April 5, 2017

Talent Level in the Final Four

Let's take a look...

2017 North Carolina
Nate Britt2013121
Isaiah Hicks201316
Kennedy Meeks201358
Justin Jackson20149
Theo Pinson201415
Joel Berry201430
Luke Maye2015156
Tony Bradley201627
Seventh Woods201649


  • 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.)

2017 Gonzaga
Przemek Karnowski2012451
Nigel Williams-Goss201331Washington
Johnathan Williams201345Missouri
Jordan Mathews2013131California
Josh Perkins201467
Silas Melson2014218
Zach Collins201633
Killian Tillie2016122

  • 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.

2017 Oregon
Dylan Ennis2011451Rice / Villanova
Dillon Brooks201497
Jordan Bell2014101
Casey Benson2014187
Chris Boucher201511
Tyler Dorsey201528
Kavell Bigby-Williams20163
Payton Pritchard201654
Keith Smith2016104


  • 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
Sindarius Thornwell201333
Duane Notice2013309
Justin McKie2013340
P.J. Dozier201525
Chris Silva2015141
Sedee Keita2016113
Maik Kotsar2016347
Rakym Felder2016366
Hassani Gravett2016451


  • 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.

2017-18 Virginia
Devon Hall2013123
Isaiah Wilkins2014145
Jack Salt2014353
Mamadi Diakite201533
Kyle Guy201638
Ty Jerome201644
Jay Huff201660
DeAndre Hunter201692
Marco Anthony2017235


  • 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...


  1. Who do you see right now coming in to the 2018 class to shore up our talent? Will we have another glue guy class like 2014 class of Wilkins, Shayok, and Salt (and Thompson)? Or will there be the level of talent we saw in 2016 come in?

    Right now, it doesn't look like we got in on anybody early before they shot up in rankings (like Jerome or Mamadi), nor are we in front for any current Top 100 kids. Curious if you know or have any idea with hoo we might be leading in recruiting.

    1. I agree with the statement that we don't lead for one/any Top 100 kid in 2018(as of now), which is unusual for any program that spent most of the year in the Top 20.

      UVA fans tend to bleed orange/blue and in that vein many are already talking like Huff/Hunter are surefire NBA stars, despite Hunter barely being in the Top 100, and Huff not making Top 50.

      One final thing is that NCAA very strongly emphasizes players that can do the "drive/flop/flail". There is no way Frank Mason would have been player of the year 15 years ago with the NCAA's current points of emphasis. The drive/flop/flail --leading to two free throws --is a point of emphasis and the future of the game. We have skilled players, but can they perform this move and prevent it in an era when 40-50 free throw games are considered a positive for the game?

      The next year of recruiting/talent acquisition will be an important crossroads for the program.

  2. Recruiting opens up again sometime tomorrow, maybe we'll hear something.

    The two biggest tests of the last few years for CTB were: last year's season (losing Brogdon, Gill, Tobey and then booting Nichols) which I think he passed (not as solidly as hoped, but still a pass), and this year's recruiting which is obviously still up in the air.

    The 2018 class was originally going to have 4 slots, and who CTB was able to get would say a lot about the continuing success of the team. Now he's got 3 2017 slots and 2 2018 slots. Another slot AND an accelerated timeframe raises the degree of difficulty on the challenge, though the potential for success is a little higher if everything goes well. The team's outlook for 2021 is underway and I really hope its good.

  3. Saying Guy/Jerome is a higher talent level than Williams-Goss/Perkins is rank speculation at this point. I'd be thrilled if they come close.

  4. I really like your post good blog on site,Thanks for your sharing.