Class of 2016
Last week was pretty hectic following the recruitment of 4-star point guard Cassius Winston. It started Wednesday morning when Winston tweeted that he cut Michigan from his list leaving just MSU, Stanford, and Pitt on his final list. A couple days after that announcement he followed up with this:
Getting ready for my LAST official visit . I will announce my decision at my schools pep rally on Friday, September 18th.— Cassius Winston (@cassiuswinston) September 12, 2015
Because most recruiting analysts thought Winston would end up at either MSU or Michigan, the logical assumption now is that he’ll wind up at MSU. A couple recruiting experts’ quotes from the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press:
"I don't want read too much into it, but I personally have always thought it was going to end up being Michigan or Michigan State," Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow said. "At the end of the day I think Stanford is too far away from home even though he says that is not a factor. That's much easier to say than take a five-hour flight.
"Pittsburgh, obviously there is a connection with assistant coach (Marlon Williamson), who has known Cassius for a long time. But I just feel Michigan State and the local pull now that Michigan has landed their guy in Xavier Simpson, I think that you would have to consider (Michigan State) the favorite."
"Stanford and Pittsburgh are certainly involved with him, but it’s hard not to consider Michigan State the leader," Eric Bossi from Rivals.com said of Winston. "All signs seem to be pointing in that direction. And that’s been the case, from what I’ve heard, all along."
Just about all the evidence is pointing to a commitment from Winston this Friday. Some quotes from him on how his visit went from Scout.com:
"It was a lot of fun," Winston said. "There was a lot of action this weekend and campus was live. It was great visit."
What stood out about the Spartans?
"How much support the athletes get and the love the school has from the fans," he said. "That was kind of crazy and seeing how close the team was. It was good visit." "They’ve been recruiting for a long time now," he added about MSU. "[Tom Izzo] got to me well and I got to know him. We’ve been building a relationship for a while."
The other main part of the proposed super class is 5-star forward Miles Bridges who visited with his AAU teammate Winston last weekend along with current commits Josh Langford and Nick Ward. Right now most people think his decision will come down to either MSU or Kentucky. While Winston and Bridges are friends and AAU teammates, they are not a package deal and Bridges will make the best decision for himself. Don't get me wrong, getting Winston will help but it's not at all a guarantee that they'll land Bridges. A couple more quotes from the recruiting analysts on this matter:
"They like each other, they like being teammates, but they'll make their own decisions," Snow said. "If Cassius does go to Michigan State, that will be a plus for Michigan State. But will it be a determining factor? No, it's not."
"Michigan State has him this weekend but Kentucky is the school, I get the impression, as the leader. If (Michigan State) gets Cassius that will help. But Miles seems intent on taking his visits so I don't know that it will be a quick decision."
"If you’re Michigan State and you land a guy (Bridges) has played several summers with and has a great relationship with, it certainly helps your chances," Bossi said. "Does it put you over the top? That’s too early to tell."
Prediction: In the end I think MSU will end up with Bridges, Winston, Langford, and Ward in its 2016 recruiting class. My reasoning is that I think Bridges just has too much connection with Michigan State and it'll ultimately win him over. Also, based on Bridges' tweet calling Izzo "one of the realest guys alive!!!", I'd like to think that he and Izzo had a good conversation over his potential future role as a Spartan. There's just a lot more certainty with the MSU roster and Bridges' fit with the team when compared to Kentucky's team. Bridges was originally scheduled to visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 16 but on Monday told ESPN that he's now planning on visiting Lexington this weekend and then commit to a school on October 3rd. He also cut Michigan and North Carolina from his list leaving MSU, Kentucky, and Indiana with his reasoning behind that being:
"I didn't want to waste anybody’s time," Bridges said. "I’m trying to get this recruiting stuff over with."
In my opinion, moving up his timetable was very good news for the Spartans for a few reasons with the main one being that he won't get the full effect of just how basketball-crazed BIG BLUE NATION is. I really think he wanted to speed up his process because he's decided on MSU now and is only visiting Kentucky out of respect for the Kentucky coaching staff and the time they spent building a relationship with him (This may ultimately just be my MSU bias coming out). At the moment, most national recruiting experts believe he's leaning towards committing to Kentucky.
Consensus top 3 player in the class of 2016 Josh Jackson is the other big target MSU is looking at but I'm not overly optimistic on MSU's chances with him. He was originally scheduled to visit MSU for the Oregon game but he cancelled (which I think may have helped MSU with Bridges/Winston because the focus of the weekend was on them). However, Jackson plans to visit soon per Rico Beard. Right now the biggest competition for him appears to be Arizona due to Jackson's connection with head coach Sean Miller when Miller was coaching Jackson on the USA U-19 team. Getting Winston and Bridges on board might help persuade Jackson to get on board but at the moment there's only two scholarships available (a transfer or Eron Harris leaving early is a possibility). Right now MSU looks to be in his top 4 along with Arizona, Kansas, and Maryland.
Class of 2017
The guy who seems to undoubtedly be MSU's top target for 2017 is 5 star wing Brian Bowen from Saginaw who also visited this past weekend. By all accounts MSU appears to be his leader due to both the MSU-Saginaw connection and the fact his cousin is former MSU star Jason Richardson. With Harris, Alvin Ellis, and the potential for a one-and-done freshman in 2016 leaving, there should be available playing time on the wing for Bowen as a freshman.
The next big target seems to be 4 star power forward Xavier Tillman out of Forrest Hills Central in Grand Rapids. Michigan might be his leader at moment due to his mother playing for the women's team. However, one thing that might hurt them in his recruitment is that he seems to be a true college power forward and Michigan often plays with floor-spacing wings at the 2-4 positions. They're projected to have a number of bigs on their roster (Doyle, Donnal, Wilson, Wagner, Davis, Teske) and while someone is likely to transfer, it still just seems like somewhat of an awkward fit to me. While he's not an extremely highly rated guy, he's likely going to be high priority for MSU so they can keep getting the best in-state talent.
One intriguing guy who seems to be a little under the radar is 4 star 6-11 Malik Williams from Fort Wayne, Indiana who got an MSU offer back in mid-August. He's #52 on 247Sports composite ranking and looks like a huge potential guy with a long but thin body at just 200 pounds. I don't have a subscription for it but Mike Wilson at 247Sports posted an article with the title "[Malik] Williams 'really excited' by Michigan State offer". At the moment his offers are Michigan State, Indiana, Cincinnati, Toledo, Purdue, and Xavier. He reportedly was visited by MSU last Thursday and he also has visited MSU recently. Due to the MSU being arguably his best offer at the moment, I feel as though MSU is high on his list.
Another interesting guy to keep an eye is Matt Beachler who has drawn interest from MSU but doesn't have an offer yet. Beachler is a 6-3 shooting guard whose best attribute at this point appears to be shooting. He is an AAU teammate of Xavier Tillman so it'll be interesting to see if that connection leads anywhere.
The National 5 Stars
Shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. was on MSU's radar but unfortunately Duke appears to become the favorite when his ranking dramatically rose over the summer. MSU is probably top 4 for him along with Duke, Kansas, and Ohio State.
Power forward Billy Preston had some mutual interest in MSU but I can't find anything linking them recently. Late August he said Maryland, Arizona, and USC were recruiting him the hardest.
Again there was some mutual interest with Austin Wiley from Alabama but late-August he tweeted out his top 8 and MSU wasn't on it.
6-10 Brandon McCoy was a bit of a surprise visitor (at least to me) at the Oregon game last weekend per Adam Zagoria. I'm not sure where the connection with him is but he's someone to keep an eye on.
I don't know what it is with MSU and their interest in 5 star power forwards but PJ Washington is a fringe 5 star who might be hard to pull from Texas. Among the national 5 stars, MSU might have the best shot with him if they plan on getting involved.
The Point Guards
If MSU lands Cassius Winston, the point guard position will be significantly less of a need in 2017 but they might still be looking. Right now they're looking at a variety of them in the 30-75 range in Quade Green, Nojel Eastern, Paul Scruggs, and Markell Johnson. Again, while it may not end up being a need, they want to avoid a similar situation to this year with just one pure PG on the team. However, if there's a big shift and Winston goes elsewhere, look for MSU to go after Eastern and Green hard.
Class of 2018
It's early but the biggest name for MSU is East Lansing's own 6-7 Brandon Johns who is projected as a power forward with some perimeter skills. A couple local guards to watch for are Belleville's Davion Williams and Clarkson's Foster Loyer.