In a recruitment for the ages, Canadian uber-prospect Andrew Wiggins committed to the Kansas Jayhawks today. For those that don't follow recruiting, Wiggins is the most-hyped prospect to come out of high school since the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant duo in 2006. He's penciled in (practically in ink at this point) to be the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Not only that, NBA scouts are projecting him to be the most impactful #1 pick since...wait for it...LeBron James.
And he's Big 12-bound.
While that happens to be terrible, terrible news for opposing Big 12 coaches, it's great news for the conference in general. Wiggins' pro-Jayhawk announcement will be the third good thing to happen to the conference this spring. Last month, Oklahoma St.'s Marcus Smart and Baylor's Isaiah Austin both announced their intent to return to school, catapulting both the Cowboys and the Bears to front-runner status in the conference.
Meanwhile, Kansas looked as vulnerable as ever. The Jayhawks lose their entire starting line-up, with four seniors and since-departed freshman sensation Ben McLemore all bound for the pros. While head coach Bill Self has long made a habit of reloading, the Jayhawk bench didn't particularly impress, with former McDonald's All-American Perry Ellis looking like the only reserve ready to take a starring role.
With Smart, the Big 12 Player of the Year, returning along with every key contributor on the roster, the Oklahoma St. Cowboys should go into next season as the conference favorite. Likewise, the Baylor Bears will boast a formidable frontcourt with returning starters Austin and Cory Jefferson, along with key reserves Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince. Meanwhile, Scott Drew has worked his usual recruiting magic. The Bears have a solid array of Top 100 talents incoming ready to fill roster holes, including a big one left by the graduation of stud point guard Pierre Jackson.
With the addition of Wiggins, Kansas adds a third National Championship contender to the conference mix. The Jayhawks will be incredibly young, but it's not unreasonable to expect Wiggins to star right away and contend for National Player of the Year honors. He's not coming alone, either. Kansas' class is impressive, boasting two other five-star recruits in Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden. Their only problem may be youth. With a rotation comprised almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, Kansas won't be Texas Longhorns bad, but will need to coalesce quickly to avoid a Kentucky Wildcats-like NIT fate.
As for Wiggins' losing finalists, Kentucky may have missed out on the "Best Recruiting Class of All-Time," but return a few key players to add to the only recruiting class in the country that ranks better than Kansas'. That includes three Texans (Andrew Harrison,, and Julius Randle) who rank in the top 6 nationally. Eat that, Texas fans. North Carolina will be fine as it always has under Roy Williams, but appear to be on the outside with regards to the 2013 title chase.
If there were a bigger loser than opposing Big 12 coaches, it's most definitely the Florida St. Seminoles and head coach Leonard Hamilton. Texas fans chagrined that the Longhorns lost out on Randle have to feel badly for FSU fans. Wiggins' parents (his father is ex-Houston Rocket Mitchell Wiggins) were both Florida St. alumni, and the Seminoles had already secured a commitment from Wiggins' close friend and teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes. In short, Hamilton had put all his eggs in Wiggins' basket.
Now, his future with the Seminoles is as cloudy as ever. The talent level from Hamilton's more successful past iterations is quickly depleting. Senior Michael Snaer leaves after a disappointing season, following in the footsteps of past draftees Chris Singleton and Bernard James. Although FSU has pulled its fair share of upsets in recent years, Hamilton's track record in Tallahassee is not good. He has never finished higher than third in the conference, nor gotten past a Sweet 16. Even Rick Barnes can scoff at those accomplishments.
But back to matters of closer concern. The Longhorns may suck next year, but thanks in part to Wiggins' decision, the Big 12 will not. There should be some exciting basketball played in the conference next year, if Texas fans can even stomach turning on the television to watch it.