College Basketball: The Most Valuable Player on Every Top 15 Team
The most valuable player is not always the best player.
He is not always the player that gets all the headlines, get all the awards and gets drafted the highest.
Sometimes you do not even know the most valuable player's name.
The most valuable player is a player that the team cannot live without, the player who is the most important to his team, the player who does the little things and the player that makes the difference between the Final Four and the last four out.
Here are the most valuable players on each top 15 team.
North Carolina: Kendall Marshall
Kendall Marshall almost single-handedly made Carolina an Elite Eight team last season.
When Kendall Marshall replaced Larry Drew as the starting point guard, UNC went from a bubble team to a two seed in the NCAA tournament.
Marshall made the Heels the best fast break team in the nation, one of the best defensive teams in the nation, made Harrison Barnes a star and improved team chemistry immensely.
If the Heels lose Marshall they lose the fast break that made them the No. 1 team in the nation.
Kentucky: Terrence Jones
I understand that a strong argument can be made for Marquis Teague here.
He is UK’s only threat at the point guard position and will probably end up being one of the best point guards in the nation by season’s end.
But Jones is the emotional and physical leader of a young Kentucky basketball team.
If UK loses Jones they will lose the rebounding battle in just about every game this season. They will also lose a “veteran” leader with All-American talent.
Ohio State: Jared Sullinger
Sullinger is going to be the most dominant player in college basketball this season.
He is more athletic, has more post moves, is better on defense and has become a much better shooter.
It is logical to think that Sullinger could be the player that carries Ohio State to a national championship, or at least a Final Four.
Without him OSU really has no strengths besides the passing of Aaron Craft and is probably just a bubble team.
Sullinger is probably the most important player in the nation.
UCONN: Andre Drummond
UCONN is absolutely loaded at the guard positions this year.
Jeremy Lamb will average at least 15 points a game, Shabazz Napier should average at least five assists a game and Ryan Boatwright should be a solid player for the Huskies.
If Andre Drummond can be the player people expect him to be, then UCONN will have a great chance of repeating.
Drummond needs to score at least 10 points a game, block at least three shots a game and grab at least seven rebounds a game so the Huskies can have a reliable threat down low.
Syracuse: Fab Melo
It is going to be interesting to see how much Fab Melo has improved from his first season.
He has potential to be one of the best defensive players in the nation.
If Melo can play the kind of defense that he is capable of, then Syracuse will have a huge advantage with their fast break offense.
Syracuse needs Melo to start fast break scoring opportunities by blocking shots and throwing great outlet passes.
If Syracuse can get easy scoring opportunities, then they have a chance to make another Final Four.
Duke: Ryan Kelly
Every year Duke is going to be one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country.
This year Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton and Andre Dawkins are all players who are threats to shoot over 40 percent from behind the three-point line.
Duke still needs a reliable threat inside the three-point line, though.
That is why Ryan Kelly is huge for this Duke team.
He has to be able to score on the inside and outside, he has to be able to grab tough rebounds and he has to play solid post defense.
If he can do that, then Duke has a chance of making the Final Four.
Vanderbilt: Festus Ezeli
Today showed us just how important Festus Ezeli is to Vanderbilt.
Without him they become a one-dimensional team that relies way too much on their three-point shooting.
With him they can play inside-out and use their post game to set up their perimeter play.
I still believe that with Ezeli Vanderbilt is one of the five best teams in the nation.
They have five returning starters, two All-American caliber guards and one of the best post players in the nation (Ezeli).
Today showed us just how important Ezeli was to Vanderbilt and future games will show us how good Vanderbilt is with Ezeli.
Louisville: Peyton Siva
This might be the deepest team Rick Pitino has had since his 1996 team at Kentucky.
Louisville should be able to go 12 deep and should be loaded with guards once Wayne Blackshear comes back.
The thing about Louisville’s depth, though, is that the team is basically made up of 11 solid players and one star player.
That one star player is going to be Peyton Siva.
He is going to be one of the nation’s best point guards and he should average over 15 points a game.
Memphis: Joe Jackson
The strength of this Memphis team is going to be the speed that they have at the guard positions.
Barton and Jackson form one of the fastest backcourts in the nation and will be nearly impossible for most C-USA teams to guard in the half court.
But without one of these two guards Memphis loses some of the speed that is going to make it an elite team.
Florida: Patric Young
Florida has one of the best backcourts in the nation.
Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker return and the Gators also add Bradley Beal (a Ray Allen-like shooter) and Mike Rosario (a power guard who can score in bunches). The Gators will be able to beat teams in a run and gun game and will also be able to out shoot teams.
But can they survive with only one legitimate post threat?
For the Gators to be a legitimate Final Four contender if Young has the all-conference season he is capable of.
Young needs to average a double-double for the Gators to contend nationally.
Pittsburgh: Khem Birch
Birch is one of the highest-rated recruits in Pittsburgh history and he could add some athleticism to what is already one of the toughest teams in America.
The thing that Pittsburgh has always been missing is an explosive NBA-type of athlete on their team. Someone who can block shots, run the floor and get the team some easy points. While Pittsburgh is usually made up of “grind it out” guys, Birch gives Pittsburgh a chance of to get some easy points in the post and some big plays on defense.
Birch’s impact could also come down to how Jamie Dixon chooses to use him.
Baylor: Perry Jones III
Scouts have compared Jones to Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Rashard Lewis and Kevin Durant.
But we still do not know a lot about Perry Jones’s game.
Can he drive to the basket as fearlessly as a young Tracy McGrady?
Can he nail the big shot as consistently as Dirk Nowitzki?
Can he shoot over defenses the way Rashard Lewis does?
Does he have the explosive athleticism of a Kevin Durant?
If Jones can put together games where he shoots like Lewis, drives like Durant, posts like Dirk and is as fearless as McGrady, then Baylor might be a Final Four dark horse.
Kansas: Thomas Robinson
Robinson has the potential to be one of the best players in the nation.
He has the explosiveness, the rebounding, the post game, the defense and the intensity to carry Kansas to a top 10 ranking and a Big 12 Championship.
The key for Robinson is going to be the impact he has on his Kansas teammates.
Robinson has to make the players around him better.
He has to be the type of leader and player that makes Tyshawn Taylor an All-American caliber guard, makes Elijah Johnson an all-conference caliber player and helps Jeff Withey be a consistent threat in the post.
Robinson not only needs to play like an All-American but needs to lead like an All-American for the Jayhawks to be a successful team.
Wisconsin: Jordan Taylor
Taylor is an All-American offensive player on what is always one of America’s best defensive teams.
The key for Taylor is fitting in on defense and giving the Badgers that “extra gear” on offense.
He needs to be a solid defender, but he also needs to be the guy that gets the Badgers averaging over seventy or so points a game
If he can make the Badgers explosive and one of the nation’s best defensive teams, then the Badgers might have one of their best teams ever.
Xavier: Kenny Frease
Anyone who follows college basketball knows how good of a player Tu Holloway is.
He has the speed and shooting to single-handedly lead Xavier to a conference title and a Sweet 16 appearance.
But Holloway is going to need some help, especially in the low post.
Frease was a highly-rated recruit who has had some “moments” but has never been a consistent player.
Holloway and the Musketeers need Frease to be a consistent player if they want to be in the rankings consistently.