Pac-12 Basketball: Ranking the 10 Most Electrifying Players

Jake Curtis@jakecurtis53Featured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

Pac-12 Basketball: Ranking the 10 Most Electrifying Players

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    Although the conference has lacked bona fide star power since 2008, when six of the 14 Pac-10 players taken in the NBA Draft that year were lottery picks, the Pac-12 is showcasing a variety of stars this season, each with a distinctive appeal.

    Whether it's the mesmerizing slow motion magic of UCLA's Kyle Anderson, the unlikely passing artistry of Oregon State's 300-pound Joe Burton or the late-game dominance of Arizona's Mark Lyons, the conference offers its own brand of individual excitement amid a balanced conference in which the presumed favorite seems to change weekly.

    These aren't' necessarily the best players in the conference, but rather the ones most likely to excite you.

    Read on for a look at our rankings of the 10 most electrifying players in the Pac-12.

10. Kyle Anderson (UCLA)

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    UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson is not very athletic and can't shoot a lick from long range, which may make you wonder how he could be on this list of electrifying players.  He's is really more intriguing than electrifying, grabbing your attention by the way he can control the game at his own deliberate pace.

    Anderson always seems to be playing in slow motion, yet finds ways to create space to get off shots, grab rebounds and launch perfect passes. Being a 6'9" guard makes him a little different to start with, and the fact that he leads the team in rebounding at 8.8 boards a game and has a knack for delivering the perfect pass at the perfect time with the perfect pace regardless of the chaos around him, make him an appealing acquired taste.

9. John Gage (Stanford)

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    John Gage is not Stanford's best player by any means. In fact, he's not even a starter. But he offers a rare skill that makes him exciting: He is a 6'10" center who leads the Pac-12 in three-point shooting, hitting 49.3 percent of his threes through February 13.

    Only 33 of his 100 field-goal attempts this season have been two-pointers, and he seems to have a certain fear of the painted area. But when he comes off the bench and hits two or three three-point shots in a row, he will silence a crowd on the road and send the fans at home games into an uproar. He is a momentum-changer and a noise-starter, and you can't take your eyes off the big man when he launches his bombs with his perfect shooting form.

8. E.J. Singler (Oregon)

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    Oregon senior E.J. Singler is the quintessential glue guy, which typically does not breed excitement.  But Singler creates the team cohesiveness with a combination of scratch-and-claw competitiveness that's easy to appreciate with an all-around game that could get him a triple-double in any given game. 

    Stanford's Chasson Randle may have let the cat out of the bag when he admitted Stanford's defensive strategy was to focus on Singler, suggesting that limiting Singler's participation will limit Oregon's effectiveness. That's what Stanford did in its blowout victory over the Ducks. When Singler is diving around and being a major part of the action, the Ducks become a much more aggressive and effective team.

7. Andre Roberson (Colorado)

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    Colorado's Andre Roberson may lead the nation in rebounding this season, and his ability to snag errant shots amid taller opponents make him a focal point of every opponent and many fans.

    A decent scorer whose average is down a bit this season at just above 10 points a game. The 6'7" Roberson can hit the outside shot when called upon, but is particularly exciting when he extends his long arms to throw down a dunk, whether it be off an offensive rebound or leading the break. Usually listed as a forward, Roberson occasionally is called a guard, which makes his 11.6 rebounding average as of February 13 that much more appealing.

6. Josh Huestis (Stanford)

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    Josh Huestis is the master of the follow-shot slam, a spectacular single-motion offensive rebound and dunk that elicits respectful groans on the road and hoots and hollers at home.

    The 6'8" Huestis and his 6'10" teammate, Dwight Powell, are perhaps the two most athletic big men in the conference, and either could earn a spot on this list. While Powell has the more varied and effective offensive game, Huestis is the more adept dunker and shot-blocker, which is why he is the choice as the more electrifying player.

    Huestis is averaging 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, and he blocked 10 shots in a game this season.

5. Allen Crabbe (Cal)

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    Allen Crabbe leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.8 points a game as of February 13, and his streaky three-point shooting can be mesmerizing. But it is when he combines that long-range accuracy with his ability to make plays in transition that he becomes an offensive marvel.

    With his long strides and remarkably long arms, the 6'6" Crabbe can blow by defenders on the fast break and finish with a powerful dunk not often seen from players known for long-range shooting. Crabbe can disappear at times, but when he is allowed to get into a rhythm and display his complete offensive game, Crabbe can overwhelm opponents almost by himself.

4. Joe Burton (Oregon State)

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    Oregon State's Joe Burton is the most fun Pac-12 player to watch. How often do you see a 6'7", 300-pounder who leads the team in assists as Burton does? And not only does he find open teammates, Burton uses innovative ways to get them the ball, often delivering no-look passes from odd angles.

    Despite having a body that looks more that of a sumo wrestler than a basketball player, Burton has quick feet and is a good ball-handler with a variety of inside moves, though he seldom dunks. His trademark shot is sweeping hook shot that is remarkably accurate, recalling a bygone era. Burton just makes you chuckle—in a good way.

3. Mark Lyons (Arizona)

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    Arizona's Mark Lyons is what you call a money player, being at his best when it matters most.

    He's not really a point guard, although that is the position he plays for Arizona, and the fact that he has nearly as many turnovers as assists suggests he's not the prototypical playmaker. But when an opponent has a run going, Lyons invariably is the player who finds a way to end it. He is particularly effective at the end of games, and coach Sean Miller virtually always has the ball in Lyons' hands so he can make a play when the game comes down to a final possession.

    Lyons, a transfer from Xavier in his final season of eligibility, has an uncanny ability to penetrate to the basket in the closing seconds of a tight game, even when the defense is designed to prevent exactly that. The most electrifying players are the ones who make the game-winner plays, and Lyons has made a career of making game-winning plays.

2. Jahii Carson (Arizona State)

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    The chief reason Arizona State may be the surprise team of the nation is Jahii Carson. A redshirt freshman who does a little bit of everything, Carson is just starting to get national attention.

    Carson can breakdown defenses off the dribble, hit the outside shot and deliver passes that lead to baskets. He's in the mold of a Trey Burke, wowing fans with the way he can control games with a bit of attitude and flair to go along with his skill.

    He is fourth in the conference in scoring at 17.9 points and second in assists at 5.1, but it is his court presence that has turned Arizona State into a winner and demands attention from the viewer.

1. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)

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    UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad will never be accused of being a great or willing passer. He is sixth in assists on a UCLA team that only gives seven players meaningful minutes.

    But few players in the country can score like Muhammad, who can enthrall you with a series of three-point shots or left-handed floaters in the lane that can get him 10 points in a matter of minutes.  And you know he will do something spectacular on a fast break, either weaving his way through defenders for an acrobatic shot or swooping in for a monster left-handed dunk. 

    Few rack up style points as quickly as Muhammad, who averages better than 18 points a game and shoots better than 42 percent on three-pointers, all with a left-handed flair. He even carried his own Gucci bag to one post-game press conference.