NCAA Tournament 2012: Ranking Top 25 Seniors Heading into 2013
It's 2012, by now it's hardly en vogue to stick around college basketball for four years. If you do, it shows weakness, a lack of ability or that something else is keeping you at school. And that's not the way you've been raised.
The unwritten motto for college basketball players is, "Get out as soon as you can." But that doesn't mean there won't be a great many seniors in college basketball.
And unlike most seasons, some of the best players in the entire country will be seniors in 2012-13. Here are 25 of those senior stars who will make us remember the good 'ol days of college basketball.
25. Aziz N'Diaye, C, Washington
Aziz N'Diaye isn't exactly an offensive firecracker for the Washington Huskies. He's somewhere between the 5th and 287th scoring option on the team. Yet, he managed 8.0 points per game on 53 percent shooting.
And the seven-footer carried his weight on defense by grabbing almost eight rebounds per game and averaging a blocked shot every game.
In 2012-13 look for N'Diaye to step up his offense a little more and become even more dominant on the defensive a la Louisville's Gorgui Dieng.
24. Andre Dawkins, G, Duke
Few things motivate athletes the way failure does. Andre Dawkins and the rest of his Duke team failed to win a first round game against 15-seed Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament.
Look for Dawkins to exemplify senior leadership next season in Durham as the team looks to avenge its' embarrassing loss and advance deep into the tournament.
It will not likely have a Kyrie Irving or Austin Rivers walking through the door to rescue everything. That puts the onus on Dawkins and fellow senior Seth Curry to get the job done.
23. Kevin Parrom, G, Arizona
In 2012, Kevin Parrom became one of Arizona's best players and nearly led them to the NCAA Tournament. In the next year look for Parrom to take a leap and improve the aspects of his game where he is not proficient.
He has a chance to become a top player in the Pac-12 conference if he does.
22. Kenny Boynton, G, Florida
With Erving Walker and Bradley Beal playing alongside him in the backcourt it would be easy to assume Kenny Boynton was mostly an afterthought for opponents in game-planning. And you might even think Billy Donovan didn't consider Boynton to be such an important player.
Yet Boynton was the Gators' leading scorer this season, shooting over 40 percent from three-point range.
If the 6'2" guard can improve some of his playmaking stats, look for Boynton to creep into All-American conversation in 2013.
21. Zeke Marshall, C, Akron
Three seasons in a row, Zeke Marshall has upped his scoring and rebounding numbers. And each season he's grown in already astronomical shot-blocking statistics. That is what he does best.
At 7'0", the fact is hardly surprising. What is a little surprising is Marshall is a 70 percent free throw shooter. The senior-to-be could be this year's version of Andrew Nicholson—an uber-talented big man from a mid-major who breaks out with his team making a surprising run in March.
I'd be willing to bet on it. For now, Marshall still has to prove some things to get all the pub he could get a year from now.
20. Trent Lockett, G/F, Arizona State
Trent Lockett is currently projected as a late second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. After a down season in his junior season at Arizona State, his stock has dropped slightly. And his rep as a potential top college player has as well, with the Sun Devils leveling down at the bottom of a pathetic Pac-12 conference.
Lockett needs to get busy in his senior season to save his rep and his draft stock. Otherwise, even the No. 20 position on this list will be overrating him.
19. Dexter Strickland, G, North Carolina
Dexter Strickland missed the second half of the 2012 season with an injury. The former McDonald's All-American wasn't exactly tearing it up for the Tar Heels, registering only 7.5 points and two assists per game.
But the Tar Heels will likely be starting over in 2013, with Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall all but gone, and James McAdoo a possible casualty to the NBA Lottery as well. Strickland will have to lead a team devoid of leadership.
If he can do that, his draft stock will improve as would his reputation in North Carolina lore.
18. Solomon Hill, F, Arizona
Solomon Hill, the 6'6" junior forward filled in admirably for Derrick Williams in 2012. With 13 points per game and 7.7 rebounds, Hill was eerily reminiscent of Williams in terms of versatility and ability to be a true "point forward".
If Hill can improve on those marks in 2013, he could gain some clout around the country and contend for similar awards that his predecessor did a year ago. And with Kevin Parrom also sticking around in Tuscon, the 'Cats could make another extended tournament run.
17. Seth Curry, G, Duke
Wearing the No. 30 with that shooting form, Seth Curry kind of reminds you of someone doesn't he? Unlike his brother Stephen, Seth has not had a bang-up college career. And his performance in the NCAA Tournament has been underwhelming at best.
But he has one more year to prove the haters wrong. He did average 13.2 points per game on 38 percent shooting from deep. That percentage needs to improve in the 2012-13 season for the Blue Devils to improve as a team and for Curry to be viewed in similar terms as his father and brother.
16. Robert Covington, F, Tennessee State
Robert Covington is probably the best player in the country that you've never heard of. In 2012, he averaged 17.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg and averaged more than 1.0 in all the other common statistical categories (steals, blocks, assists).
The 6'9" forward is capable of being an NBA swingman, and thus who is to say for sure if he'll even be around for Tennessee State? But if he is, it's almost certain Covington will make Tennessee State a dangerous team to face in the NCAA Tournament next March.
15. Erick Green, G, Virginia Tech
With 15.6 points per game and approximately three rebounds and assists per game, Erick Green is one of the better senior-to-be players in the country. With a successful senior campaign Green has the opportunity to sneak into the first round draft talk come next May.
And if he can take the next step in the ACC, he will be honored in college basketball circles and taken seriously in draft circles as well.
14. Drew Crawford, G, Northwestern
In 2012, Northwestern made its most serious run at an NCAA Tournament bid. In the end, they came up a tad bit short. But Drew Crawford was a major reason the group came as close as they did.
His 16 points, 4.7 rebounds and two dimes per game aided the Wildcats in Big Ten play and nearly got them to the pinnacle of the sport. Look for Crawford to improve in 2013 and the 'Cats might just make the tournament next season.
13. Chase Tapley, G, San Diego State
I admit this is a biased perspective. Most scouts and college analysts wouldn't place Chase Tapley this high. But I honestly am unsure why. Tapley is the kind of player who can score 10 points in a minute.
When he gets hot he can carry a team on his back. He is an excellent finisher around the basket, great defender and has a high basketball IQ. To me he's Arron Afflalo 2.0.
Though his teammate Jamaal Franklin took Mountain West Player of the Year honors from him in 2012, look for Tapley to reclaim those rights in 2013 as the Aztecs will be one of the most loaded teams in the entire country.
They are likely to begin the season ranked in the top-10 and and even more likely to be around when it matters most next March. Tapley, though, will be the one who determines just how far the team goes.
12. Khris Middleton, F, Texas A&M
In 2012, Khris Middleton regressed slightly playing for an Aggies squad that struggled mightily. With the program's move to the SEC, Middleton will have an advantage playing against teams who don't know his game as well.
And that ought to work just fine for he and the Aggies. Look for Texas A&M to make some big time noise in 2013.
11. Elijah Johnson, G, Kansas
With this year's Kansas Jayhawks squad surprising everyone to no end by reaching the Final Four, it is clear the talent on the team was better than most people realized; myself included.
Yes, they are led by Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and Jeff Withey. But Elijah Johnson has been a very productive player for the team.
With the aforementioned three likely gone next season, Johnson will be left to carry on the great legacy of Kansas basketball. Obviously, talent will abound around him, but it will be Johnson's team to carry.
10. Ray Turner, F, Texas A&M
In 2012, Ray Turner had his finest campaign as a collegiate player just missing the 10 ppg mark and hauling in 5.5 rebounds.
At 6'9" Turner is still learning how to use his body effectively. Look for him to finish his college career over the 10 ppg mark and get well above six rebounds per game.
Playing in a tough SEC conference, doing so would be pretty special.
9. Jeronne Maymon, F, Tennessee
Jeronne Maymon was a dominant force down low for Tennessee in stretches. Under Cuonzo Martin, the Volunteers are much more reliant on their post players than under Bruce Pearl.
Maymon was the perfect guy to shoulder the new load. In an early season game against Memphis in Maui, Maymon recorded 32 points and 20 rebounds.
If he can simply become more consistent, Maymon could be one of the most dominant players in all of college basketball next season in his senior year.
8. Alex Oriakhi, C, Connecticut (for Now)
Alex Oriakhi was a key cog in the middle for Connecticut's shocking NCAA Tournament run a season ago. Next season, he will likely be a key cog in someone else's championship run. He recently announced he will be transferring for his senior season.
There are some teams who would love to add him. And he will be able to play due to an NCAA Waiver allowing players to play immediately if transferring from an institute ineligible for NCAA Tournament play.
Oriakhi will definitely help someone a ton next season.
7. Carl Jones, G, St. Joseph's
Carl Jones has about as many tattoos as he does assists in his career. Okay that's not actually true; he is actually a quite able passer, averaging 3.3 dimes per game.
But it would be easy to think that since he is an electric scorer who has averaged 17 points per game for two consecutive seasons. The main issue he faces is that he really hasn't improved in any area in that time.
His senior season needs to be his time to take the next step. He needs to become a better shooter based on his shooting percentages. If he does, he'll become a 20 ppg scorer. And if he does that St.Joe's could find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament. And Jones could find himself in the first round of the NBA Draft.
6. Milton Jennings, F, Clemson
Sure Milton Jennings' numbers are hardly anything to boast of. Based simply on statistics Jennings should maybe No. 25 on this list.
But the Clemson Tiger is immensely talented and has the feel of a player ready to really break out as a senior. I don't really know why I just have a feeling he could become ACC Player of the Year next season. If not, oh well.
5. Peyton Siva, G, Louisville
Peyton Siva is a draft-eligible player, and if he were to declare this year he could be picked late. But Rick Pitino would probably be the first person to tell you Siva still has a lot to work on.
That said, Siva is the kind of player who can take over a game and dominate without scoring a ton of points. He is a great facilitator and leader.
And I almost forget, he's a major reason the Cardinals are headed to New Orleans for a matchup with in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday.
4. C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Two weeks ago 99.9 percent of America had no idea who C.J. McCollum was. Now that number is probably around 90 percent. It's amazing how the NCAA Tournament can take a person and make them somewhat of a legend in almost no time.
Assuming the electric guard returns to Lehigh, he figures to lead a team beaming with confidence to another NCAA Tournament. And the reward figures to be a first-round draft grade.
3. Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray State
Isaiah Canaan (pronounced Canon) is a devilishly quick point guard. Though diminutive in size, he led Murray State to its finest season in program history.
There's little reason to believe Isaiah and co. won't return to the tournament in 2013 and, with a years' experience under their belts, make some serious noise.
2. Tony Mitchell, F, Alabama
Tony Mitchell was one of four suspended players by Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant this past season. Mitchell was second on the team in scoring with 13 points per game and seven rebounds.
In 2013, he will be called on to lead this team back to "The Big Dance." If he can do that, his stock and reputation will grow immensely.
1. Jared Cunnigham, F/G, Oregon State
Jared Cunnigham should have been the Pac-12 player of the year this season. He scored nearly 18 points per game, grabbed close to four rebounds per game and nearly dished three assists.
He led the Beavers to an impressive upset win over Washington in the Pac-12 tournament and has played well in CBI Tournament.
Cunningham could leave early for the NBA, but if he doesn't look for him to be a leading contender not only for Pac-12 player of the year but All-America status.
All player statistics taken from StatSheet.com.