Three-Point Play: Mid-year enrollment, Pac-12, Villanova
Today in the Three-Point Play, Rivals.com national basketball analyst Corey Evans looks a new avenue to college success, the future of the Pac-12, and the ramifications of Jahvon Quinerly’s early struggles at Villanova.
MAKING THE CASE: Where will No. 1 Vernon Carey land?
IS MID-YEAR ENOLLMENT HERE TO STAY?
The often-talked about mid-year enrollment has become the norm for some of the best on the football side, but could it now become more common on the basketball side, too?
In the 2019 class alone, three members of the Rivals150 opted to skip their final semester of high school in order to get a jump-start on their college career.
Akok Akok is the latest and most acclaimed to do so. While there is some debate as to whether or not he will actually see the floor at UConn - he could do spend a semester on a college campus redshirting and jump directly to the NBA - his time on campus will be extremely valuable. Akok will have the chance to add strength, get a better understanding of what Dan Hurley demands of his players without the game-to-game pressure of playing time and game-planning. By the time he sees the court next fall, Akok will be closer to a sophomore than an wide-eyed freshman.
Could this year’s group be the tip of the mid-year enrollment iceberg or is this just a blip on the radar? I tend to believe the latter. For every Matt Haarms, Hamidou Diallo or Austin Wiley, there are dozens of other prospects that are more comfortable with the traditional path of four years in high school leading to a summer enrollment.
THE SHORT AND LONG-TERM FUTURE OF THE PAC-12
Last season, just three Pac-12 programs played in the NCAA Tournament. That's not good, and this year could be even worse. That says a lot considering the league hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since Oregon topped Kansas in the 2017 Elite Eight. Is this the new normal for the Pac-12? Let's look at what has caused this slide and examine if there is reason for optimism.
Since January, Arizona was hit by the FBI investigation and its entire starting five departing the program, Arizona State lost its star-studded backcourt to graduation, Oregon waved goodbye to Troy Brown, as did UCLA with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh and USC with Chimezie Metu, while Utah and Colorado are in the developmental stages with their younger talent. Add it all up and you get a down Pac-12. Not for long.
Arizona and USC boast the top two classes in America. Mike Hopkins looks to be forming one of the more consistently well-performing programs on the West Coast in Washington. Bobby Hurley has made for an explosive offense in Tempe. Larry Krystkowiak and Tad Boyle comprehend the strengths and selling points of their programs. UCLA may not be the juggernaut that it was during the Ben Howland heyday, but it will be a constant in the upper echelon of the league. Oregon hasn’t reached the success that it had during its Final Four year, but the Ducks have not struggled to enroll five-star talent.
Sure, it would be nice to see Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State pull up the bottom of the league, but the Pac-12 is at its best whenever its name brand schools are at its very best. There is help on the way in the form of Josh Green, Nico Mannion, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaiah Mobley, CJ Walker and Tyrell Terry, a group that should win its fair share of games in March.
The backbone of the league is a strong one built on the careers of Sean Miller, Hopkins, Dana Altman, Steve Alford, Hurley and Andy Enfield. Rest assured that the league remains on strong-footing and a major bounce-back is on the cards for the 2019-20 season.
JAHVON QUINERLY’S IMPACT ON VILLANOVA RECRUITING
Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi went into deep detail earlier this week on the Nassir Little conundrum at North Carolina. The five-star small forward has not had the easiest of college starts and recruits have noticed his inability to work his way into the starting lineup. Generally one-and-done-type prospects aren't looking to battle through adversity and shaky playing time during their eight months on a college campus.
This brings me to Villanova's Jahvon Quinerly. It would be a giant understatement to say that his early season struggles - Quinerly is averaging less than three points in a little more than 10 minutes per game - are a surprise. Quinerly has not shown any semblance of what he had shown in high school. Is this because Jay Wright is unwilling to play a first-year player or is it because Quinerly is struggling to find his footing on the Main Line?
You could make an argument for the former as Wright tends to be more reliant on upperclassmen talent or at least veterans of his system. However, Wright has begun to start freshman Saddiq Bey and Quinerly finished with nearly twice as many turnovers as assists in games against Canisius and Quinnipiac.
Sure, the optics aren't great that one of Wright's highest-ranked signees has struggled so mightily. Then again, Wright has also just turned Villanova into a new age blueblood and likely does not care that this could negatively impact his program's ability to recruit prospects like Quinerly in the future. The Villanova brand has come of age due the staff’s success in evaluating prospects and in its skill development. The Wildcats are not about to go five-star chasing just because they are in better position to do so.
Quinerly should work his way through his issues and while it may not happen this year, he should eventually become that foundational piece that he was expected to be. In the meantime, Villanova will stick to its guns, find the type of prospects it wants and remain one of the most stable, successful programs in the country.