Ranking the Most Underrated Stars in College Basketball

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

Ranking the Most Underrated Stars in College Basketball

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    Turn on the nightly college basketball highlights show, and it won't take long to hear the names of the 2013-14 season's most popular stars.

    Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Doug McDermott, Marcus Smart. The household names that get mentioned so much you'd think the rest of the players on the court are just a bunch of ham sandwiches.

    Far from it. Star players are everywhere; apparently there's just not enough attention to go around to all of them. So, at least for now, this is their moment.

    Check out our list of the most underrated star players in college basketball for 2013-14.

    (NOTE: All statistics through games of Tuesday, Feb. 4)

8. Travis Bader, G, Oakland

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    Stats: 19.5 points per game, 39.2 three-point field goal percentage

    2013-14 role: Long-range launcher

    Why he's underrated: Travis Bader doesn't get much attention because he's not on a very good team; Oakland is 9-15 overall and 4-5 in the Horizon League. But when you set the NCAA career record for three-pointers made, you must be doing something right.

    Bader, a 6'5" senior, enters Thursday's game against Cleveland State with 461 threes, four more than Duke's J.J. Redick had from 2002 to 2006. And though the scouting report on him is simple—265 of the 352 shots he's taken this year have been from outside—he's still managing to make more than four per game.

7. Jordan Bachynski, C, Arizona State

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    Stats: 11.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.1 blocks per game

    2013-14 role: Paint prevention

    Why he's underrated: While point guard Jahii Carson gets most of the attention, Jordan Bachynski continues to put up solid numbers and do what he needs to do inside.

    The 7'2" senior has 91 blocks this season, which not only leads the country but is more than the total blocks of 221 of the 344 other Division I teams. And even when he doesn't block the shot, his presence on defense alters other attempts and affects opponents' moves in the paint.

6. Dwayne Evans, F, Saint Louis

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    Stats: 14.9 points, 6.5 rebounds per game

    2013-14 role: Developed defender

    Why he's underrated: Dwayne Evans was part of one of the last groups of players ever recruited by Rick Majerus, the late Utah and Saint Louis coach who is considered the architect of the Billikens team that has a 21-2 record and has won 15 straight.

    While the 6'6" senior is Saint Louis' top scorer and rebounder, he's also one of its fiercest defenders, a skill he learned early when Majerus was the coach. Along with Jordair Jett and Rob Loe, he's a big reason why the Billikens allow opponents to shoot just 39 percent and allow only 59 points per game.

5. Tyler Haws, G, BYU

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    Stats: 24.6 points per game

    2013-14 role: Superb scorer

    Why he's underrated: You'd think a prolific scorer from BYU wouldn't get overlooked after what Jimmer Fredette did a few years back, but somehow Tyler Haws has found himself in that position.

    The 6'5" junior—who played his freshman year in 2009-2010 before going on a two-year mission as part of his Mormon faith—is averaging 24.6 points per game this season, a rate that's been beefed up the last two weeks by some monster games. He scored 48 in a triple-overtime loss at Portland on Jan. 23 and had games of 38 and 33, respectively, in wins last week over Pacific and St. Mary's.

4. Fred Van Vleet, G, Wichita State

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    Stats: 12.1 points, 5.3 assists per game

    2013-14 role: Floor general

    Why he's underrated: Wichita State shocked the college basketball world—pun intended—last season with its Final Four run, and it's doing it again this year with a 24-0 start after Wednesday's win at Indiana State. There are numerous players responsible for this two-year run, none more so than Fred VanVleet.

    The 5'11" sophomore gets his points when he wants them, but he's more integral in feeding the ball to Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and others, keeping the Shockers offense diverse. And with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.94-to-1, third-best nationally, the decisions he makes are almost always spot on.

3. Bryce Cotton, G, Providence

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    Stats: 20.8 points, 5.8 assists per game, 82.3 percent free-throw shooting

    2013-14 role: Marathon man

    Why he's underrated: Bryce Cotton has been an integral part of Providence's offense for the past three seasons, but he's become almost irreplaceable this year. Literally.

    The 6'1" senior is averaging 39.6 minutes per game this season, tops in the NCAA. Of late, the only time he gets to sit on the bench is during pregame announcements and TV timeouts, as he's played every minute of all but one of the Friars' last 12 games. That includes a pair of 50-minute logs in double-overtime contests.

2. Lamar Patterson, F, Pittsburgh

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    Stats: 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game

    2013-14 role: Senior leader

    Why he's underrated: The leading scorer on one of the country's most overlooked teams, Pitt's Lamar Patterson is reaping the benefits of being a fifth-year college player.

    After redshirting in 2009-2010, Patterson has slowly and methodically moved into more and more of an important role for the Panthers. He's increased his scoring by 74 percent from last season, taking more shots and being more aggressive with the ball, and he's also upped his assists from 2.8 per game as a junior.

1. Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville

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    Stats: 12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds per game, 62.3 field-goal shooting

    2013-14 role: Monster in the making

    Why he's underrated: With senior point guard Russ Smith drawing most of the (good) headlines and now-dismissed junior forward Chane Behanan grabbing much of the bad press, Montrezl Harrell has been able to quietly develop into a force without much fanfare.

    But it's going to be hard for the 6'8" sophomore to go unnoticed for long if he continues to progress the way he has the last month. Entering Wednesday's game at Houston, Harrell was averaging 16 points, nine rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 62.5 percent shooting over the past two weeks. And those stats don't show the presence he's had defensively, where he's messing with driving lanes forcing kickouts.