Taking Stock in College Hoops: Players To Watch

Kevin BergerCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2010

SPOKANE,WA - MARCH 21: JaJuan Johnson #25 of the Purdue Boilermakers drives the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Spokane Arena on March 21, 2010 in Spokane, Washington. Purdue defeated Texas A&M 63-61. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

You’re a hedge fund manager. You’ve been tasked with picking a well-balanced portfolio that hits all the asset classes, only you have to pick college hoops players instead of equities, bonds, options and commodities. I’m not asking you to be Michael Milken John Calipari by insider trading your way to cornering the market on concentrated AAU futures, Trading Places style.

Instead, let’s build an honest portfolio based on the value, real or imagined, each player brings to his team. It might not speed up your retirement date, but it may be more fun than looking at your 401k statement a year from now. Here is your menu of funds.


Large Cap Players

These cats are your blue chips. They pay dividends night in and night out. You always know what you’re going to get regardless of monetary policy, interest rates or shooting nights. They’re the Coke, Apple or Berkshire Hathaway of the hoops world. In other words, they’re the foundation of a successful portfolio and a deep run in the tournament.

Kyle Singler: He’s the premier player in college hoops today and he’s never missed earnings numbers in three seasons. The scary part for competitors is that Kyle is playing for a paycheck and he’s surrounded by even more talent than he was last season.

Coach K and his R&D department have delivered more playmaking on the perimeter that should translate into more open looks for Singler than he enjoyed last season. Margin your college basketball fandom to the hilt and expect huge returns from college basketball’s biggest cash cow.

Malcolm Delaney: Malcolm is in a great position to have a breakout season for the rising Hokies. When you average over 20 points per game and 4.5 assists, breakout is an odd descriptor to roll out, but I fully a expect the senior to do just that.

Field goal percentage under 40 percent is a bit disappointing, but that should get better given the Hokies have a better handle on who they are offensively with everyone coming back for a deep tournament run. Delaney should be able divest himself of some of the poor shots he forced last season, so expect that field goal percentage to appreciate. I’m a buyer.

Marcus Morris: From a statistical standpoint, Morris was the most efficient offensive player on the KU team last season. He had more points on better shooting than any other Kansas interior man, and boasted a solid 57 percent from the floor in just 24 minutes of play.

Morris is poised to be one of the top offensive post players in all of college hoops following Cole Aldrich's departure. In fact, KU is a better investment with Morris as the No. 1 option in the post than they were with Cole Aldrich.


Emerging Markets

This asset class has the biggest beta. Hit a home run and your team can garner one of the top seeds, and as a fund manager your clients retire 10 years early. Miss, and these teams are bubble squads while your clients contemplate 10-year careers as greeters at Walmart pitching 10-cent discounts on Spam.

Jared Sullinger: For an Ohio State squad that has all the answers you need along the perimeter, Sullinger, or at least Sullinger’s balance sheet as a player, fills the void. Lighty, Buford and Diebler are the most complete, experienced backcourt triumvirate in America. All they need is an interior bell cow with the skills to take advantage of an open paint, which should happen courtesy of the aforementioned.

The super-talented freshman Sullinger should be a bull in the china shop for those that back the Bucks. Even the most conservative basketball investors should be bullish on the Buckeyes based on his presence alone. Sully has a tremendous base, hands and touch. He’s VCR to Corliss Williamson’s betamax. If his stock tanks, Thad Matta always has Social Security.

Harrison Barnes: If this kid’s the iPod, then the North Carolina Apple Computers contend for the ACC title. If he’s closer to Kevin Costner’s rate of return on Waterworld, then the Heels will struggle to make the tourney. After watching the kid on the AAU circuit, however, you’d be hard pressed to envision Barnes being anything less than all-ACC as a frosh.

In fact, he has a solid chance to be a point forward facilitating offense in the mold of Carmelo Anthony in terms of effectiveness. The only questions are if Larry Drew can be Gerry McNamara, or if John Henson channels Hakeem Warrick. As far as Barnes' supporting class, we don’t purchase junk bonds in this fund, so the answer is no. There’s no diversification here; it’s either Barnes is as good as advertised or UNC’s stock plummets.

Tyshawn Taylor: The kid’s financials look poised for a breakout to the upside. He’s got all of the skills required to be a lead guard and feed the Jayhawk offensive talent beast. Is he up for it mentally? I’m guessing a role that includes plenty of minutes allows the game to come him increasing his efficiency.

That’s just what the head doctor ordered for the previously precocious guard. Not having to look over your shoulder at every dead ball works wonders for a player’s psyche. Look for some solid growth here and a KU team in contention as a result.

Perry Jones: The Baylor forward may be the best freshman player in the nation, and that includes Barnes and Sullinger. If Scott Drew can get some effort out of the young man, there’s enough talent in that 6'10" frame to carry the Bears to a Big 12 title. The problem is that the Bears don’t have the type of leadership or playmaking on the perimeter to enhance this prospect’s prospects. I’m shorting Jones for that reason. You should too unless you think LaceDarius Dunn is a tonic for young headcases. I’m bearish.


Government Bonds

When the market takes a downturn on off-shooting nights, our capital needs to fly to safety and play defense. These jokers lock it down night in and night out, and can help their squads weather the storm during bull or bear markets.

Jeff Allen: Allen has the kind of athleticism and size that coaches covet in defenders. He can lock down the most talented explosive wing and 2 guards alike, and he’ll get his shot in the ACC going up against the likes of Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes. You’re special when you have the size to tag Singler around the perimeter and not succumb to being backed down by this hybrid 4. When he stays in front of Harrison Barnes this season, Seth Greenberg will know that his money is safe and secure.

Nolan Smith: He’s not the tip of the spear on-ball defender that Bobby Hurley was, but Smith presents his own problems to opposing lead guards. He’s big and physical and won’t be knocked off the dribble. He also plays smart, enticing jumpers from those without consistent range or he’s chasing dead-eye shooters off their shots when the need arises.

It also helps to play with the premier help-and-recover team in America. Nolan is gold, and every prudent investor needs a little gold in his portfolio to hedge against inflation or a well-set ball screen.

JaJuan Johnson: The Boilermaker post averaged about 2.5 blocks per game and managed to stay out of foul trouble while producing huge numbers on offense. There isn’t a more complete interior player in America if you’re truly looking to hit earnings numbers at both ends of the floor.

Without Boilermaker star wing Robbie Hummel in the picture this season, I’m interested to see if Johnson can continue to play at such a high level on defense when Purdue needs more production out of the senior on offense.

So how would you build your portfolio? Would you add some international exposure like Enes Kanter or Cory Joseph? Or how about some of Tom Izzo’s commodities from Michigan State? If you’ve got any hot stock tips, here’s your chance.