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UNC Recruiting: Where things stand following Cole Anthony’s top six announcement

The battle for one of the best recruits in the nation just got interesting for the Tar Heels.

2018 Hoophall Classic: Archbishop Molloy vs DeMatha Catholic David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday night, five-star combo guard Cole Anthony announced the top six teams that he will consider for his college career:

Anthony’s final list is interesting in a lot of ways. His recruitment process to this point has been hard to figure out, and he has managed to throw even more curveballs with his announcement. Obviously, this list is good for UNC due to the simple fact that they are still on it, but there is still a lot to unpack here. So without further delay, let’s discuss who isn’t on this list, what’s interesting about the teams left, and from there predict whether or not the Tar Heels can lock down their second top-five player in two years.

The Lack of Blue Bloods

Whether the fans of blue-blood teams like to admit it or not, the predictability of college recruiting can be exhausting at times. When it comes to the top recruits in the nation, you can almost guarantee that Duke, Kentucky, UNC, or Kansas will be involved in some capacity. Well, despite UNC still being on this list, the lack of blue in all other areas of the list is shocking to say the least. Perhaps more shocking, however, are the two teams that have been the biggest pain in Roy Williams’ side on the recruiting trail not making the cut.

Kentucky has long been in the running for many of the top recruits in the nation. John Calipari has done a great job of loading up his team every single year in the one-and-done era, which makes it maybe more surprising than it should be whenever they aren’t still involved with a recruit once a top-five (or in this case, six) list is announced. In this case, you get the feeling that Kentucky was never really a real player in the recruitment of Anthony. The Kentucky Herald all but confirmed this by stating that there had been no recent buzz in regards to Anthony, so it’s likely that he and the school never really clicked enough for the Wildcats to be seriously considered.

As far as Duke is concerned, it is a completely different story. Prior to Anthony taking his official visits, 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball had the Blue Devils as the favorites to earn his commitment, which was odd considering how little we’d heard from him about them. Following his official visit to UNC with Armando Bacot, that prediction all but immediately tilted in favor of the Heels, and Coach K and his staff never found a way to entice him into keeping the Devils in play. Do we finally have confirmation that Coach K misses Jeff Capel? Did Zion Williamson’s questionable eligibility situation affect Anthony’s decision? Does he think Tre Jones might not be OAD, or were the other schools that made the cut simply a better fit? There are a lot of questions there that will likely never get answers, and quite frankly, there’s nothing saying that we are owed answers to any of it.

Finally, there is Kansas. There’s no secret as to why Cole Anthony may be steering clear of the Jayhawks, as their FBI situation has gotten messier and messier since the Feds first announced that they were cracking down on bribes made to players with federally-funded personnel (aka members of various schools) involvement. Silvio De Sousa is now being held out of competition as his eligibility is being reviewed, and Bill Self...well...let’s just say to this point he is very, very lucky that the NCAA isn’t actually able to do anything just yet, although the school itself has the power to withhold him from games until they feel comfortable letting him continue coaching. It seems, however, that they are not opting to do that, but it doesn’t stop a recruit like Anthony not giving the program legitimate consideration. In the words of Michael Scott from The Office, “Well, well, well, how the turntables.”

The Three Unexpected Appearances

Going back to the teams that did indeed make the cut, there are a couple of teams that aren’t very surprising, and there are some that I wouldn’t have expected to make it this far. UNC, Oregon, and Notre Dame have always been known as strong contenders in landing him, but the other three are intriguing choices.

Georgetown seems like they are showing up more and more on the recruiting trail as Patrick Ewing is doing his best to get top-tier talent into the DC area to resurrect what used to be a really good program. Ewing was, of course, part of that era, and was a victim to Mike Jordan’s transformation into Michael Jordan during the NCAA Championship game back in 1982. So far Ewing hasn’t had much to show for his efforts, but Anthony could be the catalyst of getting things back on track for that program should they manage to land him.

Wake Forest is another team that seems to be doing enough on the recruiting trail to make it to the final list for a few players in this class. Danny Manning managed to recruit five-star small forward Jaylen Hoard for the 2018 class, and is looking to make this the second year in a row that he manages to land a top recruit. So far, Wake Forest has earned a verbal commit from four-star small forward Ismael Massoud, and unranked power forward Ody Oguama. Could the Demon Deacons lock down the best guard they’ve had since Chris Paul? We shall see.

Finally, the last surprise of Anthony’s list that might not be that much of a surprise is Miami. The Hurricanes are another school that got caught up in some of the FBI madness, but have since had their name cleared. They took quite a hit in the 2018 class because of it, and had to sign players like Wyoming transfer Anthony Mack, as well as graduate transfers Zach Johnson and Kameron McGusty. Landing Cole Anthony would do a lot for a program that essentially took a hit for no reason (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), and the door is wide open for him to make an immediate impact if he chose to take his talents to South Beach.

Predicting UNC’s Chances

Now that Cole Anthony’s updated list is released, Tar Heel Nation should exhale with caution. Roy Williams’ efforts this offseason to recruit Anthony look to be paying dividends, especially with some of the tougher schools to deal with out of the picture. Their persistence, combined with the added incentive to team up with Cole’s friend Armando Bacot, puts the Heels in the lead up to this point to earn his commitment. That isn’t to say that it is a guaranteed situation.

The two schools that should concern fans are Notre Dame and Oregon. Anthony’s dad has discussed with ND head coach Mike Brey that they are very intrigued with his program, as well as the system that he has in place in South Bend. On the other side of the country, Oregon is coming off of their best recruiting class ever, headlined by Bol Bol and Louis King. Whatever Dana Altman is doing over there shouldn’t be taken lightly, and if I had to guess, they’re the school for Roy Williams to stay ahead of.

So what’s my prediction? I think that while it remains a challenge to figure out what Cole Anthony’s thought process is, I think Roy Williams is in position to finally re-solidify his footing in college recruiting. It’s a weird statement to say, especially considering that UNC has actually done pretty well given the aftermath of the NCAA investigation (the 2017 championship doesn’t hurt either), but truly things could’ve played out different if the Heels never had to go through any of that stuff at all.

With that said, I give UNC a 70% chance of winning over Cole Anthony. It’s hard to call it a sure thing, as the competition is still stiff despite the absence of Duke and Kentucky. However, I think Roy Williams has done an amazing job of making Anthony a priority, and when the smoke clears, we could see yet another dynamic guard suit up in Carolina blue.