The Top 10 Matchup Nightmares in College Basketball
When it’s time for the NBA Draft, the label “tweener” often gets thrown around about players who don’t necessarily fit into one specific position.
That can be a detriment to a player’s draft stock as he moves on to the next level, but in college basketball, that kind of versatility can be incredibly effective.
A lot of college basketball’s toughest individual matchups fall into that category, while the rest are just supreme talents with extraordinary physical gifts.
Here are this season’s top 10 matchup nightmares in college basketball.
10. Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Erick Green has improved each year since he has been in Blacksburg and is now leading the nation in scoring as a senior with 25.2 points per game. He has scored at least 21 points in 17 of Virginia Tech’s 18 games.
He has become a dead-eye shooter who doesn’t need much room to get his shot off, and he is making 37.5 percent of his threes. At 6’4”, Green is able to elevate and shoot over many of the point guards who try to guard him.
Green is also doing a great job getting into the lane and the free-throw line this season. He is shooting 54.6 percent from inside the arc and is attempting 8.7 free throws per game.
9. Cody Zeller, Indiana
Cody Zeller is one of the best players in college basketball and will almost certainly be a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. He is shooting 61 percent from the field while averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
What makes Zeller such a tough matchup is that he is not your prototypical seven-footer.
He runs the floor better than any post player in the country, forcing opposing big men to get outside their comfort zones and sprint the floor on a regular basis.
On top of that, Zeller is extremely quick in half-court situations and is able to finish with either hand around the basket.
8. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
To understand why Jamaal Franklin is a matchup nightmare, one must look at just one stat. Franklin is a 6’5” guard who averages 9.4 rebounds per game. That relentlessness along with great athleticism makes him so tough to defend for any opponent.
Franklin is averaging 17.4 points per game while shooting 40.2 percent from the field. He has struggled shooting the ball from deep, making just 26.6 percent of his threes.
His aggressiveness more than makes up for his deficiencies as a shooter. Franklin is shooting 7.2 free throws per game, and he is getting his teammates involved more, averaging 3.4 assists per game compared to 1.5 a year ago.
7. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Michael Carter-Williams leads the country, averaging 9.2 assists per game and has thrived in an increased role during his sophomore season. He handles the ball incredibly well and obviously has great court vision.
That would make any point guard tough to guard, let alone a point guard like Carter-Williams who stands 6’6” with elite athleticism and an ability to finish above the rim. He will more than likely be the top point guard taken in next year’s NBA Draft.
The one area Carter-Williams needs to improve is his shooting. He only makes 28.2 percent from three.
6. C.J. Leslie, NC State
C.J. Leslie is arguably the most versatile post player in the country.
He is an incredible athlete who can take advantage of bigger defenders with his quickness while also luring them away from the basket with a nice midrange game. Leslie can back smaller defenders down on the block and use his length to get a clean shot off.
Leslie is averaging 15.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the floor. He has improved his free-throw shooting, making 64.4 percent from the charity stripe.
5. Ben McLemore, Kansas
Ben McLemore has burst onto the scene after having to sit out last year due to some academic issues, and he is a primary reason why Kansas has a legit shot at a national championship this year. McLemore is averaging 16.1 points per game and has scored in double figures in all but two games this season.
He is an exception athlete who excels in the open floor. As evidenced against Iowa State, he is not afraid to take and make big shots, even if he didn't call bank.
What makes McLemore tough to defend is he understands who he is, letting the game come to him rather than forcing the issue. That shows up in McLemore’s shooting percentages, making 51 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from three.
4. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Even though he is just a freshman, Anthony Bennett is the most complete post player in the country. At 6’8”, 240 pounds, Bennett is physically a tough matchup, but it is his skills that make him so hard to defend.
He can bang in the post or he can step outside and knock down a jump shot, and he is even able to make plays off the dribble.
Bennett is averaging 18.4 points per game, shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. He is also an excellent rebounder, pulling in 8.6 boards per game.
Come June, Bennett will hear his name very early in the NBA Draft.
3. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Deshaun Thomas has taken his game to another level this year as Ohio State’s primary offensive option.
Thomas is 6’7”, 225 pounds, too big to be guarded by most college small forwards and too quick to be checked by post players. He is incredibly aggressive and can score in a variety of ways.
He is averaging 20.5 points per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field. Thomas has really improved his outside shot, making 41.9 percent from beyond the arc compared to 34.5 percent a year ago.
2. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Shabazz Muhammad arrived at UCLA with plenty of expectations, and he has not disappointed.
Muhammad has reached double figures in all but one game this season. His team is having success when Muhammad is at his best. UCLA is 8-0 when Muhammad scores 20 or more points.
He is 6’6”, 225 pounds with great power and athleticism. What makes him tough to defend, however, is not his physical ability. Simply put, Muhammad plays hard, and when you combine that with skill and natural ability, it’s easy to see why he is a premier player.
He is averaging 18.2 points, shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 43.6 percent from three.
1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Doug McDermott has been the most consistent player in college basketball over the past two seasons. He is having a tremendous junior year and is one of the front runners for national player of the year.
McDermott is averaging 23.8 points per game, which ranks second nationally, and has scored at least 15 points in 19 of Creighton’s 20 games. He is shooting 55.8 percent from the floor and 48.8 percent from three.
McDermott can score in a variety of ways. He can post up smaller defenders and lure bigger players away from the basket with his shooting stroke. On top of that, McDermott moves really well without the ball and can catch-and-shoot as good as anyone in the country.
Creighton is off to a 17-3 start, and if the Blue Jays make a lot of noise come tournament time, McDermott will be the reason why.
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