James McAdoo

Talent Distribution: the ACC

People like to downplay the importance of recruiting rankings by citing any number of players who were wildly over-or-under estimated by the evaluators. Which is fine. Dispute away. But also be very clear that recruiting rankings matter. The number of consensus top 100 recruits on any roster is directly correlated with winning. There are plenty of other factors – experience, depth, coaching, commitment, fit, etc… – but talent is the the first place to look when trying to figure out which teams are going to be good next year.

I looked at all of last year's BCS conference teams. First, I tabulated how many consensus top 100 recruits were on their roster, and then I looked at their win-loss record in conference games. It turns out that there were 18 teams which had either zero or one top 100 recruit on their roster. Of these 18 teams, one – Kansas State – had a winning conference record. On the flip side, teams with eight or more top 100 recruits had an average conference record of 13-5, and none won fewer than 11 conference games.

This chart shows the percentage chance of having a winning conference record, based on the number of top 100 recruits on the roster. Recruiting rankings matter.

Now, on to the conference distributions for the 2013-14 season. Over the next week I'll be charting the ACC, AAC, Big East, B1G, Big 12, Pac 12 and the SEC. Today, it's the ACC. For my consensus rankings I use RSCI, the oldest and best in the business. For current rosters, I used Verbal Commits.

As usual, Duke and North Carolina have a ridiculous amount of talent on their rosters (note: PJ Hairston is included, until I hear otherwise). The main difference this year is that Syracuse is in the conference now, which gives the blue bloods a team which can match them in terms of depth of talented players.

Nine of the teams are grouped in the 3-6 range, while Miami (1), Clemson (0), and Boston College (0) are at the bottom. The curious thing about those three teams is that the first two are clearly in for a long season, while BC has a decent chance at a >.500 conference record. They might be this year's Kansas State.

Narrowing it down to high 4*s and 5*s, Duke's compilation of talent really shows. Nine consensus top 50 players is insane. There are four teams in the nation that have that many top 100 players, and Duke has that many top 50. The rest of the conference plays out similar to the chart above.

Finally, the consensus 5* recruits are more of the same. Duke, UNC and Syracuse lead the way. If you're predicting the ACC and you don't have those three on top, you might want to double check your thought process.


Talent distribution: the ACC

If you examine the rosters of NCAA Tournament champions they have a couple things in common. One, they’re filled with elite recruits. Two, they have multiple players who end up as 1st round picks in the NBA. Those two things are not always interchangeable. Not every elite recruit pans out. Not all 1st round picks were elite recruits. But it’s pretty darn close. Evaluating talent in basketball is easier than it is in other major sports. You could watch Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in high school (then, Michael Gilchrist) and see an NBA player. It’s hard to look at a high school quarterback and see anything more than NFL potential.

This is the reason why I track where elite talent ends up. Those schools win titles.

Today, it’s the ACC. For a data source I use RSCI Hoops, which, if you aren’t familiar with this site, you should be. They take ESPN, Rivals, Scout, etc… rankings and combine them into one consensus ranking. Other sites have co-opted their methods (without citing them of course), but RSCI is the original. Run the Floor even creates some consensus rankings, but we use those as a stop-gap between RSCI updates. In the end, we defer to RSCI.

Combing through the ACC rosters it turns out that there are 56 players who were consensus top-100 recruits at RSCI. Here’s how that distribution looks:

As expected, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils dominate the accumulation of talent. The biggest and baddest NCAA programs often have rosters like these, where most of the players were a top-100 recruit. In this case they each have nine on their rosters (from 13 available scholarships each). Georgia Tech and NC State show off their rapidly rising programs with seven and six players apiece. FSU and Virginia are at the upper-middle, and the rest of the ACC (minus one) all have three. Boston College (the minus one) has zero.

*Note: my original chart showed VT with three, but I had not reinstated Jerrell Eddie (No. 89, 2010) as the Hokies chose to do.

So what happens if we refine this search a bit. Limiting this to just the consensus top-50 players that same chart looks like this:

This shows the talent gap is expanding. Where UNC and Duke had 32% of the top-100 players in the ACC, they now have 47% of the top-50 recruits. NC State, FSU and Georgia Tech are still slightly above the rest of the conference, whereas Virginia Tech now joins Boston College on the wrong side of the chart. Dorian Finney-Smith was the consensus No. 22 recruit in the nation, but he transferred from the Hokies to the Florida Gators.

The final chart pares it down even more. Here is the same chart, but only with consensus top-25 recruits.

There are 12 consensus top-25 recruits in the ACC, and 8 (67%) play for UNC and Duke. Keep this in mind when you’re projecting your pre-season champion.