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College Basketball: Top 15 Dream Matchups

Charlie ScaturroCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2011

College Basketball: Top 15 Dream Matchups

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    One of the things that makes college basketball great is that there are so many different teams from so many different conferences playing all around the country.

    Unfortunately, because there's so much diversity at the collegiate level, some of the most unique players and teams may never cross paths during the course of a given season.

    There's no doubt that conference play always yields some incredible individual and team matchups that keep college basketball fans on the edges of their seats. However, because conference play takes up a large portion of each team's schedule, there are definite limitations as to what other intriguing matchups may take place.

    When you're watching that small forward from the West Coast carve up the opposition and that hard-nosed defender from the Midwest shut down everyone in sight, it's only natural to think about what would happen if an unstoppable force met an immovable object.

    And while the schedules might not sync up to provide us with the answers to these questions, it's always fun to think about what some of the dream matchups in college basketball would be.

    I'm not talking about the obvious ones like Kansas vs. Ohio State—of course that would be a good matchup, and we would all love to see it take place—but let's dig deeper and get a little more creative with some of the most extraordinary players or teams who have dominated specific aspects of the collegiate game this season.

    When coming up with the players or teams and the dream matchups we would love to see, I took into account the characteristics of each player and team which make them dominant at the collegiate level.

    Then, I attempted to pair them up with players or teams who were similarly dominant, or especially adept at shutting down a particular type of player (e.g. a great scorer against a great defender).

    Additionally, I didn't include any matchups that already have or will take place, because they're not dream matchups...they're reality.

    Many of these players or teams may not meet one another on the court, but, hey—we can dream.

Kenneth Faried vs. Derrick Williams

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    These are two of the most athletic big men in the country whose teams depend on them for a lot of production.

    The athleticism of Derrick Williams and Kenneth Faried has made life miserable for opposing post players this season, and although a game between Arizona and Morehead State might not have fans on the edges of their seats, the individual battle between Williams and Faried certainty would.

    Both players are the leading scorers and rebounders for their respective teams, can bring crowds to their feet because of their finishing ability at the rim, have dominated their share of games this season and are two of the most athletically gifted players in the nation.

    Besides the fact that Williams is now a YouTube legend thanks to his high-flying exploits, the Arizona sophomore has also quietly become one of the best players in the nation and is a huge reason why the Wildcats are currently ranked 16th and sit atop the Pac-10.

    One of the most valuable parts of Williams' game is his incredible offensive efficiency, which has allowed him to score nearly 20 points per game while shooting over 60 percent from the field and making a regular habit of getting to the free throw line.

    Kenneth Faried might not play for a nationally recognized team, but the 6'8'' Newark native has been nearly as impressive as Williams during his senior season. Faried is not only leading all of college basketball in rebounding (14.2 per game), he's also one of the game's premier post defenders, thanks to his great instincts, positioning, timing, length and athleticism.

    It would be relatively easy to dismiss what Faried has accomplished this season because he plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, but he showed during games against Ohio State and particularly against Florida that he's the real deal.

    Going up against two very good teams, Faried was anything but intimidated, and he posted a combined 35 points and 30 rebounds while keeping Morehead State competitive, despite the fact that they were seriously undermanned against two extremely talented major-conference squads.

    Williams and Faried both play with a competitiveness and drive that further enhances their physical gifts and would make this meeting one of the most entertaining one-on-one matchups college basketball could produce.

    As if the theoretical meeting between Faried and Williams needed anything more to sweeten the pot, this matchup would definitely pique the interests of pro scouts everywhere, because both players will no doubt be playing professionally one day soon.

Jordan Hamilton vs. Chris Singleton

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Here, we have an extremely versatile and effective scorer going up against one of the best defenders in the nation.

    Because of Jordan Hamilton's size and ability to score in so many different ways, few opponents have been able to prevent the 6'7'' sophomore from getting his way this season.

    Whether Hamilton is spotting up for three, finishing at the rim or utilizing a solid mid-range game, he's become one of the toughest defensive matchups in the country.

    He has only failed to reach double digits once all season, despite the multitude of options that are available on this Longhorns roster.

    Chris Singleton has long been known as a defensive specialist because of his athletic 6'9'' frame and ability to guard multiple positions.

    Throughout his career at Florida State, he has shown that he can make life very tough on even the most gifted of scorers.

    Not only has Singleton put up some extremely impressive defensive numbers this season (2.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per game), but he shows great awareness on the defensive side of the floor.

    When you combine his defensive IQ with his size, athleticism and high motor, you have one of the best lock-down defenders in all of college basketball.

    Part of what has made Hamilton such a successful scorer this season has been the fact that he's either too quick or too big for most defenders to have a chance at slowing him down.

    But, pit him against a player like Singleton, who has the size and lateral quickness to both keep Hamilton in front of him and challenge any shot he puts up, and this would be one incredible matchup to watch.

    Because Florida State generally asks Singleton to guard every opponent's best scorer, the junior has found himself in some foul trouble this season.

    I don't think it would be a bad idea to give him six or seven fouls in this matchup, because it would be a shame to rob fans of the chance to watch Singleton and Hamilton go at each other for most of the game.

Nolan Smith vs. Charles Jenkins

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    I would love to see one of the most explosive scorers in the country get a shot at probably the best shooting guard in the nation.

    This is one of the few matchups on this list that has a decidedly David vs. Goliath feel to it.

    When you're talking about someone from Duke going head-to-head with a player from Hofstra, it doesn't exactly sound like a fair fight.

    But if there's one mid-major player who probably has a shot at overcoming the odds, it might very well be Charles Jenkins.

    Despite the fact that he's not playing against top-tier competition in the Colonial Athletic Association on a nightly basis, what Jenkins has been able to accomplish during his senior season has been nothing short of incredible.

    Not only is Jenkins one of the leading scorers in the nation at a little over 23 points per game, but he's been extremely efficient, attempting just 14.3 shots per game and connecting on 53.8 percent of these attempts.

    Jenkins is one of the most deadly shooters in the country, converting over 40 percent from three and over 80 percent from the free throw line. He is able to create his own shot and, thanks to a quick release, he doesn't need much time or space to make opposing teams pay.

    On the other hand, the year that Nolan Smith has had for the Blue Devils doesn't need much of an introduction.

    The 6'2'' guard has played like a man possessed ever since Kyrie Irving's injury. Despite the fact that he's part of a much more talented Duke roster going against some much stiffer competition in the ACC, he's still putting up very similar numbers to Jenkins' at Hofstra.

    There are quite a few similarities to Jenkins' and Smith's game: Both players are not only their team's leading scorers and assist men, but they're also experienced players who are capable of taking over a game with their ability to score the basketball.

    There's not much doubt that a game between Hofstra and Duke probably wouldn't be all that competitive, but the individual duel between Jenkins and Smith would be a chance for the Hofstra product to show that he can hang with one of the top players in the nation, which would be extremely entertaining to watch.

Missouri's Offense vs. Washington's Offense

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    These are two of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation that don't know the meaning of "slow it down."

    Whenever you watch a game that features either Missouri or Washington, you're pretty much guaranteed to witness an extremely fast-paced, high-scoring and entertaining affair.

    Washington averages 84.8 points per game, while Missouri puts up 83.5, both of which are good enough to rank both teams in the top ten in points per game nationally and make them extremely exciting to watch.

    Not only do Mike Anderson and Lorenzo Romar center their coaching philosophies around pushing the ball at every opportunity, but they also have the personnel necessary to play this style of basketball.

    Both Washington and Missouri have plenty of depth, which allows the coaches to give their players a rest by bringing fresh legs off the bench without too much of a drop-off in the level of play on the court.

    Of course, these teams are anchored by players like Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Marcus Denmon, but the reserves from both of these squads are what make them so dangerous and capable of maintaining their incredibly fast-paced style of play.

    At the same time, both teams are far from simply being high-scoring gimmicks, and it wouldn't be too surprising if either Washington or Missouri made some noise during March this season.

    The big winners during this pretend matchup are the fans, who would be treated to what would no doubt be one of the highest-scoring games of the season.

    The losers would definitely be the play-by-play announcers and referees, who would probably need to take naps at halftime and might need a week off by the time the game was over.

Jared Sullinger vs. Gary McGhee

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Both players are incredibly physical big men, are among the strongest players in the nation and both make their living under the basket.

    Despite the fact that Gary McGhee isn't nearly the all-around player that Sullinger is, this would still be an epic low-post matchup because of the size and strength that both players possess.

    McGhee and Sullinger have both controlled the area around the basket for their respective teams this season, and it's clear that they're two of the more physically imposing players in the collegiate game today.

    Jared Sullinger's 6'9'', 280-pound frame and his tough play around the basket have brought him to the forefront in the "Player of The Year" conversation. He is a huge reason why the Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the favorites to win it all this season.

    Meanwhile, the job Gary McGhee has done for Pittsburgh hasn't garnered nearly as much national attention. But, the low-post presence that the senior big man has given Jaime Dixon this season is a big reason why the Panthers are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and are currently a Top Five team overall.

    Of course, this wouldn't be much of a matchup to watch when Pittsburgh is on offense.

    But, Jared Sullinger has quickly established himself as one of the best low-post scorers in the country, and McGhee is an extremely active defender, whose long arms and strong frame should be able to bother Sullinger when he's trying to establish position.

    In addition, both players are fierce rebounders, and there's little doubt that there would be plenty of great battles every time a shot goes up.

    Neither player is going to wow you with his vertical leap or pose much of a threat with his ability to step out and shoot, which only means that this battle would be waged close to the basket, where college basketball fans would be treated to the sight of two of the most physical low-post players in the nation going at each other.

    Perhaps the best part about this matchup is that, unlike a lot of physical post players, neither McGhee nor Sullinger really struggle staying out of foul trouble. Each guy has only fouled out of a game once this season, and they've combined to commit more than three fouls in a game just five times total.

    So, fans everywhere can be sure that they would get their money's worth when McGhee and Sullinger start throwing their weight around in the post.

Jimmer Fredette vs. Kemba Walker

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Fredette and Walker are arguably the two purest scorers in college basketball. I'm sure you knew this one was coming.

    Due to their explosive scoring abilities, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette would definitely have the ability to put on one of the more entertaining back-and-forth offensive battles of the season.

    Walker and Fredette have established themselves as two of the premier scoring threats in the nation, and both players have proven that they are dangerous, whether they're spotting up from behind the arc or taking it hard to the basket.

    Everyone knows that it's much easier to put up lofty scoring numbers on an average or below-average team, but one of the most impressive things about what both Fredette and Walker are doing this season is that they're putting up more than 20 points per game for two of the better teams in the nation.

    UConn and BYU have been fixtures in the Top 25 for the majority of the season, and they both depend heavily on their respective stars to handle much of the scoring load on a regular basis.

    Neither player has shied away from the challenge.

    Because Fredette and Walker have very expansive offensive repertoires, they've been able to consistently rise to the occasion of leading their teams to victory on most nights.

    It would be great to see both players take on the task of trying to slow the other down, but from a pure entertainment standpoint, it might be even better if they preserved their energy on defense and focused on trying to simply outscore each other on offense.

    Because Fredette and Walker have shown the ability to hit big shots later in the game, it's hard to imagine a more exciting perimeter duel than watching these two guys trade blows late in the second half.

    UConn's tough Big East schedule has taken a bit of a toll on Kemba Walker's chances to win the "Player of The Year" award, but any time a head-to-head meeting between two players could potentially help decide the recipient of such a prestigious honor, it's definitely a dream matchup that college basketball fans would love to watch.

Jordan Taylor vs. Tu Holloway

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    We'd be watching two undersized players who do it all for their respective teams.

    Whenever you're watching Wisconsin or Xavier play, there's a good chance that Jordan Taylor and Tu Holloway are the smallest players on the court at any given point in time.

    Despite the fact that both guys stand under 6'2'', they've managed to play much bigger than their size this season.

    Both players had solid sophomore campaigns, but they have taken their games to new heights as juniors and have been a big part of Xavier's and Wisconsin's respective successes up to this point in the season.

    Holloway has stepped out of Jordan Crawford's shadow at Xavier to become one of the best players in the Atlantic 10.

    His multifaceted game consists of much more than just putting points on the board. Holloway has been an iron man for the Musketeers this season, and when he doesn't play well, they usually don't win.

    The diminutive guard is averaging a ridiculous 38.5 minutes per game while leading the team in scoring, assists and steals.

    But perhaps the number that showcases his gritty nature best is the nearly five rebounds per game he averages, despite being the shortest player on Xavier's roster.

    In much the same way that Holloway has emerged as a player who can dominate any given game, Taylor has become a force in the Wisconsin backcourt, and has helped them to become an extremely dangerous team in the Big 10.

    Taylor also posts staggering rebounding numbers considering his height, and leads the Badgers in assists while giving them a legitimate scoring threat to pair with Jon Leuer.

    Holloway and Taylor might not be the most physically imposing players in the nation, but it's become clear that both guys are capable of playing much bigger than their height, which definitely makes this battle worth watching.

Notre Dame's Shooters vs. Saint Mary's Shooters

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Both teams have a multitude of guys who are great shooters and are never afraid to show off their skills.

    Notre Dame and Saint Mary's make no secret of their affinity for the long ball, and it's been working quite well for both teams this season.

    Each roster consists of at least four guys who attempt three or more three-pointers per game. The likes of Ben Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis, Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova spotting up from deep has frustrated opposing teams all season.

    Thanks to their glut of talented shooters, as well as the run-and-gun style of play that Randy Bennett has instituted, the Gaels have jacked up nearly 570 three-pointers this season, and have connected on 39.7 percent of these long-range heaves.

    In comparison, Notre Dame's 475 three-point attempts and 37.9 percent accuracy don't seem quite as impressive.

    But, with guys like Hansbrough, Abromaitis, Carleton Scott and Scott Martin all ready and willing to fire away, the Fighting Irish might be one of the only teams in the nation who could go shot-for-shot with Saint Mary's and live to tell about it.

    Mike Brey's squad is far from a one-dimensional three-point shooting team, which is evident when you look at the success they've had in the Big East this season.

    But, facing a team like Saint Mary's in this fictional matchup, you have to figure that the Irish shooters would step up to the challenge and put on one of the more impressive long-range shooting displays we've seen.

Peyton Siva vs. Isaiah Thomas

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Two lightning-quick players would be going at each other on both ends of the floor.

    Isaiah Thomas and Peyton Siva are two of the fastest players in the nation. Both thrive in the open floor and also rely on their athleticism to make up for what they lack in size.

    Both players usually have few problems blowing by would-be defenders thanks to their quick first step, which allows them to explode to the basket and either dish to open teammates or take it strong themselves.

    Neither Siva nor Thomas stands even 6'0'', but that hasn't prevented either from having a game-changing effect during plenty of contests this season.

    It would be quite entertaining to watch these two speed demons go at each other in either transition or half-court sets.

    Even though Siva spent most of his freshman year sitting behind Edgar Sosa, he has risen to the challenge in his sophomore season, and he has matured into one of Rick Pitino's most important players.

    The Seattle native showed just how deadly his quickness can be during a recent double-overtime win against UConn. Siva effortlessly drove by his man and finished at the rim on two occasions, both of which tied the game as time was winding down, forcing overtime and then double-overtime, when the Cardinals would eventually prevail.

    Isaiah Thomas also has a habit of making defenders look bad, and whether he's simply going by them like they don't exist or playing the pick-and-roll to perfection, he has the ability to get to the rim fairly easily.

    At this point in both players' collegiate careers, Thomas is a better pure scorer, but there's little doubt that a matchup which features Isaiah Thomas and Peyton Siva would involve plenty of fast breaks and fearless drives to the basket.

David Lighty vs. Marshon Brooks

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    One of the premier scoring wings in the country would be up against one of the game's best glue-guys.

    Marshon Brooks was a solid contributor for Providence last season. But, as a senior, he has become one of the most dangerous scorers in the country. 

    After his 43-point explosion against Georgetown this past weekend, the 6'5'' swingman is now averaging a shade over 24 points per game.

    You can bet that every team in the Big East has taken notice of Brooks' ability to relentlessly attack the basket.

    Despite the fact that Providence is usually overmatched during most nights in the Big East, Brooks has had little trouble creating his own shot. As Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Syracuse recently found out, he can get hot in a hurry and give any team a run for their money. 

    Trying to slow down Brooks in this dream matchup would be none other than David Lighty, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball and the type of player who does whatever he can to help his team win. 

    Lighty's athleticism, length, versatility and intensity make him a coach's dream and an extremely valuable player, whose contributions don't always manifest themselves as tangible statistics. 

    There's no doubt that Marshon Brooks has been one of the hottest scorers in the country over the last few weeks, but he's also been incredibly consistent throughout the season, reaching at least 20 points in all but four of the Friars' games this year. 

    Matching a dominant wing scorer like Brooks against a dominant wing defender like Lighty would be one of the most hotly contested matchups college basketball could produce, and it would no doubt yield some exciting results.

Jordan Williams vs. Marcus Morris

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Here, we'd have two of the best low-post scorers in the nation trying to slow each other down.

    Marcus Morris and Jordan Williams have been asked to play much bigger roles for their respective teams this season, and both players have responded beautifully while establishing themselves as two of the most dangerous low-post scorers in college basketball.

    Jordan Williams might not be getting much publicity because Maryland has been mediocre this season, but there's been nothing mediocre about the sophomore's play. 

    Standing 6'10'' and weighing in at 260 pounds, Williams can bang with anyone under the basket, and he has become extremely adept at using his immense size to his advantage when he's fighting for position in the post. 

    Williams has been a double-double machine all year, and thanks to some offseason work which improved his low-post moves and footwork, he's become a scary sight for anyone trying to slow him down.   

    Marcus Morris might not be posting huge numbers like Williams is, but the junior forward has emerged as one of the most polished and versatile big men in the country. 

    Morris can do a little bit of everything on the court, whether it's knocking down a mid-range jumper, running the floor or using his arsenal of post moves to create easy looks.

    The 6'9'' Philadelphia native also possesses great strength and a soft touch around the basket, which make him that much tougher to defend on the low block.

    Jordan Williams might have some trouble hanging with Morris on the perimeter, but when these two big men get to banging in the post, it would be a sight to see.

    You can bet that this would be an extremely physical and enjoyable matchup to take in. 

Perry Jones vs. JaJuan Johnson

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    Experience meets youth in this matchup of extremely talented and lanky big men.

    Neither Perry Jones nor JaJuan Johnson would ever be confused with guys who can throw their weight around in the post.

    But, both players are long, athletic and can score in a multitude of ways, which makes them incredibly tough for opposing bigs to match up against.

    Perry Jones has had an up-and-down freshman season, but he's really come on during Big 12 play and shown why he is considered one of the top prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft. 

    The Texas native is a freaky athlete who possesses the ability to run the floor like a guard and incredible explosiveness around the basket, which makes him a premier finisher. Jones even has the ability to put the ball on the floor, and while his jumper has been streaky this season, it's clear that he has solid form and should become more comfortable shooting from further out as he matures.

    It seems like JaJuan Johnson has been at Purdue since the legendary Gene Keady was roaming the sidelines, and this lanky senior has absolutely stepped up his game in the absence of Robbie Hummel this season. 

    In addition to possessing a solid post game, Johnson has worked diligently to become a much better perimeter shooter, and he has now become a matchup nightmare because of his ability to sink long jumpers. 

    Johnson's high release on these jumpers makes even contesting his shots a problem for most big men, who generally can't even get out to the three-point line before the 6'10'' senior has lined up his shot.  

    Johnson and Jones are nearly identical body doubles. Both play the game with a fluidity and smoothness that you don't normally see from players who are 6'10'', and watching these two take shots at each other on every possession would be worth the price of admission all by itself.         

Joshua Smith vs. Reggie Johnson

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    This would be a super-sized meeting between two of the biggest players in college basketball.

    If you adhere to the phrase, "bigger is better," this matchup would be the best of the bunch.

    Both Joshua Smith and Reggie Johnson are listed at 6'10'' and just over 300 pounds, making them two of the biggest players in the nation.

    They would surely be throwing their weight around in this fictional matchup.

    But before you think that either Smith or Johnson are simply playing college ball to drop a few pounds, understand that both players are extremely skilled and have made a difference in the paint on many occasions this season.

    Joshua Smith was one of the highest-rated prospects in this season's freshmen class because of his size, which allows him to dominate the paint, as well as his agile footwork and soft touch, which make him a legitimate scoring threat around the basket.

    Playing for Ben Howland at UCLA, Smith has had issues with conditioning and staying out of foul trouble, but he has shown flashes of greatness during his freshman season.

    His December 2nd performance against Kansas, during which he recorded 17 points and 13 rebounds, prompted Bill Self to exclaim that Smith dominated the Jayhawks bigs and goes to show just how much potential this young center possesses.

    While Joshua Smith is still looking for some consistency, Reggie Johnson has been terrorizing the ACC with his size this season, and the North Carolina native has become one of the best rebounders in the nation.

    In his sophomore season, Johnson has also shown that he can help Miami with some of the scoring load, and the career-high 22 points he posted against Duke on January 2nd displayed the kind of potential that Johnson has.

    When you have two guys who combine to weigh over 600 pounds banging under the basket, the rest of the players on the floor would be wise to keep their distance, which would only make watching Smith and Johnson going at each other even more entertaining.

Jeffery Taylor vs. Kawhi Leonard

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    These are two athletic wings who attack the basket and play the game very hard.

    Jeffery Taylor and Kawhi Leonard are both very athletic, 6'7'' swingmen who are capable of excelling in many areas on the basketball court.

    Both players possess great length and an explosiveness to their game that few others in the nation can match. When either player is given even a small opening to the basket, there's not much anyone can do to stop them from delivering a highlight-reel slam.

    Taylor has actually struggled at times during his junior season, but while his numbers haven't seen much of an improvement from last year, it's hard to deny how versatile he can be on the court.

    Taylor can guard multiple positions on defense thanks to his size and athleticism. On the offensive side of the floor, he has become a much better three-point shooter this season, as well as being able to get to the rim and finish, even when going up against bigger players.

    Leonard is the leading scorer and rebounder for a San Diego State team that has been ranked in the Top 10 for the majority of the season and is vying for a high seed in this year's tournament. The 6'7'' forward has a fearlessness about his game which allows him to compete with big men for rebounds, and his high motor makes him a relentless competitor who often simply outworks his opposition.

    Both guys play the game hard, which makes them extremely enjoyable to watch. You know they would both be going all-out if this fictional matchup ever became a reality.

Thomas Robinson vs. Deshaun Thomas

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    Why This Matchup Would Be Great

    These guys are two of the best backups in all of the nation who both make their time on the floor count.

    Considering that neither guy averages more than 15 minutes per game, it might be hard to get much more than a glimpse of either Thomas Robinson or Deshaun Thomas during most Ohio State or Kansas basketball games.

    And while both players are relegated to these relatively low minutes because they're backing-up some extraordinary players on their respective teams, Robinson and Thomas have made the most of their opportunities this season.

    Both players are averaging nearly nine points per game in their limited roles and have provided a huge boost off the bench for two of the best teams in the nation.

    Robinson is an impressive athlete whose strength and physical gifts allow him to be a tenacious rebounder and a menace around the basket.

    The 6'9'' Washington D.C. native has had to fight for playing time during his sophomore year because he shares a frontcourt with the Morris brothers, but it's hard not to notice Robinson when he's on the floor because of his ability to take over a game with his dynamic play on both sides of the court.

    Deshaun Thomas is also fighting for playing time on a loaded Ohio State roster, but one of the top recruits from this year's crop of freshmen has also shown that he can be effective in limited minutes.

    Thomas was a prolific scorer in high school, and this southpaw can beat you spotting up from behind the arc or utilizing his 6'6", 230-pound frame to bang around the basket.

    It's unlikely that these two super-subs would be matched up against each other if Ohio State and Kansas were to meet, but it really would be something to watch both players come off the bench for their respective teams and provide instant offense and hard-nosed play in their time on the court.

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