Two of the nation's top ranked high school basketball players, Shabazz Muhammad, and Nerlens Noel, will end months of speculation and announce their college destinations live on ESPNU on Wednesday.
The consensus top two players in the Class of 2012 have a host of suitors, but have narrowed it down to just a handful ahead of their 7 p.m. EST announcement. Muhammad, a 6-foot-5 forward from Las Vegas, is down to Duke, Kentucky, and UCLA, while the 6-foot-10 Noel is down to Georgetown, Kentucky, and Syracuse.
Everyone has a different opinion on where the two might end up, but 247Sports' national recruiting analyst William Gunter believes these two recruitments are some of the more difficult ones to decipher. He noted that analysts usually have a good feeling for where the players will go when the players are making an announcement the next day, but with these two it's nothing but guesses.
It's still possible to make an educated guess, though. CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman reported last week that both the UCLA and Kentucky coaching staffs thought they would land Muhammad. Four out of seven ESPN experts picked the Bruins to land Muhammad, while three thought John Calipari's Wildcats would get the talented forward.
Kentucky has been strong and has a reputation for putting guys in the pros, Gunter said. They are coming off a championship that gives them another bullet in the gun, so to speak. But Muhammad is a West Coast kid so UCLA is a player. You assume it will come down to those two -- I don't think Duke is a major factor.
Muhammad had been considered by many to be a lean to UCLA, but Gunter noted that the Sports Illustrated expose on coach Ben Howland's inability to manage his program, especially some of the higher-rated players, caused some to question whether he would head to Westwood. The addition of Muhammad along with Kyle Anderson, ranked No. 4 in the country by 247Sports, and possibly the addition of Tony Parker, ranked No. 21 in the country, could eliminate off-court chatter about Howland's job status.
Parker isn't expected to make a decision on Wednesday, but is considering UCLA along with Duke, Georgia, Ohio State, Kansas, Memphis, and Georgetown. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Georgia native could come down to UCLA and Georgia, according to Gunter.
The other big announcement on Wednesday involves Noel, a former Class of 2013 player from Tilton, N.H. Gunter says that Noel might be the best shot-blocking big guy to come through the high school ranks in the last 20-25 years. He is considered to be a bit raw on offense, but could have a similar impact on the defensive end as National Player of the Year Anthony Davis did for Kentucky last season.
Noel tweeted out on Monday night that he's gon shock the world!!, but most still believe that he'll end up at Kentucky.
If not Lexington for Noel, Gunter believes Syracuse could be a likely landing spot with the star center replacing Fab Melo, who declared for the NBA Draft last week. Georgetown is considered to be the biggest longshot of the group.
Noel would be a huge addition to any of the three teams, but Kentucky has a desperate need for a talent influx if it hopes to repeat as national champions next season.
The Wildcats are expected to lose Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Marquis Teague to the NBA Draft. Calipari already has put together the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, according to Scout.com, but could use a Noel or Muhammad to fill in some additional holes.
For Kentucky it's huge because of what they are about to lose -- just from a standpoint of filling the roster with high quality players, Gunter said. If they are going to be a contender next year they have to have these kids.
There have also been rumors about coach John Calipari jumping to the NBA to coach the New York Knicks. Calipari has categorically denied those rumors and it hasn't made too big of an impact on his recruiting presence, according to the recruiting expert. It could lead any future players to sign financial aid letters rather than letters of intent for additional flexibility should something happen in Kentucky.
As imperative as it is to land one of Muhammad or Noel, the Wildcats are involved with other high-ranked, unsigned players. Kentucky is also heavily recruiting two Top 25 players in the country -- No. 6 Anthony Bennett and No. 23 Amile Jefferson. That gives the Wildcats a bit of insurance should they strike out with Muhammad and Noel on Wednesday, but Gunter would be very surprised to see Calipari go home empty-handed.
There is a better chance of Kentucky landing both of them than landing neither of them.