Illinois Basketball: Class of 2021 Crystal Ball is looking ugly for the Illini

COLLEGE PARK, MD - DECEMBER 07: Head coach Brad Underwood of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts during the first half of the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on December 7, 2019 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - DECEMBER 07: Head coach Brad Underwood of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts during the first half of the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on December 7, 2019 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Illinois basketball team was poised to have a great class of 2021 that featured some of the top players in the nation.

Things started off well for the Illini in the class of 2021 when Luke Goode pledged his commitment back on April 17. It was supposed to be only positive things to come for the rest of the group. But that doesn’t seem the case anymore according to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball.

Illinois had a connection with Charles Bediako, but he didn’t keep us on his top list. Jarden Hardy kept Illinois in his top 12, but he is a heavy lean for Kentucky and is predicted to commit to the Wildcats with a nine out of 10 and six out of 10 certainty.

Those two were always longshots, but the Illini are hot and heavy for a few other players who could help this program and have mutual interest. Jordan Nesbitt is a big target for the Orange and Blue, but recent Crystal Ball predictions have him heading to Saint Louis University at a fairly high confidence rating.

Bryce Hopkins is an old face with a new recruiting outlook. He backed away from his commitment to Louisville, and I thought Illinois had a solid chance with the talented forward. Hopkins has Illinois in his top six, but there are six 247Sports “experts” who have him committing to Kentucky and all of the predictions are six out of 10 or higher.

The one player who I thought was the closest thing to a sure-thing was Brandon Weston. He played for Morgan Park High School. He played for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program. This seemed like a match made in heaven. Illinois is right there in his recruitment, but 247Sports has him going to Seton Hall and all predictions are seven out of 10 or higher.

The players I mentioned above could all help the Illini win games and advance deep into the NCAA tournament. I thought we would get at least a couple of commitments from these players as well. But it doesn’t look like that will come to fruition.

One of the saving graces Illinois has right now is the potential to land David Jones. We are in his top seven and seem to be on track to land the kid. 247Sports has the Illini receiving his commitment with a seven out of 10 confidence rating.

Let’s go worst-case scenario and say the Illini are only able to land Jones out of all the big targets who currently have Crystal Ball predictions. There are still a couple of players out there who haven’t finalized their recruitments.

Micawber “Mac” Etienne is arguably the biggest recruit left on the board for Illinois. He is the replacement for Kofi Cockburn when the big man departs the program after his sophomore season. Every resource needs to be put into Etienne to ensure he comes to Champaign.

Rafael Pinzon is a nice wing player Illinois could snag for 2021 as well. He is someone who can handle the ball well but also has nice size. Underwood could use Pinzon in three different roles on the court, and that is what I love about this kid.

Next. 5 underrated Illini recruits from the past decade. dark

So, yes, the Crystal Ball is looking absolutely devastating for the Orange and Blue right now. We have three scholarships to fill for 2021, though. The bodies to fill these scholarships are still out there. This class can still be solid.