Friday, March 10, 2006

Well, at least it's over

And so the most forgettable season since the end of the Bobby Cremins era has finally wrapped up, and frankly ... I'm just glad it's done. I watched my DVD of the 2004 Final Four game against OSU and pretended it was this year, it was a heck of a lot more fun than watching us throw up airballs against Maryland. I had planned today to do a review of the sophmores on the team, but I figured a few comments about the season as a whole were more fitting - we got the whole offseason now to break down players.

The season has been a disaster from top to bottom. As soon as JJ left for the draft, the writing was on the wall - he was the only sure fire future NBA player on the roster, the only ACC caliber upperclassman and the only PG. That's a lot to replace just on the pure talent perspective alone, let alone the much more difficult to quantify "leadership" portion. Austin Jackson could have helped with the talent portion to an extent, but he could not have filled the leadership role. However, losing him to the Yankees left us with nothing talentwise at the PG spot and that doubly complicated the matter. There's a reason GT was picked to finish 11th - that's the quality of talent and experience we had coming into the season.

College basketball is about two things, experience and talent. If you have enough of one, you can somewhat overcome a lack of the other (i.e - Syracuse in 2004, Maryland in 2002) but that's difficult to do. And if you think talent is something you can coach, remember that '02 Maryland is the only team since the McD's All-Star Game began play that won a national championship without a burger boy. That's staggering, but it clearly shows the role that recruiting plays in basketball success. Nobody would mistake Cremins for the best X and O coach in history, but the guy won a ton of games by bringing in top flite talent to Atlanta. Since Cremins left, Hewitt has had a couple of terrific seasons where he had slightly below top level talent, but they were very experienced.

Earlier this year I did a detailed review of Hewitt's recruiting since he showed up, but with a focus on what the roster will look like in the next two years. What I could have also shown was the 3 year gap in recruiting between the Jack and Bosh class and the Thad and Crittenton class that is coming in next year. In the past 3 years, GT has brought in 9 players. Here's how they break down.

  • Top 25 players:

    Lewis Clinch (RSCI #25) - '05

  • Top 50 Players:


  • Top 100 Players:

    Will Bynum (RSCI #51) - '03
    Ra'Sean Dickey (RSCI #51) - '04
    Jeremis Smith (RSCI #74) - '04
    Zam Fredrick (RSCI #85) - '04
    Anthony Morrow (RSCI #91) - '04

  • Unraked Players:

    Alade Aminu (RSCI - #UR) - '05
    D'Andre Bell (RSCI - #UR) - '05
    Paco Diaw (RSCI - #UR) - '05
That's not a pretty picture. You aren't going to win a lot of ACC games with only a single top 50 player on the roster (also, notice how the quality of the player lines up pretty darn closely with their high school ranking - they are much more accurate than football rankings). That isn't to say there aren't guys on that list who can play - because it's obviously there are guys who are good. They aren't good enough to carry an ACC caliber team as freshman and sophmores though, and that's what you saw this year.

If you took the team we have right now, and brought in two more classes of players ranked in the top 50-150, the ceiling is somewhere around ... the Maryland team we just lost to. There's enough talent to be a middle of the pack ACC team with some experience, and an NCAA bubble team. Those are quality players, but not the requisite "star power" for a top finish in the ACC and a high NCAA seed. So why am I optimistic about the next two years? Because we have had 3 top 15 players in the past 6 years ... and are bringing in 3 more in the next 2 seasons. There's a huge difference when you begin to recruit that level of talent, and it should be very obvious next year.

There's a lot that still needs to be fixed, and the current players on the roster will need to step it up from this year's dismal performance, but they shouldn't have to carry the team by the time the conference season rolls around. I think people are going to be surprised at just how good Thad and Critty (and Lawal in the near future) are and will be for us, and the huge impact they will have on the play of the guys already on the roster.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, the 02 Maryland team had three future NBA players (Blake, Dixon, Wilcox) and one very good college player in Baxter and I don't see how you could argue they didn't have great "talent". In fact the syracuse team had only two NBA player (if I remember correctly). Your point might be decent but I dont see how those two teams help your argument.
Second, while player rankings clearly are important and correlate to success, once the players are in college and playing, the rankings don't mean anything.
Both Morrow and Dickey have put up great numbers and are going to be special players when it is all said and done. I know it's easy to put up good numbers on a bad team but you can't say that over the next two years they wouldn't start for almost any other team in the ACC. In fact, our final four team, except for Jack who was borderline top 50, was made up of all player outside the top 50. I just dont see how, even only considering the talent we have now, you could say the best we can do over the next two years would be the equivalent of Maryland. I could go on, but all I want to say is that you do a good job with the website and we all appreciate your effort but this article just seemed to be wrong on a number of levels.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Syracuse in '04 had the best player in college basketball that year ('Melo) and another first round NBA Draft pick (Warrick). One was a freshman, the other was a sophmore. Gerry McNamara was a freshman on that team as well, and was a top 40 recruit. That team was loaded with talent.

The Maryland team in '04 had a bunch of overachieving role players, none of whom have ever started for a decent NBA team (Starting for Portland doesn't count). Juan Dixon is a great story, he's not even close to the player 'Melo is. That team was very experienced and while they were "talented" it certaily wasn't nearly on the level of several other teams that year.

Morrow and Dickey have put up great numbers ... but aren't they really Justin Gray and Eric Williams at best? They aren't "star" caliber players. With a "star" they can be huge contributors, but they can't carry a team on their own (make your own Chris Paul, without Chris Paul Wake analogy). We have those players coming next year.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I forgot Billy Edelin was still on Syracuse at that point in time, another top 40 recruit who was only a sophmore. That team had the #2 overall high school player in the country as a freshman (Melo was behind Amare), and 3 other top 40 fresh/sophs. Boeheim recruited a lot of talent for that team.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the final RSCI for the class of 2005, Alade Aminu was ranked #79.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wilcox, Blake, and dixon have all started and been solid contributors for NBA teams (dont forget Baxter was supposed to be teh best player on the team) (Also, I dont care who they started for, ask billy edelin, or gerry mcnamara in a year, if they would trade places with them). As for overachieving, It seems like it is only overachieving, as opposed to talent, when the player was not ranked in the top 50 coming out of high school. The list of non-top 50 players who have become great college and pro players speaks for itself.

Wake Forest would be a top 25 team if they had a decent point guard. They have no supporting cast (besides possible Strickland) and there talent level does not even compare to Tech's. While you may need a "Star" player to win an NCAA championship (maybe) you put the players Tech has now on the floor in two years and that is a top 15 team and not a bubble team that is barely getting by like Maryland.

2:46 PM  

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