The Top 68 players in the NCAA tournament

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With the NCAA tournament hitting full throttle Thursday afternoon (60 first-round byes = nonsense), we at College Basketball Talk thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top 68 players in this season’s event. Creighton’s Doug McDermott leads the way on this list, and there are a number of talented players who didn’t land on this list. So without further ado, here are the 68 best players in the 2014 NCAA tournament. 

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
The man given the nickname “Dougie McBuckets” by former CBT contributor Troy Machir will clean up on the postseason awards circuit and with good reason. McDermott averages 26.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and he’s been efficient in doing so with shooting percentages of 52.5% from the field, 45.4% from three and 86.6% from the foul line.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker (19.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg) hit a bit of a lull back in January, with his relying too much on perimeter shots being a key reason why. When the freshman is committed to attacking the opposition, which has been the case over the last month, he’s one of the toughest covers in the country.

3. Russ Smith, Louisville
The four-year transformation of Smith has been incredible to watch, as his decision-making has improved a great deal during his time playing for Rick Pitino. Those maddening moments that led the Pitino nicknaming his guard “Russdiculous” don’t happen very often these days, and in addition to scoring 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game the senior is shooting 47.5% from the field and 40.5% from three.

4. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins has been under the microscope for much of this season, and while some have been underwhelmed with his play at times the fact of the matter is that he’s put together a very good season. Averaging 17.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, Wiggins enters the tournament averaging 31.0 points in Kansas’ last three games.

5. Shabazz Napier, UConn
In a season loaded with high-level lead guards Napier takes a back seat to no one, leading the way for a UConn team back in the NCAA tournament after having to miss out on all the fun a season ago. He’s unafraid of big moments and has the ability to both score (17.4 ppg) and distribute (4.9 apg) while also leading the Huskies in rebounding (5.9 rpg).

6. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Remember when most referred to Stauskas as a shooter and nothing else? After working hard during the offseason Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year honors, averaging 17.5 points per game in helping lead Michigan to the Big Ten regular season title. And after attempting just 87 free throws as a freshman, the more aggressive Stauskas has attempted 183 this season.

7. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Amongst transfers in college basketball this season Kane’s been one of the most successful, teaming up with Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang to lead the Cyclones to their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000. Kane’s averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season, and his percentages from the field (49.1%) and from three (39.8%) are the best of his career.

8. Gary Harris, Michigan State
On a team that has dealt with injuries throughout the season Harris has been the most consistent option, scoring 17.2 points per game for the Big Ten tournament champions. Harris has failed to reach double figures just once this season, and his ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes the sophomore someone opponents have to account for when preparing for the Spartans.

9. Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson won Pac-12 Player of the Year because of his skill level on both ends of the floor and his impact on the Wildcats’ success. Johnson’s improved his offensive repertoire in each of his three seasons in Tucson, and in addition to being Arizona’s best offensive option he also get the assignment of defending the opposition’s best perimeter player on most nights.

10. Joel Embiid, Kansas*
Embiid is the “wild card” in all of this, hence the asterisk. The freshman isn’t expected to play this week, but there’s no denying the impact Embiid has on the Jayhawks defensively. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the country, thus allowing Kansas’ perimeter players to be a bit more aggressive defensively. Embiid averages 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, and in three of the five games he’s missed the opposition has shot at least 47% from the field.

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11. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
12. T.J. Warren, N.C. State
13. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
14. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
15. Adreian Payne, Michigna State
16. Julius Randle, Kentucky
17. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
18. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
19. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
20. Bryce Cotton, Providence
21. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
22. Xavier Thames, San Diego State
23. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
24. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State
25. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
26. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
27. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
28. Jordan Adams, UCLA
29. Caris LeVert, Michigan
30. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
31. Perry Ellis, Kansas
32. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
33. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
34. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
35. Rodney Hood, Duke
36. Kendall Williams, New Mexico
37. Keith Appling, Michigan State
38. Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
39. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
40. Jordan McRae, Tennessee
41. Georges Niang, Iowa State
42. Jahii Carson, Arizona State
43. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
44. James Bell, Villanova
45. Lamar Patterson, Pitt
46. Chasson Randle, Stanford
47. Joseph Young, Oregon
48. Ron Baker, Wichita State
49. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
50. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
51. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
52. Sam Dower, Gonzaga
53. Semaj Christon, Xavier
54. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
55. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
56. Chaz Williams, UMass
57. Terran Pettaway, Nebraska
58. Luke Hancock, Louisville
59. Alex Kirk, New Mexico
60. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
61. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
62. Casey Prather (Florida)
63. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
64. Jordair Jett, Saint Louis
65. Langston Hall, Mercer
66. Kenny Chery, Baylor
67. Joe Harris, Virginia
68. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.

Alabama’s Braxton Key reportedly seeking transfer

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Alabama is expected to lose Braxton Key to a transfer this offseason, according to a report from the Tuscaloosa News.

Key is a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward for the Crimson Tide that was impressive during his rookie season, when he averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 boards before testing the NBA draft waters.

But Key dealt with a knee injury prior too the start of his sophomore season, missing 10 games, and finished the year averaging just 7.0 boards and 5.3 boards before opting to try and find a new program.

He will have to sit out the 2018-19 season but will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2019-20. He’ll be one of the most sought-after transfers on the market this spring.

Kansas big man Azubuike to declare without an agent

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is declaring for the NBA draft but will not be signing with an agent, the school announced on Friday morning.

The 7-foot Azubuike averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 boards and 1.7 blocks this season while shooting 77 percent from the floor, the majority of which were dunks that nearly broke the rim off of the backboard.

“I want to declare for this year’s (NBA) draft, but I am not going to hire an agent,” Azubuike said in a release. “I’m going to wait and see where I stand among other bigs out there. I appreciate everyone’s support, but I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying I want to find out. Like many other players, I’m curious.”

“I improved a lot this past season. All my teammates and all my coaches have helped me to grow in all areas of my life and I really appreciate what they did for me to get to this point.”

Azubuike is projected as a second round pick.

This decision became more important for Kansas in the last two weeks, as the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball revealed that the guardian of Silvio De Sousa allegedly accepted at least $20,000 to get the 6-foot-10 center to attend Kansas. De Sousa was the security blanket if Azubuike opted to enter this draft, but it seems unlikely that De Sousa will play for Kansas next season. for comparison’s sake, the father of Brian Bowen was alleged to have received a similar amount of money, and Bowen is still waiting to be cleared at his second school seven months after those accusations first saw the light of day.

Without Azubuike and De Sousa, Kansas will likely be relying on junior Mitch Lightfoot and freshman David McCormack to man the five-spot alongside Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson.

The Jayhawks are currently projected as the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25 despite the fact that they could lose all five starters off of last season’s team. That’s what happens when there is talent like the Lawson brothers and Charlie Moore sitting out as transfers and a fourth transfer — Sam Cunliffe — struggling to break into the rotation.

Throw in a pair of five-star guards — Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes — and the potential that the Jayhawks could still end up landing Romeo Langford, and things aren’t as bad as they could be in Lawrence right now.