Ranking the Nation's Top 100 Players for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season
A year ago, the perception was that the talent in college basketball was down. It's hard to argue that when anyone who holds such an opinion can simply come back with, "Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Anthony Bennett!"
No disrespect to Mr. Bennett, but who knows if he'll ever even start in the NBA. And raise your hand if you tuned in to watch UNLV last year.
Well, the great thing about college basketball is that usually you can wait a year and the narrative will be completely different. And wouldn't you know it, no one is going into this year crying about the lack of talent.
Here's just a sample:
- Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, fair or not, regularly gets mentioned in the same breath as LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
- Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart could have been a top-five pick—probably top-two—in the draft, and he's back for his sophomore year.
- If you write that Kentucky's freshman class is the greatest recruiting class of all time, no one bats an eye—except maybe Michigan fans.
- Somehow a two-time first-team All-American has made it to see his senior season.
As you may have noticed, that freshmen class is so good that it would be foolish not to give them some love when you rank the best 100 college basketball players. But before you scream, "They haven't proven anything yet," this is how the players were ranked:
- Value and opportunity matter. This is not the NBA draft. The players were ranked based on how valuable they are to their team.
- This is for college basketball. Again, not trying to say who will be the best pro. The players were ranked based on how good they are/will be in the college game.
- These are predictions. I know Wiggins and Kentucky's Julius Randle have not proven anything yet, but I have good reason to believe they will be two of the best players in the country by the end of the year.
Now, before we get to the list, let's take a look at some of the players who just missed the top 100 (in no particular order).
Just Missed: JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; Taylor Braun, North Dakota State; Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette; Derrick Marks, Boise State; Ben Brust, Wisconsin; Preston Medlin, Utah State; Geron Johnson, Memphis; Eric Moreland, Oregon State; Khem Birch, UNLV; Augustine Rubit, South Alabama; Eric Atkins, Notre Dame; Chaz Williams, UMass; Markel Starks, Georgetown; D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown; Jabari Brown, Missouri; Noah Vonleh, Indiana; Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona; Dakari Johnson, Kentucky; Mike Tobey, Virginia; Chris Walker, Florida; Grant Gibbs, Creighton; Terone Johnson, Purdue; Siyani Chambers, Harvard
Editor's Note: Much of the copy for each player description can also be found in the position rankings. In case you missed it, we already ranked the top 20 centers, top 20 power forwards, top 20 small forwards, top 20 shooting guards and top 20 point guards.
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Jakarr Sampson is a great athlete who can finish around the rim and has the chance to be an excellent defender. Sampson put up good scoring numbers as a freshman, but he wasn't very efficient. He shot 46.4 percent from the field.
For Sampson to take the next step, he needs to develop a reliable jumper.
2012-13 Stats: 15.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Why He's Here: Connecticut has the advantage of playing two point guards at once, and Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are extremely similar.
The one difference between the two and what makes Napier more valuable is that Boatright takes a majority of his shots from the mid-range, while Napier takes a majority of his from distance. Boatright takes a lot of threes as well (129 last year), but he shot only 33.3 percent compared to 39.8 percent for Napier.
Boatright, like Napier, is extremely fast with the ball and really talented. He just settles for too many of the worst shots in basketball.
2012-13 Stats: 16.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Wesley Saunders is the best player on the best team (by far) in the Ivy League. The Crimson made the round of 32 last year, and they're better this year.
Sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers, who, along with Saunders, helped pull off the upset of New Mexico, was also worthy of consideration. Both could start for just about any team in the country. Saunders is a solid slasher who can get to the rim and to the free-throw line. He shot 207 freebies last season.
2012-13 Stats: 22.1 PPG, 1.0 APG, 2.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG
Why He's Here: Travis Bader is 100 threes away from breaking J.J. Redick's record for most threes in NCAA history. This would deserve less praise if Bader was simply a chucker on a bad team, but he's shot a very respectable 40.2 percent from deep for his career when opponents know that the best thing that can happen for Oakland every possession is a Bader three-point shot attempt.
Redick, in comparison, shot 40.5 percent for his career. Bader made 139 threes last year, so it would likely take an injury for him not to break the record.
2012-13 Stats: 3.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.0 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.1 APG
Why He's Here: Chris Obekpa was the best shot-blocking big man in the country last year. Obekpa led the nation in shot-block percentage, wiping away 15.8 percent of opponents' two-point attempts when he was on the court.
On the offensive end, there's not a lot to Obekpa's game. He did not score in double figures once. Steve Lavin should be more than willing to sacrifice offense at that spot as long as Obekpa keeps swatting shots at such a high rate.
2013-14 Stats (high school): 26.3 PPG, 14.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 4.1 BPG (via LSU Athletics)
Why He's Here: LSU already had an intimidating big man in the post in Johnny O'Bryant III. Now the Tigers have two with McDonald's All-American Jarell Martin. But to hear it from O'Bryant, Martin is not the typical big body who lives at the rim.
"He can do so much, and that's what amazes me," O'Bryant told Matthew Harris of The Advocate in Baton Rouge. "You can throw it to him at the deep 3-(point line), and he can take them. He can take guys off the dribble, cut back door. He can post. Just reading off each other is really going to be the thing."
2012-13 Stats: 13.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 BPG
Why He's Here: LSU is a potential sleeper team this year with a top-10 recruiting class and the return of O'Bryant.
O'Bryant was the star on a team that quietly went .500 in the SEC. He could benefit from another big man, Martin, demanding some attention in the paint and making it harder to double-team O'Bryant.
2012-13 Stats (high school): 27.2 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 5.7 APG (via UK Athletics)
Why He's Here: If any Kentucky freshman is slighted in these rankings, it's probably James Young. If he ends up beating Alex Poythress for the starting small forward job, go ahead and swap him and Poythress, who comes in much higher.
The early returns from John Calipari make it sound like that's entirely possible.
"Everybody that comes in our building, the guy that they're saying is the standout is James Young," Calipari told Kyle Tucker of USA Today. "Every day. We've had NBA scouts in there every day and they're saying it every day."
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 2.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Trevor Releford has always been a good slasher and been able to get to the rim. Last season, he became a more complete scorer by adding a three-point shot. Releford shot a career-best 40.7 percent from deep after shooting below 30 percent each of his first two seasons.
Releford has never had high assist numbers, but his scoring and defense bring a lot to the Crimson Tide, who may need even more scoring from him this year without guard Trevor Lacey, who transferred to North Carolina State.
2012-13 Stats (six games): 5.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 1.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Georgetown coach John Thompson III told ESPN.com's Andy Katz this summer that he's not sure there's a better big man in the country than a "committed" Josh Smith, who got a waiver from the NCAA to play the entire year instead of sitting out the first semester.
"He has the instincts and the physical tools to be better than any big man I've had," Thompson told Katz.
There's a reason Thompson threw in "committed." His weight will always be a concern.
When Smith has been in good enough shape to at least get up and down the floor, he has been a force. As a freshman, he averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. His offensive rebounding percentage of 19.5 that year ranked second in the country.
2012-13 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Why He's Here: Aaron White is a coach's dream. He rarely ever fouls—1.8 per 40 minutes—and he's apparently impossible not to foul. Last season, White had a free-throw rate of 86.3 and shot 258 freebies, knocking down a solid 74.8 percent at the line.
The Hawkeyes, who went .500 in the Big Ten, had a case as an NCAA tourney team and ended up as the NIT runner-up to Baylor. In those five NIT games, White shot 29 free throws and knocked down 25. Even when it's in the scouting report, apparently it's impossible not to foul this man.
2012-13 Stats: 11.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG
Why He's Here: Oregon's postseason run had a lot to do with Damyean Dotson and his jumper. During the Ducks' run to win the Pac-12 tournament and then make the Sweet 16, Dotson averaged 16 points. In the five wins, he made 16 of 30 threes.
Dotson is the leading returning scorer for the Ducks, and his March performance was encouraging. But to go from a good scorer to a consistent scorer, he'll need to improve as a slasher and get to the free-throw line more often. He attempted only 65 free throws in 37 games as a freshman.
2012-13 Stats: 8.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 BPG
Why He's Here: Branden Dawson has yet to show the ability to be a great scorer at Michigan State, but he doesn't need to be. The Spartans have enough scoring.
Dawson has found his niche as a great defender and rebounder from the wing. And if the reports this offseason out of Michigan State are true, he'll be an improved finisher and shooter this year as well, which will be gravy for the Spartans.
2012-13 Stats: 9.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Will Sheehey was one of the best sixth men in the country last year. That Indiana team was talented enough to have a guy come off the bench at 6'7" who was a plus athlete with a really nice-looking jumper.
Of course, Sheehey had a no-pressure role. Yes, he was asked to bring instant offense off the bench, but the Hoosiers had plenty of options, so as long as he was a threat, they were just fine.
This season, with so much youth, Sheehey could be asked to play more of a go-to role, especially early in the year. It'll be interesting to see how he handles that after three years as a reserve.
2012-13 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.8 BPG
Why He's Here: Josh Scott is a treat to watch if you enjoy fundamentally sound big men with an array of post moves. Scott is a smooth operator from the blocks and can score over either shoulder.
Scott, at 6'10" and 215 pounds as a freshman, needed to add some bulk, and Colorado is listing him at 230 pounds this year.
2012-13 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Why He's Here: Nick Johnson is known for his ridiculous ups. Well, he's more than just a highlight-reel dunker. Johnson improved his jumper last year and was also an excellent defender. With his quickness and jumping ability, he has a chance to be one of the best defensive guards in the country.
That may not land Johnson a bunch of postseason accolades, but he could help Arizona's defense become elite.
2012-13 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.8 APG
Why He's Here: On some nights, LeBryan Nash can look like an All-American. On others, you forget he is even on the court.
That has been the story of Nash's career thus far at Oklahoma State, and it was beneficial to him last year to have Marcus Smart around to grab all of the attention.
The good Nash is the one who uses his athletic ability to get to the bucket. Travis Ford typically played Nash as an undersized 4 last year, and that often created mismatches, as he could attack slower defenders. When he's in attack mode and taking good shots, he can carry the Cowboys.
2012-13 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG
Why He's Here: A.J. Hammons has the potential to be one of the Big Ten's best players. We saw that in some impressive performances against some of the Big Ten's best. He went for 20 points against Michigan State and 30 against Indiana. Unfortunately, both of those were blowout losses for the Boilermakers.
There were other games as a freshman where Hammons would disappear. He scored only three points in a season-ending loss to Santa Clara in the CBI, for instance.
To take the next step, Hammons needs to be more consistent.
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG
Why He's Here: Stanford's Dwight Powell was voted the Pac-12's most improved player last year after averaging only 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore.
The Cardinal, on the other hand, were disappointing a year ago after an NIT postseason title in 2012 with a 19-15 record and second-round loss in the NIT.
With all five starters returning, expectations should be higher this year, particularly because of Powell's presence.
2012-13 Stats (high school): 13.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.9 BPG (via KU Athletics)
Why He's Here: Joel Embiid could be the center with the highest ceiling in the country. Simply take a look at DraftExpress.com's mock draft as proof. Embiid, who started playing basketball when he was 16, is projected to go No. 6 in the draft, the highest-ranked center.
Right now, Embiid is a good shot-blocker with a developing offensive game. He can shoot all the way out to the three-point line, and KU's coaching staff has worked with him a lot on his post moves this offseason. KU video coordinator Jeff Forbes told me Embiid has been studying video of Hakeem Olajuwon.
Embiid has the potential to have a season similar to Michigan big man Mitch McGary's freshman year. Like McGary, he'll probably start the year coming off the bench, backing up Memphis transfer Tarik Black. By the end of the season, expect to see Embiid as the starter and a big part of KU's success.
2012-13 Stats: 7.6 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Yogi Ferrell is an old-school point guard whose No. 1 priority is setting up his teammates. That worked perfectly last year when Ferrell had the best weapons in college basketball around him. He helped the Hoosiers play fast—their average possession was 1.5 seconds faster than the previous year—and he made sure his guys got the ball in position to score.
This year, he'll be even more important with a young supporting cast around him. How well Ferrell sets those young guys up could determine how quickly the Hoosiers start to reach their potential.
2012-13 Stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Justin Cobbs has led Cal to two straight NCAA tournament appearances while sharing the spotlight with Allen Crabbe.
Cobbs has shown the past two seasons that he could usually adjust to whatever role he needs to play, even from game to game. Sometimes the Bears need him to be a scorer, and sometimes he needs to create for his teammates. With Crabbe gone now, Cobbs is probably going to need to fill both roles at a high level on a nightly basis for the Bears to get back to the tourney.
2012-13 Stats: 9.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Why He's Here: Billy Donovan will likely go with a two-point guard attack this year with Scottie Wilbekin sharing the backcourt with freshman Kasey Hill.
Hill could be the more important offensively of the two, but that should not diminish the importance of Wilbekin to Florida's success. He's extremely valuable because of his experience and his defense.
It's no coincidence Florida's defense became elite last year with Wilbekin starting for the first time. His ball pressure set the tone for Florida's D, which went from ranked 71st in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to third last season.
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG
Why He's Here: Alex Kirk is a throwback to the big, plodding centers we had once envisioned as the typical center. He's 7'0", and he doesn't jump or move particularly well, but those limitations do not hold him back because he has great fundamentals.
A year ago, Kirk returned to the court after redshirting the previous year because of back surgery and put up solid numbers. He can score from the blocks and has range out to the three-point line, where he made 10 of 36 shots last season.
2012-13 Stats: 11.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG
Why He's Here: Two years ago, Duke had a lottery pick at point guard in Austin Rivers. Last year, the worry going into the season was what the Blue Devils would get out of their point guard play.
Quinn Cook quickly put that worry to rest, and Duke was a much better team than the Rivers-led version because of Cook. This year, Cook will become the leader of the team and be surrounded by a lot of talented youth. The Blue Devils will look to play fast, and based off of how Cook stepped up last year, he should be able to handle a quicker tempo.
2012-13 Stats (high school): Not available
Why He's Here: Billy Donovan gives his guards freedom to create, and that could pay off more than it ever has with Kasey Hill. Hill is extremely quick with the ball and should fit in well in a drive-and-kick offense. He's been compared to Rajon Rondo, John Wall and Kyrie Irving.
2012-13 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG
Why He's Here: For the first two years of his career, Melvin Ejim was a great energy guy, an elite rebounder and a good finisher at the rim. Last year, Ejim added three-point threat to his repertoire, knocking down a respectable 34.8 percent from deep.
The Cyclones have an undersized frontcourt with Ejim, who is 6'6", and Georges Niang, who is 6'7", but when defenses started having to guard Ejim on the perimeter, Fred Hoiberg's offense went from really good to elite.
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
Why He's Here: We've yet to be able to see what an elite scorer would do in more than one season in Fred Hoiberg's system until now with Georges Niang.
And yes, a guy who puts up 12.1 points per game as a freshmen when he's surrounded by upperclassmen has, at the very least, the potential to an elite scorer.
Niang is the perfect big man for Hoiberg's system. He's uber-skilled and can shoot the three. He's not overly athletic or big, but he has a great understanding for working angles and can score facing up or with his back to the basket over either shoulder.
By the time he graduates, he'll join the "how is that guy still in college?" club.
2012-13 Stats: 18.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.6 BPG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Javon McCrea was already a really good player his first two years at Buffalo. Then last season, he more than doubled his blocks per game and went from a career 53.3 percent free-throw shooter to 70.8 percent as a junior.
New Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley, the former Duke point guard, will be able to run everything through McCrea. The big man is a really good passer—he had a 19.7 assist rate last year—and he can attack off the dribble or with his back to the basket.
With Hurley planning to play uptempo, McCrea could put up huge numbers this year.
2012-13 Stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Akil Mitchell is not the typical big guy for a snail's-pace program such as Virginia.
Mitchell is a great athlete who would fit really well in an uptempo attack, but he's figured out how to become a productive player in Tony Bennett's offense. Last year, he matured from an energy guy into Virginia's secondary scorer.
In his second year in that role, look for Mitchell's numbers to be on the uptick once again.
2012-13 Stats: 9.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.8 SPG
Why He's Here: It's difficult to decide where to put Kyle Anderson. At 6'9", Anderson looks like a forward. But his playmaking skills suggest he should be slotted at point guard.
That's a similar dilemma that Steve Alford faces this year. The best option is probably to put Anderson in a point-forward role where he can defend a forward defensively and be near the basket to grab rebounds, which is one of his strengths. Then, on the other end, UCLA can run its offense through Anderson.
If used right, Anderson can be a great weapon.
2012-13 Stats: 15.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Roy Devyn Marble showed the ability in March to carry Iowa. In a four-game run to the NIT championship game, Marble averaged 24.2 points, 4.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
When he's at his best, Marble is able to create for both himself and his teammates and is always under control. But he also has games where he can disappear, as he did with a quiet six points in the NIT championship. If he can play closer to the guy who helped Iowa get to that game and help Iowa earn its first NCAA bid since 2006, Marble could be a surprise Big Ten Player of the Year.
2012-13 Stats: 16.8 PPG, 1.9 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: C.J. Wilcox is a good scorer on a mediocre team. Last year, Wilcox simply didn't have enough help after the Huskies lost Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross to the NBA, two players who would still have eligibility remaining.
Wilcox saw his shooting percentages take a slight dip, as he had to take on a heavier load in the offense. He still performed admirably; the Huskies just didn't have enough around him.
Things could be slightly easier for Wilcox this year, as Lorenzo Romar landed McDonald's All-American point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, and Wilcox was able to take care of a foot issue that bothered him last season.
2012-13 Stats: 7.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 BPG
Why He's Here: Opportunity. That's what Mike Moser has again now that he's at Oregon.
Last season, Moser dislocated his elbow a month in and when he returned, UNLV had a crowded frontcourt with Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch, who became eligible when Moser was out.
Moser just wasn't the same guy who averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in his first year at UNLV.
Well, now he's at Oregon, where the Ducks lost their entire starting frontcourt and need a reliable big man to go with their talented guards. The Ducks are hoping a change of scenery will do for Moser what it did originally when he left UCLA for UNLV following his freshman year.
2012-13 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 1.3 APG, 3.0 RPG, 44.0% 3PT
Why He's Here: Nik Stauskas was one of the best long-distance shooters in the country right away as a freshman last year, and he only figures to get better as his career continues.
How good Stauskas can be this year could depend a lot on Michigan's guard play. He was regularly set up last year by the penetration of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. At the same time, Stauskas makes it easier for his fellow guards because he creates space with just the threat of his shot.
2012-13 Stats: 3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 14.3 MPG
Why He's Here: Syracuse is one of those programs where you wait your turn and it usually pays off. Last year, Michael Carter-Williams became a star after playing limited minutes as a freshman.
Next up is Jerami Grant.
Grant showed what he's capable of during a trip to Canada this summer. In four games in Canada, Grant averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.
In the one game that was close, an overtime win against Canada's national champion Carleton, Grant went for 18 points and nine rebounds. Don't discount those numbers. Carleton knocked off Wisconsin and had blowout wins against Towson and TCU this summer.
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Why He's Here: T.J. Warren was an extremely efficient scorer as a freshman. He made 51.9 percent of his threes, although he only took 27 attempts. He shot 78 percent at the rim and made 43 percent of his two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com.
What's refreshing about Warren's game is there is not a lot of wasted movement. He puts himself in position to score and doesn't try to be flashy.
Warren had the luxury last season of being surrounded by great talent and also a point guard in Lorenzo Brown who did a great job of setting him up. Now, the challenge this year is to see if Warren can become the man in the North Carolina State offense. A big key will be whether point guards Tyler Lewis and Cat Barber can get him the ball in scoring spots like Brown did.
2012-13 Stats: 13.3 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Jerian Grant is the classic combo guard. He has the scoring ability and size at 6'5" of a shooting guard, but he can also slide over to the point and create for teammates.
The one thing Grant needs to improve this year is his shooting percentages. He made only 44.6 percent of his twos and 34.4 percent of his threes last season.
2012-13 Stats: 20.1 PPG, 1.8 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Marshall Henderson set an NCAA record for three-point attempts (394) in a season. That's a testament to never seeing a shot he didn't like, but it's also a skill. Henderson is great at moving without the ball and catching it always shot-ready.
Now, considering his percentage (35 percent), Henderson would probably be wise to take fewer shots. However, Mississippi's offense was considerably better with Henderson last year, and the attention he demanded made the game easier for his teammates.
2012-13 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.6 APG
Why He's Here: Ryan Anderson is just a solid, fundamentally sound power forward who isn't flashy but gets the job done.
Boston College coach Steve Donahue moves Anderson around a lot and does everything he can to get him shots. The one area where Anderson has been inconsistent is in the mid-range. He has a nice-looking jumper, but according to Hoop-Math.com, Anderson made only 30 percent of his two-point jumpers both as a freshman and a sophomore.
If Anderson can get that number up, he has the potential to lead the ACC in scoring.
2012-13 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Shabazz Muhammad got most of the attention for UCLA last year, but Jordan Adams was the top-performing freshman in Westwood. In fact, the Bruins could benefit this year from Adams taking a bigger role in the offense with Muhammad not around to gobble up a majority of the possessions.
Adams showed an impressive ability to score from the mid-range, and the only thing his game was really lacking was a consistent three-point shot. He made only 30.7 percent of his threes as a freshman, a number that you would think will go up considering how well he shot inside the arc.
2012-13 Stats (high school): 21.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.8 RPG, 2.2 SPG (via NJ.com)
Why He's Here: Tyler Ennis proved this summer that he's ready to play at this level. Ennis played on Canada's U-19 team in the World Championships, which was pretty good competition, and then joined Syracuse for four games on an exhibition tour in Canada.
In 13 games this summer, Ennis averaged 17.4 points and 2.8 assists.
The assist numbers are low, but if you watched Ennis play, you saw a point guard capable of running a team. For the Canadians, he had to be the primary scoring option. At Syracuse, he's going to have a lot more help.
Ennis has a great handle and navigates his way around ball screens really well. He has a little Trey Burke to his game in the way that he attacks. It's hard to pay a freshman point guard a better compliment than that.
2012-13 Stats (high school): 18.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Aaron Harrison is the better scorer of the Harrison twins, yet he's the less-heralded of the two. Like his brother, Harrison is a strong penetrator, except he looks to score more when he gets in the paint.
The big thing the Wildcats will need from Harrison this year is a consistent outside shot, something they were missing from their guards last year.
2012-13 Stats: 8.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG
Why He's Here: Maybe this is a little high for a guy who could once again come off the bench, but when you're the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, you deserve some respect.
The entire country got to see what Luke Hancock is capable of in Atlanta. Hancock is not the most gifted wing on this list, but he has a great understanding for his role and the moment. Against Wichita State, he realized the Cardinals needed someone to get some easy buckets, and he started driving to the rim.
Against Michigan, he knew his place was back behind the three-point line, and he nailed all five of his shots from deep. In March and April, Hancock made 55.8 percent of his three-pointers. He may not start again for Louisville this year, but you better believe he'll finish.
2012-13 Stats: 14.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Look back at what Andre Hollins did in the NCAA tournament and you'll find a point guard who was playing as well as anyone in the country. Hollins scored 53 points against UCLA and Florida and made 11 of 18 threes in those two games.
Hollins is not a great setup man, but he makes up for it with his outside shot. He shot 41.8 percent from deep last year and is a 40.3 percent three-point shooter for his career.
2012-13 Stats (at Marshall): 15.1 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Give Fred Hoiberg a talented transfer and so far in his career, he's been able to make that player better than he ever was at his previous stop.
That could be worrisome for the Big 12, because Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane was pretty good before he arrived in Ames.
Kane has always been a good scorer, and last season he improved as a setup man. He assisted on 42 percent of his teammates' baskets when he was on the floor, which ranked ninth in the NCAA. Hoiberg runs a lot of quick-hitters in his offense, and a point guard who can make quick decisions and has good vision should fit in really well.
2011-12 Stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Two years ago at Missouri, Michael Dixon provided immediate offense off the bench, and he also was able to spot Phil Pressey at point guard. Think Bobby Jackson back in the day for the Sacramento Kings.
Dixon was on the best offense in the country on a team that played four guards at a time. Once again, he's on a team that could go with a four-guard attack and also has the chance to be one of the best offenses in the country. This time around, if Josh Pastner chooses to start four guards, Dixon will likely be a starter and also be able to spot Joe Jackson at point guard.
Either way, much like at Mizzou, he'll play starter minutes, because you don't sit a guy with Dixon's speed and scoring instincts.
2011-12 Stats: 12.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG
Why He's Here: Jeronne Maymon was Tennessee's best player two years ago. He has an old man's game that's mostly below the rim, so there's less reason to be worried about him getting his explosion back after knee surgery. Two years ago, Maymon showed off nifty footwork for a man with his strength and thrived at getting to the line—he drew six fouls per 40 minutes.
If Maymon can get back to what he was before the injury, he and Jarnell Stokes will form one of the best frontlines in the country.
2012-13 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Why He's Here: It would appear Kevin Pangos experienced a sophomore slump looking purely at his numbers. Pangos averaged 13.6 points per game as a freshman and saw his average take a nearly two-point dip.
But Kelly Olynyk is what actually happened to Pangos.
Olynyk, not Pangos, became the Zags' best scoring option. That didn't mean Pangos was no longer as good. Olynyk was an All-American. Pangos was still incredibly efficient and shot 41.7 percent from distance.
Without Olynyk around this year, look for Pangos to be more aggressive offensively and put up numbers even better than his freshman year.
2012-13 Stats: 17.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.3 APG
Why He's Here: Boise State is a program on the rise, mostly because of the international talent Leon Rice has been able to attract.
If you haven't already, learn the name Anthony Drmic. Drmic, an Australian, led the Broncos to an NCAA tournament appearance last year.
Drmic is capable of putting up big scoring numbers on a consistent basis. He scored 20-plus points in 11 of Boise State's final 15 games. He also had eight games with at least four three-pointers.
50. De'Mon Brooks, PF, Davidson
2012-13 Stats: 13.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 30 steals
Why He's Here: Two years ago, Brooks was the Southern Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. Last season, he took a backseat in Davidson's offense to Jake Cohen, who ended up winning Southern Conference Player of the Year.
Cohen is gone now, along with two other starters, and there's no doubt Davidson's offense will run through Brooks this year.
The Wildcats are one of the best mid-major programs in the country, and Brooks is the most talented player they've had since Steph Curry left. Brooks is a difficult assignment for players at his position to keep from driving past them, and the fact that he's a lefty makes him an even tougher cover.
49. Dez Wells, SF, Maryland
2012-13 Stats: 13.1 PPG, 3.0 APG, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG
Why He's Here: Ask Duke what Dez Wells is capable of. Wells essentially beat the Blue Devils by himself in the ACC tournament when he went off for 30 points. He saved his best basketball for the end of the season, averaging 17.2 points over Maryland's final 10 games.
Wells is great off the bounce and usually finds himself at the basket. According to Hoop-Math.com, Wells attempted half of his shots at the rim last season. He doesn't have a one-track mind either. He's a great scorer, but when help comes, he's willing to set up his teammates.
48. Treveon Graham, SF, VCU
2012-13 Stats: 15.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.9 SPG
Why He's Here: Treveon Graham is one of the best wings in the country at creating his own shot off the dribble. Graham can get to the rim and also has a nice mid-range jumper.
Shaka Smart had his best offense thus far in his career last year, and Graham was the leading scorer on that team.
47. Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats: 11.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.7 APG
Why He's Here: The numbers were solid last year for Alex Poythress. Kentucky just needed more, and when you watch the guy, you feel like he's capable of more.
Poythress has all of the athleticism and strength in the world. He also appears to have a pretty good shooting stroke as well. He made 60.7 percent of his twos and 42.4 percent of his threes, yet he only attempted 33 shots from deep.
There's a lot of intrigue surrounding Kentucky due to all of the talent coming in, but how a year in the program and the chance to play with better athletes impacts Poythress might be just as intriguing.
46. Jordan McRae, SG, Tennessee
2012-13 Stats: 15.7 PPG, 2.0 APG, 4.1 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 0.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Jordan McRae, the wiry Tennessee guard, went from a benchwarmer early in his career to an All-SEC performer last season.
As much as any shooting guard in the country, McRae has the ability to go off on any given night. He had six games last year when he scored 25-plus and also went over 30 twice.
45. Kendall Williams, PG/SG, New Mexico
2012-13 Stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Kendall Williams had the most impressive single-game performance of the season last year when he went off for 10 threes and 46 points in a win at Colorado State.
What's most impressive about that performance is how Williams followed it up. He didn't have his shot the next game out—he went 0-of-4 from three—yet he didn't force the issue and try to recapture what he'd done against the Rams. Instead, Williams had eight assists and helped his team beat San Diego State.
That maturity is why Williams was the Mountain West Player of the Year, and the Lobos had an outstanding season that ended prematurely against Harvard.
44. Rasheed Sulaimon, SG, Duke
2012-13 Stats: 11.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.8 SPG
Why He's Here: Mike Krzyzewski noticeably left out Rasheed Sulaimon in early October when he rattled off who would be starting this year. That's not exactly the best endorsement for Sulaimon.
It could just be Coach K giving respect to senior Andre Dawkins, who returned to the team after a year away. In most years, Sulaimon would be a candidate to be an All-American after the freshman season he put together on a veteran Duke team. But with as much talent as Duke has, his numbers might not be much better than last season.
And don't read too much into Coach K's subtle slight. From what we saw last year, Sulaimon has the ability to be one of the top 2-guards in the country.
43. Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati
2012-13 Stats: 17.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Inside the arc, Sean Kilpatrick is a productive scorer. Outside the arc, he shot a career-low 30.7 percent, and he took 267 attempts last season. Even Marshall Henderson thinks that's ridiculous.
Kilpatrick did shoot above 37 percent his first two years in school, so there's hope he can get back there. But if not, he might want to cool it on the attempts.
42. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Why He's Here: Even though Willie Cauley-Stein is a returner who figures to be a first-round draft pick following this season, his spot in the starting lineup is no given. That speaks to the potential for Dakari Johnson and the ridiculous frontcourt depth John Calipari has assembled.
Cauley-Stein is a great athlete with potential to be a great shot-blocker and good finisher around the rim, similar to what Nerlens Noel was last year. He lacks the instincts of Noel but has comparable athleticism.
Cauley-Stein finished last season with solid numbers once he was given the opportunity to be the starting center when Noel's season ended prematurely. Over UK's final 12 games—nine of which were played without Noel—Cauley-Stein averaged 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and had 27 blocks.
Those scoring numbers could be close to the ceiling offensively for Cauley-Stein unless he develops more of a post game. Either way, he's a good fit for Kentucky because Calipari has enough scorers that he doesn't need a skilled center. He needs someone who can protect the rim and run. That's Cauley-Stein.
41. Patric Young, C, Florida
2012-13 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.6 BPG
Why He's Here: Patric Young is never going to be a big man who puts up huge numbers. The reason Young is so valuable and so high on this list is his defense.
The Gators were one of the best defenses in the country last season, and Young's value showed up in their two-point defense. Florida held opponents to 41.8 percent inside the arc, the best mark of Billy Donovan's coaching career.
And it's not like Young is a liability in the post offensively. He has a nice jump hook and can score when it's needed, but he'll show his worth on the defensive end and as an intangibles guy.
40. Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas
2012-13 Stats: 5.8 PPG, 47.5% FG, 3.9 RPG, 13.6 MPG
Why He's Here: When Bill Self says someone other than Andrew Wiggins could lead his team in scoring, that gets your attention. And Ellis is that someone.
It took some time for the McDonald's All-American to get acclimated last year, and he had some growing pains, especially finishing around the rim over length. He turned a corner late in the year, as he averaged 10.7 points per game and shot 66 percent over KU's final seven games.
I've seen Ellis play five times since the season ended, and he looks a lot more comfortable in his own skin. He's so smooth with the ball in his hands, and he looks to be a more explosive athlete after a year in KU's strength program.
39. Davante Gardner, PF
2012-13 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG
Why He's Here: Per minute, there are few better than Davante Gardner. The 290-pound big man has soft hands, good feet, great vision and excellent touch.
And in the minutes he plays, Gardner is highly productive. It has been a challenge, however, for Buzz Williams to play Gardner enough minutes to make him a star.
Last year, Gardner played 21.4 minutes per game and averaged 21.5 points per 40 minutes. He did play 55 minutes in the final two NCAA tournament games, so maybe he is capable of a heavier minute load. If so, it'll be interesting to see if he can still produce at a similar rate as last season.
38. Chris Jones, PG, Louisville
2012-13 State (junior college): 21.8 PPG, 4.2 APG, 5.1 RPG
Why He's Here: Chris Jones has the ideal setup for a talented junior college point guard. He's been given the keys to the defending national champion with plenty of weapons leftover from last season.
Of course, that also comes with expectations, and taking over for Peyton Siva, who was a rock last year, is a tough chore.
Jones is more in the Russ Smith mold in that he likes to shoot—he averaged 16.6 field-goal attempts per game last year—and he likes to put up points.
For Louisville to be really good, he'll need to be willing to be a setup guy as much or even more as he looks for his own offense. But based off of situation and talent, he's in a spot where he can have a great year.
37. Joe Jackson, PG, Memphis
2012-13 Stats: 13.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG
Why He's Here: Joe Jackson has always had talent, and his career arc suggests that young coach Josh Pastner has the ability to be a good player-development guy.
Once upon a time, Jackson was a speed demon who played the game out of control at times. Jackson's biggest progression a season ago was improving his jump shot and also taking better shots. He shot over 50 percent inside the arc for the first time (54.4 percent), and he shot a surprising 44.7 percent from deep after entering his junior season as a 30.6 percent three-point shooter for his career.
If Jackson can continue to lower his turnover numbers this year and prove his improved shooting numbers were not a fluke, he'll be the ideal senior point guard.
36. James Michael McAdoo, PF, North Carolina
2012-13 Stats: 14.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.5 SPG
Why He's Here: At some point, you would think a light bulb is going to go on for James Michael McAdoo and everything is going to click. Talent-wise McAdoo is in the upper echelon of college basketball players.
McAdoo's production last year wasn't terrible, but his efficiency numbers have always been troubling. McAdoo shot just 44.5 percent from the field and is a 44.1 percent shooter for his career. His issue has been the type of shots he takes.
If McAdoo's game and understanding of the game ever mature, look out.
35. Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
2012-13 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.5 APG
Why He's Here: Semaj Christon is a big, overpowering guard who projects well as a pro because of his ability with the ball. Christon is as good as it gets at putting his head down and getting to the rim or simply backing down a smaller defender and scoring over the top. He also realizes his limitations—a consistent outside shot, for one—and because of that, he attempted only 28 threes last year.
And what's most promising for Christon and the Musketeers this year is he should have some help.
Xavier had less talent than is typical of the program last season, and Christon had to carry the offense. Chris Mack has surrounded Christon with better talent this year. He signed four freshmen, and Western Michigan transfer big man Matt Stainbrook will be eligible after sitting out last season.
34. LaQuinton Ross, SF, Ohio State
2012-13 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 16.9 MPG
Why He's Here: LaQuinton Ross gets the Mitch McGary treatment. McGary is getting preseason All-American love based off what he did in the NCAA tournament. And Ross has been tabbed the next Ohio State star, in part due to what he did in the final three games of the NCAA tournament.
In those three games, Ross averaged 17.7 points and also had a game-winner against Arizona. Ross was a streaky scorer all season and could become more consistent this year as his opportunities increase.
Similar to his predecessor in the go-to role for Ohio State, Deshaun Thomas, Ross is a shot-maker. His scoring instincts might not be at Thomas' level, but Ross is a better athlete and might be a better three-point shooter. He shot 38.9 percent from deep last year.
33. Keith Appling, PG, Michigan State
2012-13 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Michigan State has the talent to win a national title and Keith Appling has the ability to get his team there, but ability and production are two different things.
While Appling had his moments last year when he could take over a game scoring, his assist numbers were down and not sufficient. He even went without an assist in a Sweet 16 loss to Duke.
Tom Izzo told Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News during the offseason that he told Appling he needed to improve as a playmaker or he wasn't going to play point guard any longer.
"Keith wasn't as turnover-prone, but he wasn't as assist-prone," Izzo told DeCourcy. "He isn't taking a lot of shots, but he wasn't driving thinking about making somebody else better. Because he can get in the lane anytime."
That's why Appling is here. As Izzo says, he can get in the lane anytime he wants. And whether he evolves into what Izzo wants could determine how far the Spartans go this year.
32. Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
2012-13 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 BPG
Why He's Here: Louisville's championship run was nearly ended by this man. Cleanthony Early went for 24 points in the Final Four loss to the Cardinals, and the world got to see what Wichita State fans already knew: Few guys in the country can get buckets like Early.
The Shockers are usually a pretty balanced team, but now that Early is not playing alongside Carl Hall, another talented scorer, he could put up some big numbers this year.
31. Chane Behanan, PF, Louisville
2012-13 Stats: 9.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.4 SPG
Why He's Here: Before Chane Behanan's suspension, this is what I had written about him:
"It's doubtful that Chane Behanan puts up the third-best statistics nationally at his position this year, but if you held a draft and college coaches were selecting, Behanan would be one of the first power forwards off the board.
"Behanan showed how valuable he can be in the national championship game when he put up a beastly double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds). The guy has tree trunks for legs, and it's impossible to move him on the blocks. He can also attack from the perimeter, and he's a sneaky good steals guy for his size.
"Do not underestimate his value to the Cardinals. He might be the one power forward in the country equipped to guard Kentucky's new star, Julius Randle."
Behanan has dropped on this list because coaches would obviously not want to draft a guy who would get himself suspended with his status up in the air. I believe, as does Behanan, that he'll eventually play for the Cardinals. But it's hard to be as high on him as I was before his suspension.
30. Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
2012-13 Stats: 13.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG
Why He's Here: Baylor's Isaiah Austin is the most gifted offensive center in the country, and it's probably not even close.
Austin can shoot the three, he can score over either shoulder and has a nice mid-range game. If the best centers in the country played Horse, Austin wins no problem.
The one issue Austin faced as a freshman was that he allowed thicker guys to push him off the blocks and he floated to the perimeter too often. It's kind of an eye-opener when a 7'1" guy attempts 90 threes.
Austin still put up respectable numbers as a freshman, but Scott Drew would probably like to see his field-goal percentage (45.9) go up as a sophomore.
29. Tyler Haws, SG, Brigham Young
2012-13 Stats: 21.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: So BYU has a guy who scores a lot and is a shooting guard, and I know what you're thinking... He's the Jimmer 2.0!
Well, actually, Tyler Haws is his own man. Haws is a good three-point shooter (38.1 percent last year), but he lives more in the mid-range.
Last year, Haws had to share shots with Brandon Davies. Now that Davies is gone, Haws could put up Jimmer-like scoring numbers. Just don't call him the Jimmer.
28. Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas
2012-13 Stats (High School): 24.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.0 APG (via KU Athletics)
Why He's Here: If it weren't for Andrew Wiggins signing with Kansas, this would be the most-talked about freshman in the program. In fact, Kansas coaches have said that Selden, not Wiggins, has been KU's best player in practice. And then there's this: Sporting News' veteran college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy wrote recently that Selden is the hardest-practicing freshman he's ever encountered.
Selden has a pro's body already. He can drive either direction, has good vision and a nice jumper. Essentially, he's ready to be an impact scorer at the college level right away. If Selden or KU sophomore Perry Ellis lead the Jayhawks in scoring, don't be surprised.
27. Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats (High School): 14.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 6.1 RPG, 0.8 SPG (via maxpreps.com)
Why He's Here: Andrew Harrison is the perfect fit for John Calipari's dribble-drive offense. Like the best Calipari guards who have come before him, Harrison has a great ability to get into the lane and finish.
The two things, at this point in his development, that Harrison has over Calipari's best guards—Derrick Rose and John Wall—is size and a jumper. Harrison is listed at 6'6"—Wall is 6'4" and Rose 6'3"—and just the threat of his jumper should help Harrison get in the paint.
If he can get in the lane regularly, he's in a great situation to put up good scoring and assist numbers with as many weapons as Calipari has put around him.
26. Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
2011-12 Stats (at Mississippi State): 10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.0 APG
Why He's Here: North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried said this summer that he believes Duke could have the No. 2 and No. 3 players taken in the 2014 NBA draft in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
It's no surprise to hear such remarks about Parker, who is one of the top-ranked incoming freshmen in an extremely hyped class, but to hear that of a Mississippi State transfer may have raised some eyebrows.
Hood is good enough for Duke to move Parker to the 4, and the early reports out of Duke's practices echo Gottfried's remarks.
"That guy, I didn't know he was that good," Parker told Duke beat writer Laura Keeley. "Being in practice, his jump shot is so pure."
25. Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
2012-13 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 APG
Why He's Here: It's rare that Wisconsin gets a highly rated recruit, but Bo Ryan was able to convince Wisconsin native Sam Dekker to stay in his home state.
It's no wonder why Dekker, who was ranked 13th in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, wanted to stay home. He is the perfect weapon in Ryan's swing offense that is ideal for shot-makers who can play inside and outside.
Dekker was able to learn the system last year as the sixth man on an experienced team, and this year, he will be the man. During Wisconsin's exhibition tour this summer in Canada, he averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
24. Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
2012-13 Stats: 12.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 BPG
Why He's Here: If Jarnell Stokes somehow doesn't make it professionally in basketball—the odds that he doesn't make it somewhere are slim—but if he doesn't make it, he has the look as the next guy who could pull off the basketball-to-tight end transformation.
Stokes gobbles up rebounds and moves extremely well for a guy at 6'8" and 260 pounds. Last year, he finished fourth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Stokes also had an impressive summer. Playing for the stacked United States' U-19 team, he started at power forward and averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 12.7 minutes per game.
23. P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
2012-13 Stats: 14.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: P.J. Hairston's offseason has to leave North Carolina fans uneasy, but if Hairston can avoid getting in trouble again—do not get behind the wheel, P.J.—his production is hard to argue against.
It was Hairston who essentially saved the Tar Heels from a trip to the NIT last year. Once Roy Williams inserted Hairston into the starting lineup, the Tar Heels won eight of 10 games with the only losses coming to Duke. Hairston averaged 18.2 points the rest of the season.
It's still unknown how many games he'll miss this year, but again, once he gets on the court, expect UNC to be a much better team.
22. Adreian Payne, C/PF, Michigan State
2012-13 Stats: 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Why He's Here: Adreian Payne is a picturesque modern big man. He's an athletic freak. He has range out to the three-point line, where he shot 38.1 percent last year. He's probably the fastest center in the country.
Yet Payne has never made the leap from a good player to a great one. The Spartans have enough talent around Payne that his numbers from a year ago would probably suffice this year as well. Even if his production doesn't meet what our eyes tell us he should be, he's still one of the best centers in college basketball.
21. Montrezl Harrell, C/PF, Louisville
2012-13 Stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.7 BPG
Why He's Here: Montrezl Harrell is similar to the hyped freshmen coming in. He's slotted here based on potential. Harrell is relatively unproven at this point, but he has a ton of upside based off his athleticism and length.
Harrell also unveiled there's more to his game than just leaping ability this summer for the United States' U-19 team. Harrell showed off some nice post moves in that tournament and put up solid numbers as the starting center, averaging 10.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. His best game came when it mattered in the championship against Serbia when he put up 17 points, four rebounds and four blocks.
Harrell has an important spot to fill in Louisville's lineup, as Gorgui Dieng's defense was one of the key ingredients to a national title. But if Harrell lives up to his potential, the Cardinals could be even better off this year in the middle.
20. Cory Jefferson, PF, Baylor
2012-13 Stats: 13.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.9 BPG
Why He's Here: Scott Drew has recruited a good number of ready-made stars to Baylor. Cory Jefferson might be the program's best example of developing talent.
Jefferson waited his turn for three years, including taking a redshirt as a sophomore, and last season it paid off. After averaged only 10.5 minutes off the bench as a redshirt sophomore, Jefferson became a starter and nearly averaged a double-double.
Baylor's offense will likely be built around Jefferson and fellow big man Isaiah Austin this year, and Jefferson will need to take the next step in his development, showing he can be a go-to guy without Pierre Jackson setting him up.
19. Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
2012-13 Stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 SPG
Why He's Here: It doesn't seem like that long ago when Shabazz Napier was the freshman sidekick to Kemba Walker on Connecticut's 2011 national championship team.
Napier's game has evolved since then, and he put together a really impressive junior year that might have gone slightly underappreciated since UConn was not eligible for the postseason.
Napier is one of the best shooters in the country off the bounce, and his career-best 39.8 three-point percentage last year is more impressive when you consider that he created many of his own shots. Napier has also matured as a point guard, and he made fewer mistakes last season even though a lot of pressure was put on he and fellow guard Ryan Boatright to score and create for teammates.
Walker really made his legacy in March. Now that the Huskies are eligible for the tourney again, Napier should get his due as a senior.
18. Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State
2012-13 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 2.4 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Why He's Here: Once upon a time, Markel Brown was a great athlete who was one of the best dunkers in college basketball. Brown has turned himself into a future pro by adding a jump shot and learning how to become a scorer.
Brown shot a career-best 36.4 percent from deep last year. His improved shooting numbers had a lot to do with an improved shot, but it was also due to the fact that his movement without the ball has improved. The addition of Marcus Smart setting him up didn't hurt either.
And oh yeah, he can still dunk with the best of them.
17. Juvonte Reddic, PF, VCU
2012-13 Stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 1.4 SPG
Why He's Here: VCU is known for its "Havoc" style and full-court defense, and Juvonte Reddic fits Shaka Smart's system. At 6'9", he can get up and down the floor.
But if the Rams are forced to slow down and play a half-court game, Reddic can play that style too. He has improved his back-to-the-basket game throughout his career. He can also face up and knock down the mid-range jumper. And on top of that, Reddic is an elite rebounder.
Point being, Reddic is not just a product of the system.
16. Dwayne Evans, SF, Saint Louis
2012-13 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Saint Louis was arguably the best mid-major team in the country last year behind Gonzaga. The Billikens were also deserving of the No. 4 seed that they got in the NCAA tournament. Rick Majerus built the program with heady players who didn't make mistakes and were difficult to guard. And that's Dwayne Evans.
Evans was the star for the Billikens last year and will once again be one of the toughest matchups in the Atlantic 10 this year. If you guard Evans with a bigger defender, he can drive to the bucket. Put a smaller, quicker guy on him, and Evans is a bulldog in the post.
With Saint Louis graduating its second- and third-leading scorers, look for Evans to put up big numbers. He averaged 19.7 points per game over the Bills' final 10 games last year.
15. Aaron Gordon, PF/SF, Arizona
2012-13 Stats (High School): 21.6 PPG, 15.7 RPG, 3.3 BPG (via Arizona Athletics)
Why He's Here: Aaron Gordon might not like that we had him listed with the power forward and not with the small forwards.
By the end of the year, Gordon will likely be starring for the Wildcats as a power forward, much like he starred with the United States' U-19 team this summer as a power forward.
Gordon is at his best when he's hanging around the rim where he can dominate the game with his quickness, length and hops. If he embraces that, he could be an All-American.
14. Aaron Craft, PG, Ohio State
2012-13 Stats: 10.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Effort.
Aaron Craft is a solid point guard offensively, and he's capable of picking his spots to score or be aggressive. But it's those things that Craft does that don't show up in the box score that make him so valuable.
It's hard to find a player in college basketball who plays as hard as Craft. The ball pressure he applies not only causes turnovers, it messes up offensive rhythm. Try running a play with a guy belly up to your hip. It's hard for point guards to move, let alone see the floor when Craft is guarding them.
The Buckeyes have gone 94-19 in his career and never lost before the Sweet 16. Thad Matta has also had three of his best defenses with Craft. Neither is a coincidence.
13. Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Colorado
2012-13 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: To see the value of Spencer Dinwiddie, let's go back to last November at the Charleston Classic. Colorado won that tournament with back-to-back wins over Murray State and Baylor, and Dinwiddie had the tall task of guarding two of the best scoring guards in the country, Isaiah Canaan and Pierre Jackson.
They both still got their points, but Dinwiddie made them work. Canaan scored 21 points and needed 19 shots to get there, and Jackson scored 12 points on 11 shots.
Dinwiddie's length and quickness make him an extremely valuable defender, and he's not bad offensively either. As a sophomore, Dinwiddie became a better finisher—he made 47.7 percent of his twos compared to 38 percent as a freshman—and he was great at getting to the line, drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes.
If Dinwiddie starts making threes again—he shot 43.8 percent as a freshman and that dropped to 33.8 percent last year—he has the potential to be an All-American.
12. Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
2012-13 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 1.1 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Why He's Here: Glenn Robinson III had one of the most efficient seasons in college basketball last season. Robinson was playing out of position at power forward, which would be a tough spot for most freshmen. But Robinson was as steady as a veteran, making 65.2 percent of his twos and rarely ever turning the ball over.
Of course, life was pretty easy when Robinson had Trey Burke setting him up. This season, Robinson will take on a much larger role in Michigan's offense and will have to create shots for himself. He appears to have the ability to be that guy, but we really will not know until we see him do it.
11. C.J. Fair, SF, Syracuse
2012-13 Stats: 14.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Why He's Here: The scouting report reads C.J. Fair is going left. But for some reason, no one can stop Fair from going left.
Fair is a slashing lefty who finds a way to get where he wants to go. Last year, Fair improved his range—he shot 46.9 percent from distance—and that made him even more difficult to guard as he can score from anywhere.
He's the most proven wing in the country, and he'll be the best player on a Syracuse team that has the talent to get back to the Final Four.
10. Joe Harris, SG, Virginia
2012-13 Stats: 16.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.9 SPG
Why He's Here: It's hard to imagine Joe Harris being much better than he was last year. As a college player, Harris might have hit his ceiling, but when you're as good as he was, that's not such a bad thing if he can maintain.
Harris should be able to do that considering the team Tony Bennett has put around him continues to get better. Even with those improvements, everything the Cavaliers do should still be geared toward getting Harris the ball.
Harris is extremely tough to guard because you have to put a defender with size on him. At 6'6", he can shoot over smaller guys. With a 42.5 percent three-point shooter, you also have to crowd him on the perimeter, and Harris can combat that with the ability to put the ball on the floor and hit a mid-range jumper or get to the bucket.
And remember this, Harris' 16.3 points per game came for one of the slowest tempo teams in America.
9. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
2012-13 Stats: 12.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG
Why He's Here: Smooth and fundamental comes to mind when you watch Gary Harris. The Michigan State sophomore has a picture-perfect jumper, but what makes Harris a really good shooter is his pre-shot prep. He almost always has his feet set and takes shots in rhythm.
That was as a freshman. His shot-making ability made him extremely valuable to the Spartans.
Listening to Tom Izzo following Michigan State's loss in the NCAA tournament to Duke, Harris could be more than just a shooter this year.
"You have not seen the Gary Harris I recruited yet," Izzo said in March, via MLive.com. "Now he performed better in some ways than I thought he would as a freshman, but as far as the aggressive, take-it-to-the-hole, go-get-a-rebound, we haven't seen him yet."
8. Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
2012-13 Stats: 18.5 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Why He's Here: Jahii Carson is the most gifted scoring point guard in the country because of his speed and how he uses that speed. Carson is great in the open court and defenders are powerless when he has a head of steam, but he's also great in short bursts. He can turn the corner around a ball screen and get to the rim in a snap.
To get an idea of his value and speed, take a look at the impact he made at Arizona State as a freshman. The Sun Devils went from 10-21 the year before he arrived to 22-13 last year. Herb Sendek has traditionally coached a plodding offense, but he could not slow Carson down.
The Sun Devils' average possession went from 19.0 seconds two years ago to 17.5 seasons last year. That's a substantial difference.
The only freshman in the country last season who transformed his team as much as Carson was Marcus Smart. And they just so happen to be the top two point guards in the country this year.
7. Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
2012-13 Stats (High School): 18.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG (via ESPN.com)
Why He's Here: Jabari Parker was once the star of the 2013 class. He was the guy featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The hype has subsided some. Some of it is due to Andrew Wiggins, and some of it has to do with a foot injury that slowed Parker down his senior year of high school.
Plus, Parker cannot match Wiggins' athleticism, and the ceiling for Wiggins might be higher than Parker's. Where Parker can make up for it, though, is with his skill and polish.
In fact, Parker is my pick to lead all freshmen in scoring. Mike Krzyzewski plans to use Parker at the 4 because of Duke's lack of big men, and that will create mismatches that Parker should be able to exploit.
6. Mitch McGary, C/PF, Michigan
2012-13 Stats: 7.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Why He's Here: Is Michigan going to get the guy who averaged 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament or the backup big man who looked unspectacular for most of the regular season?
The assumption is the first guy is going to show up, and that's a pretty good bet. McGary has one of the best motors in college basketball, and he figured out where he fit in Michigan's offense in the NCAA tournament.
Still, the Wolverines should have two concerns for McGary. 1) Will his lower back injury bother him all season? 2) Can he produce numbers similar to his tournament performance without Trey Burke setting him up? How good McGary is could depend a lot on how good freshman point guard Derrick Walton is for Michigan.
Even if McGary's scoring numbers don't live up to expectations, his rebounding ability, effort and defense make him the most valuable center in the country.
5. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
2012-13 Stats: 15.4 PPG, 4.2 APG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 SPG
Why He's Here: Coaches love Marcus Smart—just read up on what Florida coach Billy Donovan has had to say about the guy—and there's a reason they love him so much. Smart impacts the game on so many levels.
It starts with his defense. He has the instincts and the strength of an NBA veteran point guard. He's been compared to Jason Kidd, which is a ridiculous comparison on the offensive end, but defensively, it's a good comp. Smart sees the game really well on that end, and his presence turned OSU into an elite defense last year.
Offensively, Smart gets the job done because of his ability to get in the paint. His jumper is far from pure, and he's too loose with the ball at times, but he makes up for it by stealing extra possessions on the defensive end. If his understanding of the game offensively matures as a sophomore, the Cowboys have the potential to play deep into March.
4. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
2012-13 Stats (High School): 32.5 PPG, 22.5 RPG (via UK Athletics)
Why He's Here: In 20 years, we could look back at this Kentucky freshman class with the sort of nostalgia that the Fab Five has created, and Julius Randle will be the Chris Webber of the class...ya know, just without the timeout and all the scandal.
Like Webber, Randle is a physical specimen with great ball skills for his age, and he should be able to dominate right away. It has been a while since the college game has seen his combination of speed, strength and ball-handling, which should make Randle a great driver from the 4 spot.
He'll be the best player on Kentucky's stacked roster, and that title alone makes him an All-American and Naismith candidate.
3. Russ Smith, SG, Louisville
2012-13 Stats: 18.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 SPG
Why He's Here: Russ Smith has his flaws. Shot selection has been an issue throughout the past two years, although it improved gradually through last season. Still, there's a reason Rick Pitino calls him "Russdiculous."
There's also a reason Pitino loves the guy. He produces. Smith is a nuisance on the defensive end, and he's extremely difficult to guard on the offensive end.
Skeptics may point to his performance at the Final Four—9-of-33 shooting—but look at what he did to get Louisville there. In the first four tourney games, Smith averaged 26 points, made 65.8 percent of his twos and shot 40 free throws. His ability to get to the line makes up for some of those questionable shots.
Sure, Smith has his moments where his basketball judgment isn't the best, but when he's on and locked in, he can be the most dominant player in college basketball.
2. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
2012-13 Stats (High School): 23.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 11.3 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG (via Max Preps)
Why He's Here: Andrew Wiggins will do things this year that we've never seen before. It's already happening with his teammates.
Andrew White III said soon after Wiggins arrived on campus, he drove to the basket during a scrimmage and missed a layup.
"His second jump was higher than his first jump," White said, via FoxSportsOhio.com. "I've never seen somebody miss a layup, get their rebound and jump up so quick, and that's when I knew he had that next-level athleticism. That's something I'd never seen."
Don't expect Wiggins to put up Kevin Durant-like numbers—Kansas has too much balance and Wiggins isn't that kind of scorer—but similar to Kentucky's Anthony Davis two years ago, Wiggins has the ability to impact the game in so many ways on both ends.
Davis was one of kind, and his defense dominated the NCAA tournament in 2012. What Wiggins can do athletically puts him on another level, and the hope around Lawrence is he'll give the Jayhawks an edge in the month that matters.
1. Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton
2012-13 Stats: 23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 APG
Why He's Here: Yes, Andrew Wiggins is an incredible talent. Yes, Andrew Wiggins has a chance to dominate the college game in many, many ways in what should be a pit stop in Lawrence before heading off to the NBA.
It was going to take a special player to top Wiggins as the most valuable player in college basketball. And in case you're unsure some guy from Creighton is worthy, let's compare Doug McDermott's junior season to that of the best seasons of some of the best scoring power forwards in college basketball in the past 25 years, shall we?
- McDermott, Creighton, 2012-13: 23.2 PPG, 57.3/49.0/87.9 (two-point percentage/three-point percentage/free-throw percentage)
- Danny Manning, 1987-88, Kansas: 24.8 PPG, 59.3/34.6/73.4
- Pervis Ellison, Louisville, 1988-89: 17.6 PPG, 61.7/0.0/65.2
- Larry Johnson, UNLV, 1990-91: 22.7 PPG, 69.8/35.4/81.8
- Christian Laettner, Duke, 1991-92: 21.5 PPG, 58.0/55.7/81.5
- Chris Webber, Michigan, 1991-92: 19.2 PPG, 67.9/33.8/55.2
- Kevin Durant, Texas, 2006-07: 25.8 PPG, 50.5/40.4/81.6
- Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, 2007-08: 22.6 PPG, 54.7/0.0/80.6
Two things. Man, Larry Johnson was a machine, and McDermott's numbers last year were Laettner-esque.
In case you didn't know, now you should know. We're watching a college legend, folks. Enjoy the final season of McDermott. He's a two-time All-American, and in my crystal ball, I see him adding some National Player of the Year trophies to his mantle.
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