|2017 North Carolina|
- One player in the top-10 of his class.
- Six total top-50 kids.
- Only two of the nine contributors from outside the top-100.
- Three key seniors.
- I would say the main strength of this UNC team, aside from their size and ability up front, is the fact that the junior backcourt duo of Jackson and Berry held a very steady rudder in tournament play.
- A 53.44 average ranking probably positions Carolina as one of the top three or four most-talented teams in the nation (behind probably Duke and Kentucky, maybe Kansas).
- The key to this championship was retaining the talent for two or three seasons so it could coalesce. One-and-dones (OADs) are great, but they don't tend to win championships, 2015 Duke and 2012 Kentucky notwithstanding. (Okay, maybe teams built on the backs of OADs win 20% of the championships. I'll allow that.)
- Zero top-10 players.
- Three top-50s.
- Four out of eight contributors from outside the top-100.
- Four key seniors. Safe to say this was a veteran-led team, despite major contributions from [likely] OAD Zach Collins.
- The Zags got lucky with a few things in their roster construction: Karnowski's redshirt season and subsequent development into an NBA-level big man, three incoming transfers making hay, and finding a unicorn in Collins.
- Nigel Williams-Goss was the engine that drove this machine, but it was the combo of Karnowski and Collins that set Gonzaga apart from its peers. That's a massive aligning of the stars in the low post.
- Williams-Goss, by the way, wasn't an elite player. His role on this Gonzaga team made him seem elite, but I don't think he ever really lived up that that distinction. Frank Mason III (Kansas), Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Josh Hart (Villanova), Luke Kennard (Duke), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State), De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Devonte' Graham (Kansas), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Donovan Mitchell (Louisville), Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina), Allonzo Trier (Arizona), Monte Morris (Iowa State), E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island)... these guards were all more dynamic / better than Williams-Goss. I'm pretty sure the NBA agrees with me. Slide one of those 14 other guys into NWG's spot with the Zags, and I'm pretty sure they would have been cutting down the nets.
- At 137.25, I'm guessing this Zags roster ranks somewhere in the #20-#25 range, nationally. I think we saw that brought to bear in Monday night's championship game, as Gonzaga lost more than its share of 50-50 balls and wilted down the stretch against Carolina's superior athleticism.
|Dylan Ennis||2011||451||Rice / Villanova|
- One top-10 player.
- Three top-50s.
- Four of nine from outside the top-100.
- One key senior -- journeyman-turned-hero Dylan Ennis.
- A lot of player development with this team; Dillon Brooks went from just inside the top-100 to Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and Jordan Bell went from #101 to an athletic low post beast and surefire NBA draftee. Credit to Dana Altman and his staff.
- Important to note that the Ducks played the 2017 Tournament without its second-most talented player, Chris Boucher.
- Also important to note that its most talented player, Bigby-Williams, was merely a role player, often logging less than 10 mpg.
- I think the key to their tournament run was Tyler Dorsey, who proved that talent often does elevate a team.
- This team benefitted from its upperclassmen. Ennis was a 26-year old 5th year senior. Brooks and Bell were juniors.
- I think Oregon would have won the national championship minus Boucher's injury. The best team I saw this season was Kansas, and we all know the monumental mental hurdle they face in tournament play. The second-best team I saw this season was Oregon with Boucher. (Carolina, by the way, probably wasn't even in the top five until they stepped up in the final Four. My top five for 2016-17: #1 Kansas, #2 Oregon with Boucher, #3 Good Duke, #4 Kentucky, #5 Villanova, #6 UNC.)
|2017 South Carolina|
- Zero top-10 players.
- Two top-50s.
- Seven of nine from outside the top-100.
- Three key seniors.
- It's hard to draw much info from looking at South Carolina. They were this season's true Cinderella. They were long and tough and played great defense, and got major scoring punch from Thornwell.
- It's not hard to construct a roster that looks like this. Most also-ran P5 teams look like this, in terms of recruiting rankings. I bet Clemson looks a lot like this. I bet Texas Tech looks a lot like this. I bet Nebraska looks a lot like this. I bet Arizona State looks a lot like this. So, it's not hard to construct a roster that looks like this. What's hard is finding and developing a once-in-a-lifetime superstar like Sindarius Thornwell while at the same time receiving superb coaching from a guy like Frank Martin. Make no mistake --- this was Thornwell and Martin's Final Four run, and it was a miracle Final Four run.
With that setting the stage, let's take a quick look at 2017-18 Virginia, prior to any incoming transfers.
- Zero top-10 players. Same as Gonzaga and South Carolina, but less than UNC and Oregon, who each had one.
- Three top-50s. Same as Gonzaga and Oregon, more than South Carolina (2), less than UNC (6).
- Four of nine from outside the top-100. We'll have more top-100 talent than Gonzaga or South Carolina, the same as Oregon, and less than UNC.
- Two key seniors -- 5th year Devon Hall and 4th year Isaiah Wilkins, along with 4th year junior Jack Salt. The problem is that our most experienced guys are our least talented guys. You won't find many Final Four teams that receive the thrust of their talent from their sophomores, but that's exactly what we're looking at in 2016-17.
- I want to focus on the Guy (38) / Jerome (44) backcourt. In terms of combined talent, it trumps the Williams-Goss (31) / Perkins (67) backcourt at Gonzaga, the Ennis (unranked) / Dorsey (28) backcourt at Oregon, and the Thornwell (33) / Notice (309) backcourt at South Carolina. Berry (30) / Jackson (9) at UNC was elite, of course. [Interesting to note that each of this year's Final Four teams had at least one guard ranked inside the top-35 of his recruiting class. Kyle Guy just missed that mark.]
- I'm not suggesting that we're a Final Four team in 2016-17. I'm merely pointing out that our talent level is getting to the point where the Final Four is a possibility... every... single... season...