College Basketball's Showstoppers: The Most Exciting Players to Watch in 2018

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2018

College Basketball's Showstoppers: The Most Exciting Players to Watch in 2018

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    Keeping track of all 351 college basketball teams in Division I can be an exhausting task, and the entire audience doesn't care about every little storyline. Many fans simply want to be entertained.

    While that itself is subjective, we've put together a list of the 10 most exciting players from the 2017-18 season. Each of the athletes are among the most productive in the nation, and they all have a specific strength that appeals to a broad viewership.

    Several players are knockdown shooters who handle a high volume of offense. Additionally, there are distributors, creators and shot-blockerssometimes a combination of those skills.

    Whenever these talents hit the court, they're worth the watch. In an effort to spread the love around the college basketball landscape, we limited the choices to one player per team.

Fletcher Magee, Wofford

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    Fletcher Magee has no problem launching triples from any distance or angle, no matter the defender. He has a playground mentality yet is one of the nation's most effective shooters.

    The marksman has buried 44.9 percent of his treys while hoisting 9.9 per game. He shoots 49.7 percent overall from the field and is averaging 22.8 points, the eighth-highest clip in D-I.

    According to Sports Reference, Magee is tied for fifth nationally with 20 games of 20-plus points. He leads the country with 20 contests with at least four three-pointers made.

    Magee scored 27 points in Wofford's 79-75 upset victory over North Carolina in December and has a season-high output of 45.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

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    When he catches fire, watch out. Trevon Bluiett is a high-volume shooter with outstanding ability behind the arc.

    That prowess has been on display throughout 2017-18, during which the Xavier guard has drained five or more three-pointers in eight different games. Bluiett is one of only 13 players in the nation with at least eight such performances, according to Sports Reference.

    Patrick Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted teammate Sean O'Mara said "it's incredible to watch" Bluiett, who is averaging 19.2 points with a 43.4 percent three-point clip as a senior.

    And we're not ones to disagree.

Jalen Brunson, Villanova

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    Thanks to Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, Villanova has a couple of terrific candidates in the entertainment category.

    Brunson, however, is especially impressive between the ears. That's not at all intended to be a dig at Bridges; rather, it's a credit to someone who guides one of the nation's most efficient offenses so effectively. Brunson is the definition of a reliable point guard.

    He doesn't have top-tier athleticism. Still, the junior is effective in pick-and-roll, isolation, spot-up and transition, and he's a crafty scorer in the post, too. Brunson is averaging 19.2 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 42.1 from deep and 53.8 overall.

    Brunson isn't flashy, but he's productive. And that quiet excellence has made him a National Player of the Year front-runner.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State

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    In a way, Michigan State star freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. is a unique version of the coveted three-and-D player.

    The 6'11" forward has swatted 3.3 shots per game while connecting on 43.4 percent of his three-point attempts. He ranks second nationally with a 15.1 block percentage and first in box plus/minus, according to Sports Reference.

    Yes, that three-and-D label is reserved for guards, but Jackson has asserted himself as an elite rim-protecting presence. Though it doesn't show up in the box score, his reputation scares away several shots every night.

    "Modern-day 4," a scout told B/R's Jonathan Wasserman. "Runs the floor, can finish, score in the post, hit threes and pass it well. Also impacts the game with his ability to switch ball screens and block shots. He's good now, and he's only going to get better."

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

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    Last season, a stress fracture in his left leg limited Keita Bates-Diop to only nine appearances. That absence is a distant memory.

    Bates-Diop has posted 19.0 points and 8.7 rebounds this year, smashing previous season-best averages of 11.8 and 6.4. His shooting range has extended behind the three-point line, as he's hitting 36.5 percent while averaging 4.9 attempts.

    The redshirt junior is also involved in every other area, providing 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game.

    Bates-Diop has ascended from Big Ten afterthought to National Player of the Year candidate.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona

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    Deandre Ayton is a nightmare to defend.

    He'll overpower defenders in the post but is a confident shooter from 18 feet and beyond the arc. According to Hoop-Math.com, Ayton boasts field-goal percentages of 84.0 at the rim, 42.7 on two-point jumpers and 33.3 from long distance.

    The Arizona standout also has the ability to create his own shot, which is exceedingly rare for a 7'1" center.

    Ayton isn't a finished product defensively, but his combination of physicality and skill on the offensive end is exceptional.

Devonte' Graham, Kansas

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    While playing alongside All-American guard Frank Mason III, Devonte' Graham did most of his damage as a shooter. From 2014-15 to 2016-17, Graham buried 41.2 percent of his three-point attempts.

    As a senior, he's taken on much more responsibility leading Kansas in the post-Mason era. And Graham is lighting up the box score.

    The 6'2" guard has displayed tremendous quickness, vision and passing en route to recording career-high marks of 17.6 points and 7.2 assists. He's hoisted 7.2 triples per game yet knocked down 41.6 percent, showing off a terrific blend of volume and efficiency.

    Every time Graham touches the ball, he's a threat to score or create an opportunity for a teammate.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia

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    Jevon Carter is known for his defense. The pesky guard has recorded more steals than turnovers in all four years at West Virginia, so it's no surprise he's secured the program record for steals.

    But in 2017-18, he's become a larger offensive threat.

    After averaging 3.3 and 3.7 assists over the last two years, respectively, Carter has dished 6.6 per game as a senior. Plus, he's scoring a career-best 16.8 points while converting 38.8 of his three-point attempts.

    Last season's NABC Defensive Player of the Year has a strong case to earn All-American honors in his final college campaign.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke

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    The 6'11", 235-pounder is special. Marvin Bagley III displays a unique mix of strength and fluidity not often seen in someone his size.

    Bagley plays above the rim with ease, snatching 4.0 offensive and 7.4 defensive rebounds per game. He's a dominant finisher, evidenced by both a 63.8 rate on two-point shots overall and a 78.0 mark at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com.

    While his range is a work in progress, Bagley's 35.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc is an encouraging complement to a high-flying interior game.

    Throw in a combined 2.1 steals and blocks per outing, and Bagley is a well-rounded superstar worthy of all the NBA attention.

Trae Young, Oklahoma

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    Trae Young has become a bit of a polarizing figure, but there isn't a more productive player in college basketball.

    Oklahoma's standout leads the nation with averages of 28.3 points and 9.2 assists, adding 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals. He's launched 10.2 three-pointers per game and connected on 36.6 percent. Young has posted an assist rate of 50.5 percent.

    Unfortunately for our viewing enjoyment, opponents are now forcing other Sooners to make plays. And the ugly truth is Oklahoma doesn't have any creators other than Young, whose 5.3 turnovers per game are partially a product of that demand.

    But when the freshman is able to take control of a game, he's the most exciting player at the college level.