College Basketball 2010-11 Predictions: The Nation's Top 50 Players
It is always difficult to predict exactly who will be included on the exclusive list of the All-American team at the end of the season.
With 346 teams with at least 12 players per roster, well, we'll just say that there are a lot of players to pick from.
Obviously, some are better than others, as the top players attend prestigious schools at high levels, garner obscene amounts of praise from the media, and eventually go on to make millions of dollars in the NBA.
These players can raise a mediocre team to new heights or make a good team great. So who are they and how do they stack up against each other? Who will make the biggest impact this year?
Nothing is certain at the beginning of the year. But there are players who have and will showcase their talents this season and become the best players in the country.
50. Chris Wright, SF, Dayton
Mr. Wright proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the tail-end of last season. He helped lead the Flyers through a tougher than expected NIT schedule and then on to the championship, past a resurgent North Carolina team. Although he didn’t perform as well in the NIT as he did throughout the regular season, Wright showed serious leadership in Dayton’s run to the top of mediocrity.
Wright’s numbers have risen every year since he was a freshman and I expect that trend to continue. Since his freshman year, Wright has developed into one of the best players in the Atlantic 10 (earning first-team honors last year) and has mainly improved his non-scoring abilities. His steals and blocks per game have increased from next to nothing to one steal and 1.4 blocks per game. His rebounding ability has also increased. Expect Wright to improve even more in his senior season.
Expected stats (per game): 15.3 points, 1.6 assists, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks
49. Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
Mason Plumlee may end up being the breakout star in all of college basketball this year. He rarely garnered enough minutes to be relevant on last year’s team, but when given a chance, Plumlee performed like a superstar. The rising sophomore averaged a measly 14 minutes per game last year. However, in a game against Penn, Mason put up 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and four steals in only 21 minutes.
Plumlee’s ranking lies on his potential to succeed in the Duke system. With the big three playing for Duke last year, there wasn’t really a need for a big man to take over in the post, so coach Krzyzewski decided to just develop Mason into a powerful big man for the future. His power in the post may not be the best you've ever seen, but his athleticism more than makes up for it. Much like a shorter Dwight Howard, Plumlee’s 6'10" frame isn’t awkward and lanky, but powerful and smooth. He can dunk with the best of them and he is fast enough to play up-tempo basketball. Look for Plumlee to integrate himself into the powerful Duke lineup this season.
Expected stats: 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.9 blocks
48. Korie Lucious, PG, Michigan State
The younger of the two star point guards in East Lansing, Korie Lucious rose to fame after Kalin Lucas sustained an injury in the NCAA tournament. His late-game heroics against Maryland and Northern Iowa helped a depleted Spartans roster reach the Final Four for the sixth time in twelve years. He also helped Tom Izzo realize he can’t leave this upstart youngster on the bench any more.
Lucious saw a substantial leap in minutes last year and his game improved accordingly. His points and rebounds per game almost doubled and his steals and assists almost tripled, all while keeping his turnovers low enough to sport a 1.74 assist-to-turnover ratio. This year, Lucious will surely get another boost in minutes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the floor at the same time as the veteran Lucas.
Expected stats: 9.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.1 blocks
47. Kenny Boynton, PG, Florida
Much like Korie Lucious, Boynton really broke onto the national spotlight in his freshman season. The diaper dandy was excluded from the All-Freshman team, but that can be understood due to the competition he was up against (one John Wall comes to mind). However, Boynton helped Florida sneak into the NCAA tournament while averaging 14 points per game and dishing out almost three assists per game.
The much more experienced point guard should see a jump in his secondary statistics this year. Much of last year was spent carrying his team on his back for the majority of the game, only to win or lose in the last seconds. The entire Gators team has matured and bonded. Boynton should be able to play a true point guard this year, dealing out more assists and opening up his driving lanes as well.
Expected stats: 15.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals
46. J’Covan Brown, PG, Texas
Brown may have been one of the biggest surprises for any team last year. In his freshman season, he was one of four players to average two assists or more per game for Texas.
Due to the depth of its backcourt, Brown didn’t get a whole lot of attention coming off the bench. But his play in big games proved to be crucial for the Longhorns. For instance, Brown scored 28 points in a losing effort against Kansas, 21 against UNC (before it hit the wall), and 20 in an NCAA tournament loss to Wake Forest—all despite the fact that he only averaged 9.6 points per game on the season.
Brown’s lack of playing time was the only thing holding him back last year. He proved that he could play at the highest level. Now Brown should get more playing time, with the departure of Avery Bradley and Justin Mason. Brown will be able to increase his passing ability as one of the main threats on an underrated Texas team.
Expected stats: 15.4 points, 3.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds
45. Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
Travis Leslie may be my favorite player to watch in all of college basketball. The young man, of YouTube fame, is best known for his absolute posterizing of DeMarcus Cousins last season in a game at Kentucky. This season, he leads a very underrated Georgia squad, looking to get the Bulldogs back to the tournament.
Last season, Leslie was the one of the best offensive threats for UGA, posting 14 points and seven rebounds. Look for his stats to stay around the same this year, although his turnovers should also come down from a high 2.6 per game. Sometimes Leslie plays a little out of control, but the now junior should fix this with time. Leslie is a player I would definitely keep my eye on this season, both for highlights and as an underrated scorer and playmaker.
Expected stats: 15.3 points, 3.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds
44. Chandler Parsons, PF, Florida
Parsons slipped under the radar last season, until he started to hit a bunch of ridiculous game-winning shots for the Gators. Once people saw that this kid had ice water in his veins, the rest of his game was brought to the forefront. The surprisingly powerful Parsons is a major threat due to his rounded game. He can put someone on the block and bang around with the bigger men, but he is still fast enough and has a good enough shot to step out onto the wing and play at the three.
Parsons is one of the hardest workers in the country as well. He has improved every year throughout his career in Gainesville and he is more consistent than most players. Although he doesn’t put up the best numbers in the world, he always puts up the same. You always know what you are going to get from Parsons.
Expected stats: 15.1 points, 2.1 assists, 7.6 rebounds
43. Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Is it just me or has Jon Leuer been around forever at Wisconsin? The senior big man looks to sneak the Badgers through another season under the radar and go straight into the tournament, just like they always have.
Leuer may have the best shot for a big man in the country. He doesn’t have three-point range, but he does have a game reminiscent of Andrew Bogut from Utah a couple of years ago. He doesn’t really have a low-post game for a guy that is almost seven-feet tall, but he makes up for it with his passing ability and his basketball IQ.
His decision-making is superb, making him almost like a second point guard, just bigger. Lots of the talent that was around Jon Leuer is gone this year, so he may take an even larger role in the scoring scheme.
Expected Stats: 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 blocks
42. David Lighty, SF, Ohio State
David Lighty was one of the players overshadowed by Evan Turner’s greatness last year. The fact that he was one of four SG/SF on a team that averaged over 35 minutes per game forced Lighty to play a kind of game that he wasn’t really suited to. Lighty has a game much like Evan Turner’s, but just a little less polished. His court vision is somewhat rare for a small forward and he is just as good on the boards as the majority of the wings out there. He has the ability to explode on any given night like he did last year, posting a 30 spot on Cleveland State during Turner’s miniature hiatus. Now that Lighty has even more experience, he should become a more integral part of the offense. Look for him and teammate William Buford to feed off each other’s success this season.
Expected Stats: 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.0 steals
41. Josh Selby, PG, Kansas
Selby is arguably the best point guard in this year’s freshman class. His athletic ability is what makes this youngster so special. In the McDonald's All-American game last spring, Selby tallied 13 points, three assists, and two rebounds in 22 minutes.
His ability to get to the basket and score is only surpassed by his star power. Selby is an athlete that thrives in the limelight. He loves to have the ball in his hands late in the game.
The program that he is walking into is prime pickings for him. The Jayhawks are in need of a leader and a star that is willing to take over on the court. With a decent supporting cast, Selby is a shoe-in for the All-Freshman team later in the year. Watch out, Selby is going to be a force this year in college basketball.
Expected Stats: 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists
40. Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
Irving is one of the best point guards in the freshman class. Just like Josh Selby, Irving’s game coincides with his school’s needs perfectly. Irving is going to replace Jon Scheyer. Although it worked for the Blue Devils last year, they didn’t have a pure point guard to run the offense. Irving steps in perfectly for this role, being the best fundamental point man for the job. Irving’s court vision in transition is astonishing for someone his age. In the All-American game, he threw a bounce pass one-handed, from three-quarters court, in between two defenders right in stride to a teammate for a dunk. The play made me drop my jaw and clap to no one in particular.
Irving’s game is very similar to that of Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz. He can score, but his role in the Duke offense won’t require him to do so all of the time. Coach Krzyzewski has said that he wants Kyle Singler to shoot the ball at least as much as he did last year. He’s going to need someone to feed him the ball, meaning Kyrie Irving should have plenty of chances to score some assists and help out his teammates.
Expected Stats: 12.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists.
39. Austin Freeman, SG, Georgetown
Austin Freeman is one of the better pure scorers in the country. His ability to move off the ball is key. Freeman scores so much because he is open more than a lot of people on the court. He has sneaky quickness that helps him separate from opponents with and without the ball.
The reason he isn’t higher on this list is the fact that he is a one-dimensional player. Rarely does he get more than four assists or five rebounds. He is somewhat of a liability on defense and he doesn’t always work very hard. Many times the leading scorer for the other team is the player Freeman is guarding.
With all that being said, Freeman can light up any arena on any night. It doesn’t matter who is guarding him, where he’s playing, or what the circumstances are. If he gets hot, watch out. Freeman can hit threes in bunches and loves to get the ball in crunch time. The true test of Austin Freeman will be whether he steps up in the absence of Greg Monroe to draw defenders in the middle. Freeman may have reached his peak numbers last year, but only time will tell. If he doesn’t do as well this year, it won’t be because of lack of talent, that’s for sure.
Expected Stats: 17.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists
38. Tracy Smith, PF, North Carolina State
Including Smith on this list may be a surprise to many people. If you’ve never heard of Tracy Smith, then you’ve been missing out on a spectacular talent. Tracy Smith was seventh and eighth in the ACC in points and rebounds per game respectively. As outstanding as that sounds, it is without taking into account the individual ability of the majority of the players on that list. The ACC was packed full of ridiculous scorers and rebounders, so Smith’s 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds went largely unnoticed.
I’d include Smith as one of the most powerful forwards in the country. Although a bit small for a typical power forward, Smith plays each play as if his life depended upon it. He is almost a clone of former Pittsburgh forward DeJuan Blair and he more than makes up for his size in the paint by using fundamentals to control his opponents.
He is a great finisher as well. If Smith receives the ball in the post, he is probably going to get it to the basket eventually. Now that he is no longer the only scoring threat on the Wolfpack squad, expect big things from Smith this year. I bet that Smith will be on the radar as one of the best forwards in the ACC by the end of the year, possibly making All-ACC honors.
Expected Stats: 16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists
37. Steven Gray, SG, Gonzaga
The senior guard was somewhat of a surprise last year, boosting his stats much more than in previous years. Perhaps it was due to more playing time, but regardless of the reasons, Gray secured himself as a leader and a go-to guy on the Bulldogs' roster. The Zags are going to need a strong leader this season with Matt Bouldin having graduated last spring.
Steven Gray’s ability to play within Mark Few’s system is what makes him such an asset to the team. No matter the role that he needs to play, he is willing and able. This season, both his scoring and passing abilities will be showcased as a byproduct of his leadership. Gray is an underrated scorer and should get plenty of opportunities to get to the basket.
Expected Stats: 14.5 points, 4.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds
36. Chris Warren, PG, Mississippi
Although not size-blessed—he stands 5'10" and 168 pounds as a senior—Chris Warren's tremendous quickness and lethal accuracy from long range are the traits that set him apart as one of the elite guards in the country. Beyond the arc, he is one of the most dangerous players in SEC history, making three-pointers in 45 straight games entering this season—the third-longest streak in conference history.
As a junior in 2009, Warren totaled 602 points, averaging better than 17 per game. Included in that scoring onslaught was a a 32-point outburst against UTEP and a 31-point performance against Arkansas. Besides filling up the hoop, he also got his teammates involved, to the tune of 3.6 assists per game. Those numbers will rise once again in his final campaign for the Rebels.
Expected stats: 18.6 points, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals
35. Ashton Gibbs, PG, Pittsburgh
Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker make up quite a backcourt. Neither one is a pure point guard or shooting guard, so they split the jobs up about evenly. Gibbs is the fresher face of the two. He only averaged four points, .7 rebounds and .9 assists his freshman year.
Once he was thrown into what was thought of as a sacrificial fire last season, after losing almost every starter, Gibbs came out pristine. He thrived with the under-the-radar approach that the Panthers took throughout the season. He led the Panthers in scoring last season as the undersized two guard in the lineup. His ability to compose himself at high speed is uncanny and he does an excellent job of avoiding foul trouble as well. Now in his junior season, Gibbs can make this season even better. If only Jaime Dixon could win in the postseason.
Expected stats: 15.7 points, 3.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds
34. Durrell Summers, SF, Michigan State
The tried-and-true veteran is just another piece of the successful blueprint that Tom Izzo has drawn for this year. Summers is one of those players that has the potential to be the best player on the floor at any given time. But he just isn't needed to be. He is surrounded by enough talent that his skill is best used as a supporting player.
Another reason he didn't blow-up scoreboards in the past was the presence of Raymar Morgan at the same position. Morgan was a long-time favorite of Izzo's and he always performed well. Now that Morgan has graduated, expect Summers to get more looks than in the past and expect him to capitalize. His off-the-dribble ability is a huge reason he is so good. His first step is so explosive, he can blow by almost any defender.
Expected stats: 13.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists
33. Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse
I'm a huge fan of Kris Joseph. I can't help it. His ability to beat people off the dribble or pull up and shoot over them is so simple, yet so effective. Last year, Wesley Johnson stole his breakout year. Joseph was poised for greatness, but he ended up coming off the bench because of the stellar performance of Johnson. This year, Joseph isn't going to let his job fall out of his hands. The athletic forward is a highlight reel waiting to happen. He runs the floor with blinding speed and can finish above the rim like Vince Carter did before he got old. He shoots well from outside and he has an arsenal of dribble moves. Watch out for this guy in the new season. He's ready to bloom into a full-on star.
Expected stats: 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists
32. Lavoy Allen, PF, Temple
The reigning All-Atlantic 10 player may be the best player in the conference this season. His dominance in the paint led to 13 double-doubles last season including a ridiculous performance of 17 points and 21 rebounds against La Salle. Allen is among the most powerful forwards in the country. He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He's great with the fundamentals and he can bang with the best of them down in the low block. He has a great point guard to feed him the ball in Juan Fernandez, which helps Allen use his power in one-on-one matchups, to score easily in the paint. His points should increase this season as he is now one of the best players on the team.
Expected stats: 13.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists
31. William Buford, SG, Ohio State
Buford is the second of the three in this list that were completely overlooked on the Ohio State squad of last year. Although he put up outstanding numbers, he couldn’t help but be overshadowed by Evan Turner’s Greatest Show on Earth. William Buford has the potential to become the next Evan Turner at Ohio State this year.
While trying to gain some attention last year, Buford was second on the team in scoring, assists, and rebounds (I bet you can’t guess who was ahead of him). The spectacular showing went largely unnoticed but I assure you it won’t this year. Buford is my pick for breakout player of the year—even though it’s not really a breakout, just a continuation.
Expected stats: 17.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists
30. John Shurna, SF, Northwestern
The best player you've never heard of, John Shurna sports an impressive statistical record. And he also almost single-handedly brought the Northwestern basketball program to a point of relevance. Although the Wildcats have still never made the NCAA tourney, it's not John Shurna's fault. Last year, Shurna got the first significant playing time of his career and it paid off for Northwestern. Shurna put up 18.3 points per game and brought down 6.4 rebounds. Like Gordon Hayward of Butler fame, his long, lanky form gives a different impression than what the truth actually reveals. Shurna is surprisingly quick off of the dribble and has no hesitation about taking it straight to the hole. He has a great three-point shot as well, shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc last season. Hopefully he can get some support this season and make some headway on being the man behind the first NCAA birth for the Wildcats.
Expected stats: 20.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists
29. Jeremy Hazell, SG, Seton Hall
I'm sure that many people are going to feel that Jeremy Hazell should be higher on the list than 29. After all, he did average 22.9 points two years ago and 20.9 last season. I will admit, I enjoyed watching Hazell put up a combined 79 points against West Virginia and Syracuse in one week last year. And, yes, I yelled at the TV for the Pirates to just let him keep shooting from 40 feet every trip down the court. But look closer. In those two games, Hazell threw up 33 and 31 field goals, 19 and 15 of which were three-pointers. If his field-goal percentage was just 50 percent, he would have scored more than that. It's easy to score that much when you are throwing up half of your team's shots in one game. Hazell doesn't rebound or pass the ball well either. But I'm not all negative about Hazell. I haven't seen a pure scorer play this well in college in a long time. The numbers that he puts up on some days are what I would expect to see from a college-bound LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. He's probably the second-best pure scorer this decade, only behind Stephen Curry from Davidson. All I can say is that I hope that he can repeat his performances, because he is a lot of fun to watch.
Expected stats: 22.5 points, 2.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds
28. Quincy Acy, PF, Baylor
I strongly believe that Quincy Acy could be the most productive player in the Big 12 this year. He also looks like he could wrestle an actual bear and win and he is extremely efficient. He led all of Division I in field-goal percentage last season, making 70.3 percent of his shots, a feat which only four people have done in the past decade. He also was second on the Baylor roster with 5.1 rebounds per game while only averaging 23 minutes per game. His ability to bring a spark to the team was one of the biggest factors in Baylor's Final Four run last season. Acy takes no prisoners in the low block. He always runs at 100 percent and uses his emotions to fuel his play. Sometimes this can backfire on him when he starts playing bad, but he usually uses his adrenaline like rocket fuel. Big things are in this man's (or beast's) future.
Expected stats: 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 blocks
27. Demetri McCamey, PG, Illinois
McCamey burst onto the college hoops scene last season when he doubled his previous totals in assists, leading Division I last season. He managed to put up eight points and 10 assists in just 15 minutes of play last season against Presbyterian. He also led the Fighting Illini in points with 15 per game. McCamey's breakout season was marred by the fact that the Illini still couldn't make the tourney at the end of the season.
His ability to control the tempo is really what makes him so good. He can run the floor and score in transition or slow down the game and keep the score low. Like the line of point guards before him, McCamey is the general on the floor and makes every decision meticulously.
Illinois is poised for a nice season this year and McCamey is the main reason. He adds even more people to pass to, so not as much pressure will fall on him to carry the team—not that he couldn't handle it.
Expected stats: 15.3 points, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds
26. E'Twaun Moore, SG, Purdue
Moore is possibly the most consistent player in the country. Last season, he only had two games in which he scored in single digits. Every other time he was in double-digit scoring. As Purdue’s leading scorer last year, Moore flourished after the injury to Robbie Hummel. He put up decent numbers in almost every category and plays three-quarters of the game every time. Moore is easily one of the best guards in the Big Ten and should produce just as much as he did last season, as Robbie Hummel is out of action once again. He even has an outside shot at making the All-American list if he can sustain his other numbers without Hummel to take some of the pressure off of him.
Expected stats: 17.9 points, 3.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals
25. Scotty Hopson, SG, Tennessee
I've been waiting for Scotty Hopson to come out of his shell for two years now, but I think my wait might finally be over. With a desertion of the Tennessee basketball roster, Hopson has no choice but to step his game up this season. It's not that Hopson has been terrible or anything. He just hasn't lived up to his hype.
You see brilliant flashes of Hopson flying above the rim and slamming it home, like his 19 point, five steal performance against Georgia. But then the next minute he's not hustling after a ball or throwing his headband on the ground in frustration. Hopson is inconsistent to say the least, but his prime position for leadership provides a perfect opportunity for the scoring guard to replicate last year's run to the Elite Eight.
He naturally has the tools to be a great player. His smooth shot, physical ability and explosiveness are lethal weapons given that he is often bigger than most people who defend him. If he shows that he can control himself (which is hard for anyone being coached by Bruce Pearl) he may prove to be even better than we originally thought, which is quite scary indeed.
Expected stats: 15.6 points, 3.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds
24. Brad Wanamaker, SG, Pittsburgh
Wanamaker saw his minutes almost double last season and his production responded accordingly. He doubled his scoring and assists, and he increased his rebounds. Although he did turn the ball over a significant 2.7 times per game last year, chalk that up to inexperience more than anything. Wanamaker showed his uncanny ability to shoot the ball well while generally only taking a few shots. Always a threat from the three-point arc, Wanamaker has an all-around game that should lead to a career season in his senior campaign.
Expected stats: 15.6 points, 5.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds
23. Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
Walker seems to be a victim of circumstance in the unfortunate turn of events in Connecticut. Two years ago, when the Huskies seemed intent to ride Hasheem Thabeet’s massive shoulders to a title, Kemba Walker was a freshman phenom on the team. It seemed that he was destined to keep Connecticut in the running for a title for his entire tenure in Storrs. His composure down the stretch, especially when Jerome Dyson injured himself and Walker was thrust into the starting lineup, showed that—even as a youngster—he had something to offer the school.
Then all of a sudden Connecticut’s recruiting dropped off the map and Walker became the only significant member of UConn's team. The significant drop-off of the program's results last year were certainly not the fault of the speedy point guard who, alongside Dyson, ran the team and tried to bring the struggling team into the tournament (to no avail). Putting up spectacular numbers is not the only thing that Walker does either. He has become a leader for the Huskies and is always playing hard. This year, Walker should get Connecticut back into the tourney and he could push for an All-Big East spot.
Expected stats: 18.4 points, 5.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 steals
22. Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
Talk about Marcus Morris really didn't start circulating until this summer. Everyone out in the Heartland knew all about him of course. Nationally, he was just another example of a player who went to the same school as his twin brother (Markieff, if you didn't know that little tidbit).
However, once all of last year's team bolted, Bill Self began to praise Marcus as if he was the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain himself. Marcus showed resilience last year and lots of efficiency, averaging 12 points and six rebounds in only 24 minutes of play per game. He was a nice complement to Cole Aldrich, helping Kansas to have a great frontcourt.
Now Marcus has the paint to himself and will most definitely get more playing time. This will most certainly translate to more points and rebounds, especially since he's getting the ball from diaper dandy Josh Selby.
Expected stats: 18.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
21. Trey Thompkins, PF, Georgia
Thompkins was named the preseason SEC Player of the Year this week. This pick is an easy one, as Thompkins was second in scoring and fourth in rebounding in the SEC last season, and everyone ahead of him has left. He was a force last season. However, his individual success did nothing for the actual Georgia Bulldogs team, as mediocrity set in once again for Georgia.
This year, Thompkins is looking to change things. He has the ability and attitude to do so. Already heralded by NBA scouts as a possible lottery pick, his combination of size and agility for his position are envious traits. He works well around the outside of the paint, using a grab-bag of post moves to get to the basket. With a young and athletic team, expect another monster season from Trey, and a possible NCAA berth from the upstart Bulldogs team.
Expected stats: 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists
20. Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
So much for northern exposure. This gem of a player generally goes unnoticed by the majority of the country because he plays for a terrible team in an area with little media coverage. Klay Thompson is a possible Player of the Year candidate that reminds me of Stephen Curry, only taller and stronger.
Thompson can beat you anyway you would like him to. If you give him a cushion, he'll pull up over the top of you and drain a three. If you press him, he'll blow by you and dunk it while you try to figure out where he went. And if you deny him the ball, he'll just post you up and hook it in over you.
He has the perfect frame for a two-guard, too big to play a smaller guard on him but too quick to play bigger people on him. The only thing holding him back from even bigger and better things is the lack of a supporting cast. If he had another player to draw attention, he could become even more of a threat.
Expected stats: 21.5 points, 4.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds
19. Kim English, SG, Missouri
Kim English is a player that can flourish no matter what the circumstances. It doesn't matter that he was one of five guards on the Missouri roster last year that was good enough to start. He still managed to be the leading scorer while only averaging 24 minutes per game. English has so much upside, it is unbelievable. You have to think that, with the graduation of J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor, English will get plenty more playing time this year.
His speedy approach to the game is a reason that he is so good. He can push he ball down the court so quickly it will make your head spin. Just when you think he's going to pass the ball to a flanker, he'll blow past you and get to the rim with a crazy ball fake. English has developed his pace so well that no one knows exactly what he's going to do and that's what makes him so good.
Expected stats: 19.3 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals
18. Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
If not for John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, Alec Burks would have been the best freshman in the country last year. He was definitely the biggest breakout star. Not recruited very highly out of high school, Burks stayed in the midwest and decided to go to Colorado, a move that paid dividends. In his first year, Burks scored 17.1 points per game while pulling down 5.1 rebounds. His assists could use a boost. But I'm sure with the talent level he's shown, that will come in time. Burks proved to be quite energetic, using bursts of speed to elevate his game. His work as a solid guard made Colorado a better team than predicted and the team looks poised to make a run at a tourney bid for the first time since 2003.
Expected stats: 17.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists
17. Shelvin Mack, PG, Butler
If there is one player that matches his team's mascot, it's Shelvin Mack. He's as close to a bulldog as you will ever see. The scrappy point guard from Butler proved his mettle last season in Butler's run to the final game. Like most of the players on the Bulldogs roster, no one knew who Mack was until he started leading the team to victory. However, once everyone started watching Butler, he began to get noticed. His knack of leading the break, getting to the rim and ably maneuvering defenders is a big reason why the Bulldogs went so far in the tournament. He's as consistent as they come as well, only dipping below 10 points five times in the regular season last year. If Mack plays as well as he did last year, the Bulldogs are in for another great season.
Expected stats: 15.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds
16. Elias Harris, PF, Gonzaga
Like so many people before him, Elias Harris has gotten virtually no recognition by playing in the northwest. His freshman campaign was one of the best in the nation, yet no one heard about it. Harris averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game last season while playing for a well filled-out Gonzaga team.
While his basketball IQ may not be as high as people in the past, Harris plays with a fire in his belly that is evident every time he is on the court. He doesn't take plays off, he doesn't complain—he just plays. This tenacious attitude is one of the reasons why he is an integral part of the team. Watch for another big season from Harris this year as well, now that Matt Bouldin is absent from the team.
Expected stats: 16.3 points, 7.7 assists, 1.5 assists
15. Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Arguably the best freshman in the class, Jared Sullinger already is being touted as one of the best forwards in the country.
It is hard not to consider him given his body size. He could have no skill and still be well suited to play the game of basketball. At 6'10", 280 lbs, Sullinger is more than most could handle. His pure size gives him an advantage over most players of the game. And with the majority of his teammates being undersized guard/forwards, Sullinger will have a great view of the basket.
Expect lots of things from Sullinger, but especially the following: rebounds, points and defense. Sullinger is not only great on the offensive end, but he can block shots with tenacity and he has quick hands to steal the ball. He will easily be a Freshman of the Year candidate and even possibly an All-American.
Expected stats: 14.0 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists
14. Kevin Anderson, PG, Richmond
One of the surprise teams last year was the Richmond Spiders. Led by the fantastic point guard Kevin Anderson, the Spiders just missed the NCAA tourney despite a strong finish to the season. After the season, Anderson said that he would leave for the NBA Draft but instead withdrew his name and returned for his senior season.
An honorable mention to the All-America list last year, Anderson led his team by example, scoring just under 18 points per game while grabbing 3.4 rebounds and dishing about three assists. The thing that makes Anderson really good is his dribbling ability. Being able to blow by defenders is a helpful trait. He usually gets most of his points on picks or by beating a defender on the dribble. His quickness is so devastating that, if he sees a defender leaning, he has the vision to identify it and go the other way. His defense is superb as well, as he averaged 1.7 steals per game last year. Richmond could be looking at another great year while Anderson is at the helm.
Expected stats: 18.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals
13. Jacob Pullen, PG, Kansas State
The bearded wonder is back for one more run at the title in the Octagon of Doom. Jacob Pullen showed the nation what having a chinstrap beard can do for a man last season, leading the Wildcats in scoring and steals while leading them to an Elite Eight appearance.
While Pullen was known before last year, he made great strides in improving his game without needing more playing time to do so. I attribute this to the fact that Pullen made twice as many trips to the free throw line, giving him more of an opportunity to score.
His leadership is really what changed the Wildcats for the better. Pullen was always talking to his team, being the emotional leader as well as leading by example. He was the extension of Frank Martin and the team benefited from it. Now Pullen is the only really experienced guard, so expect more points and assists in the upcoming season. Expect the more mature Kansas State team to excel this year and possibly win the Big 12 Conference by the chinstrap.
Expected stats: 20.4 points, 4.5 assists, 1.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals
12. Randy Culpepper, PG, UTEP
This high-flying point guard made splashes at the end of the season last year. Randy Culpepper found a way to lead the Miners through the mediocre Conference USA and into the NCAA tourney while averaging 17.9 points per game and 1.8 steals.
His ability to break out in transition led to many highlight-reel dunks over the course of the season. However, his athleticism was no match for the Butler team that beat them in the tournament. Culpepper is one of the best guards in the country because of his speed and athleticism. At only 6'0", he is able to guard bigger guards by using his quick hands and feet to stay with the physically bigger opponents. Culpepper also shoots fairly well from outside the arc, managing to make 37 percent of his shots. He managed to make nine three-pointers in one game twice last year, posting 39 and 45 point games in the process.
UTEP doesn't really have many other players to shoulder the load, so Culpepper gets the majority of shots and opportunities. But he uses them wisely and has become a premier guard because of his ability to capitalize.
Expected stats: 21.2 points, 2.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals
11. LaceDarius Dunn, SG, Baylor
LaceDarius Dunn is one of the most dangerous scorers in the entire country. Even last year, surrounded by talent, he displayed his worth by averaging 19.6 points per game, more than anyone else on the team. He also managed to grab almost five rebounds per game and steal a ball each game too.
Dunn showed that he played just as well in prime-time, putting in 22 points, six rebounds, two steals and two assists in a losing effort against Duke last year. He's going to be in great shape this year as well. He may assume more control of the offense given that Tweety Carter just graduated, leaving Dunn as the only experienced guard on the roster. Talented returning-player Quincy Acy will be able to take off some of the load and freshman Perry Jones should help as well. Dunn will still be the leading scorer and should be looking at an All-Big 12 roster spot.
Expected stats: 20.1 points, 3.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals
10. Talor Battle, PG, Penn State
Talor Battle is another example of an excellent player keeping a program from collapsing all together. Penn State was absolutely awful last year. Its dismal 11-20 record was only redeemable by the ability of Battle to light up a scoreboard.
He averaged 18 points per game last year, while also contributing 4.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds. He put up more than 30 points four times last season and had two double-doubles as well. He even scored 30 of the team's 54 total points in an 11-point loss to Michigan State.
Battle is just an all-around amazing player. He controls the game easily by changing tempos often, whether slowing down the game or running through traffic. He shoots over 35 percent from beyond the arc and at 6'0," he led the team in rebounding from the point-guard position. Everyone knows that he's going to put up ridiculous numbers this season, but you just have to feel bad for the guy. It doesn't look like his team is going to give him any help again.
Expected stats: 22.3 points, 5.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds
9. Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
Harrison Barnes has almost gotten more attention than any other freshman ever. He has been heralded as many things, including but not limited to: AP Preseason Player of the Year, Preseason All-American, Preseason Freshman of the Year, Resurrection of the UNC Dynasty, Messiah (Chapel Hill exclusive), etc... Barnes brings an instant change to the North Carolina program and could be exactly what Roy Williams needs to regain the trust of Tar Heels fans everywhere.
Barnes is a wing player that just amazes whenever he takes the court. He runs, dunks, blocks, steals, dishes and shoots. He only does everything. When playing against the nation's best freshmen in March, Barnes was a cut above the rest. He won the MVP award and is looking to extend his luck into the college game. Given that UNC lost 70 percent of its scoring over the summer, it could be quite easy for Barnes to come in and immediately be the leading scorer.
He will get plenty of opportunities to score given that he has Larry Drew II passing to him. Drew was sixth in the NCAA in assists, dealing out six per game and Barnes will take advantage. It is always difficult to tell exactly how freshman will perform, but I can say one thing for sure: Barnes is going to be fun to watch.
Expected stats: 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists
8. Nolan Smith, SG, Duke
It's hard to imagine how difficult playing Duke this season will be. Smith is the fourth Blue Devil on the list (spoiler alert: if you haven't figured it out, there's one more...) and he is going to be just as productive as he has been in the past.
Smith has a unique skill-set that allows him to play virtually anywhere on the floor. Last year, he played the point, two-guard and even slid out to the wing as a three when they needed him to. He is fast, agile, rarely turns the ball over and can pass with the best of them.
When evaluating this year, I expect mainly his scoring to go up and his assists to decrease. The addition of Kyrie Irving to the backcourt means that Smith will likely play in the shooting-guard spot for the majority of the time. He will have to worry less about distributing and more about scoring. That being said, he will provide a great complement to Kyrie Irving, being able to handle the ball if needed, meaning it will be extremely difficult to guard the Blue Devils.
Expected stats: 18.2 points, 2.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds
7. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Washington
Isaiah Thomas has emerged as the perfect replacement for Nate Robinson in Seattle. He's small, he's high-octane, he's vocal and most of all he's good at basketball. Watching Thomas play basketball is like watching a Denzel Washington movie: you don't even have to know what he's going to do, but it will probably end up being enjoyable.
Thomas's stats speak for themselves: 16.9 points per game, 3.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds (at 5'8" in stature no less) and 1.1 steals. He's fast as a jackrabbit, can jump like a kangaroo and drives like a NASCAR racer. Thomas' ability to get to the basket may be the best in the game. He can just weave through the lane if he wants to get to the rim. Sometimes he'll score or he can dish it outside as well.
The best part is he has such a swagger about him that you can't help but like him. When Washington is winning, he's always smiling, laughing and having fun. If they are losing, he's focused and concentrated, not allowing them to lose the game. Watch out for Thomas this year. Washington should be on the national scene again.
Expected stats: 19.8 points, 3.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds
6. Malcolm Delaney, PG, Virginia Tech
Malcolm Delaney has been around for a while. Now a senior, he has led good Virginia Tech teams to the very brink of the tourney for two years. Delaney has proved that he is one of the best leaders in the country, consistently causing problems for powerhouse ACC teams.
Delaney puts up some of the best numbers in the ACC on a regular basis (20.4 points, 4.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds). His ability to penetrate off the dribble makes him the best point guard in the ACC. He's just as good with his left hand as he is with his right, making it even harder to stop him. He attacks both small and big players with different strategies.
The part that makes him so dangerous is his basketball IQ. He is one of the smartest players in the college game and he knows it. Virginia Tech has been lurking for years in the ACC. Now they seem poised to strike and Delaney is a dangerous weapon to have in the arsenal.
Expected stats: 20.1 points, 4.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds
5. JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
Robbie Hummel's injury is possibly the worst single event that could have happened to the Boilermakers. However, it gives JaJuan Johnson a perfect opportunity to both increase his draft stock as well as put himself on the forefront of the Player of the Year chase.
JuJuan Johnson is arguably the best F/C in the country and one of the most important pieces on one of the better teams in the country. However, much like Kyle Singler, Johnson was a bit overshadowed by his teammate last year, Robbie Hummel. Johnson's best games came after Hummel was injured. He has proved that he can step up and be the go-to guy in crunch time.
Johnson may not put up the most sparkling numbers (which is why he doesn't receive a whole bunch of attention), but he is an integral part of the Purdue team, even more so when Hummel is out. With the lack of Hummel to make plays and no Chris Kramer to lead the team, the Boilermakers are going to need someone to turn to.
Expect Johnson's points to skyrocket this season, as well as his rebounds to increase a bit. His assists might increase a little bit as well, given that they have nowhere to go but up (0.7 apg in 2009-10). Expect big things from this excellent big man this year.
Expected stats: 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists.
4. Kalin Lucas, PG, Michigan State
Kalin Lucas is another one of the great line of point guards that have attended Michigan State University. Although he might not be Magic Johnson, Lucas is definitely one of the best point guards in college basketball. He performs his job exactly how it is supposed to be done.
He leads his team with confidence, scoring when he can, but more importantly running everything smoothly while on the court. Tom Izzo has done a great job of training Lucas how to run the team according to a game plan. Lucas is like a miniature coach on the court, talking and teaching whenever he has the chance. He even has a protege in Korie Lucious. Lucas' ability to dictate how a game is played on both ends of the court makes him one of the best. His grasp of the intangibles is the reason he is so good.
Projected stats: 15.1 points, 3.4 assists, 1.8 rebounds,
3. Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
If I learned one thing from last year's season, it was that Jimmer Fredette likes to score the basketball. Once he showed up on the radar about a third of the way through the season, I started to watch some games of his. Every time he put up a ridiculous amount of points, I thought he would slack back down the next game. I was wrong.
This kid can light up a scoreboard. In a six day period, Fredette scored 33 points, then 20, then 49 against Arizona. He is just the whole package. He dribbles well, beats people to the ball, has speed for days and is explosive. Oh, and he is a lights out shooter. He shoots 44 percent from behind the three-point line. No matter what people do to try and stop Jimmer Fredette, he still scores. He could tell the defense what he was going to do and he would still do it perfectly.
He's not just a scorer either; he averaged 4.7 assists and three rebounds per game. He can dish the ball, but his only problem (like so many on this list) is the lack of a supporting cast. It was almost evidenced in the win versus Florida, where he was having trouble dealing with trying to score every possession. He does the best he can, but ultimately it's a five man team, not one.
Expected stats: 23.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds
2. Corey Fisher, PG, Villanova
I could start a bluegrass band with all the second fiddles in this list. Corey Fisher pulled off the spectacular task of averaging decent numbers while still playing on the same team as world's greatest ball-hog Scottie Reynolds last year.
Fisher's job was to play point guard when either: a) Reynolds was on the bench, or b) Reynolds didn't feel like taking the ball himself. Fisher still happened to put up around 13 points, four assists, and almost three rebounds. Now Fisher has a window of opportunity to show that he is one of the elite guards in the country.
Fisher has plenty of talent around him, so he can distribute the ball like a true point guard running the game. With a solid recruiting class and plenty of people returning, Fisher's assists should rise. Now that Reynolds is gone, Fisher may step in as the No, 1 scoring option this year as well. When all is said and done, Corey Fisher is one of the most explosive and poised players in the country, and he is in prime position to help Villanova make a deep postseason run.
Expected stats: 16.6 points, 6.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals
1. Kyle Singler, SF, Duke
It is difficult to receive individual attention on a team with so many stars, like the Blue Devils have. Take last year for example. Kyle Singler wasn't the best player on the team (with Jon Scheyer to compete against) for the majority of the year and really didn't start putting up stellar numbers until conference play began. Now, Singler is the new leader. Stepping into the role should evolve Singler's game as well. Singler will be the guy this year, the one that the ball goes to in crunch time to win the game.
Last year, Singler was one of three players on Duke's team that averaged 17 points per game or higher. It would be difficult to increase that number by much this year, especially with the amount of talent coming in. But don't expect it to go down much either.
Singler's rebounds might also go down. Last year Singler pulled down seven boards a game, outstanding for his position. With the Plumlees becoming more-and-more dominant in the paint, expect Singler to move out towards the perimeter and lose about a rebound a game.
His assists will increase though. Last year, there wasn't much to pass to in the middle in terms of scoring, so Singler was on the scoring end of many of Jon Scheyer's and Nolan Smith's assists. Now that he has someone to pass to, expect a rise from the 2.4 that he averaged last year.
Expected stats: 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists