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Experts predict who Kentucky Wildcats will land in 2017 class

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

With the early signing period here, a number of experts have made their picks for who the Kentucky Wildcats will land and miss on for the 2017 class.

At ESPN, Jeff Borzello and Adam Finkelstein made their picks for the top recruits, and UK came out on top for several targets. That includes five-star forward P.J. Washington, five-star center Nick Richards, and four-star guard Shai Alexander.

Nick Richards, 6-11, C, The Patrick School (New Jersey), ESPN 100: 12

Prediction: Kentucky

This one looks like a virtual sure thing for Kentucky at this point. They've been considered the leader for several months now, Richards has been on their campus on two different occasions this fall and cancelled a visit he had scheduled to Arizona a few weeks ago. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist selling Richards on the virtues of playing for John Calipari doesn't hurt either.

P.J. Washington, 6-7, PF, Findlay Prep (Nevada), ESPN 100: 16

Prediction: Kentucky

UNLV made the final three but this choice appears to be between Kentucky and North Carolina. Washington might not necessarily be the prototypical type of one-and-done player that Kentucky is typically associated with but he is undoubtedly one of the most impactful players in all of high school basketball and would be capable of playing heavy minutes from Day 1 at either spot.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-5, PG, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Florida), ESPN 100: 44

Prediction: Kentucky

Gilgeous-Alexander's decommitment from Florida was bad news for the Gators but welcome for a variety of programs fighting over a limited number of immediate impact point guards. They've all started circling in recent weeks and the fact that Gilgeous-Alexander is reportedly hoping to make a quick decision could play into Kentucky's hands, although don't expect them to stop recruiting Trae Young even with a pledge from Gilgeous-Alexander.

However, ESPN does not think UK will be the pick for five-star point guard Quade Green, five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker, and five-star wing John Petty.

Lonnie Walker, 6-4, SG, Reading (Pennsylvania), ESPN 100: 19

Prediction: Arizona

Six months ago, this seemed like an easy call: Walker was going to stay home and play at Villanova. Over the last couple months, though, several other schools have become more involved -- and Arizona has emerged as the leader. He visited Tucson in October, but recently went to Kentucky as well. Walker has been a priority for Villanova for a long time; can the Wildcats keep him in Pennsylvania?

Quade Green, 6-1, PG, Neumann-Goretti (Pennsylvania), ESPN 100: 22

Prediction: Syracuse

This decision appears to be between Syracuse and Kentucky but the Orange have made Green their biggest, and really only, priority at the point guard position since this summer and have been the perceived leader since late August. Green likely walks into a starting job and very heavy minutes next year.

John Petty, 6-5, SG, J.O. Johnson High School (Alabama), ESPN 100: 25

Prediction: Alabama

It's hard to imagine John Calipari losing out on a guy who has been a top priority for him, but right now, this recruitment is pointing in Avery Johnson's direction. Kentucky's obviously has a bigger stage to offer, but at Alabama, Petty would become a big fish in a small pond right away and the opportunity to stay close to home and play such a pivotal role might be too much to turn down.

Rivals.com hoops recruiting guru Eric Bossi thinks the Cats will miss out on several of their top 2017 targets, including five-star point guard Trae Young, five-star forward Mohamed Bamba, five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, and five-star wing Kevin Knox.

Bossi made his picks on a scale of one to five, and surprisingly, he was most confident about Young not picking UK.

Trae Young - Norman North

Status: For now, we expect Young to wait until at least December or January to make a decision. He has visited Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech officially. Most talk has been that it’s either Oklahoma or Kentucky, but Kansas did help their cause some during Young’s official visit. Our best guess still has him staying home.

Prediction: Oklahoma.

Confidence level: 3.2

Bossi was slightly less confident about Knox and Bamba, whom he expects to ultimately pick Duke.

Mohamed Bamba - Westtown School

Status: The top unsigned big man, Bamba could choose early, but we’re betting he will hold off until sometime during the high school season. He’s been to Texas and Michigan officially and has also seen campuses at Kentucky and Harvard among others. Most talk centers around UK and Duke, but he’s a very tough call.

Prediction: Duke.

Confidence level: 2.4

Kevin Knox - Tampa Catholic

Status: The five-star small forward has made it quite clear that he will not announce until the spring. He’s down to Duke, Florida State, Kentucky and North Carolina and has only visited Duke officially so far. He has seen each school unofficially and has official visits set for the winter. Duke and Kentucky really look to be battling this one out.

Prediction: Duke.

Confidence level: 2.5

As for Diallo, it’s very hard to get a read on him since he may not even play a year of college basketball.

Hamidou Diallo - Putnam Science Academy

Status: Because he graduated as a member of the 2016 class and is doing a year of prep school, Diallo is NBA Draft eligible in 2017 and NBA teams have already indicated to Rivals.com that they plan to watch him this winter. On the recruiting front, Diallo has a final six of Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse but appears to be wide open.

Prediction: Syracuse.

Confidence level: 1.0

In a separate article, Bossi says that UK is in great shape with four-star guard Shai Alexander heading into his decision next Monday.

Alexander is down to Florida, Kentucky, Syracuse, Texas and UNLV but the signs are starting to point in the direction of Kentucky. Alexander visited Lexington over the weekend -- he also took a recent official visit to UNLV -- and behind-the-scenes talk has been the John Calipari and his staff opened up some distance between themselves an the field.

Texas may get an official visit this weekend, but it is not locked in.

Sufficeth to say, UK will likely come out of the early signing period with a nice recruiting haul, but the bulk of their class may not shape out until the spring. That is when Bamba, Knox, Young, Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, and others will decide.