College Basketball Power Rankings: The 20 Biggest Pests in College Hoops

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2011

College Basketball Power Rankings: The 20 Biggest Pests in College Hoops

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    HARTFORD, CT - FEBRUARY 13: Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies battles against Deonta Vaughn #5 of the Cincinnati Bearcats at the XL Center on February 13, 2010 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    There are many different ways to define pests. In most cases, "unwanted presence" will come to mind. In sports, it often comes down to the guy you just don’t want to play against.

    In basketball, the pests have usually been the smaller, quicker players who always seem to be in the face of the ball handler, disrupting offenses and generally causing havoc.

    While this still rings true, college basketball in particular allows for the top athletes, regardless of their height, to showcase not only their offensive skills, but their abilities to shut down opposing players in a variety of ways as well.

    This list is not all-encompassing but does contain a mix of the stereotype and of some of the more unique “pests” or “stoppers” in college ball.

    Feel free to add to the list, as I’m sure all fans can identify one from their favorite teams.

Brad Wanamaker, Pitt Panthers

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    PITTSBURGH - FEBRUARY 21:  Corey Stokes #24 of the University of Villanova Wildcats drives with the ball against Brad Wanamaker #22 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers during the game on February 21, 2010 at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh,
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Wanamaker's career at Pitt has been one of steady progression.

    Each year his numbers have gone up and his value to the team has increased. He is a tenacious defender, leading the Panthers with almost two steals per game.

    Wanamaker also leads with just over five assists per game and has been known for his in-game chatter.

Al Nolen, Minnesota Gophers

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 19:  Al Nolen #0 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers reaches in for a steal against Dexter Pittman #34 of the Texas Longhorns during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    One of the best on-ball defenders in the country, Nolen missed the latter part of last season and part of this season due to injury.

    Nolen is the catalyst for the Gophers defense, averaging over two steals per game and making sure the intensity levels are adjusted accordingly for Minnesota.

    With Devoe Joseph's career at Minnesota all but over, Nolen will be counted on for even more.

Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon, Missouri Tigers

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    COLUMBIA, MO - DECEMBER 08:  Michael Dixon #11 #10 of the Missouri Tigers congratulates Marcus Denmon #12 after scoring during the game against of the Vanderbilt Commodores on December 8, 2010 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    I couldn't decide but both are certainly deserving.

    Dixon and Denmon thrive in the pressure system employed by coach Mike Anderson. At the beginning of the season, there was some concern that the Tigers would have difficulty replacing Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller at the front of their press.

    Not only have those fears been allayed, Dixon and Denmon are better offensive players.

Jackson Emery, BYU Cougars

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    PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  Donald Sloan #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies drives against Jackson Emery #4 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelp
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Emery rivals Wanamaker with his gift of gab on the court.

    He backs it up as well. This season he is averaging a shade under three steals per game and is poised to break the all-time Cougars record in that category, currently held by BYU legend Danny Ainge.

    Emery could be the best defender in the Mountain West.

Damian Saunders, Duquesne Dukes

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    Saunders is one of those atypical "pests" who does a lot of everything.

    He is 6'7'', gets steals (1.6 per game), blocks (2.3 per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game). He is the team's best interior defender but, like some others on this list, can guard multiple positions.

    Saunders will be a strong candidate to repeat as Defensive Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10.

Venoy Overton, Washington Huskies

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    SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 25:  John Flowers #41 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks to pass the ball against Venoy Overton #1 of the Washington Huskies during the east regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on M
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Overton is simply the best on-ball defender for the Huskies and maybe the best in the Pac-10.

    Listed at 6'0", Overton plays bigger and is a physical guard. He is currently averaging 1.5 steals per game in about 20 minutes per contest, but his value extends beyond the numbers.

    Opposing point guards have great difficulty driving past or through him.

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27:  Ashton Gibbs #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts to being hit in the head by Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies at Petersen Events Center on December 27, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh defeated Co
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    He may be the only player in the Big East (maybe the nation) that is as quick or quicker than teammate Kemba Walker.

    Napier, a freshman, is second on the Huskies in steals, averaging two per game, but it is his relentless on-ball defense that can stymie any ball handler.

    He needs to get a little stronger, but he gives the Huskies, at least defensively, an electric backcourt.

Aaron Johnson, UAB Blazers

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 27:  Samardo Samuels #24 of the Louisville Cardinals puts defensive pressure on Aaron Johnson #1 of the UAB Blazers during the game on December 27, 2008 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.  Louisville won 82-62.  (Photo by A
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Johnson has been Mike Davis' stalwart in the backcourt for the past three years and is the main reason the Blazers continue to be competitive in Conference USA.

    Averaging two steals per game, Johnson is the undisputed leader of the 10-2 Blazers as they head toward their biggest test by far this year, tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Michael Thompson, Northwestern Wildcats

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    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20:  Michael Thompson #2 of the Northwestern Wildcats drives for a shot attempt against the St. Francis Terriers during the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2010 in New York City.  (Ph
    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    If the Northwestern Wildcats have any NCAA tournament aspirations, much of the leadership burden will be placed on Thompson's shoulders.

    Aside from being a good offensive player, the tireless Thompson plays huge minutes and leads the team in steals with two per game.

Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion Monarchs

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    NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20:  Tweety Carter #45 of the Baylor Bears passes the ball around Kent Bazemore #24 of the Old Dominion University Monarchs during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Like Aaron Johnson of UAB, Bazemore is one of those under-the-radar players from a strong mid-major team.

    The 6'5" junior can guard the perimeter or forward positions, has the strength to power through screens and has a nose for the ball, getting over two steals per game.

    Bazemore was a key contributor to the Monarchs' team that went to the second round of the NCAA tourney last season, and he looks to lead them back this March.

Ronald Nored, Butler Bulldogs

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 16:  Ronald Nored #5  of the Butler Bulldogs and Elisha Justice #22 of the Louisville Cardinals battle for a loose ball during the game at the KFC Yum! Center on November 16, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Ge
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Nored essentially was an unknown entity until last year's near-miracle run to the final of the NCAA tournament.

    He is not a big guard (6' 0", 170) but he is relentless on the ball and understands positioning as well as anyone in the game. 

    Nored teams with Shelvin Mack in the Butler backcourt to form a very dangerous defensive pair.

Darius Miller, Kentucky Wildcats

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 31:  Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals has his shot blocked by Darius Miller #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game at the KFC Yum! Center on December 31, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 78-63.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    While much of the ink in the past two seasons has gone to Kentucky freshmen, Miller has been an unsung hero, especially on the defensive end.

    He is another guard/forward who can defend anywhere on the floor, often taking on the other team's best shooter. Miller is as tenacious on the perimeter as anyone, especially when denying the ball.

    He was the key to shutting down Cornell's Randy Wittman in last year's Sweet 16.

Kenneth Faried, Morehead State Eagles

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20: Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles drives to the hoop against the Louisville Cardinals during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2009 in Day
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Relentless is the most appropriate adjective to describe Faried.

    He leads the Eagles in steals (2.3 per game), blocks (1.9 per game), points and rebounds (14 per game). Faried does everything and he doesn't stop during the 34 minutes he is on the floor. 

    A nightmare matchup defensively and offensively (if only for the rebounding aspect), Faried hopes to lead the Eagles to their second NCAA appearance in three years.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut Huskies

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies battles for a rebound against Talib Zanna #42 of the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on December 27, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh defeated Connecticu
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    You knew Walker's name would come up.

    In addition to leading the nation in scoring, he leads the Huskies in steals and makes opposing teams wary of his presence at all times.

    His on-ball defense is as good as anyone's and despite his size, he plays tougher than almost anyone as well.

Joe Mazzulla, West Virginia Mountaineers

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    INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 03:  Kyle Singler #15 of the Duke Blue Devils with the ball against Joe Mazzulla #24 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the National Semifinal game of the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium o
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Mazzulla often saves his best for the best as he has been part of two Mountaineer NCAA runs in the past three years.

    He is an in-your-face defender with good anticipation whose only flaw may be his consistency. However, he is a leader and a key to West Virginia's tough defense.

Peyton Siva, Louisville Cardinals

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 31:  DeAndre Liggins #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats and Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals get tangled up during the game at the KFC Yum! Center on December 31, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 78-63.  (Photo by A
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Like a typical pest, Siva is never far away from the ball.

    He averages over two steals per game, has great lateral quickness and should continue to improve as he is only a sophomore.

    Louisville's pressure defense gives him the opportunity to showcase these strengths each night.

Chris Singleton, Florida State Seminoles

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 12:  Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles dunks in front of Johnny Thomas #30 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in their quarterfinal game in the 2010 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on Ma
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Much like Saunders, Singleton is a multi-faceted player whose defensive strengths are off the charts.

    He leads the Seminoles in steals, blocks, points and rebounds. He guards all positions and has the ability to take his man out of the game completely.

    The 6'9" Singleton, a junior, will most definitely be NBA-bound next season, unless there is a lockout. 

Maurice Jones, USC Trojans

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    LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 18:  Maurice Jones #10 of the USC Trojans shoots as Markieff Morris #21 and Tyshawn Taylor #10 of the Kansas Jayhawks defend during the game on December 18, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Gett
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    For about 37 minutes every game, Jones can be seen buzzing around opposing teams' ends, pestering point guards and generally getting in your face.

    Maybe not literally, because Jones is a slight 5'7", 155 pounds, but the kid has the heart of a lion and plays more minutes than any other freshman in the country—maybe the most minutes of anyone in the country.

    Jones has given the Trojans, who could be a very dangerous team come March, a tremendous boost at a time when the program really needs it.

Norris Cole, Cleveland State Vikings

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    MIAMI - MARCH 20:  Guard  Norris Cole #30 (L) of the Cleveland State University Vikings fights for a loose ball against guard  Ishmael Smith #10 (R) of Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Cole is a do-it-all guard for the surprising 15-1 Vikings, leading the team in scoring while also collecting two-plus steals per game.

    He works defensively in tandem with Trevon Harmon and together they combine for over four steals per game.

    Cole could be the catalyst for a Vikings season that could see Butler taking a backseat in the Horizon League race.


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