Duke vs. Michigan St. for Jabari Parker?

Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon), the No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, appears to have reached a verdict. Next Thursday, Dec. 20, we’ll all know his college decision.

For what it’s worth, if the words Stanford, Florida or BYU come out of his mouth, I’d be surprised.

Let me preface this take with a disclaimer: This is my opinion, crafted solely from observations and information I’ve gathered. When ESPN recently asked me for my pick on Parker’s decision, I tried to list Duke as 1A and Michigan State as 1B. My editors had other ideas and made me choose. I picked Duke.

Parker’s recruitment has mimicked his understated personality. There’s been little chitchat and even less chatter. Rumors have been slow to come by, but somehow the national perspective has funneled his recruitment to Michigan State and Duke. I can’t recall a time since the summer when I didn’t think it would be a Spartans-versus-Blue Devils showdown. Looking at the situation, Parker seems to slide easily into both slots, and in both cases his personality matches his pursuant.

There’s a central question I’d love to have the answer to regarding Parker: When in his mind did he reach a decision? Parker and No. 1-ranked Simeon will play on ESPN on Thursday night (9:30 p.m. ET vs. No. 18 DeSoto from Texas), and hopefully I’ll have the chance to ask that very question.

The reason it’s important, in my opinion, deals with Duke.

Since the start of the college season, Duke has been the rage and one of the primary focuses of everyone’s attention. The Blue Devils have played exceptionally well and beaten quality opponents. At this very moment, they’re the hot name. They’re thriving on the court, and the media coverage they’ve received is strong.

It’s easy to pick a program when you’re in the moment, and if Parker has been truly undecided the past few weeks, Duke has certainly been presented as an attractive option. Basically, it doesn’t hurt to be in the news and near the top of the rankings while your No. 1 target is making a decision.

If you buy my argument, then you’ll concede the momentum favors Duke. Location, however, favors Michigan State.

There isn’t an in-state program among his finalists. The Spartans, who are located less than four hours from Chicago, become the de facto hometown program. By now you’ve probably heard that Parker’s father isn’t fond of flying, but I’m not basing my rationale on that. What I’m saying is that Parker is a family guy and if he’s going to be around for only a short time in college, as we expect, Michigan State has the geographical edge.

It would also have benefited Michigan State if Parker had made up his mind earlier, before Duke went on its early-season run and gobbled up the attention of hoopheads coast to coast.

Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski have worked diligently to cultivate relationships with Parker and his family. That’s not to say that other coaches haven’t, but if you’re keeping score at home and carefully read quotes, you’ve heard Parker respectfully speak about the leaders of the Michigan State and Duke programs. Izzo has been omnipresent in his recruitment; Coach K has worked him hard.

Traditionally, Simeon prospects decide early and focus on the season. When Parker passed on the early signing period, I was a little surprised.

Now, it appears, the time is right. Next Thursday, three years' worth (at least) of aggressive recruiting, cultivated relationships and hard work will be rewarded.

Until then, we’re all just having fun concocting theories and speculating.