Analyst: MSU now favorite to net Cassius Winston

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

What appeared to be shaping up as a recruiting battle between Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Michigan's John Beilein became a bit clearer on Wednesday.

UD Jesuit guard Cassius Winston announced on Twitter that he had narrowed his final three schools to Michigan State, Stanford and Pittsburgh. He added that Michigan was no longer in the picture.

The next domino fell shortly after when guard Xavier Simpson, a four-star from Lima, Ohio, announced he was committing to Michigan.

What it all seems to be pointing to is that Winston, rated the No. 28 prospect in the class of 2016, could be close to choosing the Spartans. He'll be taking his official visit on Saturday along with forward Miles Bridges, a five-star prospect originally from Flint.

"I don't want read too much into it, but I personally have always thought it was going to end up being Michigan or Michigan State," Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow said. "At the end of the day I think Stanford is too far away from home even though he says that is not a factor. That's much easier to say than take a five-hour flight.

"Pittsburgh, obviously there is a connection with assistant coach (Marlon Williamson), who has known Cassius for a long time. But I just feel Michigan State and the local pull now that Michigan has landed their guy in Xavier Simpson, I think that you would have to consider (Michigan State) the favorite."

Simpson was a player Michigan State recruited but never offered. He was always seen as a backup option to Winston.

"They never showed him a whole lot of interest," Snow said. "Izzo just decided it was Cassius or nothing."

Michigan State already has a good start on the 2016 class. Five-star wing Josh Langford is ranked No. 19 by 247sports.com and big man Nick Ward is a four-star rated No. 42.

Getting Winston could put the Spartans in good shape to land his AAU teammate Bridges, the 12th-ranked player in the nation who plays now at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep.

If the Spartans get both, they'll have a guaranteed top-five class, Snow says. Getting just one probably still lands them in the top 10.

But getting one does not guarantee getting the other.

"They like each other, they like being teammates, but they'll make their own decisions," Snow said. "If Cassius does go to Michigan State, that will be a plus for Michigan State.

"But will it be a determining factor? No, it's not."

Bridges is believed to be deciding between Michigan State and Kentucky and Snow thinks Winston pulling away from Michigan means the Wolverines have lost their shot to land Bridge.

"I think Michigan's only chance to land Miles was to get Cassius," Snow said. "Now that that will not happen I can't see Michigan getting Miles. Michigan State has him this weekend but Kentucky is the school, I get the impression, as the leader. If (Michigan State) gets Cassius that will help. But Miles seems intent on taking his visits so I don't know that it will be a quick decision."

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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