After five-star point guard Quade Green committed to Kentucky shortly after the early signing period, the Wildcats moved into the No. 1 spot in the recruiting class rankings. That essentially guarantees John Calipari his ninth straight recruiting class ranked in the top two nationally. Days before Christmas, however, Kentucky moved closer to clinching the No. 1 ranking with a commitment from five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
As it stands, the Wildcats have commitments from four five-star players -- Nick Richards (No. 12), P.J. Washington (No. 16), Green (No. 21) and Vanderbilt (No. 22) -- as well as four-star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 43).
So the question remains: Can anyone overtake Kentucky for the No. 1 recruiting class in 2017?
There are a few potential candidates, but with one major caveat: Kentucky can’t get another five-star prospect. If the Wildcats get another five-star prospect in 2017, namely Hamidou Diallo (No. 11) or perhaps Mohamed Bamba (No. 4) or Kevin Knox (No. 7), Calipari would seal the No. 1 ranking. No one would be able to realistically catch Kentucky, barring major changes (decisions made by remaining uncommitted players, five-star decommitments, etc.).
Of the players left on the board, Kentucky is in the best position for Diallo, who recently took an official visit to Kentucky. He’s expected to make a decision soon, with Connecticut and Arizona also in the mix. The interesting aspect of Diallo’s recruitment is that he is exploring enrolling in college for the second semester and either playing immediately or sitting out until next season. If he did commit to Kentucky but enrolled for the second semester, he wouldn’t count toward the Wildcats’ 2017 class. For Bamba, it appears Michigan and Texas have the most momentum, and Kentucky is likely chasing Duke for Knox.
Only two teams can potentially pass Kentucky and finish with the No. 1 recruiting class: Duke and Arizona.
Duke has the best chance, as the Blue Devils already have five-star power forward Wendell Carter (No. 3) and five-star guard Gary Trent Jr. (No. 8) in the fold, as well as four-star shooting guard Alex O’Connell (No. 87). Mike Krzyzewski currently has the No. 3 group in the land, and is very involved with three of the four remaining top-10 prospects. They are still recruiting Bamba, but the two most likely commitments would come from Trevon Duval (No. 5) and Knox. Duke has made a very strong recent push for Duval, and it’s expected that he will take a visit to Durham soon. The Blue Devils have recruited Knox for a long time, and recently sent three coaches to one of his games. Duke could be considered the favorite for both Duval and Knox at this point. As mentioned, Duke would have to make up ground to get Bamba, and the Blue Devils are also likely running second for four-star point guard Matt Coleman (No. 26).
The only other team that can pass Kentucky as things stand is Arizona. And like Duke, Sean Miller and the Wildcats would need at least two five-star prospects to get the job done. Fortunately, Arizona is still recruiting a long list of players. It is on the list for Duval, Brandon McCoy (No. 6), Diallo and Brian Bowen (No. 13) -- and has a realistic shot to get a couple of them. Arizona already has a committed point guard in Alex Barcello (No. 93), making it less likely the Wildcats will get Duval. Diallo is expected to visit soon, but he could just as easily commit to Kentucky or Connecticut before taking the trip out west. Moreover, there’s a chance his commitment wouldn’t count toward the 2017 class if he enrolls early. That leaves McCoy and Bowen. At different points in the fall, it seemed very likely Miller would be able to get both players, adding to a class that includes DeAndre Ayton (No. 1), Brandon Randolph (No. 39), Ira Lee (No. 68) and Barcello and is currently ranked No. 4. Both players have continued to prolong their recruitments, though. Oregon, San Diego State, Michigan State and UNLV are also involved with McCoy, while Creighton has made a very strong surge for Bowen. Arizona can’t get to No. 1 without two of the remaining five-stars.
Despite being ranked No. 2, UCLA can’t get to No. 1 even if the Bruins were able to get involved late with someone like McCoy or M.J. Walker (No. 20). And even if Texas were to get Bamba and Coleman, that wouldn’t get it close, either.
Only two teams could stop Calipari from getting his sixth No. 1 recruiting class since taking over in Lexington in 2009, and it will take a very strong spring from Duke or Arizona.