How Duke, UNC, NC State stack up in a ranking of the most talented teams in college basketball

Duke co-captains talk about freshman Zion Williamson

Duke will test out their freshmen laden squad as they open the regular season against perennial power Kentucky Tuesday night
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Duke will test out their freshmen laden squad as they open the regular season against perennial power Kentucky Tuesday night

Following Duke’s two-year run, Kansas has wrestled away the title of college basketball’s most-talented team in my fifth annual ratings.

As with the previous four years, the ratings come with a qualifier. As any coach of any basketball team ever has said, “the most talented team does not always win.” That proves to be so, so true in my ratings system. Consider:

* Kentucky had my most-talented team label for the 2015 season and lost in the NCAA semifinals while Duke ran off with the championship.

* Kansas topped the most-talented chart for the 2016 season and lost in the Elite Eight as Villanova won the title.

* Duke’s superb freshman class led to the Blue Devils having the most-talented team for the 2017 season. The Blue Devils lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, which UNC won.

* Duke’s superb freshman class (stop me if you have heard this one) led the Blue Devils to having the most-talented team prior to last season. Duke was stopped in the Elite Eight as Villanova captured the title.

Kansas garnered 512 points this season thanks to having six players among the top 150 as rated by Lindy’s Sports College Basketball magazine. Close behind Kansas is the surprise in the ratings, Gonzaga. The Bulldogs tallied 509 points by having five of the nation’s top 150 players and one of the nation’s top graduate transfers.

The third- and fourth-most talented teams in the country this season are Duke with 469 points and Virginia with 415.

Duke has perhaps the most talented freshman class in history. Guard R.J. Barrett is a national player of the year candidate and the nation’s fourth-rated player, according to Lindy’s. Forward Zion Williamson is the nation’s seventh-rated player, followed by No. 55 guard Tre Jones and No. 69 forward Cam Reddish.

UNC senior Luke Maye talks about the Tar Heel freshman during media day at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

Rounding out the top-10 rated teams are Mississippi State with 358 points, Michigan State with 352 points, Villanova with 313, Nevada --- behind former N.C. State twins Caleb and Cody Martin --- with 311, Kentucky with 294 and Auburn with 284.

Just outside the top 10 is North Carolina at No. 11 with 262 points and another surprise, N.C. State, at No. 17 with 203 points.

UNC’s rating is fueled by having senior center Luke Maye, Lindy’s top-ranked player in the country. The magazine also listed highly touted freshman small forward Nassir Little as the 44th-best player in the country, and graduate power forward Cameron Johnson as 146th best.

N.C. State, which generally is being picked to finish in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is well thought of in the talent ratings, mostly because of C.J. Bryce, a guard who sat out last season after transferring from UNC Wilmington. Bryce is Lindy’s 46th-rated player. Junior guard Markell Johnson and senior forward Torin Dorn are rated 70th and 140th.

NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about his shirt selection for the Wolfpack's exhibition game against Chowan at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

My point system needed some tweaking this year because Lindy’s changed its rating of players. In past seasons, Lindy’s ranked the top 25 players in the country at each position. With some other factors thrown in, the old system was simple by giving 25 points to the highest rated player at each position, all the way down to 1 point for the 25th best.

This year, Lindy’s abandoned the position rankings, instead ranking the top players in the country one through 150. Again, 150 points were awarded to UNC’s Maye, all the way down to 1 point for Alessandro Lever of Grand Canyon.

Granted, there is nothing scientific about the formula, so I used Athlon’s College Basketball Preview to award a maximum of 30 points to the magazine’s top transfer players, a maximum of 45 points to the top graduate transfer players and 25 points to each of the nation’s top freshmen. No points were awarded to any in this group who were already ranked in Lindy’s top 150.

Following Duke, Virginia, UNC and N.C. State, other ACC programs that were ranked include Syracuse (23), Virginia Tech (35), Clemson (40), Boston College (50), Miami (56), Florida State (60), Notre Dame (65) and Wake Forest (84). Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh were not among the 103 teams ranked.

Campbell, thanks to the No. 136 rating of senior guard Chris Clemons, was ranked 92nd nationally in talent.

The top 25 most-talented teams in the country


1. Kansas\512

2. Gonzaga\509

3. Duke\469

4. Virginia\415

5. Mississippi St.\358

6. Michigan St.\352

7. Villanova\313

8. Nevada\311

9. Kentucky\294

10. Auburn\284

11. North Carolina\262

12. Kansas State\255

13. St. John’s\241

14. Tennessee\237

15. Maryland\224

16. LSU\209

17. N.C. State\203

18. Harvard\189

19. Oregon State\180

20. Purdue\179

21. Marquette\174

22. Indiana\171

23. Syracuse\168

24. Loyola-Chicago\167

25. Oregon\162

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