10 College Basketball Stars Every Team Hates Playing
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There is a subtle-but-real difference between great players and players that scare the crap out of you.
I'll explain with a quick NFL sidebar:
By almost any measurement imaginable, Matt Schaub is a better quarterback than Michael Vick. But even with all his recent struggles, Vick is the guy you'd rather not see in a one-n'-done playoff scenario. Right?
I mean Vick could beat himself with turnovers and bad blitz reads. But he could also turn a muffed snap into a 40-yard touchdown run. When you play Mike Vick, the game is out of your hands. Either he beats you or he beats himself. Strategy is irrelevant.
It's an uncomfortable feeling.
Here are the 10 college basketball players giving us that same vibe this season.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
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Why You Hate Him: Craft is the ultimate defensive pest: quick, low-to-the-ground and inexhaustible. Your primary ball handler should expect 30 minutes-plus of Craft in his back pocket, and the harassment starts as soon as said dribbler crosses mid-court. The end result is usually a steal or two per game, but more than once I've seen Craft pick up a ball-handler at half-court and fluster him to the point where his disorientation leads him unknowingly back across the time line. And yes, it is equal parts amazing and annoying.
Seth Curry, Duke
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Why You Hate Him: I've seen it time-and-again this year—opponents letting Duke forward Mason Plumlee take what he wants down low while they commit extra attention to Seth Curry on the perimeter. That isn't to say Plumlee can't play. But it's when Curry heats up that this Duke team turns deadly. The senior scorer is one of those rare spot shooters who's equally adept when he puts the ball on the deck. To see Curry operate is to experience offensive savvy in its purest form.
Kenny Kadji, Miami
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Why You Hate Him: Point guard Shane Larkin might be the most valuable Hurricane, but Kenny Kadji is the guy that makes coaches squirm. At 6'11", the senior forward is equally adept playing above the rim or beyond the arc, which makes for some rather uncomfortable match-ups. Virginia, for example, was so concerned with Kadji in the closing seconds of a tie game, that it left 292-lb-man-mountain Reggie Johnson all alone for a game-winning layup. Not many players command that kind of attention. And perhaps more to the point, not many players can draw an entire team's post defense out of the paint during a decisive game sequence.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
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Why You Hate Him: Victor Oladipo is everywhere. He's stealing your passes. He's dunking your basketballs. He's blocking your shots. He's running through your piss dreams. Everywhere. Always. Constantly. And it's not just that Oladipo is the most complete player in America, he's also the most exciting—the kind of guy who tends to thrill crowds while simultaneously obliterating his opponent's sense of self-worth.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
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Why You Hate Him: Marcus Smart is too damn big to be a point guard at this level. Just too damn big. You can't account for 225 pounds of man jumping the passing lane or pressuring the ball or barreling toward the hoop. You can't gameplan that. You can only hope it gets into foul trouble.
Russ Smith, Louisville
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Why You Hate Him: Russ Smith is the guy in the pickup game who looks at a one-on-three and goes, "Yeah, I can split that." Sometimes he does, and finishes with a reverse. Sometimes he dribbles it off his own foot and scratches a cornea diving for the loose ball. The outcome is not yours to dictate. Smith is also a grade-A nuisance on the defensive end, with similar feast-or-famine tendencies.
Jeff Withey, Kansas
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Why You Hate Him: Kansas leads the nation in two-point-field-goal-percentage against and block percentage. Withey is the reason why. There isn't a better pure post defender in America than the senior seven-footer. And so long as Kansas commits to leaving Withey near the basket, opponents don't have much choice but to either confront him head-on or resort to shooting jump-shots.
Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
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Why You Hate Him: Porter's skill-set doesn't show quite as well as the other players on this list, but there's something about his subtle influence on every facet of the game that drives opponents batty. Sure, you could shut down his shot, but he's still going to pass. And maybe you can limit his block attempts by drawing him away from the hoop, but he's still one of the Big East's best in steal percentage. It's like when you work up a brain sweat trying to solve one face of a Rubik's cube before realizing, "Crap, this thing has five other sides."
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
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Why You Hate Him: There is no defense that can contain a player like Shabazz Muhammad at this level. He's too big, too fast and too skilled away from the basket to be properly contained. Of course, like anyone, Muhammad can miss his shots from time-to-time. But that's in his hands, not yours. Only with a physical skill-set like Muhammad's can one player shoot 42 percent from three and rank among the Pac 12's top fifteen in offensive rebounding percentage. And he's a freshman.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech
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Why You Hate Him: Ask any of the quality teams Virginia Tech has hung with this year—NC State, UNC, OK State, Miami—and they'll all tell you the same thing: Erick Green can score. Green is in that rare basketball purgatory where his talent has matured at the very same moment when the talent around him has regressed. That means Green has the go-ahead from coach James Johnson to drive the lane as often as he wants in search of buckets. Which he will gladly do, and do well.