College Basketball: The 20 Best Seniors in College Hoops Next Season

Ron Pasceri@@RonPasceriCorrespondent IIJune 3, 2012

College Basketball: The 20 Best Seniors in College Hoops Next Season

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    As everyone knows, college has changed over the last two decades.  Gone are the days of watching future stars develop over a four-year career.

    With the game's top performers heading out after a year or two for the riches of the NBA, there aren't many big-time seniors remaining.

    This era of college basketball is owned by the one-and-done fraternity or the super sophomores.  Despite the current climate, there is still value in having seniors and there are plenty worth watching in 2012-13.

    While this list is far from definitive, it's a good start.  With this type of list I avoid using multiple players from the same team.  I like to spread the wealth and cast as wide a net as possible.

    No reader will agree 100 percent with this list so please feel free to voice your opinions in the comments or give your own list if you choose.  I may not even agree completely with this list when I read it back later. 

    Here are my top 20 college seniors for the 2012-13 college basketball season.

20. Reggie Johnson, Miami

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    Reggie Johnson isn't an electrifying player or athlete.  He is also a little under-the-radar after being limited to 23 games by injury last season.

    His effectiveness was also limited as his scoring and rebounding totals dipped.  Even with a decrease in production, he averaged 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and a block per game.  

    As a sophomore, he put up 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.  For his career he is shooting 54.6 percent from the field and 70.8 percent from the foul line.  He's also nailed 4-of-11 from beyond the arc.

    Johnson has weight and effort issues but he is a dominating physical presence in the college game.

    He can rebound with anyone and is an incredibly efficient scorer around the basket.  If he can stay healthy this season he could be one of the nation's best big men. 

19. Tim Frazier, Penn State

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    Another highly under-appreciated player is Penn State's Tim Frazier.  His lack of accolades stems from the poor play of his team.

    As a lone gunman, Frazier stands out for his performance under difficult circumstances.

    Frazier averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game as a junior, all team-highs.  He also got to the free throw line 6.3 times per game.

    He is an aggressive scorer and an unselfish playmaker who can wreak havoc on defense.  He's also a tremendous rebounder for a 6'1" guard.

    If he can continue his improvement and become more efficient with his shooting, he'll be an All-American candidate next year.

    If he's really lucky, maybe his teammates will give him some help as well.

18. Arsalan Kazemi, Rice

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    At 6'7" and 205 pounds, Arsalan Kazemi is a man without a true position.

    He's too short and slight for power forward and doesn't have the perimeter skills of a small forward.  Despite that, he has quietly put together an outstanding college career.

    Over three seasons he has averages of 12.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 54.9 percent shooting from the field.

    He has averaged double figures in scoring in all three seasons and never less than 9.1 rebounds per game.  Last season he improved defensively, averaging 2.1 steals and 1.0 block per game.

    Kazemi has great length and energy, which allows him to compete in all phases of the game.  He is a tremendous rebounder and a good defender with the ability to provide some scoring pop.

    He'll never be a household name at Rice but he is a very good college player and one of the best seniors in the game.

17. Brandon Davies, Brigham Young

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    Brandon Davies is likely best known for his dismissal from the team during the Jimmer Fredette season.  Soon he may be known for more than that.

    Davies is a bruising 6'9" power forward with great athleticism and a ton of energy.  Few players finished the season more impressively than he did.

    Over his last seven games he averaged 19.7 points per game with three double-doubles.  In two NCAA Tournament games he averaged 18.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks.

    Davies has increased his production in each of his three seasons, finishing last year with 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.  He's also efficient offensively, shooting 52.3 percent from the field in his career.

    Expect BYU to be a dangerous team next season with Davies dominating inside on both ends of the floor.

16. Peyton Siva, Louisville

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    Peyton Siva is one of the quickest and fastest players in college basketball.  He is also an exceptional leader with a ton of experience running a team.

    In each of his two seasons as a full-time starter he has averaged over 9.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game.  He can get into the lane, find the open man and is a tenacious defender.

    In helping to lead Louisville to a Final Four last year he averaged 7.0 assists per game in four tournament victories.

    While he runs the offense and leads the defense, his Achilles heel is his shooting.  He isn't very good at it and tries to do it a little too much.  

    If he can grow and play more disciplined offensively he may lead a talented Louisville team on another deep run.  With his experience and seasoning, bet on him to iron out the kinks in his game.

15. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

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    Although he isn't a dynamic athlete, Jack Cooley has become one of the best big men in the Big East.  

    After averaging 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, he won the Big East's Most Improved Player award as a junior.

    He accomplished the feat on the back of 12.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.  If you like efficiency: Cooley has hit 63.2 percent of his field goal attempts the last two seasons.

    Not only did he improve from one year to the next, he got better as last season wore on.  Over his final 12 games he averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

    Cooley is a highly efficient scorer and an offensive rebounding machine.  He was eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding last season with 3.9 per game.

    The Irish may not have the most talented roster but Cooley is the type of post player a team can lean on and win with.

14. Mason Plumlee, Duke

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    With apologies to Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee is an incredibly athletic 6'10" power forward.

    He can finish at the rim with fury as well as rebound and defend.  He has the length and leaping ability to block shots and keep possessions alive on the offensive glass.

    Plumlee has improved every season, averaging 11.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last year.  He shot 57.2 percent from the floor last season but just 52.8 percent from the line.

    His aggressiveness allows him to get to the line a ton so he needs to convert better.  Despite the free throw issues, Plumlee is an explosive player who still has room to grow.

    If he can get better for a fourth consecutive season, the ACC will need to watch out.

13. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota

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    Unfortunately for Trevor Mbakwe, he suffered a devastating ACL injury early last season.  He was playing great basketball with four double-doubles in six and a half games.

    He was averaging 14.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals per game prior to his injury.  He was efficient offensively hitting 60.4 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from the line.

    Mbakwe can score and rebound, plus he is a tenacious defender.  Actually he is tenacious, period.

    He has long arms and a powerful 240-pound body which allow him to bang inside and and clean the glass.

    He's a good athlete as well and he plays the game in the style of Thomas Robinson, which is all out all the time.  If his knee is healthy he will be one of the nation's best players.  Only time will tell.

12. Christian Watford, Indiana

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    Christian Watford isn't an overly versatile player but he is a big-bodied, strong small forward.  He uses his size to help on the boards in addition to his silky shooting.

    Watford's game is predicated on scoring even though his average dipped last year.  He averaged 12.0 points per game as a freshman, 16.0 as a sophomore and 12.6 last year.  

    While his average slipped, his shooting improved.  He shot an outstanding 43.7 percent from three-point range.  Watford hit a game-winning three against Kentucky last year and lit the Wildcats up in two games, going for 23.5 per contest.

    What makes Watford even more special is his performance against better competition.  In 12 games against tournament teams he averaged 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 50.8 percent on threes.

    Indiana is an early favorite to reach the Final Four next year and Watford is a big part of that.

11. Chase Tapley, San Diego State

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    Chase Tapley is part of a devastating backcourt with Jamaal Franklin.  Tapley is a 6'3", 195-pound scoring machine.

    He nearly doubled his production from his sophomore year, with junior averages of 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals.  He shot a blistering 43.3 percent on threes as well.

    Tapley's shooting is a devastating weapon and he can heat up at any moment.  Last season was his breakout year, but next season he can become a college star.

    The Aztecs have become a formidable program and Tapley is a formidable foe on both ends of the floor.  In five games in March he closed the season with 19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and shot 45.2 percent on threes.

    If his finish is any indication, there are big things to come in Tapley's senior year.

10. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's

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    Matthew Dellavedova is just about everything you could hope for in a college point guard.  He has elite size at 6'4" and he is the unquestioned leader of his team.

    He also knows the game and doesn't make mistakes or waste possessions.  In addition to the intangibles, he actually can play.

    Dellavedova's percentages don't necessarily reflect the fact that he can knock down shots from anywhere. He can also set up his teammates and makes everyone around him better.

    He has improved every year and has career averages of 13.7 points, 5.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

    Senior plus point guard is one of the most hallowed combinations in sports and Dellavedova is one of the best.  

9. Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

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    Kansas State's ever-evolving basketball program lost an all-timer in Jacob Pullen, leaving some pretty big shoes to fill.  Rodney McGruder did the job quite admirably.

    McGruder is a great athlete and scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game.  He topped 30 points three times including a 30-point outburst against Southern Miss in the NCAA Tournament.

    Not only can he score, he does it efficiently, shooting 40.1 percent on threes in his career.  He also grabbed 5.2 rebounds per game last season and averaged 1.2 steals per game.

    McGruder is an explosive scorer who can bring it in all phases of the game.  Look for him to be one of the top players in college basketball next season. 

8. Elias Harris, Gonzaga

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    Elias Harris is a grown man for Gonzaga.  He is a versatile forward with great size and power at 6'7" and 245 pounds.  He also has perimeter skills, shooting 40.1 percent from three-point range.

    Harris can score inside and out, averaging 13.1 points per game.  For his career he's shooting a very efficient 52.2 percent from the field.

    Aside from his offensive ability, he can also hit the boards at 8.5 per game last season.  While he doesn't have ideal height, he is strong and athletic and can compete at the highest levels.

    Harris had 12 double-doubles last season and will look to build on his performance so far.  With a lot of experience and his physical makeup, Harris could be a man among boys as a senior.

7. Kenny Boynton, Florida

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    Florida lost its best player, Bradley Beal, and its floor general in Erving Walker.  Luckily they have Kenny Boynton returning.

    Boynton is a natural scorer and has been his entire career.  He's averaging 14.7 points per game over three seasons.  Last year he picked up his play, setting career-highs with 15.9 points per game, 44.6 percent field-goal shooting and 40.7 percent on threes.

    He has the ability to score off the dribble and get to the line, where he is very effective.  Boynton likes hanging around the perimeter but he is a lethal finisher at the basket. 

    Boynton has had three years to develop and he'll likely be the go-to guy next season.  He should up his scoring numbers and offensive efficiency, becoming one of the nation's most explosive scorers.

6. D.J. Cooper, Ohio

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    One of my favorite players in college basketball is D.J. Cooper.  He is electric with the ball in his hands, getting to the basket at will and finding open teammates.  Cooper makes everyone around him better.

    Playing for a small school keeps him under the radar but he has been one of the best point guards in the nation for three seasons.

    For his career he is averaging 14.6 points, 6.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.

    He has atrocious shooting numbers but that's because he can try to do too much and gets stuck with the ball at the end of the shot clock.  Despite the percentages, he has a knack for hitting huge shots and incredibly deep threes.

    His speed is devastating on offense and his quickness and tenacity are equally effective on the other end. 

    Cooper has led Ohio to three NCAA Tournament victories in his career and will look to get back to the Sweet 16 and beyond next year.  He is a huge weapon and one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball.

5. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

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    Lehigh isn't exactly a basketball powerhouse but there is good reason for C.J. McCollum to be this high on the list.

    First of all, he has been a prime-time scorer with a 20.9 points per game average over three seasons.  He averaged 21.9 points per game last season along with 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 steals.

    He may do it against lesser competition, which is what some will say, but don't forget he turned Duke's defense to ribbons in the tournament last year.  

    In the historic upset, he went off for 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals.  He had a tough time against Xavier in the next round but that will only make him hungrier next year.

    You may not hear much about McCollum before March, but expect to get reacquainted when the Madness returns.

4. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

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    Nate Wolters is another small-school player with a big game.  He has great size at 6'4" and 190 pounds.  He doesn't have great athleticism, but he can flat-out play the game.

    Wolters is a very creative offensive player, finding ways to get to the rim no matter whom he's up against.  He can fill it up, create for his teammates and rebound. 

    Last year he averaged 21.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.  The astonishing thing is that he scored so much despite his three-point shooting dropping from 40.8 percent to 24.1 percent.

    He gets to the foul line a ton and converts 80 percent of the time.  Wolters is one of the nation's best players and should have the Jackrabbits back in the tournament next year.

    If he can fix his long-range stroke, he could compete for a collegiate scoring title.

3. Jeff Withey, Kansas

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    I'm sure some readers will feel Jeff Withey is too high on this list and I understand.  He hasn't produced that much in the way of scoring or rebounding, but he is a tremendous defensive center.

    While he hasn't scored much, a lot of that is due to his not being a focal point of the offense.  He isn't a great offensive player but should be able to score 12-14 points per game.

    With more minutes he could approach a double-figure average in rebounds as well.

    Where Withey truly shines is as a shot-blocker.  He will arguably be the best defender in the country.

    Withey amassed 140 blocks last season, averaging 3.6 per game and 5.79 per 40 minutes.  That number may not mean much to you but it was just .02 fewer than Anthony Davis.

    He may not be the flashiest player on his own team, but in my opinion he is the best.

2. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

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    Last season was a magical one for Murray State.  They won a tournament game and were the last undefeated team in the nation.  The biggest reason for that was a little guard named Isaiah Canaan.

    At just 5'11" and 190 pounds, he is small for even a point guard.  What he lacks in size he makes up for in toughness and heart. 

    He also has a tremendous three-point stroke.  For a high-volume shooter, he hit an incredible 45.6 percent from deep.  He also scored 19.0 points per game with 3.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

    Canaan is one of the nation's best shooters and scorers as well as one of the top leaders.  The Racers had aspirations of at least a Sweet 16 last season and Canaan keeps hope alive for one more season.

1. Pierre Jackson, Baylor

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    Pierre Jackson was a newcomer on a loaded Baylor team last season.  Now most of that talent has headed for the next level and Jackson may be the man. 

    In his first year in Division I, he averaged 13.8 points, 5.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.  He shot 46.0 percent from the field, 40.8 percent on threes and 82.2 percent from the line.

    He is a highly efficient scorer with great speed and tremendous leaping ability.  He can score from anywhere on the court and is disruptive defensively.

    He gets a little careless with the ball at times but that should improve.  Baylor appears to be Jackson's team now and he has more of a competitive streak than Perry Jones ever did.

    Baylor may not have as much hype as last season but they very well could be a better team.  Pierre Jackson's growth and maturity are the primary reasons why.