When Villanova Wildcats coach Jay Wright landed the commitment of 5-star guard Bryan Antoine on Tuesday morning, he accomplished a few major feats worth celebrating.
First, ‘Nova now has the #2 class in the country (behind the USC Trojans), with another scholarship left to hand out. He’s potentially* on track to unseat the 2009 class as his best - by the rankings - ever.
*It will depend on the final rankings, obviously. It may finish just shy of the 2009 class in overall rating, but You’d obviously bank on them outperforming them on the court.
Second, Antoine represents the highest-rated recruit (per the 247 Composite Rankings) in Jay Wright’s tenure** since Mouphtaou Yarou ended up on the Main Line. He’s finally beating out the likes of Duke and Kentucky for the cream of the crop. That should scare his rivals.
**Some will argue Jason Fraser is the most decorated recruit in the Wright era. I think they’re right, but it was before the recruiting services really tracked this stuff to the degree they do today.
That’s a pretty big departure from the norm in Wright’s recent success where he mixed in the occasional 5-star recruit with a roster stuffed with Top-100 players. Now he’s taking that a step further by not only landing prospects that fit his culture and system, but elite prospects that fit his talent and system.
Third, Jay Wright could land back-to-back Top-10 classes, something he’s never done before. That’s wild.
With Bryan Antoine, Justin Moore and Eric Dixon in the fold, Wright and his staff will now turn their attention to a handful of prospects to close out this class. There are 12 scholarship spoken for next season, meaning there is 1 scholarship left open for the 2019 recruiting class.
It’s worth noting that the roster is fuller than it has been in recent years. Will Tim Delaney stay for a 5th season? Will there be a transfer? Anything’s possible - and I’d even argue likely at this point - but even if that were to happen it’s hard for me to see Wright taking a 5-man class this year. That’s pretty crazy roster imbalance, even with some potential early-entry players on campus.
Instead, I think you’ll see Wright and staff try to finish this thing off with 1 more commitment and move on to 2020 where the talent available in the Mid-Atlantic region is pretty loaded again.
Here’s who is still in play.
Isaiah Stewart is both the highest rated prospect left on the board, and at a position that Villanova would like to fill. Stewart recently cut his list to 6 schools and should set visits imminently.
Most of the ‘experts’ have seen Stewart as Duke’s to lose. They thought the same thing about Bryan Antoine and we saw how that turned out. Of note: 247’s Brian Snow recently made a CB pick for Stewart to Villanova, and recent buzz seems to favor the Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans over the Blue Devils.
To stay home or to leave for college? That seems to be the question for Nico Mannion, who is officially down to 4 schools but has only scheduled 3 official visits. Jay Wright and George Halcovage will trip out to Phoenix to visit the Mannion’s on September 9th and I expect they’ll use that meeting to understand their footing in the recruitment.
Mannion has long been considered an Arizona lean but Villanova has picked up a ton of buzz in recent weeks after Mannion spoke highly about the potential of playing with his friend Jahvon Quinerly.
Would the ‘Cats bring in another guard in this class after landing Moore and Antoine? I think so - Jay has never been shy about taking the best player available regardless of position. He just wants basketball players and Mannion is a perfect fit in the Villanova system.
Take a shot, there’s nothing to lose
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl surprised more than a few people when he included Villanova in his Top 5 and then promptly scheduled an official visit for September 14th. Villanova should know very quickly if they have a chance here, but I wouldn’t bet on it at this stage.
Josh Green has had the quietest recruitment outside of Cole Anthony, but the ‘experts’ believe Villanova has a fighter’s chance. The Arizona native will team up with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl at IMG Academy in Florida next season.
I’m an unabashed Josh Green superfan, but he seems to be pacing a bit slower in his recruitment. That will likely eliminate the ‘Cats as an option as they look to close on Stewart or Mannion in the coming months.
For my money, he’s the best prospect in the class. The kind of player that can (and maybe will) win his school a National Championship in his one season on campus. He’s that good.
Anthony has the quietest recruitment I’ve ever seen, so releasing of a Top 12 (sigh) was actually news worth mentioning. Villanova is on the list, but I think the only way they will be in contention to land Anthony is if Jahvon Quinerly ends up going pro after his freshman season. Long way to go in this one.
For a long time, Scottie Lewis seemed like a realistic target for Villanova, but most of the buzz in recent weeks has been for long-term admirer Florida. Landing Bryan Antoine certainly can’t hurt in this recruitment, but I think Villanova would prefer to bring in a frontcourt player, or a ball-handling guard with their final scholarship given the incredible depth they’ve amassed on the wing.
If I were Jay Wright, my 1A and 1B are clearly Isaiah Stewart and Nico Mannion, with Stewart as a slight preference given the positional need. I’d have a hard time turning away Mannion though, and probably wouldn’t be able to knowing that some attrition is likely on this crowded of a roster.
If ‘Nova can’t land Stewart or Mannion, I’d pocket that scholarship and move on to 2020. It should be a fun couple of months as these recruitments wind down.