NCAA Tournament 2012: Power Ranking Top 20 Players in Final Four

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: Power Ranking Top 20 Players in Final Four

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    The 2012 NCAA tournament has been jam-packed with intense games and has showcased some exciting players and quite a few of the top ones are left—including Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis, among others. I've already ranked the Final Four teams left in March Madness.

    Now I'm giving you my top 20 players in the Final Four.

    I'm prepared to catch some flack on a few of these, but that's the reality of ranking players. You're always going to upset someone. Hopefully I did a good enough job of validating my rankings to please everyone though.

    This is just my opinion, and one thing we know about opinions is that everyone has them. This was certainly not an easy task.

    I also linked each name to their ESPN stat page for those that want to look further into these players.

20. Jeff Withey, Kansas

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    The Kansas Jayhawks have a mountain in the middle. Their 7' junior center Jeff Withey has blocked shots with the best of them in this tourney run.

    Not only is Withey averaging five blocks per game, he swatted away 10 shots against NC State—one block shy of the NCAA tournament record. Two of those blocks were in the final minutes and led to transition points for Kansas.

    I like what Withey brings on the defensive side of the ball, but he lacks in other departments. I can live with nine points per game from a center. What I can't live with is only six rebounds per game in the tournament.

    Though I like this guy, his one-dimensional game pushed him to the back of my list.

19. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

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    Much like Withey, Louisville's sophomore center from Senegal doesn't boast a broad set of skills. He is much more intimidating on the defensive end than on offense.

    Gorgui Dieng is 6'11” with a long pair of arms to cause havoc in the paint. Dieng has 13 blocks so far in the tournament, including seven in the Cardinals' upset of Michigan State.

    Dieng is averaging seven points and eight rebounds per game in the tournament, which doesn't put him very high above Jeff Withey. However, he sports a little more athleticism, and I see a higher ceiling for Dieng.

18. Kyle Kuric, Louisville

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    Louisville's senior guard Kyle Kuric is a pretty good all-around player but has looked merely average in the tournament. Kuric is averaging close to 10 points per game, but his shooting has been well below par.

    Kyle Kuric is only shooting 36 percent from the field and is 5-of-21 from beyond the arc. He has helped on the defensive side, with three blocks and four steals to add to his totals.

    I expected more out of Kuric in this year's tourney, but I just haven't seen it. He had three 20-point games during the season but hasn't scored more than 13 in the tournament.

17. William Buford, Ohio State

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    William Buford is another disappointment for me. And I can imagine I'll catch some heat for putting him this low on my list, but Ohio State's senior guard just hasn't performed this year.

    Buford is wrapping up his collegiate career with his worst season of shooting yet. Last year, he showed us that he is one of the best spot-up shooters in the game—and had no trouble knocking it down in clutch moments.

    In the 2010-11 season, Buford knocked down 44 percent of his attempted three-pointers. This year, he is down to 35 percent—the lowest percentage of his career. He hasn't turned it on in the tournament either, going 7-of-21 from beyond the arc.

    It isn't just his three-point shooting. Buford has only made 28 percent of his shots from the floor and is averaging 12 points per game.

    Buford has helped on defense, picking up five steals so far. But that isn't enough to push him higher up on the list. It's been a disappointing senior campaign for Buford.

16. Chane Behanan, Louisville

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    Louisville's freshman forward Chane Behanan can be quite a load on the inside. I love his size—6'6”, 250 pounds—and I love that he knows how to throw it around.

    I think we have only seen a small glimpse of Chane Behanan's potential, and I can definitely see him climbing this list next year. So far, he is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds per game in the tourney.

    Behanan has great moves in the post and has the ability to score from most areas of the floor. He is also sinking 68 percent of his shots in the tournament. I'd like to rank him higher, but I've yet to see him truly take over a game.

15. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State

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    Ohio State's sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. wasn't off to a great start in the first two games of the tournament. In those games, he scored a total of 10 points. Against Cincinnati and Syracuse he scored 17 and 18 points, respectively.

    Smith has stepped it up for the Buckeyes to become the go-to guy on the outside. He is 7-of-15 from the arc and 6-of-10 in his last two games.

    With Buford's poor shooting, the Buckeyes have been lucky to have this young guard as a weapon.

14. Marquis Teague, Kentucky

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    I really like the upside of Kentucky's freshman point guard Marquis Teague. The brother of the Atlanta Hawks' Jeff Teague caught a lot of flack during the regular season. But he has stepped up his game for the tournament.

    Teague only averaged 10 points per game during the regular season but is scoring 15 points per game in the tournament, along with dishing out five assists per game. He scored 24 points against Iowa State.

    Marquis Teague doesn't really penetrate with the regularity of his brother, but that may come with time. He does push the ball up the floor very well, making Kentucky's transitional offense even more lethal.

    This kid has loads of potential but still has a lot to work on. That's why he is the lowest-ranked point guard on this list.

13. Russ Smith, Louisville

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    I really like the athleticism and shooting ability of Louisville's sophomore guard Russ Smith. He also handles the ball well—and took over at point when Peyton Siva fouled out against Florida.

    In that game, Smith scored 19 points to help propel the Cardinals into the Final Four.

    For the tournament, Russ Smith is averaging 13 points per game and has buried 7-of-10 three-pointers. He has also given the defense a little boost, with five steals so far.

    Smith has played a big role in getting Louisville where they are now.

12. Elijah Johnson, Kansas

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    I swear, if it wasn't for the number on the jersey, I would be mixing Elijah Johnson up with Tyshawn Taylor. The junior guard plays a very similar game to Taylor—and splits time at the point.

    Johnson only averaged 10 points per game through the season but is averaging 14 per game in the tournament. His assists have gone down though. I'd like to see him step it up there. His defense has been solid, snatching five steals during this Kansas run.

    Elijah Johnson is super quick and has knocked down 54 percent of his shots from the floor. He is also 9-of-20 from three-point range.

    Though his averages aren't quite as good as Teague's, he passes my eye test with flying colors. If Johnson didn't share the role with Taylor, we would probably see those averages go up.

11. Darius Miller, Kentucky

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    Kentucky's senior guard Darius Miller has outstanding size for his position at 6'8” and 225 pounds. His numbers may have you questioning why he made it this high on my list, but take into consideration the amount of talent on this team. Miller has the size and skills, but there are just too many people to get the ball to.

    Miller is a good outside shooter and can score in the post. He also has a pretty nice pull-up jumper to add to his repertoire. He has knocked down 59 percent of his shots in the tournament and is 5-of-10 from beyond the arc.

    The only real downside I see in his game is on defense. He gets beaten a lot on the first step, allowing his opponent to get in the lane.

    I'd still like to see Miller get a little more action in the remaining game(s).

10. Peyton Siva, Louisville

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    I really like Louisville's junior point guard Peyton Siva. He's another guy that won't blow you away with statistics, but his play is invaluable to this team.

    I don't consider Siva a speedster, but he has quick feet and is very agile. He has good vision and likes to feed his teammates off penetration. He actually has the ability to score but will usually pass it off instead.

    Siva is only scoring nine points per game in the tournament—and that's with a 17-point game in the mix.

    He is averaging seven assists per game though.

    I'm impressed with the way Siva has played the point position, from every aspect.

9. Aaron Craft, Ohio State

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    Offensively, I like Peyton Siva a little more than Ohio State's Aaron Craft. But the way Craft plays on defense earned him a higher spot on my list.

    The Buckeyes' sophomore point guard is probably one of the more pesky defenders in the tournament. He is super energetic and locks up his opponent as soon as they cross midcourt. Craft is tough enough to take contact and takes pride in picking pockets.

    Aaron Craft is averaging three steals per game and snatched up six of them against Cincinnati.

    Craft doesn't do much to create offense. He is only averaging 10 points and six assists per game. But he does take care of the ball, averaging three turnovers per game.

8. Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas

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    I've been a little disappointed with the Jayhawks' senior point guard. Tyshawn Taylor hasn't put up a lot of numbers and has yet to knock down a three, but he is a lot better than the stat lines would indicate.

    Taylor is a great athlete with outstanding speed. And he is the Final Four point guard that shines the most on both sides of the ball.

    Taylor is only averaging 12 points per game in the tourney, but he really stepped his game up against North Carolina. Taylor scored 22 points and swiped five steals. He is averaging three steals per game.

    Taylor even grabbed 10 rebounds in the NC State game.

    Tyshawn Taylor can usually hit shots from all over the floor, but he is struggling with the three-ball in the tournament. For the season, he sinks 38 percent of his shots beyond the arc. In the tournament, he is 0-for-17.

7. Doron Lamb, Kentucky

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    The Wildcats' sophomore guard Doron Lamb may not take a lot of shots, but it's just another case of the talent pool in Kentucky.

    Lamb has converted 56 percent of his shots in the tournament, helping him reach a 17 points-per-game average—and he only takes nine shots per game.

    Lamb is also Kentucky's best three-point shooter, burying 47 percent on the season. For the tournament, he is 9-of-15 from downtown.

    If this Kentucky team wasn't so stacked, you'd probably hear a little more about him.

6. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

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    I may ruffle some feathers here. A lot of people wouldn't put Jared Sullinger any further back than the three-spot. But I'm not a lot of people.

    It's not that I don't like his game, but he doesn't have a wide range of skills. He is a big, strong beast of a man without much of a jump shot. I also don't consider him an outstanding defender.

    But Ohio State's sophomore forward is still a force to be reckoned with. Sullinger abuses opponents with his 6'9”, 265-pound frame. He has great moves in the post and can bully his way to the basket with ease.

    Sullinger does a good job of positioning himself for rebounding and scoring opportunities. He is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game in the tourney. He isn't a big blocker, but he did manage to swat five of Loyola's shots.

    I like Jared Sullinger's game, but I just don't think it's complete.

5. Terrence Jones, Kentucky

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    Much like Sullinger, Kentucky's sophomore forward Terrence Jones has no problem knocking people around at 6'9”, 252 pounds—though he plays more of a small forward role. He also sports a much longer range than Sullinger.

    Jones is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game. Not only does he have a great outside shot and can play in the post, he also has no problem taking a defender to the basket from the top of the key.

    On the defensive end, Jones has picked up five steals and six blocks in the tournament. He's also a great finisher in transition.

    Terrence Jones is a very versatile forward that can score from all parts of the floor and in a variety of ways. If he can improve on his 33 percent three-point shooting, he will be an amazing talent in the future.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky

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    What's not to like about Kentucky's freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?

    Kidd-Gilchrist has good hands, decent speed and can get in the lane fast with his long strides.  He also has great body control, allowing him to score from a variety of positions. He may be Kentucky's best finisher.

    Kidd-Gilchrist was absent on offense in the first two games of the tournament, only scoring a total of 11 points. He has finally shifted gears and has put up 24 and 19 points in his last two games.

    His only other 20-point game came in the regular season against Louisville. Keep that in mind this weekend.

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has knocked down 51 percent of his shots from the floor and is averaging close to 14 points and seven rebounds per game. He has also converted 15-of-17 free throws through the tourney—which I love to see from positions other than guard.

3. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

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    Even though he was averaging 16 points per game through the season, Ohio State's sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas was a little off my radar coming into the tournament. He's certainly on it now.

    Jared Sullinger gets most of the shine, but I'm much higher on Thomas. He can score in the post with a nice turnaround jumper, or he can knock it down from the arc—it doesn't matter with this guy.

    During the regular season, he had seven games where he scored 20 points or more—including a 30-point game against South Carolina. The postseason hasn't been any different.

    He scored 31 points against Loyola in the second round.

    Thomas is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds per game in the tournament. He is also shooting 51 percent from the floor and 41 percent beyond the arc.

    If there is anyone Kansas needs to worry about, it's Deshaun Thomas.

2. Thomas Robinson, Kansas

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    The Jayhawks' junior forward Thomas Robinson wasn't up for Player of the Year for no good reason. Robinson is a beast and can score in just about every way.

    Robinson is 6'10”, 237 pounds, but I'd venture to say he plays even bigger. He dominates the post with his physicality and overall athleticism. He can also hit shots from all areas of the floor. He may not shoot the three-ball much, but he is 7-of-14 on the season.

    Robinson has yet to put up one of his usual 20-point games in the tournament, but he is averaging 16 points per game. He's been dominating the boards, averaging 13 rebounds per game.

    Seemingly like every other greedy Jayhawk, he also has five steals.

    Thomas Robinson is simply dominant.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

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    I really wanted to put Robinson ahead of Anthony Davis, but this kid's skill set is off the charts. For a freshman, Kentucky's forward boasts a very high basketball IQ, and his positioning on both sides of the ball just amazes me.

    Davis is also surprisingly athletic for a guy that lanky. Like UNC's John Henson, he is 6'10” and only 220 pounds. And even though I love Henson, I'd definitely say Davis is a better version of him.

    Davis runs the floor very well for a big and has soft hands for catching the long pass or lobs. He's also another big that can shoot it all over the floor. Anywhere from 14-19' is no problem for Davis.

    If you didn't know by now, he's also an outstanding shot blocker—averaging five per game through the tournament. He also snags 11 rebounds per game. Again, the guy positions himself very well on the floor.

    Oh, and did I mention he also has 11 assists over the four games? He's a good passer too.

    Davis is scoring 15 points per game and could easily score more. He is just that dominant. On top of everything else he does well, he also converts 78 percent of his free throws—which is crucial for a big.

    Anthony Davis just does it all. I can't give this kid enough praise. I think this is one spot few can argue about.