April 04, 2012

Kentucky won the national championship on Monday night, capping a dominant season and an impressive Final Four. But some would argue that the Wildcats really won the title last spring, when John Calipari secured the No. 1 recruiting class for the third consecutive year. That haul won't soon be forgotten: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague spearheaded Kentucky's triumph.

As this year's cycle winds to a close, the 'Cats will look for repeat success. Calipari and Co. remain in the running for Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett -- a trio with the raw talent to immediately contend for another crown.

Of course, Kentucky isn't the only program on the recruiting trail. Duke is vying to replenish its stock, and St. John's is making moves on a number of national prospects. Heading into next week's spring signing period, here are the players and programs making headlines in each conference.

Team to watch: Duke

Duke is eyeing several top targets entering the spring signing period, but could have a difficult time luring them to Durham. Rivals No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad counts the Blue Devils among his top three, but many observers feel they're third behind Kentucky and UCLA. Four-star center Tony Parker has also visited Duke, but is thought to be favoring Georgia, Memphis and Ohio State. The most intriguing prospect may be forward Amile Jefferson. After nearly pledging to N.C. State earlier in the season, the Philadelphia native has made inroads with Duke -- and could offer a commitment to Coach K in the coming days.

Prospect to watch: Jefferson

Mentioned above, Jefferson has been linked with both Duke and N.C. State. And while the Wolfpack were the early frontrunners, the Blue Devils may have surged into the lead. He isn't just an ACC battle, though. Temple, Villanova, Kentucky and Ohio State also remain in Jefferson's consideration set.

Team to watch: St. John's

After a disappointing 2011-12 campaign, Steve Lavin and Co. could be poised for a return to form. The Red Storm have already added Jakarr Sampson and Felix Balamou and have taken aim at a number of other coveted prospects: Christopher Obepka, Thaddeus Hall and Michael Chandler (who must overcome qualification issues) all remain possibilities to commit.

Prospects to watch: Christopher Obepka; Orlando Sanchez

A 6-foot-8, 215-pound center from Centereach, N.Y., Obepka is a shot-blocking and rebounding force. He's drawing interest from St. John's, Providence and Cincinnati and would serve as a huge get for any of the three programs. A super athletic combo forward, Sanchez can be unstoppable in transition. He's been involved with Pittsburgh of late, but is also considering UConn, Rutgers and Seton Hall.

Team to watch: Ohio State

Things have the potential to get very interesting in Columbus. Fresh off a Final Four berth, the Buckeyes could have a wealth of playing time to replace. Senior William Buford will enter the NBA draft, and sophomores Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas could potentially follow. Thad Matta and Co. are going after Parker and Amadeo Della Valle, and the prospect of early action could play a decisive role.

Prospect to watch: Sheldon Jeter

The race for Jeter, a three-star small forward out of Beaver Falls, Pa., is starting to heat up. The 6-foot-7 wing blew up over the winter, and recently made an official visit to Wisconsin. Penn State is also making a push, and South Carolina -- led by new coach Frank Martin -- remains prominently in the running.

Team to watch: Kansas State

The departure of Marin at Kansas State was both quick and unexpected. Now, new hire Bruce Weber has some damage control to do. Four-star center Robert Upshaw has already decommitted, leaving big man Laimonas Chatkevicius as the Wildcats' lone signee in their 2013 haul. Weber and staff could try to flip three-star point guard Antonio Drummond from Southern Illinois and scour the junior college ranks to compensate.

Prospect to watch: Devonta Pollard

The best battle in the Big 12 takes place between Texas and Missouri, one school that's staying and one that's on the way out. Both are vying for Pollard, a five-star small forward and multifaceted scorer who could provide an instant threat to whichever program he lands with (he's also considering several SEC schools). Kansas also remains in the mix for Tony Parker, an immense talent whose name has been associated with a number of national powers.

Team to watch: UCLA

Tension is building in Westwood, as the Bruins are in position to add the top wing in the country, Shabazz Muhammad, and one of the top post players in the country, Tony Parker, to a class that's already ranked No. 11 nationally. Point guard Kyle Anderson has already signed with UCLA, and the addition of one or two more top prospects could elevate the "won-and-done" culture to new heights on the West Coast.

Prospect to watch: Anthony Bennett

A product of perennial powerhouse Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, Bennett is considering both Oregon and Washington. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder would almost assuredly start for either school, but he's yet to make his leanings clear. Bennett is also weighing offers to Florida, Kentucky and UNLV and won't begin making visits until after the Jordan Brand Game on April 14.

Team to watch: Kentucky

No surprise here. After three straight years of landing the No. 1 recruiting class, Calipari is on the verge of extending his streak to four. Kentucky is in the hunt for Muhammad, Noel and Bennett, (and to a lesser extent, Amile Jefferson), and if all breaks right, the Wildcats could have cause for celebration again in 2013.

Prospect to watch: Pollard

Mississippi State was once thought to be the school to beat for the Porterville, Miss., product, but lost its edge after Bulldogs' recent coaching change. Nearby Alabama seems to have moved into the lead, but, as mentioned earlier, both Texas and Missouri also remain in contention.

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