College Basketball: Power Ranking Top Teams Based on Wooden Award Preseason List

Ari Kramer@Ari_KramerSenior Analyst IIOctober 10, 2011

College Basketball: Power Ranking Top Teams Based on Wooden Award Preseason List

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    Last week, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced the John R. Wooden Award preseason list, a compilation of the nation's top 50 returning players based on last season's personal and team performance.

    North Carolina became the first school with four players on the list while Ohio State and Vanderbilt both have three.

    This list power ranks teams based on their members on the Wooden List.

38. Creighton Blue Jays: Doug McDermott

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    Doug McDermott had an impressive freshman campaign under his father, Greg, leading the Creighton Blue Jays to a 23-16 record and an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational championship.

    McDermott's 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game led the Blue Jays, while he also shot 52.5 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from deep.

    Creighton is a mid-major to watch out of the Missouri Valley this year, and McDermott, who certainly has the talent to play above the mid-major level, is the main reason why.

37. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: Orlando Johnson

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    Orlando Johnson led an underachieving 18-14 UC Santa Barbara team to a NCAA tournament berth in 2010-11.

    The senior, who led the Gauchos with 21.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, elevated his game in the Big West tournament, averaging 28.3 points in three games. 

36. Harvard Crimson: Keith Wright

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    Keith Wright is a force in the post. The defending Ivy League Player of the Year averaged 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and led Harvard to wins over Colorado and Boston College a season ago.

    Wright is extremely efficient—he averaged 1.49 points per shot and posted a 58.4 percent field-goal percentage.

    He is the foundation of this Harvard team, which should steamroll its Ivy League competition this year.

35. Detroit Titans: Ray McCallum

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    Ray McCallum, a former McDonald's All-American, received national attention when he chose Detroit over UCLA, Arizona and Florida.

    As a freshman, McCallum led the Titans in scoring (13.5 PPG), assists (4.9 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). 

    Detroit had high expectations entering McCallum's second season. However, senior Eli Holman is on an indefinite personal leave of absence following an alleged assault. 

    If Holman remains off the team for an extended period of time, McCallum will have even more weight on his shoulders. However, he is talented enough to keep Detroit in the Horizon League mix.

34. Saint Bonaventure Bonnies: Andrew Nicholson

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    Andrew Nicholson led Saint Bonaventure with 20.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and a 57.1 field-goal percentage.

    With Nicholson as a senior and several other returning players, Saint Bonaventure should exceed last season's 16-15 record.

33. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Trevor Mbakwe

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    Trevor Mbakwe led Minnesota in scoring (13.9 PPG), rebounding (10.5 RPG) and field-goal percentage (58.2 percent) last season.

    The power forward is slightly better than his stats might indicate. However, his basketball IQ will need to improve for him to lead Minnesota to the NCAA tournament.

32. Villanova Wildcats: Maalik Wayns

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    Following the graduations of Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, Maalik Wayns will control Villanova's backcourt. 

    Wayns, a lightning-quick point guard, averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 assists per game a season ago. 

    The question surrounding Wayns: Is he too quick for his own good as a point guard? 

    Sometimes Wayns moves too quickly and makes poor decisions. As the No. 1 point guard for Jay Wright, Wayns will have to improve his decision making.

    Additionally, Wayns didn't have the best shooting touch as a sophomore. He shot 39.9 percent from the floor and 27.1 percent from beyond the arc. He'll have to refine his shot selection.

31. Iona Gaels: Michael Glover

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    In his first season at Iona, Michael Glover led the Gaels in scoring (18.4 PPG), rebounding (10.1 RPG) and field-goal percentage (61 percent). He and point guard Scott Machado have great chemistry and will lead the Gaels to the top of the MAAC. 

30. Florida Gators: Patric Young

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    Don't let the stats fool you—Patric Young might be the most athletic big man in the country.

    As his playing time increases this season, he will average much more than his 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds of a season ago.

29. Texas A&M Aggies: Khris Middleton

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    Khris Middleton led Texas A&M in scoring (14.4 PPG) as a sophomore and showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season.

    If the small forward can trim his 2.7 turnovers per game and be more aggressive offensively, he will ascend a notch, taking his team with him.

28. West Virginia Mountaineers: Kevin Jones

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    Kevin Jones averaged 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last year. 

    While he can take over games offensively, Jones occasionally struggles with shot selection. He shot a decent 44.6 percent from the floor but only connected on 30.1 percent of his treys, an indicator that he should limit his threes.

    At other times, Jones can be too passive—he disappeared offensively a few times last season, something he cannot do as West Virginia's offensive leader this year.

27. Marquette Golden Eagles: Darius Johnson-Odom

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    Darius Johnson-Odom can be one of the nation's most potent scoring guards. He averaged 15.8 points per game and eclipsed 20 points eight times last year.

    In Marquette's tournament upsets of Xavier and Syracuse, Johnson-Odom averaged 18 points and shot 53.8 percent from long range. 

26. Long Beach State 49ers: Casper Ware

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    Casper Ware might be the nation's best mid-major guard.

    He's an all-around player, who averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game and has the awards to prove it—he became the first player in Big West history to collect both the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year accolades in one season.

    Ware gained invaluable experience this summer, teaming up with LeBron James in the Drew League and garnering Player of the Week honors in Week 6. For some perspective, Oklahoma City’s James Harden and Washington’s Nick Young received the honor in Week 5 and Week 6, respectively.

    Long Beach State will be an elite mid-major this season with Ware as its leader.

25. Baylor Bears: Perry Jones III

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    Perry Jones III arrived at Baylor as a sure one-and-done, a potential top NBA draft pick.

    However, after an underwhelming freshman season, Jones elected to return to Waco. Although he didn't live up to the hype, Jones displayed flashes of his potential, scoring over 20 points six times.

    Baylor can be a serious contender if Jones, who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds as a freshman, can consistently channel the type of play that led to the hype.

24. New Mexico Lobos: Drew Gordon

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    Drew Gordon averaged 13 points and 10.5 rebounds in his first season at New Mexico. 

    With BYU in the WCC and San Diego State sans Kawhi Leonard, Billy White, D.J. Gay and Malcolm Thomas, Gordon could lead New Mexico to a Mountain West championship.

23. Gonzaga Bulldogs: Elias Harris

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    Following the graduation of Steven Gray, Elias Harris will be Gonzaga's offensive leader. The junior averaged 12.4 points and six rebounds per game last year.

    With Robert Sacre, a Wooden award snub, down low, Gonzaga will once again be an elite mid-major.

22. Michigan State Spartans: Draymond Green

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    Draymond Green fit perfectly into his role as a second or third option on offense. However, if Tom Izzo needs him as his No. 1, Green might not thrive.

    Nonetheless, his basketball IQ and point-forward capabilities make him a vital asset to Michigan State. 

21. Kansas Jayhawks: Thomas Robinson

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    Thomas Robinson averaged just 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game as a sophomore, but he will be Bill Self's featured frontcourt player in 2011-12 after the Morris twins bolted for the NBA.

    Robinson's strength and athleticism make him a tough defensive assignment.

20. Michigan Wolverines: Tim Hardaway Jr.

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    Tim Hardaway Jr. had an impressive freshman campaign. The shooting guard averaged 13.9 points per game while shooting 36.7 percent from deep. In the final 14 games of the regular season, Hardaway Jr. averaged 17.8 points per game, a sign that he matured over the course of the season.

    Without Darius Morris in the backcourt, Hardaway Jr. is Michigan's undisputed No. 1 offensive option.

19. Louisville Cardinals: Peyton Siva

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    Peyton Siva is another player misrepresented by his statistics.

    As a sophomore, the athletic guard averaged 9.9 points per game. His 5.2 assists per game are certainly an accurate portrayal of his abilities as a distributor, but Siva can definitely score—and he will have to following the graduation of Preston Knowles.

    Siva can be a great leader for Rick Pitino, using his athletic ability and passion to fire up the team.

18. Missouri Tigers: Marcus Denmon

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    Marcus Denmon is an efficient scorer and a quick defender. He averaged 16.9 points per game on 50 percent field-goal shooting and 44.8 percent three-point shooting while swiping 1.8 steals per game as a junior.

    With Laurence Bowers sidelined, Denmon will have even more weight on his shoulders as Missouri's leader.

17. Alabama Crimson Tide: JaMychal Green

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    JaMychal Green's 15.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game as a junior nearly led Alabama back to the NCAA tournament.

    Green is an absolute force down low on both ends, evidenced by his field goal percentage of 50.8 percent and block totals. 

    Alabama should make the Big Dance with Green leading the way.

16. Northwestern Wildcats: John Shurna

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    John Shurna averaged 16.6 points on 48.1 percent field-goal shooting and 43.4 percent three-point shooting as a junior. 

    He's a very smart player and can definitely take Northwestern to the Big Dance.

15. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Dee Bost

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    In a shortened season due to suspension, Dee Bost averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a junior. 

    His decision making is a prime concern—he turned the ball over 3.5 times per game and shot just 38.9 percent from the floor. If Bost can improve in those areas, he will make Mississippi State even more of a threat to come out of the SEC. 

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Tim Abromaitis

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    Tim Abromaitis averaged 15.4 points last season, but his scoring will increase following the graduation of Ben Hansbrough. The forward also averaged 6.1 rebounds per game and shot 42.9 percent from three-point territory.

13. Xavier Musketeers: Tu Holloway

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    Tu Holloway is a consummate player. He can score (19.7 PPG), crash the boards (5 RPG), distribute (5.4 APG) and defend (1.4 SPG).

    He's also clutch—remember his late-game heroics in Xavier's Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State in 2010?

12. Purdue Boilermakers: Robbie Hummel

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    Robbie Hummel is coming off his second ACL injury, making it somewhat difficult to power rank his Purdue Boilermakers.

    If Hummel is 100 percent, he's one of the best forwards in the country. He averaged 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 45.6 percent from the floor, 90.2 percent from the stripe, and 36.4 percent from deep.

    Hummel hustles on every play, so he will have to be 100 percent recovered to have the same impact he had as a junior. Nonetheless, his basketball IQ is off the charts, so he will be able to contribute even if he's not fully healthy.

11. Kentucky Wildcats: Terrence Jones

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    Terrence Jones is valuable to Kentucky on both ends of the floor.

    As a freshman, he averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Jones can score in a variety of ways, ranging from the block all the way to beyond the arc, but John Calipari would probably prefer his forward to be more selective from deep—Jones shot 32.9 percent from beyond the arc.

    Jones' decision making could have used some improvement over the offseason, but if he returns with a higher basketball IQ, he could be an absolute monster.

10. Wisconsin Badgers: Jordan Taylor

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    Jordan Taylor is an elite point guard. His 4.7 assists and 1.2 turnovers per game gave him the nation's best assist to turnover ratio, and he can also score—Taylor averaged 18.1 points per game as a junior.

    Taylor shot 42.9 percent from long range and 83.2 percent from the foul line.

    With Taylor commanding the floor, the Badgers will be very dangerous in the Big Ten and beyond.

9. Pittsburgh Panthers: Ashton Gibbs

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    Ashton Gibbs can shoot the lights out of any gym.

    The senior averaged 16.8 points while shooting a remarkable 49 percent from deep last year. Late in games, there aren't many players a coach would rather have.

8. Memphis Tigers: Will Barton and Joe Jackson

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    Analysts are expecting a breakout season from Will Barton, who averaged 12.3 points per game as a freshman.

    Joe Jackson averaged 9.9 points per game last season, but he's definitely better than his stats indicate.

    Barton and Jackson both need to improve their shooting percentages, but they are exciting players primed for successful seasons.

7. California Golden Bears: Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe

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    Jorge Gutierrez averaged 14.6 points, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a junior while Allen Crabbe poured in 13.4 points on 40 percent shooting from long range.

    With the two-headed monster of Gutierrez and Crabbe, Cal might have the best backcourt in the Pac-12.

6. UCLA Bruins: Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith

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    UCLA has the most formidable frontcourt in the Pac-12.

    Reeves Nelson averaged 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while shooting 56.7 percent from the floor last season. Joshua Smith posted 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game while shooting 55.5 percent from the field.

    If Smith can stay out of foul trouble and not out of breath, he can be an absolute force in the post and on the boards.

5. UConn Huskies: Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi

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    As improbable as it might have seemed, Jeremy Lamb managed to steal a chunk of the spotlight from Kemba Walker last season.

    The sophomore averaged 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from deep. After proving himself in the NCAA tournament, he's poised for a big season.

    Alex Oriakhi averaged 9.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and he will be joined in the frontcourt by Andre Drummond, a top recruit.

    Together, Lamb and Oriakhi will carry UConn back to the Big Dance.

4. Syracuse Orange: Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine

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    When Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine are both focused, they are one of the best duos in college basketball. 

    Joseph averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as a junior while Jardine posted 12.5 points, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

3. Vanderbilt Commodores: John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor and Festus Ezeli

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    John Jenkins is one of the most dangerous shooters in college basketball. He averaged 19.5 points per game last season and shot 40.8 percent from beyond the arc.

    Jeffrey Taylor averaged 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

    Adding to this trio's potency, Festus Ezeli enhanced his offensive game to complement his defensive prowess. The center averaged 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a junior.

    Vanderbilt has been the victim of first-round upsets in the past two years, but expect that to change with this trio of upperclassmen leading the way.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes: Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft

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    If you had to draft a three-on-three team by picking a trio from any college team, Ohio State's crew of Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft would be the most consummate option.

    Sullinger, who averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 boards as a freshman, is a dominant post player.

    Buford is a very solid wing. He averaged 14.4 points and shot 44.2 percent from long range.

    Craft is hard-nosed defender who distributes the ball well and also drains threes.

    They're the reason Ohio State will be an elite force in the nation this year.

1. UNC Tar Heels: Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller & John Henson

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    Where can one begin with this foursome?

    Do you first address their potential future No. 1 pick, Harrison Barnes?

    What about their elite frontcourt of Tyler Zeller and John Henson?

    You could also start with their floor general, Kendall Marshall.

    As Marshall saw more action, UNC won more consistently. That's not a coincidence—the point guard sees the floor very well and generally makes good decisions to hit open teammates or find passing lanes through the defense.

    Marshall, who averaged 6.2 assists per game as a freshman, ties this team together.

    Barnes is a smooth scorer who grew more comfortable as the season progressed. After averaging 15.7 points per game as a freshman, Barnes could definitely pour in 20 per night.

    While Henson's basketball IQ is questionable, he's indisputably one of the nation's best shot-changers. He averaged 3.2 blocks per game to go along with his 11.7 points and 10.1 boards. His length makes it extremely difficult for opponents to dominate the paint.

    Zeller isn't as formidable of a defender as Henson, but he still gets the job done—the seven-footer blocked 1.2 shots per game last year. Zeller is valuable offensively because he can score and hit his foul shots.

    UNC has a very well-rounded core.