College Basketball Stars We Wish Were on the Same Team in 2014-15
Where the NBA has grown obsessed with "Big Threes," a dynamic duo is enough to win championships in college basketball. And in the doldrums of the summer, where it's fun and perfectly acceptable to daydream about such things, we've compiled 10 one-two punches we wish we could see together for the 2014-15 season.
Whether it's a high-scoring inside-outside combo, a hard-nosed guard-forward defensive duet or a guard-guard pairing from heaven, we're forever on the search for the perfect partnership.
After all, an entire video game franchise was based on dynamic basketball duos.
If we were starting a new school from scratch—presumably for the Bleacher University Reporters—these are the 10 combos we would love to take with our first two picks in the expansion draft.
Kenneth Smith and Alan Williams
Kenneth Smith (Louisiana Tech) and Alan Williams (UC Santa Barbara) have quite a few things in common.
For starters, both are seniors who don't get anywhere near the respect they deserve because of the simple fact that they don't play in major conferences.
Smith and Williams were also among the best in the country at their respective positions last season as juniors.
Smith ranked second in the nation in assists per game (7.7) and 10th in steals per game (2.5). Williams ranked second in the country in rebounds per game (11.5), 13th in points per game (21.3) and first in Sports-Reference's player efficiency rating (35.7).
But perhaps most notable on the list is that neither of these studs has ever participated in the NCAA tournament. UC Santa Barbara went dancing in the two seasons before Williams' arrival but hasn't been back since. Louisiana Tech hasn't been to the tournament since two years before Smith was born.
It'd be fantastic if they could play on the same team and finally get to play in a game with the whole world watching.
Kahlil Felder and Reggie Lynch
Similar thought process as the previous slide, but instead of being seniors, Kahlil Felder (Oakland) and Reggie Lynch (Illinois State) are players who excelled this past season as freshmen.
Felder ranked seventh in the nation in assists per game (6.4) by frequently feeding the rock to the Golden Grizzlies' three-point assassin, Travis Bader. He accomplished this while sharing a backcourt with Duke Mondy, who averaged 5.1 assists in 2012-13 and 4.2 assists last season.
With both Mondy and Bader graduating this summer, we'll see what Felder can accomplish on his own—though I suspect he'll excel by regularly getting the ball into the paint to big man Corey Petros.
At the opposite end of the court, Lynch served as an outstanding defensive presence for the Redbirds, leading the nation in block percentage (16.7). If he could avoid committing fouls well enough to actually stay on the court, perhaps more people would know his name. In 20.3 minutes, he averaged 3.7 personal fouls per game.
Per 40 minutes, Lynch averaged 16.4 points per game—and that was without anything resembling a true point guard on the roster. With a player like Felder in his corner, he could spend the next three seasons as one of the most valuable big men in the country.
Michael Frazier II and Tyler Harvey
Holy bleeping three-pointers, Batman!
Michael Frazier II (Florida) and Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington) combined to make 227 three-pointers last season as sophomores while shooting a combined 43.9 percent from behind the arc.
They weren't quite layups, but every three-point attempt between the two was worth 1.32 points. To be that valuable inside the three-point line, you would need to shoot at least 65.9 percent—which not a single player in the country did last season while attempting at least six shots per game.
And considering Harvey and Frazier each attempted 6.8 three-pointers per game, a player would not only need to shoot 65.9 percent on two-pointers, but also attempt at least 10 per game.
The best part about this combo is that both guys are more than just one-trick ponies. Frazier led the SEC in defensive win shares last year while Harvey led the Big Sky in offensive win shares thanks to 129 rebounds and 84 assists.
Putting them together in the same backcourt would be a nightmare for opposing coaches.
Juwan Staten and Karl Towns Jr.
This one is an atypical inside-outside combo, inspired by last year's Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown duo in Green Bay.
Standing at 5'11", Sykes attempted more than three times as many two-point field goals (293) as he did three-pointers (93). His running mate was 7'1" but shot 44.6 percent from three-point range while shying away from contact.
In this proposed combo, 6'1" Juwan Staten (West Virginia) would be the interior presence, while 7'0" Karl Towns Jr. (Kentucky) would have the freedom to capitalize on his three-point shooting ability.
Staten averaged 18.1 points per game last season but only attempted one three-pointer for every 82 minutes on the court. Meanwhile, he ranked 19th in the Big 12 with 5.6 rebounds per game. He was the living embodiment of the quotation attributed to Mark Twain: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
Then you have Towns, who has already drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki for his willingness and ability to step out and drain three-pointers.
Who knows if he'll actually be allowed to showcase that skill set in John Calipari's offense. People raved over Anthony Davis' ability to be a colossal three-point threat before he showed up and shot just 3-of-20 beyond the arc over the course of the 40-game season.
Still, it'd be fun to see Staten and Towns team up and defy height-based stereotypes.
Tyler Ulis and Mamadou Ndiaye
Of course, if we're going to have a reverse inside-outside duo, we need to also have a combo with an absurd difference in height.
Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) is a highly rated incoming point guard but only stands 5'9" and 145 pounds. It would be downright hilarious to see him on the same court as 7'6", 290-pound Mamadou Ndiaye (UC Irvine).
It wouldn't be quite as extreme as when the 1987-88 Washington Bullets had Muggsy Bogues (5'3") and Manute Bol (7'7"), but it sure would be something to see that team huddle before free-throw attempts.
Would Ndiaye get down on his knees? Would some other guard put Ulis on his shoulders so he can see eye-to-eye with Ndiaye?
The best part of this pairing is that Ulis showed during the McDonald's All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games that he is perfectly content with dribbling in among the trees to get his points and assists. It'd be great to see him weaving between a bunch of power forwards and centers before casually leaving alley-oops at the rim for his massive teammate.
Kenny Chery and Jalen James
In the entire country, there were 10 triple-doubles recorded last season.
Seven of those players have either graduated or departed early for the NBA. One was a player we encountered earlier in this piece (Kahlil Felder). That leaves Kenny Chery (Baylor) and Jalen James (San Jose State) as the returning do-it-all duo.
Chery recorded his triple-double (20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) in a double-overtime win against Kansas State. He definitely needed those extra periods, too, tallying five assists, three rebounds and three points in the final 10 minutes.
James accomplished the feat (12 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds) in a regulation win against Houston, coming through in the clutch with an assist and four points in the final 1:34 to turn a one-point deficit into a four-point victory.
Both players clearly knew they were chasing history, too. At no other point in the season did James record more than seven assists or eight rebounds in a game. Chery recorded 10 assists in one other overtime game, but he never topped eight rebounds in a game again last season.
What could they accomplish in a game while sharing a backcourt? I can't imagine they'd ever simultaneously record a double-double in a game, but that team would inevitably have a couple of games with at least 25 assists.
Jalan West and Joel Bolomboy
One of the most conventional pairings on the list, Jalan West (Northwestern State) is one of the best scoring, passing and defending guards in the country while Joel Bolomboy (Weber State) is an exceptional rebounder and acceptable scoring threat in the post.
Bolomboy was the rare Dennis Rodman type of player who averaged considerably more rebounds per game (11.0) than points per game (8.7) last season. He didn't have all that many double-doubles (11), but he did record at least 10 rebounds in 22 of his 30 games last season. He finished the season with 184 more rebounds than any other player on Weber State's roster.
Meanwhile, West averaged 19.4 PPG, 6.4 APG and 2.5 SPG last season. He led all other Demons by 132 points, 115 assists and 34 steals.
Combine their forces with a slightly below average shooting guard, small forward and power forward and that team would still win at least 60 percent of the games it played.
Briante Weber and Chris Obekpa
Briante Weber (VCU) led the nation in steal percentage last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.
Frankly, it wasn't even a close battle in any of those three seasons.
In 2011-12, he recorded a steal on 6.99 percent of possessions while Russ Smith (6.17 percent) was the only other player in the country higher than 5.38 percent. One year later, Weber checked in at an asburd 7.61 percent while his next closest competition (Deric Hill) was at 5.85 percent. Last year, he regressed to 6.82 percent, but Tanner Omlid (6.39 percent) was the only other player to top 5.35 percent.
If you're looking for a perimeter defender, it doesn't get any better than Weber.
In the event that someone actually gets past Weber, he'll have Chris Obekpa (St. John's) waiting in the paint as one of the best shot-blockers in the nation. Obekpa ranked first in the country in block percentage (15.8) two seasons ago and was third this past season (15.72 percent).
The duo wouldn't quite hold opposing teams scoreless, but you had better make every shot count against them, because you're not ending very many possessions with balls actually getting to the rim.
Monte Morris and Walter Pitchford
Say this much for the part of the basketball nation surrounded by cornfields: They don't commit many turnovers.
Monte Morris (Iowa State) led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, averaging 4.79 assists for every giveaway as a freshman. His usage rate was nothing compared to that of Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane or Georges Niang, but he made the most of his opportunities. Morris committed 0.78 turnovers per game while serving as the team's secondary point guard.
But compared to Walter Pitchford (Nebraska), Morris looks like a turnover-prone mess.
Pitchford averaged just 0.47 turnovers per game for the Cornhuskers, serving as the nation's top big man in turnover rate.
They might not be the most efficient scorers in the country—Pitchford averaged 1.31 points per field-goal attempt, Morris tallied 1.36 points per shot—but having them on a team together means fewer turnovers and more shot attempts.
Instead of the 2013-14 D-I average of a turnover on 18.3 percent of possessions, a team with Morris and Pitchford would probably be down around 10 percent. Even in a slow, 61-possession game, that team would get an additional five field-goal attempts per game. And assuming 1.3 points per field-goal attempt, that's an extra 6.5 points per game.
Micah Mason and Ryan Rhoomes
The two returning players with the highest O-rating in the country just happen to play for dreadful teams in the same conference.
Micah Mason (Duquesne) led the nation in that category with a 152.7 O-rating. He shot 56.0 percent from three-point range and averaged an incredible 5.69 assists per turnover, committing just 13 turnovers all season.
Ryan Rhoomes (Fordham) had the best O-rating among interior players, checking in at 134.7. He shot 66.7 percent from the field and averaged 10.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes.
The reason you have probably never heard of either of them is because they were hardly ever used. Mason was used on 12.6 percent of Duquesne's possessions played while Fordham only used Rhoomes 12.1 percent of the time.
For sake of comparison, Jahenns Manigat played more than 70 percent of minutes for Creighton and was used on 12.7 percent of possessions. How many times did you watch Creighton play last season without even noticing Manigat was on the court?
Who knows how efficient Mason and Rhoomes would be with significantly more use, but I would love to see them share a court and each get used better than 20 percent of the time.
Considering the 11-53 record that Duquesne and Fordham have combined to post in A-10 play, it's at least worth a shot.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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