Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State took different paths to building winners
Being a Missouri Valley team and a No. 9 seed isn't the only way Wichita State is an outlier in the Final Four. Gregg Marshall’s roster is an anomaly in this year's national semifinals.
Unlike the the other three Final Four teams, Wichita State leaned on transfers -- from junior college and Division I -- and grizzled veterans to reach the final weekend of the basketball season.
The volume of Division I transfers in recent years has been an issue around college basketball, but it won’t be at the Final Four. The majority of key players at Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse signed with their schools out of high school and stayed.
That’s one of a handful of interesting nuggets we found when we looked at the composition of the Final Four rosters. For the purposes of the piece, we counted only players who played at least two games and 15 total minutes in the first two weeks of the tourney.
Here’s how the Final Four teams were built:
• Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse built their teams from high school talent. Of those three teams, the Cardinals’ Luke Hancock, who transferred from George Mason, is the only Division I or junior college transfer.
• Wichita State has four transfers earning regular minutes, including starters Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall, Malcolm Armstead and Ehimen Orukpe. All came directly from junior college except for Armstead, who transferred from Oregon after transferring from junior college.
That’s not to say the other schools didn’t benefit from roster turnover at other programs. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell decommitted from Virginia Tech, and Kevin Ware decommmitted from UCF and at one point signed with Tennessee.
• Although Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse didn’t add transfers, they contributed to the pool of players in the transfer market. Evan Smotrycz (Maryland), Dayeesha Hollins (Cincinnati) and Carlton Brundidge (Detroit) transferred from Michigan. Rakeem Buckles (FIU), Angel Nunez (Gonzaga) and Elisha Justice (NAIA) transferred from Louisville. Terry Rozier went to Hargrave Military Academy and Justin Coleman did not qualify academically rather than enrolling at Louisville. Da’Shonte Riley signed with Syracuse but transferred to Eastern Michigan.
A recruiting mixed bag
• Three of the four teams had at least one top-20 signing class since 2010, according to Rivals.com. The exception, not surprisingly, is Wichita State. The Shockers did not appear in Rivals’ class rankings since 2009.
• Michigan’s 2012 class of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskas was ranked seventh.
• Louisville’s 2011 class of Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Zach Price, Kevin Ware and Angel Nunez was ranked ninth.
• Syracuse’s 2012 class of Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, Baye Keita and C.J. Fair was ranked seventh, though Melo and Waiters declared early for the NBA draft. Syracuse’s 2011 class of Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney was ranked 16h.
• The Final Four will feature six McDonald’s All-Americans, though they’re on only two teams -- Carter-Williams, Christmas and DaJuan Coleman for Syracuse and Behanan, Blackshear and Peyton Siva for Louisville.
• No individual state dominated the Final Four rosters, though four players finished their high school careers in New York (Syracuse’s Brandon Triche and DaJuan Coleman, Louisville’s Russ Smith and Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early).
• Only two finished their high school careers in the Mountain or Pacific time zones -- Louisville’s Siva (Washington) and Wichita State’s Demetric Williams (Nevada).
• Two players in the Final Four were born in Africa -- Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng from Senegal and Wichita State’s Ehimen Orukpe from Nigeria.
Young vs. old
• Michigan is the youngest team in the Final Four whereas Wichita State is the oldest. The Wolverines have five regulars who graduated high school in the class of 2012. That’s two more than the other three teams combined -- Syracuse has two, Louisville has one, Wichita State has none.
• The Shockers, however, have four players who graduated in the class of 2011. At the same time, they have some of more seasoned players in the Final Four. Carl Hall is one of two players here to graduate high school in the class of 2007. He enrolled at Middle Georgia College in 2007-08 before a heart condition forced him to temporarily give up basketball until he returned to the game at Northwest Florida State in 2010-11. He transferred to Wichita State the following year. Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead started his college career at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2007, transferred to Oregon in 2009, and transferred to Wichita State in 2011.
Where they’re going
• Seven players in the Final Four were ranked among DraftExpress’ top 100 prospects for the 2013 draft, led by four from Michigan. Wichita State continued to be an outlier here with none on that list. Those players were:
10. Trey Burke, Michigan
15. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
20. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
24. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
46. Mitch McGary, Michigan
51. Russ Smith, Louisville
83. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan