Well, this is a surprise. Xavier Simpson, a top-15 point guard in the class of 2016, verbally committed to Michigan on Wednesday. Wisconsin had widely been expected to land Simpson; in fact, the race was expected to come down to the Badgers and Illinois. Michigan also wasn't named in his top four that also included Iowa State and Miami.
Here's our full story on Simpson's commitment. Below is our original story previewing Simpson's announcement. As you can see from the comments, the unexpected turn developed in a secretive and rapid fashion.
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Following his official visit to Wisconsin over the weekend, Xavier Simpson cancelled his planned visit to Miami (FL) next weekend and announced on Twitter he'll be announcing his college choice at 1:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday at Lima (OH) Senior High School. He will select from a final four of Illinois, Iowa State, Miami and Wisconsin.
The 5'10" Simpson, a consensus four-star point guard, is the 69th-best player in the 2016 class according to 247Sports' Composite rankings.
After Iowa State's recent signing of a JUCO point guard in the class and Simpson cancelling his Miami trip, it appears to be a two-horse race for Simpson between the Badgers and the Illini. In contrast to rabid Illinois fans on social media and message boards, Badger fans likely don't know too much about this relatively new recruiting target. Despite being publicly on Wisconsin's radar for just a few weeks, however, Simpson could play a major role in shaping UW's future.
We will you at 2:30 at Lima Senior High-School this Wednesday… https://t.co/E1Ug7rpDcT— Xavier Simpson (@Xaviersimpson3) September 7, 2015
With all due respect to Jordan Hill's potential, the Badgers desperately need another point guard. With none signed in a large 2015 recruiting class, 2016 became crucial for identifying an heir apparent to Bronson Koenig. Simpson is the fifth guard to receive an offer in the class even though the Badgers have only one scholarship to give at this point, a fact that belies how interested Wisconsin's staff has become in Simpson.
Simpson has been working hard on his shot and his aggressiveness over the past year, wowing scouts this summer at the Nike Peach Jam, where he averaged over 19 points per contest for the King James Shooting Stars. He has proved his worth as a complete, steady point guard against top-notch competition.
If Simpson were to select Wisconsin on Wednesday, the point guard search is seemingly over. That's a relief.
One knock against Simpson would be his size, which is why the next question on many Wisconsin fans' lips would be: What about JaQuori McLaughlin?
To recap, Wisconsin has been recruiting McLaughlin heavily since his decommitment from Washington back in May. A smooth 6'3" guard with a touch of Jordan Taylor in his game, the Gig Harbor (WA) star scheduled a Sept. 19 official visit to Wisconsin's campus weeks ago.
Wisconsin reportedly continues to be in a good position with McLaughlin's recruitment. Perhaps because McLaughlin has held a standing offer for so long, plenty of fans naturally would like to see McLaughlin take the visit and pick the Badgers. But the value of his upcoming visit would be in doubt if Simpson pops for UW this week, as the timing and movement in Crystal Ball predictions seems to indicate.
With only one slot to fill, Wisconsin accepting a commitment from Simpson doesn't necessarily rule out signing McLaughlin as well, but it definitely makes the math cloudy. Even if Wisconsin has knowledge of Nigel Hayes' future plans, that probably doesn't help the Badgers take two 2016 commitments in the immediate future because Bo Ryan won't oversign. If the staff has truly communicated a first-come, first-serve situation to the kids they are recruiting, credit Simpson and his father Quincey for moving to grab the spot they want. Quincey Simpson, who doubles as Xavier's high school coach, knows Lamont Paris from their own prep days in Lima and Findlay respectively. 1
McLaughlin visits Utah next and you'll see the trip to Madison cancelled if Simpson takes McLaughlin's spot.
Realistically, the accelerated decision is a win-win situation for Wisconsin. With two good, attainable options at point guard, either Ryan gets his "bird in hand" point guard commitment or Wisconsin is free to continue pursuing McLaughlin with aplomb, unfettered by worries about the scholarship situation.
Of course, it's just as plausible that Simpson picks Illinois and worrying about fitting in two guards is irrelevant. This is recruiting after all.