Predicting the 10 Most Exciting Alley-Oop Combos in NCAA Basketball for 2014
As much as the alley-oop is a flashy, look-at-me play, it’s also a great demonstration of teamwork. It takes both a terrific pass and a great finish to make a highlight-reel alley-oop, and there are going to be plenty of them in college basketball next season.
One pairing that few thought they’d see in the college ranks again is Oklahoma State’s backcourt of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. But, with both standout guards back for another year, Stillwater will once again be a prime site for top-notch alley-oops.
Herein, a closer look at the Cowboys’ skywalking potential and nine more of the most electrifying passer/dunker duos in the country for 2013-14.
10. Naadir Tharpe/Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Although Kansas lost one of the nation’s most impressive finishers in potential No. 1 draft pick Ben McLemore, the Jayhawks won’t exactly suffer in the highlight reels.
Top-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins, the leading scorer for the East in the McDonald’s All-American Game, is heading to Lawrence to take over McLemore’s showtime role.
The youngster will be set up by another first-year starter, rising junior Naadir Tharpe.
Even in limited playing time behind senior Elijah Johnson, Tharpe averaged 3.1 assists per game last season. It’s hard to imagine him failing to deliver some prime passes now that he'll have starter's minutes to get into a rhythm.
9. Andrew Harrison/Julius Randle, Kentucky
After struggling with subpar point guard play last season, Kentucky landed the nation’s top freshman at the position in Andrew Harrison.
With five other McDonald’s All-Americans joining Harrison in Lexington, it’s safe to say he’ll have a few opportunities to set up major-league alley-oops.
The biggest scoring threat of Harrison’s new teammates is athletic PF Julius Randle. The 6’9” freshman—ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN—has an intimidating mix of mobility and strength that makes him a fearsome weapon near the rim.
8. Justin Cobbs/Jabari Bird, California
Justin Cobbs hasn’t gotten the headlines of a Peyton Siva or a Phil Pressey, but he’s quietly been one of the best, most reliable PGs in the country since arriving in Berkeley.
He lost his best finisher from last year—Pac-12 scoring leader Allen Crabbe—but help is on the way.
Jabari Bird may only be the second-best Jabari in his recruiting class, but he’s one of the best dunkers by any name. At 6’6”, he has the length to go up and over defenders for an alley-oop as well as the flair to turn the uncontested ones into works of art.
7. Marcus Paige/J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina
Roy Williams’ love of the fast break makes North Carolina a good place to look for top-notch alley-oop opportunities in any season.
With a second-year starter in Marcus Paige running the point (and we do mean running), the Tar Heels have even more chances for transition fireworks.
The real obstacle to UNC’s best alley-oop pairing last season was then-freshman J.P. Tokoto’s inability to get playing time.
This year, though, the dunker extraordinaire should profit from the departures of Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland and get enough minutes at SF to let his finishing ability shine.
6. Shabazz Napier/DeAndre Daniels, UConn.
The 6’8”, 195-pound DeAndre Daniels isn’t exactly bulky for a power forward, but he can really move. The rising junior’s phenomenal speed and leaping ability were the main reasons he toyed with jumping to the NBA before coming back to Storrs.
Daniels’ return means he’ll be reunited with superstar point guard Shabazz Napier. The hyper-competitive Napier knows very well how much momentum one well-placed alley-oop can provide, and he’s got more than enough passing touch to provide them.
5. Scottie Wilbekin/Casey Prather, Florida
Florida opponents will have to pick their poison when it comes to alley-oops, because the Gators have options to burn.
Veteran point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the more skilled passer, but ballyhooed freshman Kasey Hill will certainly set up some impressive slams in his own right.
Similarly, Hill’s classmate Chris Walker will be one of the top dunkers in the freshman class.
However, he gets bumped out of the top spot here by a returning master, former reserve Prather. The swingman should get a big chunk of the minutes vacated by Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton now that he’s a (high)-rising senior.
4. Marcus Smart/Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart’s return to Oklahoma State makes him an immediate front-runner for national Player of the Year hardware.
That means defenses will be keying on the Cowboys point guard all year, giving the rising sophomore an ideal opportunity to exploit the attention by setting up his teammates for high-flying finishes.
Of several fine options on the OK State roster, no one is a better target for Smart’s alley-oops than backcourt mate Markel Brown.
The 6’4” SG has long since established his dunking pedigree, and he’ll be out in front with Smart on plenty of fast breaks next year.
3. Aaron Craft/Sam Thompson, Ohio State
Sam Thompson spent his first year as a starter in the shadow of running mate Deshaun Thomas—except when Thompson had a chance to get to the rim.
The lanky SF was one of the most impressive dunkers in the country, and he’ll get even more chances to show off his talents in a more balanced Buckeye offense next season.
That offense will again be led by top-tier floor general Aaron Craft, a four-year starter who knows how to get the most out of his scorers.
Shooters LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith will garner plenty of attention in the half court, providing even more openings for Craft to set up a back-door feed to the high-flying Thompson.
2. T.J. McConnell/Nick Johnson, Arizona
Nick Johnson has been one of the most reliable sources of eye-popping dunks in college basketball since he got to Tucson two years ago. Now, the rising junior finally gets a point guard to fit his considerable finishing ability.
Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is almost the polar opposite of predecessor Mark Lyons, an unimpressive scorer but a first-class distributor.
McConnell will have a wealth of scoring options to set up in his Wildcats debut—a group that includes power-dunk phenom Aaron Gordon in the freshman class—but the agile Johnson will make for the most awe-inspiring highlights.
1. Brett Comer/Chase Fieler, FGCU
Fans will be hard-pressed to find Florida Gulf Coast’s games on TV, but the Eagles return most of their firepower from 2013’s Big Dance Cinderella squad. That means a slew of roof-raising jams from the team that earned the nickname “Dunk City.”
Both Brett Comer (the point guard who set up last year’s array of postseason rim-rockers) and lanky forward Chase Fieler are among FGCU’s returning stars.
This tandem already delivered the most memorable alley-oop of 2012-13, and it won't be any surprise if they take that title for the second year in a row.