Who’s the favorite for top basketball recruit R.J. Barrett?

This weekend, R.J. Barrett — the No. 1 basketball recruit in the class of 2018 — will take the first of five official visits as he works toward a college decision.

Barrett’s first stop is Lexington, and it’ll be an important 48 hours for UK, which is still looking for its first commitment from the 2018 class.

The other contenders for the 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Ontario are Arizona, Duke, Michigan and Oregon, and Barrett will take official visits to all of those campuses in the coming weeks. He has said that he plans to sign with the school of his choice in November.

Which of those five programs is most likely to land his commitment?

To answer that question, the Herald-Leader reached out to five national recruiting analysts — Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater of 247Sports, Scout.com’s Evan Daniels, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello and Rivals.com’s Corey Evans — to get their thoughts on where Barrett’s recruitment stands going into these official visits.

Our expert panel was given the list of Barrett’s five finalists and asked to rank the star player’s three most likely landing spots, in order. Those answers were tallied up to form a consensus ranking of the favorites in Barrett’s recruitment.

It’s worth noting that — since reclassifying from 2019 to 2018 this summer — Barrett is still in the early stages of his recruitment, relative to many of his peers in the 2018 class. His father, Rowan Barrett, has talked to the Herald-Leader recently about the importance these official visits will play in finding the right fit for his son.

That said, the answers from our panel indicate a favorite has emerged heading into these campus trips. Here’s how the recruiting analysts are handicapping it:

RJ

R.J. Barrett was one of the top players on the Nike circuit this summer before leading Canada to a gold medal at the U19 World Cup in July.

Mike Fender

5. Michigan: It surprised some that the Wolverines made the final five, especially with the summer buzz that Kansas and Texas both had a decent shot in Barrett’s recruitment. Those two schools were cut, and Michigan survived, but our expert panelists aren’t high on the Wolverines’ chances. Only one recruiting analyst included Michigan on his list, and that was a third-place vote. Barrett’s official visit to Ann Arbor is scheduled for Sept. 29.

4. Arizona: The Wildcats showed up on only two of five ballots, but they were the second choice on both of those. Arizona freshman Emmanuel Akot played alongside Barrett on last year’s Team Canada U17 squad that traveled to Spain, and the Wildcats currently have the No. 1 recruiting class nationally for 2018. Barrett will be in Tucson for an official visit Sept. 21

3. Oregon: The Ducks have had a lot of success recruiting Canadian players in recent years, and they just edged out Arizona for the No. 3 spot on this list. Three of our five experts included Oregon in their top three for Barrett, and the Ducks received a pair of second-place votes. Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis — all key players on last season’s Final Four team — are Canadians, and the program continues to recruit that country strongly. Barrett will visit Oregon on Sept. 23.

Murray

Jamal Murray was a star at UK two seasons ago. He’s also friends with No. 1 recruit R.J. Barrett.

Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

2. Kentucky: The good news for the Cats is that they were the only team to be included on all five of our recruiting experts’ lists (and UK got one first-place vote). The bad news: The Cats were a pretty distant second place. Still, sitting in the No. 2 spot going into those all-important official visits isn’t a bad place to be, and Rowan Barrett has had wonderful things to say about John Calipari and UK’s program during recent conversations with the Herald-Leader. UK has had success recruiting Canadians under Calipari. Jamal Murray, Mychal Mulder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are from Ontario, and Trey Lyles was born in Canada. Barrett has specifically mentioned Murray as a close friend who has filled him in on the positives of playing at Kentucky. The Cats also get first crack at making a good impression on Barrett, who is expected to arrive in town Friday.

1. Duke: According to our panelists, the Blue Devils are the clear favorite going into Barrett’s official visits. Four of the five experts in our poll put Duke in the No. 1 spot. (In a surprise, one recruiting analyst left the Blue Devils off of his list completely). The possibility of a backcourt that includes Barrett, No. 1 point guard Tre Jones (already committed to Duke) and top-five recruit Cameron Reddish (expected by many to pick Duke) is a very real possibility, and a scary one for the Blue Devils’ future opponents. As is often the case these days, Duke seems to be UK’s biggest hurdle to landing Barrett’s commitment. The No. 1 recruit is scheduled to visit Durham on Sept. 15.

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