College Basketball's Top 20 Players of the 2000's
The first decade of the 21st Century was the best of times and the worst of times for college basketball.
The NBA's requirement that a player must be a year removed from high school has resulted in some programs being carried to new heights by players of breathtaking talent, only to watch the bottom fall out when that freshman leaves immediately to make his mark as a pro.
On the other hand, the rule has given college hoop fans a chance to watch some spectacular athletes that they otherwise would have never gotten to see on campus at all.
Bleacher Report's College Basketball Featured Columnists have collaborated on a project designed to bring you the best of those who graced college courts from the 1999-2000 season to this year.
Of the 20 players named to this list, all were first-round NBA draft picks, except one...and he likely will become one this June.
All were All-Americans at least once.
Ten played in a Final Four, with only three of them playing in more than one (and two of them did it together). Five hoisted NCAA Championship trophies, with two being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Without exception, though, all of them were fun to watch in college and, in most cases, beyond.
Best of the Rest
Players were eligible for our rankings if they played their first college game no earlier than the 1999-2000 season. This led to some potentially controversial exclusions, most notably Duke's Shane Battier, who began his career at Duke in 1997.
79 players were nominated, 57 of those received votes.
Here are the next 10 who didn't quite scrape into the rankings...the "Best of the Rest," if you will.
F/C Kevin Love, UCLA (2007-08)
—Career line: 17.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2008 All-American/Pac-10 Player of the Year
G Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin (2007-09)
—26.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.6 SPG, only player in NCAA history to record a quadruple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals v. Central Baptist College Nov. 13, 2007)
F DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh (2007-09)
—13.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2009 1st-Team All-American
F/C Nick Collison, Kansas (1999-03)
—14.8 PPG, 8 RPG, 2003 NABC Player of the Year, played in two Final Fours
G Ben Gordon, Connecticut (2001-04)
—16.9 PPG, 2004 NCAA champion, two-time All-Big East
F Ike Diogu, Arizona State (2002-05)
—21.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2005 Pac-10 Player of the Year
F/C Joakim Noah, Florida (2004-07)
—10.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 61.5% FG, 2007 2nd-Team All-American, two-time NCAA champion
C Andrew Bogut, Utah (2003-05)
—16.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2005 National Player of the Year
F Shelden Williams, Duke (2002-06)
—13.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3 BPG, 2006 2nd-Team All-American, two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year
G Troy Bell, Boston College (1999-2003)
—21.6 PPG, two-time second-Team All-American, two-time Big East Player of the Year
No. 20--G Kirk Hinrich, Kansas (1999-2003)
12.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 49.3% FG, 43% 3-pt. FG
2003 Third-Team All-American, 2002 Final Four, 2003 NCAA runner-up
After ranking 8th in the nation with 6.9 assists per game as a sophomore in 2000-01, Hinrich started becoming much more comfortable with his shot. His field goal attempts and three-point attempts both doubled from his sophomore season to his senior year, but the percentages remained respectable.
He teamed with Nick Collison to form an extremely dangerous inside-outside threat, and the two of them propelled Kansas to back-to-back Final Four appearances.
In March of this year, Hinrich's jersey became the 25th to be raised to the rafters in Allen Fieldhouse, joining the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, JoJo White, and Hinrich's former teammates Nick Collison and Drew Gooden.
No. 19--G Ty Lawson, North Carolina (2006-09)
13.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 51.6% FG, 40.2% 3-pt. FG
2009 2nd-Team All-American, 2009 Cousy Award winner, 2008 Final Four, 2009 NCAA champion
To borrow a phrase, Lawson is "quicker than a hiccup." He made an impact in Chapel Hill just as quickly, starting 31 of 38 games as a freshman and leading the team in assists.
His sophomore season was almost as successful, topping 12 points and five assists per game despite a nagging ankle injury.
When he, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough, and Danny Green all returned for the 2008-09 season, Carolina fans knew their team was loaded. The team didn't fail Tar Heel Nation, bringing home the NCAA Championship with a win over Michigan State. Lawson's quickness helped him set an NCAA title game record with eight steals.
No. 18--G Eric Gordon, Indiana (2007-08)
20.9 PPG, 83.4% FT
2008 Third-Team All-American, 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Gordon's one-and-done season at Indiana began with controversy over his de-commitment from IU's conference rival Illinois. The Illini fans did not let Gordon off easy, pelting his parents with ice and beads during Indiana's victory in Champaign.
Somewhere in midseason, he suffered a wrist injury that drastically curtailed his shooting form and sent his percentages plummeting. He was still able to hoist enough attempts to lead the Big Ten in scoring, but the once-17-and-1 Hoosiers were bounced in the tournament's first round by Arkansas.
Our West Virginia columnist Major Kelchner said that Gordon was "lost amid the shuffle of NCAA violations by a cheating coach," but all of Kelvin Sampson's malfeasance didn't stop Gordon from being the No. 7 overall pick in the NBA Draft, and it didn't stop our columnists from recognizing him here.
No. 17--F Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (2006-Present)
19.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 48.1% FG
Two-time All-American, 2008 Big East Player of the Year
The only currently active player in our Top 20, Harangody is said to be a player who, when he first got to Notre Dame, didn't think he was good enough to play in the Big East. Then, in his second collegiate game against Butler, he recorded a double-double. He made his first start midway through that season, and he's been the Irish's main weapon ever since.
He's garnered favorable comparisons to ACC titans Tyler Hansbrough and, for the old-schoolers out there, Christian Laettner. CBB Community Leader Jameson Fleming said of Luke, "Few players have developed their game and expanded their repertoire like Harangody has during his four years. If only he had a supporting cast like Tyler Hansbrough had."
No. 16--G Brandon Roy, Washington
14.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 51.2% FG
2006 1st-Team All-American, 2006 Pac-10 Player of the Year
Roy almost didn't make it to Washington, coming very close to putting his name into the 2002 NBA draft right out of high school. By his junior year, in which the Huskies reached the Sweet Sixteen, he was ready to bolt for the pros again, but the chance to be UW's main man in the wake of teammate Nate Robinson's departure swayed him back.
In that senior season, Roy topped 20 points per game, the Huskies went to another Sweet Sixteen, and Roy was considered for all the major national awards. After "settling" for All-American honors and the Pac-10 Player of the Year award, Roy was a top-10 NBA Draft pick.
Columnist Kevin Cacabelos praised Roy as a "quintessential leader (who) did everything right on the court." Considering that Kevin is our columnist for the Washington Huskies, it appears that he would know better than anyone.
No. 15--C Greg Oden, Ohio State (2006-07)
15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 61.6% FG
2007 Second-Team All-American, 2007 NCAA runner-up
A dominant college player being mentioned in the same breath as past behemoths like Sam Bowie and Ralph Sampson, Oden has unfortunately inherited similar injury problems to those talented big men. Perhaps the wrist injury that caused him to miss his first few games as a Buckeye was an omen.
Once he hit the court in Buckeye red, though, Oden made his opponents wish they'd been stuck on the bench in street clothes. In his debut, he racked 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks...coming off the bench.
Some big men demonstrate the tendency to get into foul trouble while going for high block totals. Oden didn't foul out of a game until the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but he more than made up for that by recording a last-second block to beat Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, then carried the Buckeyes into the national title game.
There, the Buckeyes lost to the defending champion Florida Gators, but through no fault of Oden's, as he carded 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. His one-and-done career caused several columnists to leave him off their ballots, but enough put him on to put "Grandpapa" on our rankings.
No. 14--G T.J. Ford, Texas (2001-03)
12.9 PPG, 8 APG, 2.1 SPG
2003 First-Team All-American, 2003 winner of Wooden and Naismith Player of the Year awards, 2003 Final Four
While he wasn't an All-American as a freshman, Ford did do something else extremely noteworthy. No freshman had ever led the nation in assists until Ford dished 8.3 per game in 2001-02.
There wasn't much of a drop off in '02-'03, either, as Ford dropped 7.7 dimes a night (good for third in the nation) while upping his scoring average to 15 points per game. The team also improved on its Sweet Sixteen finish in Ford's rookie season by reaching its first Final Four since 1947.
According to Jameson Fleming, Ford "laid the foundation for a string of great Texas point guards." Personally, I think that guys like Johnny Moore, Joey Wright, and B.J. Tyler might have something to say about laying foundations, but there is no disputing that Ford's exploits helped remind everyone that there are other sports at UT between football and spring football.
No. 13--G Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's (2000-04)
16.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2 SPG
2-time All-American, 2004 winner of Wooden, Naismith, and Robertson awards
One might expect a freshman point guard in the Atlantic 10 to operate somewhat under the radar. By the end of his first season at St. Joe's, Jameer Nelson had appeared on the screen in bright colors. A third-team All-American as a freshman, Nelson ranked tenth in the nation in assists at 6.5 per game.
By his junior season, Nelson's assists were down slightly, primarily because he was becoming more comfortable as a scorer, pushing the 20-point-per-game barrier. As a senior, he broke that barrier, averaging 20.6 PPG while still getting back above five assists and adding almost five rebounds and three steals (good for second in the nation) per night.
The Hawks were undefeated going into the A-10 tournament, but dropped their first game there to eventual tourney champion Xavier. Still earning a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, St. Joe's were denied a Final Four trip on a late dagger from Oklahoma State's John Lucas III. Nelson's last-second effort was off, and even the flood of trophies which came his way were likely little consolation.
No. 12--G Chris Paul, Wake Forest (2003-05)
15 PPG, 6.3 APG, 2.5 SPG, 47.1% FG, 83.8% FT, 46.9% 3-pt. FG
2004 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2005 First-Team All-American
CP3 is an even better pro player than he was a collegian. According to our columnists, he was pretty good at Wake Forest, as well.
Not only did Chris win the ACC's Rookie of the Year award in his freshman season, several publications, including The Sporting News, named him National Freshman of the Year. Paul ranked in the top 10 nationally in steals, and in the top 20 in assists. He helped the Deacons to their first Sweet Sixteen since 1996, where they were derailed by Jameer Nelson's (remember him?) St. Joseph's team.
Paul had a very similar season as a sophomore, but by this time, everyone knew his name. He was named a first-team All-American after helping Wake reach another NCAA Tournament, losing in the second round of this one in an epic two-overtime thriller to West Virginia.
No. 11--F Michael Beasley, Kansas State (2007-08)
26.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 53.2% FG
2008 First-Team All-American, 2008 Big 12 Player of the Year
One-and-done players like Beasley, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Eric Gordon divided the voters in this poll. Some columnists, most notably Duke FC Michael Kline, simply stated flat-out, "[Players] have to play more than one year for consideration," leaving all of the one-and-dones completely off their ballots. Personally, I made the conscious decision to drop all of them ten spots on my ballot.
Beasley's talent, however, was not one that I could ignore. He led the nation in rebounding and finished third in scoring. He recorded double-doubles in 28 of Kansas State's 33 games. As a 6'10" player, he even drilled 36 of 95 three-point shots.
Unfortunately, even Beasley couldn't carry the Wildcats past the fundamentally-sound Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jameson Fleming summed up Beasley nicely when he wrote, "There really isn't much difference between Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant, but Beasley didn't make his team better as much as Durant did." As a result, Beasley came up short of Durant on Jameson's ballot and (SPOILER ALERT) on our overall rankings.
No. 10--F Adam Morrison, Gonzaga (2003-06)
19.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 50.3% FG
2006 First-Team All-American, 2006 Oscar Robertson Award winner, 2006 WCC Player of the Year
Morrison's tearful breakdown in his final collegiate game has almost served to overshadow his deadly scoring ability, which was described as "ruthless" by Kevin Cacabelos.
Morrison upped his scoring average from 11.4 as a freshman to 19 as a sophomore, but it was his junior season where he truly exploded. He led the nation with 28.1 points per game, and his previously unreliable three-point shot was falling at a 42.8 percent clip.
Jameson Fleming praised Morrison's "[helping] to put Gonzaga officially on the map," although it's likely that hardcore Bulldogs fans would say that Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm, and Casey Calvary accomplished that a couple of years before Morrison arrived. Either way, there were few offensive threats who could match Morrison's ability to take over a game.
No. 9--G Stephen Curry, Davidson (2006-09)
25.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 46.6% FG, 87.5% FT, 41.2% 3-pt. FG
Two-time All-American, Two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year
The son of a deadly shooter, Stephen Curry had both the genetics and the work ethic to be a phenomenal scorer himself. His father Dell's alma mater, Virginia Tech, would only offer him a role as a walk-on, a decision over which someone in the VT basketball program has to be kicking themselves today.
Curry's scoring touch was obvious even as a freshman, when he placed ninth nationally with 21.5 points per game. In both his sophomore and junior seasons, he placed fourth in scoring average, but it was that sophomore season's NCAA Tournament that put his name on everyone's lips.
Curry hauled the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008, leading them to wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin before losing a two-point squeaker to eventual national champion Kansas. He became only the fourth player, after Kansas's Clyde Lovellette, Utah's Jerry Chambers, and Purdue's Glenn Robinson, to score 30 or more points in his first four NCAA Tournament games.
It's said that there are ways to stop great players, but most of them are illegal. On November 25, 2008, Loyola (Md.) found a legal, if ridiculous, way to stop Steph Curry. He was double-teamed literally every moment of the game and failed to score. Unfortunately for Loyola, the game was still a lopsided 78-48 loss.
Would Curry have captured the hearts and imaginations of college hoop fans if he'd played at Duke or North Carolina? Maybe, but many of our columnists praised him for being the stone in David's slingshot to repeatedly slay some Goliaths.
Kevin Cacabelos said Curry "proved legit talent can come from small schools." Every now and then, that player comes along that makes everyone root for Cinderella, and now all we can do is sit back and wait to see if there's a "next Stephen Curry" out there somewhere.
No. 8--G Dwyane Wade, Marquette (2001-03)
19.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 49.4% FG
2003 First-Team All-American, 2003 Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, 2003 Final Four
Some players are said to put their programs "on the map." Having won an NCAA title under Al McGuire in 1977, Marquette had been on the map before. It took Dwyane Wade to put them back there, however.
Wade bothered opponents on both ends of the court, leading Conference USA in scoring as a sophomore while falling just short of his second consecutive conference steals title. Conference play, however, was a mere warm-up for Wade's true coming out party in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
D-Wade led the Golden Eagles past Holy Cross, Missouri, Pittsburgh, and Kentucky to reach their first Final Four since that championship season in 1977. Unfortunately, he couldn't will them past Kansas's dominant senior duo of Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison in the semifinals.
According to Jameson Fleming, that tournament run "made it clear to the NBA that (Wade) was going to be a superstar." He's become such an NBA icon that Marquette even waived its usual requirement that athletes must obtain their degree before having their jersey retired, and they raised his No. 3 jersey to the rafters in February of 2007.
No. 7--F/C Emeka Okafor, Connecticut (2001-04)
13.8 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.3 BPG, 58.9% FG
2004 First-Team All-American, two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year, 2004 Academic All-American of the Year, 2004 Big East Player of the Year, 2004 NCAA champion, named Most Outstanding Player of 2004 Final Four
Just when you think that the "student" prefix on the front of the term "student-athlete" is a complete lie, along comes a player like Emeka Okafor. A finance major who accumulated a 3.8 GPA over his three years in Storrs (and yes, he graduated A YEAR early), Okafor was as much of a terror to his hardwood opponents as he was a joy to his professors.
Okafor started every game that he played in at UConn, and he made his presence known quickly, ripping nine rebounds per night as a freshman while also averaging four blocked shots, good for third in the nation. As a sophomore, he increased both, leading the nation in blocks this time, while also more than doubling his scoring average to 15.9.
In 2004, Okafor was the muscle and heart of a UConn team loaded with future NBA players, and UConn stomped through their region to reach the Final Four, winning all four games by double-digit margins. The Huskies had to survive a scare against an equally loaded Duke team in the semifinals, then Okafor took over in the title game against Georgia Tech. His 24 points and 15 rebounds propelled UConn to their second title in six years, and he was named MOP of the Final Four.
Several of our voters used the word "dominant" to describe Okafor. One of only five players to get first-place votes, it was as hard to keep Okafor off one's ballot as it was difficult to keep him off the glass.
No. 6--F Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)
25.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 47.3% FG, 81.6% FT, 40.4% 3-pt. FG
2007 winner, several National Player of the Year awards, unanimous First-Team All-American
Durant is rapidly becoming the Michael Jordan to Greg Oden's Sam Bowie, being drafted one pick behind the injury-prone big man in the 2007 NBA Draft. During their one year together in college, however, Durant placed behind no one when it came to stuffing the stat sheets.
Durant led the Big 12 in both scoring and rebounding, also placing fourth nationally in both. He also led the conference in blocks and was fourth in steals.
The one area where Durant lagged behind Oden was in team success, as Durant's Longhorns could only reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament while Oden's Buckeyes stormed to the final game.
According to Kevin Cacabelos, Durant "did what many players hope to do in their careers (all) in one year." If all of us went strictly on the numbers, Durant may have overcome his one-and-done status and topped these rankings. No.6, though, is nothing to sneeze at.
No. 5--F Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2002-03)
22.2. PPG, 10 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 45.3% FG
2003 2nd-Team All-American, 2003 NCAA champion, named Most Outstanding Player of 2003 Final Four, first freshman to be named to All-Big East 1st Team
The man they call "Melo" did what none of the other celebrated (or vilified, depending on who you ask) one-and-done college basketball stars have been able to do: he carried his team all the way to the NCAA Championship.
For his one season at Syracuse, Anthony ranked in the top 20 nationally in both scoring and rebounding. He set a record for points by a freshman in a Final Four game when he lit up T.J. Ford's Texas Longhorns for 33 points (also adding 14 rebounds) in the national semifinal. His all-around game shone in the final against Kansas, as Melo contributed 10 rebounds and seven assists in addition to his customary 20 points and helped the 'Cuse hoist its first-ever NCAA trophy.
Melo has claimed that he had planned to stay in college two or three seasons, but after doing it all as a freshman, he took his act to the NBA, where he's become one of the game's brightest stars. Jameson Fleming placed Melo ahead of Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley on his ballot, and his reasoning was simple: "He might not have been the best freshman...but 'Melo was the only frosh to actually deliver a title."
Comments like these popped up with regularity, and so did the high votes. Melo is one of only two players to claim multiple first-place votes in our balloting.
No. 4--F Blake Griffin, Oklahoma (2007-09)
18.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 61.8% FG
2009 National Player of the Year, two-time First-Team All-Big 12
While a pesky knee injury has postponed Griffin's NBA debut until later, we have plenty to chew over regarding his two years as a Sooner. (Sooner? Later? Ah, forget it.)
Griffin became the first Oklahoma player to be named to the Big 12/Big 8's All-Rookie team since Wayman Tisdale back in 1983. His 14.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG provided a nice appetizer for the main course that he was set to serve as a sophomore.
In 2008-09, Blake led the Big 12 in scoring and the entire nation in rebounding, and he had Sooner Nation dreaming of only its second Final Four trip in the last 20 years. The Sooners fell one game short, losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the regional finals, but it was through no fault of Griffin's. He averaged 28.5 points and 15 rebounds in Oklahoma's four tournament games, shooting a ludicrous 46-for-59 from the floor (78 percent).
Kevin Cacabelos praised Blake as "...by far the best college basketball player last season." Major Kelchner went a few steps further, calling Griffin "Probably the most dominant big man since Shaq." While you may consider some of that overblown hyperbole, there's not much argument that very few teams managed to find the recipe to stop Blake Griffin from imposing his will on the college hardwood.
No. 3--G J.J. Redick, Duke (2002-06)
19.9 PPG, 91.1% FT, 40.5% 3-pt. FG
Two-time Rupp Player of the Year award winner, 2006 winner of Wooden, Robertson, and Naismith awards, three-time First-Team All-ACC, two-time ACC Player of the Year, 2004 Final Four
What you see Redick doing in the picture to the left is exactly what he did best: shoot. And very few did it as well as he did during his four years in Durham. J.J.'s worst three-point shooting percentage was 39.5 in his sophomore season. His worst season at the line was the 86.3 percent that he posted as a senior. Translation: his worst was better than most people's best.
By his senior season, Redick was checking off Duke, ACC, and NCAA records like a housewife checking items off her shopping list.
ACC record for consecutive made free throws? Check.
NCAA record for career three-pointers, winning a spirited battle with Keydren Clark of St. Peter's? Check.
Duke record for most points in a season? Check.
ACC career scoring record? Check...even though arch-rival Tyler Hansbrough passed him shortly thereafter.
Major Kelchner called Redick "One of the two greatest shooters of the last ten years." Memphis FC Leroy Watson acknowledged that Redick was "a somewhat one-dimensional player, but he was so dominant with that dimension that he forced his way onto this list."
For some, myself included, Redick was a little bit TOO one-dimensional. But as Major and Leroy said, he was so good at what he did that whether you like him or not (and judging by the obscenity-laced tirades he drew from opposing fans, most didn't), you have to respect the shot.
No. 2--G Jay Williams, Duke (1999-02)
19.2 PPG, 6 APG, 2.2 SPG
Two-time First-Team All-American, 2002 winner of Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year awards, 2001 NCAA champion
The artist then known as Jason Williams personified the do-everything point guard. Placing in the top 20 nationally in total assists and steals all three seasons at Duke, Jay also ranked there in scoring as a sophomore and junior, leading the ACC both years.
Williams could turn it on when the lights were brightest, averaging over 25 points, five assists, and two steals per game in leading Duke to the 2001 NCAA championship.
With an entire starting lineup (Williams, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones, and Carlos Boozer) consisting of future NBA players, the Blue Devils were expected to repeat in 2002, but fell one point short in losing to the Jared Jeffries-led Indiana Hoosiers. Williams still cleaned up on the hardware that season, winning several Player of the Year awards, and he ended his career as Duke's sixth-leading scorer all-time.
Our top three players, obviously including Jay, were the only three players to figure on every ballot cast. Both Leroy Watson and Jameson Fleming praised Williams as a great leader. After his near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2003, Williams has moved into work as a commentator and motivational speaker. Few are more qualified since, after all, motivation was never something that was in short supply for Jay at Duke.
No. 1--F Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (2005-09)
20.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 53.5% FG
Four-time All-American, only Four-time unanimous First-Team All-ACC selection, 2008 ACC Player of the Year, ACC all-time scoring leader, Two Final Fours, 2009 NCAA champion
Was there ever really a doubt? Hansbrough's career in Chapel Hill has been one of the most decorated in the history of college basketball. While many have debated, and will continue to debate, his worthiness for many of the honors he's received, let's examine the numbers.
Tyler stepped right in as a freshman and contributed 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, better figures than the likes of Blake Griffin or Luke Harangody managed as freshmen. As Hansbrough's supporting cast improved with the addition of players like Danny Green, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Ed Davis, Tyler himself kept upping his game.
His junior season, Hansbrough rolled to 22.6 points (13th in the nation) and 10.2 rebounds per game (17th nationally), figures which both led the ACC. He led the Tar Heels to the 2008 Final Four, dropping 28 points and 13 rebounds on Louisville in the regional finals.
Finally, his career went out in an appropriate fashion, with a national title. Hansbrough's individual numbers scaled back a bit as Lawson and Ellington assumed a greater load (with Ellington even scooping the Final Four MOP award), but Tyler still recorded 20.7 PPG and 8.1 RPG, All-American numbers by almost any measure.
The list of Carolina players who've officially had their numbers retired reads like a College Basketball Hall of Fame pickup team. In having his number retired, Tyler joined the likes of Phil Ford, James Worthy, Antawn Jamison, and Michael Jordan.
While most are already passing judgment on the future for Hansbrough (Kevin Cacabelos: "Not going to be good in the NBA, but has made his mark in college"), his past has been something that almost all of our voters could agree on. Tyler placed first or second on all but two ballots counted. Major Kelchner may have summed it up best when he wrote, "Four All-Americans is (sic) hard to overlook."
Thanks to all the Bleacher Report Featured Columnists who contributed ballots, nominations, and commentary to this Top 20 listing (in alphabetical order):
And thank you to all who may read and comment. May the next decade be as loaded with talent as this one was.