The midseason arrival and departures of college basketball players in December lets us put together the first true Top 50 teams with the best chance at March Madness success.
The newly updated Value Add Basketball rankings of all 4000 players, compared with injuries listed at DonBest and preseason subjective ratings of players by CBS Sports, gives us the following top 50 basketball teams based on how the rest of their season should play out.
Our ranking, followed by the team value add and whether that figure should go up or down (plus or minus signs) based on personnel changes:
- Duke, 51+++, Duke was within a point of 1st in Value Add without any games from potential All-American Harry Giles and only five games from potential All-American Jayson Tatum. Luke Kennard has been the 3rd best Value Add Player and Amile Jefferson is about to take the court for the first time after injury and is ranked 8th by CBS, so even with Grayson Allen trying to get his head straight this is the team to beat.
- Kentucky, 51++, Three freshman and one sophomore are both the in the CBS subjective top 100 and the Value Add top 200 – and unheard of feat.
- North Carolina, 51+, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry are in the top 50 in both Value Add and CBS for the best duo in the country, and Kennedy Meeks isn’t far behind.
- Virginia, 52, Dismissed Austin Nichols was expected to be the star, but London Perrantes is as good as expected, and freshman Kyle Guy is even better. Isaiah Wilkins gives UVa three in the top 4% of all players.
- Villanova, 51, Josh Hart is the Value Add Player of the Year so far, and Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are both top 200 in both. The first two are seniors, hoping the experience will help them repeat.
- UCLA, 44+++, Freshman TJ Leaf (6-foot-10) has surged into the Value Add top 50 to join Lonzo Ball as the best freshman duo in the country. Add CBS top 75 players Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford – both seniors, and the Bruins could make the big run. I know, they beat Kentucky.
- Oregon, 39+++, After a slow start, Dillon Brooks (CBS 3rd) and Chris Boucher (CBS 55th) exploded to beat previously unbeaten UCLA and USC to show their true potential for a run.
- Kansas, 51, Josh Jackson was the CBS preseason All-American candidate, but Frank Mason is No. 2 in Value Add Player of the Year. Devonte Graham is top 100 in both, but Carlton Bragg has not quite lived up to lofty goals for the year.
- Baylor, 50, Not sure anyone has been better so far this year. Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil have been top 40 in Value Add, while CBS put Johnathan Motley in the top 50.
- Gonzaga, 45, Nigel Williams-Goss is top 100 in both, but three additional zags are in the Value Add top 300, so this may be there best team.
- Louisville, 45 – Donovan Mitchell is top 200 in Value Add and top 100 in CBS, and despite the huge home win against Kentucky it’s not clear they have enough for a big run.
- Purdue, 45, Caleb Swanigan is even better than expected (24th Value Add, 51st CBS) to lead a loaded team.
- Creighton, 40++, With Khyri Thomas in the top 60 in Value Add and Mo Watson and Marcus Foster ranked their by CBS, this trio can go very far.
- Florida, 44++, The SEC should be dominated by Kentucky and the Gators, and Devin Robinson stepping up to be a top 50 player to complement KeVaughn Allen gives them a dominant duo.
- Arizona, 43, They can surge if Allonzo Trier regains eligibility and Parker Jackson-Cartwright recovers after several games out.
- Clemson, 42++, Jaron Blossomgame is almost living up to CBS’ 12th place ranking, and transfer Elijah Thomas’ first few games since becoming eligible have him on pace to join five other Tigers in the top 400 – likely the most balanced pop of any team in the land.
- Xavier, 42+, JP Macura’s surge to 16th in Value Add, giving a powerful trio with CBS top 40 players Edmond Sumner and Tervon Bluiett.
- Saint Mary’s, 43+, Jock Landale is Value Add’s 34th best player to add the big inside punch to guard Emmett Naar (CBS 86th, Value Add 151st).
- Florida St., 41+, The CBS top 70 trio of Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac have been good but not great – we expect them to get closer to their potential.
- Wisconsin, 49, Of the three Badgers ranked in the top 40 by CBS, 7-footer Ethan Happ has been the best (26th) so far based on Value Add.
- West Virginia, 46 —, Incredible coach Bob Huggins is at it again, but with none of his players in the CBS top 100 and only Jevon Carter (48th) in the top 200 of Value Add, we do not expect them to finish quite as high.
- Indiana, 39+, Robert Johnson is in the Value Add Top 200, the CBS top 60 trio of Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon and OG Anunoby needs to step up.
- Cincinnati, 40+, Jacob Evans top 70 performance so far gives a great trio with two CBS players in that range in Troy Caupain and Gary Clark.
- Wichita St., 45 –, Great balance, but Markis McDuffie needs to step up even more (83rd CBS, 280th Value Add).
- Butler, 43, Kelan Martin was the one CBS top 100 player, but Value Add shows Andrew Chrabascz, Tyler Lewis and Tyler Wideman are all playing at a high level.
- Michigan St., 33+++, a slow start, but CBS Top 50 players Eron Harris and Miles Bridges sure to kick in for Tom Izzo after the brutal early season schedule.
- Notre Dame, 38+, Bonzie Colson is a top 60 Value Add player, and VJ Beachem top 60 in CBS.
- Iowa St., 39, Monte Morris (8th in CBS and 23rd in Value Add) is a true All-American candidate.
- Michigan, 39, Derrick Walton is the only CBS top 100 player, but they can shut teams down.
- Houston, 37+, Ron Gray surged to 32nd in Value Add, while Damyean Dotson is almost living up to his top 100 CBS pick.
- SMU, 37+ Semi Ojeleye joins Shake Milton in the Value Add top 100, while Milton was also put in the top 100 by CBS.
- Utah, 34++, big upside with Kyle Kuzma (CBS 77th, only played 8 games) and star transfer David Collette only playing four games so far.
- Virginia Tech, 36+, Zach LeDay is top 100 based on CBS or Value Add, while Chris Clarke has surprised in the top 100 of Value Add and Seth Allen needs to live up to his top 100 billing.
- USC, 33, Jordan McLaughlin is top 100 in both, but do not believe their undefeated start is indicative of the rest of the season.
- Miami FL, 38, Nice balance, but no superstars emerging yet.
- Davidson, 33++, How far can two players take you? CBS ranked Jack Gibbs in the Top 30 in the country, and Value Add calculates that not only has he lived up to it but Peyton Aldridge has as well.
- Texas Tech, 40–, While a great start to the season, I do not see quite the level of talent to stay at this level.
- Wake Forest, 37, John Collins and Bryant Crawford are both surprising top 100 Value Add picks.
- Arkansas, 34+, Two CBS top 100 players gives them a shot to compete for the third spot in the SEC, but no one can touch Florida or Kentucky.
- Syracuse, 35+, They have not lived up to the level of one of the few teams with three CBS top 100 players, but they could kick into gear.
- Oklahoma St., 34++, With three top 200 Value Add players, and two of them on the CBS level as well, this team has potential.
- South Carolina, 34++, Sindarius Thornwell’s return in January could give them two players in Value Add’s top 70, along with PJ Dozier. Look for a run then.
- Marquette, 37-, Incredible three-point shooting from freshman and steals on defense give MU a chance to finish as high as 5th in the Big East, but with injuries and transfers they are down to a 7- or 8-man rotation.
- Kansas St., 36-, DJ Johnson top 200.
- Ohio St., 34, Jae’Sean Tate was ironically rated 101st by CBS and is exactly 101st in Value Add, a direct hit.
- UNC Wilmington, 33, Value Add shows a strong trio of Devontae Cacok (88th), Denzel Ingram (165th) and CJ Bryce (323rd) that could be good enough for an at-large bid.
- Georgia, 33+++, Yante Maten and JJ Frazier are one of the only duos in the top 100 of both the CBS and Value Add lists. If neither of them get in foul trouble, UGA can beat anyone in the SEC except Florida and Kentucky.
- TCU, 34, Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams being just outside the Value Add top 100 might give them just enough.
- VCU, 33, JeQuan Lewis 41st in Value Add.
- (tie) Seton Hall, 32, Khadeen Carrington is 102nd, but if Angel Delgado lives up to his 67th ranking in CBS they have a shot to go as high as 5th in the Big East. (tied for 50th) BYU, 32, CBS ranked Eric Mika and Nick Emery in the Top 100 piece, and Mika has lived up to it as the 51st best player according to Value Add.
Teams We Left Out Due to Injuries
Dayton, 35-, Charles Cooke is top 100 in both, but transfer Josh Cunningham being out until February will hurt.
Rhode Island, 35—, Hassan Martin was performing at an All-American level but is out indefinitely. EC Matthews is not living up to his CBS ranking of 60th, so Martin’s absence may really hurt.
Minnesota, 33–, with Amir Coffey out indefinitely, the load may be too heavy for Nate Mason along (110th in Value Add).
Northwestern, 33, Scottie Lindsey is 125th, but an injury to one of three supporting players he needs (Dererk Pardon) could hurt their chances.
Georgetown, 30, The loss of CBS top 100 player Isaac Copeland kept Georgetown from having three top 100 players this year, as Value Add ranks Rodney Pryor (44th( and LJ Peak 100th).