Diego State is the hometown team, but it’s hard to imagine McCoy lands there after Steve Fisher’s retirement. UNLV would love to have him, but that would require a leap of faith on McCoy’s part. There’s one logical school left.

Prediction: Oregon

The Ducks really are a good fit for McCoy. He can either be the second big man in the rotation if Jordan Bell returns to school or takeover center duties if he decides to turn pro.

Oregon likes to play small and fast with one traditional big man on the floor at a time, and McCoy’s willingness to do some dirty work would make him an ideal candidate for that spot. He’s also the first player on this list who isn’t projected as a one-and-done. Dana Altman would love to have him at center for a few seasons.

Brian Bowen, SG, La Lumiere

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Who is he? A 6’7, 190-pound wing from Michigan

Where's he ranked? No. 12 by ESPN, No. 15 by 247Sports' national composite

Who is he considering? Arizona, Michigan State

Indiana-based La Lumiere has become a powerhouse on the national prep school circuit. After losing in the Dick’s Sporting Goods National Championship game a year ago, La Lumiere made it back and won the title this season. Brian Bowen was their top scorer on the wing.

Playing alongside Michigan State commit Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan commit Jordan Poole, and class of 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell, Bowen showed he knows how to fit into a team dynamic and still be productive. He’s a shooter and scorer on the perimeter at 6’7, and both Arizona and Michigan State would love to have him.

Prediction: Arizona

Whether Trier and/or Alkins return or not, Arizona is going need some scoring punch on the wing. As long as Bowen can embrace the Wildcats’ pack-line defense, he’ll endear himself to Sean Miller quickly.

Bonus Predictions

M.J. Walker, SG, Jonesboro (GA)

Prediction: Florida State

Jeremiah Tilmon, C, East Saint Louis (IL)

Prediction: Missouri