May 13, 2013, 11:46 AM EDT
In less than 24 hours, we will all finally know the answer to the elephant in the room in every college hoops conversation since Louisville won the 2013 national title: Where will Andrew Wiggins go to college?
On Sunday evening, Wiggins officially announced that he would be making his decision public at 12:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, meaning that at precisely 12:16 p.m. ET on Tuesday, there will be one team and one fan base who just saw their expectations for the 2013-2014 reach a new level.
The four schools still involved in Wiggins’ recruitment? Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky is the easy pick since, well, since they are Kentucky; they always land these recruits. Florida State is the trendy pick and the program many believe to be the favorite. Kansas is the sleeper that is making a late-push. North Carolina is the longshot, but who doesn’t love an underdog story.
Who has the most to gain from landing Wiggins? Who cannot afford to miss on this future star? Just how important is landing a preseason first-team all-american to these four schools? Read on and find out:
Florida State: The Seminoles took a massive step back a season ago, as they struggled to find any kind of consistency on the defensive end of the floor — Leonard Hamilton’s typical trademark — and couldn’t find any kind of consistency in their front court. They finished the year 18-16, a record which was probably better than it should have been thanks to the repeated late-game heroics from Michael Snaer. But the ‘Noles are already bringing in a talented recruiting class — headlined by Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a close friend of Wiggins’, and Jarquez Smith — and return a better-than-you-realize core of Devin Bookert, Ian Miller and Okaro White.
Without a doubt, this would be the most intriguing place for Wiggins to land. This kid is regarded in the same vein as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and we all remember what LBJ and the Durantula did in their first seasons out of high school. LeBron averaged 21, 6 and 6 for the Cavs while Durant lit up the Big 12 for 25.8 points, 11.1 boards, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks as a freshman. With that kind of a talent on the roster, FSU immediately becomes a threat to reach the Sweet 16. Without him, this team is likely destined for the NIT.
Kansas: The Jayhawks, who some believe are right behind Florida State as favorites to land the services of Wiggins, are already going to be an interesting team to follow through the 2013-2014 season. We all know about the streak — Bill Self has won at least a share of the last nine regular season titles in the Big 12 — but this group will be losing all five starters from a season ago. Their returnees: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Andrew White and Jamari Traylor. Their newcomers: Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Connor Frankamp, Frank Mason, Brannen Greene. There’s potential there, sure, but there is also a ton of youth. With Oklahoma State and Baylor returning a ton from a season ago, this could be the season that the Jayhawks lose their grip on the league.
But with Wiggins in the mix, it becomes a much different story. He immediately becomes the star and go-to guy that the Jayhawks desperately need. He takes the pressure off of the point guard spot. He makes things easier on their young front line. This group would very-much resemble the 2007-2008 Texas team with Durant. The Jayhawks would immediately become the favorite to win the Big 12 — you simply don’t bet against Bill Self if he gets Wiggins on his roster — and they should be considered a legitimate Final Four contender.
Kentucky: Kentucky, like Florida State, is coming off of a first round exit in the NIT. And like Kansas, the Wildcats are losing a number of pieces this offseason — Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays. The difference is that Kentucky is already bringing in one of the best recruiting classes of all-time, and they still return Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer. This team already goes nine-deep with top 40 recruits. They are already the preseason No. 1 team in the country. They probably don’t need Wiggins to win it all, but in the real world, there’s never a situation where you ‘don’t need’ a talent like Wiggins.
If Kentucky wins this recruiting battle, the talk about the Wildcats going undefeated will commence. And it’s possible. This will be the most ridiculous accumulation of talent on any roster in recent memory. NBA teams will be renting out apartments in Lexington during the school year; it’ll be cheaper than spending all that money on hotels. Think about this: the Harrison twins in the back court, Wiggins on the wing, Julius Randle and Cauley-Stein up front with James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Poythress and Wiltjer coming off the bench.
There are concerns, however — How do minutes get split up? Are the guys on the bench happy being ‘guys on the bench’? Are there too many attitudes and egos on this roster? — but I’m not sure there is a coach in the country better-suited to handling this team than Coach Cal.
North Carolina: Few believe Wiggins will end up at North Carolina, but if he does, he would be the perfect piece to slide into Roy Williams’ system. Think about it like this: the guy is basically the same position as Reggie Bullock, only worlds better than Reggie Bullock. And when North Carolina made their late-season run in 2012-2013, it was when Bullock played in the front court alongside PJ Hairston and James Michael-McAdoo. In that system, I’m not sure there is a player better-suited to being an undersized-four than Wiggins.
With Marcus Paige also returning, and another talented recruiting class coming in this season, the Tar Heels were already considered a borderline top ten team and the biggest challenger to Duke and Syracuse in the ACC. With Wiggins, they would be the favorite to win the strongest conference in the country and a real national title contender.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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