The Best Players on Bad College Basketball Teams in the 2015-16 Season
There are few things more fun in sports than finding a diamond in the rough.
With so many teams on the landscape and legions of fans (college and pro) looking for any glimmer of hope, college basketball is a perfect landscape for that pursuit. The ever-growing mythology of Steph Curry, who was a relative unknown when he first set foot on campus at Davidson, is proof that great players don't only come from nationally televised programs.
Curry is certainly the exception to the rule, but it shows that talent is out there. A team doesn't even have to be good to have a talented player. In fact, there are some really good players right now playing for some really not-so-great teams.
Why don't we now take a look at the best bad-team stars of this college basketball season. They are ranked based on how good they are and, to a lesser extent, how bad their teams are.
5. Darius Dawkins, Forward, Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Dolphins are not enjoying what you might call a banner year. Their 10-11 record is littered with clunkers against the likes of Appalachian State, Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro.
But at least Dolphins fans have some offensive fireworks they can look forward to.
The team's top three scorers—Kori Babineaux, Marcel White and Darius Dawkins—combine for 48.2 points per game. Perhaps the best among them is Dawkins: although he's last among that contingent with 13.9 points per game, he's still making a big splash.
That's thanks to his even 50 percent shooting mark from three-point land. That's tied for third in the nation, according to NCAA statistics, with only Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Michigan's Duncan Robinson ahead of him, and it's not by much.
It's not a cheap stat, either, with Dawkins hoisting 6.6 deep shots per game, on average. Looks like we have a marksman on our hands.
4. Chris Horton, Center, Austin Peay
Chris Horton does a little bit of everything for the Austin Peay Governors, but the 6'8" senior has one specialty: rebounds.
The Decatur, Georgia, native is currently fourth in the nation with 12.5 rebounds per game, per NCAA stats. When he's not cleaning glass for the Governors, he's leading them in scoring with 18.2 points per game on 59 percent shooting from the floor and blocks with 2.0 rejections each contest, on average.
3. Cane Broome, Guard, Sacred Heart
No two ways about it: The Sacred Heart Pioneers have had some tough losses this year.
How about the 22-point loss at Yale, which touched off the Pioneers' 10-game losing streak, or the 17-point home loss to Wagner? They shot 29 percent as a team in a December 2, 33-point defeat to in-state rival UConn. But that wasn't even their most lopsided defeat; that'd be the 36-point, 103-67 smearing at Northwestern.
Fortunately for fans of 4-14 Sacred Heart, there has been at least one bright spot. That's Cane Broome. Aside from his award-winning name, Broome sits 17th in the nation with 21.2 points per game, per NCAA data. And he's still just a sophomore. Here's to better days.
2. James Daniel, Guard, Howard
This is a special year for the Howard Bison. And it's got nothing to do with the injury-riddled team's 9-10 record. That wouldn't make sense.
No, it's do-it-all scoring guard James "J-Byrd" Daniel who's slashing his way into the memories of Bison fans and hoopheads around the District of Columbia. Daniel currently leads the nation with 28.2 points per contest.
“It’s kind of just my role on the team. I have a scoring role,” Daniel told Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. “My teammates support me. They don’t think my shots are bad. They find me when I’m open.”
Daniel probably doesn't have the tools to play at the next level, but that's not (or at least shouldn't be) the only metric of success. J-Byrd is clearly a great collegiate player who deserves credit for his national position, which he has accomplished without the benefit of a top-notch supporting cast.
1. Kay Felder, Guard, Oakland
The Oakland Golden Grizzlies are plodding along at 11-8, currently sitting fifth in the Horizon League behind such powerhouses as Wright State and Milwaukee.
At least Grizzlies fans have Kahlil "Kay" Felder to hang their hats on.
Forget about the team. Felder is first in the entire nation with 8.4 assists and fourth overall in scoring with 25.5 points per game, according to NCAA statistics.
The play is turning heads. This description is from Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:
Felder has since developed into one of the best point guards in college basketball, averaging an outrageous 26.7 points and 8.7 assists per-40 minutes so far this season. ... What separates Felder from most undersized small-conference gunners is his ability to create for others, in addition to his prolific scoring repertoire.
His 47% assist percentage ranks second in the country only behind Kris Dunn, and he only turns the ball over on a minuscule 13.6% of his possessions to complement that. He is both a willing and creative passer who doesn't hesitate to move the ball ahead in transition, and can also execute plays nicely in the half-court.
We'll see this June whether Felder's skills are enough to compensate for his 5'9" frame in the eyes of the NBA. For now, he can hang his hat on being the best bad-team college basketball player in these United States.
All statistics accurate as of January 22 and provided by ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.