Fans get a look at the freshmen laden 2016-17 squad and their exhibition opener gives a peek at the future Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com
Fans get a look at the freshmen laden 2016-17 squad and their exhibition opener gives a peek at the future Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke

Is Duke the most talented college basketball team in the country? Here’s one way to find out.

By Ron Morris

Columnist

November 07, 2017 10:26 AM

UPDATED November 07, 2017 07:25 PM

When play begins this weekend, Duke will field the most talented men’s basketball team in the country for a second consecutive season. At least that is what my 2017-18 talent evaluator formula concluded, and this season no team in the country is a close second to the Blue Devils.

A star-studded freshman class that features four of the top eight incoming players in the country easily led Duke’s charge to the top of the talent ratings. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent all are certain to see quality minutes this season along with returning senior All-American Grayson Allen.

It adds up to a talent total of 108, based on rankings that appear in the Lindy’s Sports College Basketball preview issue. The next closest team in terms of talent is Arizona with 68 points. To give you an idea of how much disparity exists between Duke and the rest of the field, consider that the widest margin in talent value in the previous three seasons of rankings was Kentucky’s 106-101 edge over North Carolina in 2014-15.

Understand, these rankings are not an indicator of the projected best team this season. None of my three previous most-talented teams won national championships. Kentucky went 38-1 after losing to Wisconsin in the 2015 national semifinals; Kansas, which went 33-5 in 2016, lost to eventual national-champion Villanova in the Elite Eight; and Duke bowed out a season ago in the second round of the NCAA tournament to South Carolina.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for unlimited digital access to our website, apps, the digital newspaper and more

Duke had the eighth-most talent when it won the 2015 national title, Villanova was 17th in talent in capturing the 2016 crown, and UNC was fifth in talent a season ago in winning the title.

Lindy’s annually uses professional scouts and college coaches to evaluate and rank the top 25 players at each of five positions, as well as ranking the top incoming junior college and freshmen players.

In my ratings, a point value is given to each player. The top-rated player at each position receives 25 points and the totals diminish to the 25th-rated player receiving one point. The same point system applies to the top 25 incoming freshmen, but only the top 10 junior-college players are assessed values on a 10-to-1 scale because they rarely have a great impact on a team’s fortunes.

One could argue that too much weight is given to incoming freshmen, but the age of one-and-done players has proven that first-year players are easily among the nation’s most talented and often have immediate impact. Look no further than Duke and Kentucky, which are both considered national championship contenders despite relying mostly on freshmen.

Add Allen’s 21 points for being the fifth-best shooting guard in the country to the freshmen totals of Bagley (25 points), Carter (23), Duval (20) and Trent (19) and it is easy to see why many believe Duke will win the national title.

UNC falls into sixth place in the rankings with 50 points coming from Joel Berry (25) being rated the nation’s best point guard, Theo Pinson (15) ranking 11th among small forwards and Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson (10) ranking 16th among small forwards.

The ACC landed six teams among the top 25 most talented with Duke and UNC followed by No. 7 Notre Dame (47 points), No. 11 Louisville (40), No. 20 Georgia Tech (32) and No. 25 Miami (27).

If you are looking for a sleeper in the preseason, consider that Texas A&M is ranked 25th in The Associated Press preseason poll, but the Aggies have the third-most talent (66 points) in these ratings.

College basketball talent ratings

PG SG SF PF C F JC TOTAL

1) Duke -- 21 -- -- -- 25, 23, 20,19 108

2) Arizona -- 22 24 -- -- 22 -- 68

3) Texas A&M -- 10 11 23 22 -- -- 66

4) Michigan St. 3 -- 25 -- 17 15 -- 60

5) Southern Cal 20 -- -- 13 23 -- -- 56

6) UNC 25 -- 15,10 -- -- -- -- 50

7) Notre Dame 22 -- -- 25 -- -- -- 47

8) Kansas 23 5 -- -- 2 16 -- 46

9) Cincinnati -- -- 14 15 14 -- -- 43

10) Wichita St. 19 -- 18 -- 5 -- -- 42

11) Louisville -- -- 22 -- -- 18 -- 40

12) BYU -- 17 -- 20 -- -- -- 37

13) Kentucky -- -- -- -- -- 14,9,8, 4,2 37

14) St. Mary’s -- -- 12 -- 25 -- -- 37

15) Minnesota 16 -- -- -- 12 7 -- 35

16) Murray St. 14 -- -- 21 -- -- -- 35

17) Seton Hall -- 18 -- -- 16 -- -- 34

18. Gonzaga 4 -- -- 10 19 -- -- 33

19) Xavier -- -- 23,5 -- -- 5 -- 33

20) Florida -- 25 -- -- 7 -- -- 32

21) Ga. Tech -- 12 -- -- 20 -- -- 32

22) UCLA 6 -- -- -- 10 13 -- 29

23) Oklahoma -- -- -- -- -- 21 7 28

24) Oregon 2 14 -- -- -- 12 -- 28

25) Miami -- 24 -- -- -- 3 -- 27