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Florida State basketball and the superior-talent myth

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A look at FSU's roster compared to the rest of the ACC

Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

For the past couple weeks I've been paying attention to the comments. Not just here (I always do that, I swear!), but on Twitter, at the pay-sites, and those accompanying news stories. What I've learned is that the average fan thinks the FSU basketball roster is WAY more talented than it actually is, and that there is a significant gap between Florida State and teams like Georgia Tech, NC State, and Syracuse. One of my favorite comments was that Coach K would have a top-5 team with this roster (never mind that he has the No. 14 team with his current seven McDonald All-Americans on the Duke roster).

So I'm here with data.

The first cut-line we generally emphasize are the top-100 recruits. These are the players who all the recruiting gurus agree belong as contributors at high-major programs. I could start at a higher level - with the 5*s, but there's really not much reason to do that. There are 12 former 5* recruits in the ACC, and eight of them play for Duke and UNC. Four other teams (including Florida State) have one on the roster.

For top-100 recruits, we don't want to blow smoke up anyone's shorts by cherry picking the recruiting data like most social media sites do, but rather we use consensus rankings. Those at 247Sports are widely regarded and regularly updated, so that is where we grab the data.

So, 15 ACC teams. Here is how many top-100 recruits are on each roster.

Team Top 100
Syracuse 9
North Carolina 9
Duke 8
Louisville 7
Virginia 6
NCSU 6
Florida State 4
Georgia Tech 4
Virginia Tech 3
Wake Forest 3
Pittsburgh 3
Notre Dame 2
Miami 2
Clemson 2
Boston College 0

To take a slightly broader approach (and to include players like Terance Mann and Zach Auguste who just missed the cut), we'll expand the range to any recruit in the top 130s. That ensures that all consensus 4* or better recruits are included.

Here is that list (sorted on the new column):

Team Top 100 4*/5*
Syracuse 9 10
North Carolina 9 10
Louisville 7 9
Duke 8 8
Virginia 6 8
Notre Dame 2 7
NCSU 6 6
Florida State 4 6
Virginia Tech 3 5
Georgia Tech 4 4
Wake Forest 3 4
Pittsburgh 3 4
Miami 2 4
Clemson 2 4
Boston College 0 0

One thing this misses is transfers, which have become a huge part of roster building. There might be 3,000 non 4/5* Division I players each year, and one recruiting strategy is to identify the top 1% of those players (who the recruiting gurus whiffed on), and recruit them. See Trey Lewis and Damion Lee who currently star at Louisville. I limited this to players in the top-7 of the rotation. If they're a role player, who cares? Here, those transfers are added, though they are NOT included if they already occur in either of the other columns (so Shelden McClellan, a top-50 recruit, is not included in the transfer column).

Team Top 100 4*/5* Transfers
Georgia Tech 4 4 3
Louisville 7 9 2
Virginia Tech 3 5 2
Pittsburgh 3 4 2
Miami 2 4 2
Virginia 6 8 1
Clemson 2 4 1
Boston College 0 0 1
Syracuse 9 10 0
North Carolina 9 10 0
Duke 8 8 0
Notre Dame 2 7 0
NCSU 6 6 0
Florida State 4 6 0
Wake Forest 3 4 0

Lastly, we have experience. Luckily, kenpom.com measures this in a really smart way. Instead of just adding up the seniors and the juniors, etc... and dividing by the number of players on the roster, his site weighs the individual players by a combination of their class and the minutes that they play. So FSU, for example, doesn't get credit for senior Michael Ojo, and they don't get dinged much for a freshman like Chris Koumadje who hardly plays.

Here, the experience is added.

Team Top 100 4*/5* Transfers Experience
Georgia Tech 4 4 3 9
Miami 2 4 2 38
Pittsburgh 3 4 2 57
Clemson 2 4 1 93
Virginia 6 8 1 113
North Carolina 9 10 0 151
Notre Dame 2 7 0 163
Syracuse 9 10 0 169
Louisville 7 9 2 252
Florida State 4 6 0 284
NCSU 6 6 0 305
Wake Forest 3 4 0 310
Virginia Tech 3 5 2 315
Duke 8 8 0 318
Boston College 0 0 1 333

What these data show is that FSU, by an objective measure, has about a middle-of-road ACC roster. They're tied for 7th in top-100 recruits, tied for 7th in 4*+ recruits, have no transfers who are contributors, and are 10th in experience. This is why I picked them to be an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament prior to the season, prior to knowing the extent of Michael Ojo or Phil Cofer's injuries.

Here are the teams sorted by their current ranking at kenpom.com.

Team Top 100 4*/5* Transfers Experience Pomeroy
Louisville 7 9 2 252 5
Virginia 6 8 1 113 6
Duke 8 8 0 318 8
Miami 2 4 2 38 10
North Carolina 9 10 0 151 11
Notre Dame 2 7 0 163 22
Pittsburgh 3 4 2 57 29
Florida State 4 6 0 284 47
Georgia Tech 4 4 3 9 65
Syracuse 9 10 0 169 69
NCSU 6 6 0 305 74
Clemson 2 4 1 93 86
Wake Forest 3 4 0 310 103
Virginia Tech 3 5 2 315 118
Boston College 0 0 1 333 208