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).