The freshman class will be present and accounted for in the Final Four, even if it’s not in the way anyone would have predicted.
The high school graduating class of 2013 will have more players in Dallas than any other class, but their roles will vary wildly.
Of the 13 freshmen in the Final Four, seven are from Kentucky. Five of those are playing major minutes. The other freshmen, whether three-star rookies for Wisconsin or McDonald’s All-Americans for Florida, are playing supporting roles.
The Final Four again includes teams with varying approaches and results in recruiting. Kentucky’s bench, for example, includes more five-star prospects than Wisconsin has signed in the last four years.
Whether it’s Florida’s veterans, Kentucky’s star power or UConn and Wisconsin’s talent development, each team in the Final Four started its roster in different spots only to end up in the same place Saturday.
As we get closer to tipoff at AT&T Stadium, we examined how the four programs in Dallas assembled their teams for a trip to the Final Four. For the purposes of this 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:
Final Four players by high school class*
Final Four players by Rivals.com star ranking*
Not ranked: 2
Two stars: 1
Three stars: 12
Four stars: 7
Five stars: 12
*includes only players who have logged 15 minutes or more in the NCAA Tournament.
• Of the 33 players Athlon Sports tracked, 12 were five-star prospects according to Rivals.com. Seven of them play for Kentucky. Kentucky’s entire starting five is made up of five-star prospects. The rest of the Final Four has only three starters who were five-star prospects (Florida’s Patric Young, UConn’s DeAndre Daniels and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker).
• Two five-star prospects and McDonald’s All-Americans have played fewer than 40 combined minutes — Florida’s Chris Walker and Kentucky’s Marcus Lee.
• Kentucky and Florida are the only schools in the Final Four with McDonald’s All-Americans getting regular minutes.
• With the exception of Dekker, Wisconsin built its foundation on 3-star prospects. Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson — all starters — were three-star prospects.
• Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the biggest steal in the NCAA Tournament. He is the only two-star prospect getting regular minutes in the Final Four — and he’s Florida’s top player.
• Throw out Kentucky, and the most prolific high school class for the other three teams in the Final Four was the 2010 graduating class.
• How much of an impact is 2010 having on this Final Four? That class included UConn’s Shabazz Napier, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser and Ben Brust and the nucleus for Florida’s team (Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather).
• For another year, transfers were a major topic in college basketball, but not in the Final Four. The teams in Dallas feature only two transfers in the regular lineup: Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith (from Virginia Tech) and UConn’s Lasan Kromah (from George Washington). Both earn significant minutes, but neither are starters.
Sunshine State Stars
• The Final Four teams culled players from Florida high schools and prep schools more than any other state with 11 players who graduated from Sunshine State schools. Granted, the amount of high school transfers means that number shouldn’t resonate quite the same way as in college football recruiting.
• The number of Florida-based players does not focus solely on the Gators, though Billy Donovan culled the core of his roster from in-state schools. UConn (Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels) and Kentucky (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee) also mined the state of Florida.
• Three players in the Final Four ended their high school careers at Montverde (Fla.) Academy — Florida’s Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier II and Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson. All transferred to the Central Florida powerhouse. Hill transferred from Mount Dora (Fla.) Bible School, and Frazier transferred from Tampa (Fla.) Plant. Johnson reclassified from the class of 2014 to the class of 2013 when he transferred to Montverde to follow St. Patrick’s (N.J.) coach Kevin Boyle to Florida.
Who’s Not Here
• Wisconsin has had the least attrition of any of the Final Four teams. The Badgers have lost only three players who signed during the 2010-13 recruiting cycles, according to Rivals.com. Two transferred and one, Evan Anderson, left the team in February.
• Kentucky has lost eight players since 2010 who left as underclassmen for the NBA Draft, more than double the other three teams combined. UConn lost two (Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb), Florida lost one (Bradley Beal) and Wisconsin lost none.
• As none of the Final Four teams are relying on transfers, none have lost major players due to transfers. The Final Four teams have lost a combined eight players from the last four recruiting cycles to transfers.
• Coincidentally, South Dakota State has a loose connection to the Final Four. Cody Larson, who was dismissed from Florida, transferred to play for the Jackrabbits; he averaged 13.1 points this season for SDSU. In January, George Marshall announced intentions to transfer from Wisconsin to South Dakota State.