College Basketball Recruiting: UNC on top of early rankings as signing period opens

College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and the Pac-12 already looks stacked.

The conference leads the nation in commitments from top-50 prospects in the Class of 2018 with eight. Oregon has the highest-rated commitment in the conference from No. 18 overall prospect Louis King, and Southern California has three top-50 commitments from recruits Taeshon Cherry, Elijah Weaver, and Kevin Porter, which leads the league.

Second among the major conferences in total top-50 commitments is the ACC, which boasts six -- three of which are top-10 players in the class, and two who have already made commitments to Duke. Here's a look at how the top 50 recruits have spread around, with the caveat here that 17 recruits still haven't made their final decisions.

  • Pac-12: 8
  • ACC: 6
  • Big 12: 5
  • SEC: 5
  • Big East: 4
  • Big Ten: 4
  • Atlantic 10: 1

For a second consecutive season, John Calipari and Kentucky have begun the fall recruiting cycle with a slow start. Last season, he entered the early signing period with zero commitments before eventually going on to ink the No. 2 rated class in the country.

This season, his Wildcats program enters the early signing period with one commitment -- five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley. And while tons of programs would jump at the chance to call that a slow start, Kentucky's class is ranked 67th nationally -- which is likely to change in the coming month, obviously -- but by UK's high standards, that's not quite up to par.

The sluggish start, however, has opened the door for UNC and Kansas to get a major jump in the overall team rankings, owning the Nos. 1 and 2 class in 2018, respectively, followed by LSU, USC and Michigan. But will that order stick through the signing period? Is a Kentucky and Duke surge inevitable? Which top recruits will go where? Here are five storylines to follow as the early signing period is set to get underway on Wednesday.

1. The RJ Barrett sweepstakes

Montverde Academy's R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 247Sports composite rankings for the Class of 2018, is set to make his long-awaited college decision on Friday at Lionhead Golf & Conference Centre in Brampton, Ont. The Canadian standout is reportedly picking between Duke, Kentucky and Oregon.

Going into his decision, the Blue Devils hold a respectable lead over Kentucky, with 82% of experts in the 247Sports crystal ball predicting he picks Duke. He made official visits to all three finalists, and all three head coaches made trips to see him recently, but the Blue Devils appear to be the heavy favorite here. A commitment from Barrett would boost Duke into the No. 1 spot in the recruiting rankings and give the Blue Devils three five-star commitments.

2. Who will Kentucky nab?

Four-star shooting guard Tyler Herro appears to be a potential candidate to be first on the Wildcats commitment board for 2018. The top-40 prospect from Milwaukee picked up an offer from John Calipari on Halloween day, and has an official visit to Lexington on tap this weekend where a potential commitment could give the Cats some much-needed recruiting momentum.

Herro has 16 offers including Kansas, Oregon, Villanova and Wisconsin, among a slew of others, but at this point it appears he could be the first commitment in a Kentucky domino effect in the early signing period.

Other targets to keep an eye on include Bol Bol, a 7-foot-1 five-star center also considering Oregon; Darius Garland, a top-10 recruit with Vanderbilt, Indiana and UCLA on his list; five-star forward Zion Williamson; five-star guard Keldon Johnson; and five-star guard Quentin Grimes. All have offers, and all have made official visits to Lexington.'

3. Can UNC remain hot?

Now that the academic scandal that hung over the program for years has passed, Roy Williams is recruiting at an elite level once again. Since 2010, the Tar Heels have finished with a top-5 recruiting class just once, but with three top-70 commitments already on board for 2018, including five-stars Nassir Little and Coby White, UNC appears to be on pace to remain within the top 5. It currently has the No. 1 overall class according to 247Sports.

The Tar Heels are in the thick of things for five-stars Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford and Simisola Shittu, too. A commitment from one of the three -- plus signing the others -- would undeniably lock UNC in as a top-5 class.

In 2012, UNC signed the No. 5 overall class in the country. In 2009, the Heels were No. 2, and in 2006, a loaded class headlined by Ty Lawson, Brandan Wright and Wayne Ellington finished No. 1 in the country. UNC will need to land another big fish (or two), but it could easily go down as one of the better recruiting classes in the school's illustrious history if things continue to shake out as they have thus far.

4. Archie Miller's fast start at Indiana

Indiana's Archie Miller has jumped out to a fast start at his new gig in Bloomington, as he currently has the No. 12 recruiting class in the country. He's second among the top-12 schools who have a new face leading the program, behind LSU's Will Wade.

The Hoosiers have four commitments in their Class of 2018 including from four-stars Jerome Hunter and Damezi Anderson, but things could really pick up for him if he wins out on the Romeo Langford sweepstakes -- a race Miller's projected to finish first in.

Langford is a five-star from New Albany, Ind., and considered an Indiana lean over other major interest from Kentucky, Kansas, UNC and UCLA. He's set to cut his list soon, and with a potential decision looming, a commitment for Langford to IU would boost the Hoosiers up 12 spots to No. 1 in the team rankings as things stand right now. It's hard to imagine how Miller's tenure could start any better than that on the recruiting trail.

5. Texas quietly challenging KU for top class in Big 12

Kansas has won 13 straight Big 12 regular season titles, so it should come as no surprise that it also has reigned supreme when it comes to recruiting within the conference, too. But Texas and the Shaka Smart regime are giving the Jayhawks a run for their money in the Class of 2018 with two top-50 commitments and 4 total pledges

Texas' class is ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 8 nationally, and Smart may not be done accumulating talent. The Horns are also in the running for five-stars Keldon Johnson and Quentin Grimes, and a commitment from either would push them ahead of Kansas.

It's no changing of the guard, mind you, but Texas has signed two consecutive top 10 classes, and the Class of 2018 looks like it is headed for another top 10 finish.

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