Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

College Basketball Preseason Top 25

Leave a comment

Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are unveiling the NBC Sports preseason top 25. Over the course of the next five weeks, we will be taking long, in-depth dives into each of these 25 teams. You can follow along with that right here.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25. You can find them here:

No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Kentucky
No. 3 Gonzaga
No. 4 Duke
No. 5 Villanova
No. 6 Nevada
No. 7 Tennessee
No. 8 Virginia
No. 9 North Carolina
No. 10 Auburn
No. 11 Kansas State
No. 12 Virginia Tech
No. 13 Michigan State
No. 14 Florida State
No. 15 TCU
No. 16 UCLA
No. 17 West Virginia
No. 18 Oregon
No. 19 Syracuse
No. 20 LSU
No. 21 Mississippi State
No. 22 Clemson
No. 23 Michigan
No. 24 N.C. State
No. 25 Marquette


1. KANSAS JAYHAWKS

  • Who’s gone: Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman
  • Who do they add: Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson, David McCormack
  • Projected starting lineup: Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Quentin Grimes, Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike

Losing Graham is a major, major blow for this program, but they had as much talent sitting out this season as any program in college basketball. Cal transfer Moore should be able to step in and handle the point guard duties – if that role isn’t taken over by Dotson – while Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson will give Bill Self actual power forwards, something he has been yearning for the last two years. This team is talented, they are old, they are well coached and they have a functional point guard on their roster. There is a lot to like about the Jayhawks heading into the year.

2. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones
  • Who do they add: Reid Travis, Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans
  • Projected starting lineup: Immanuel Quickly, Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington, Reid Travis

As always, there is quite a bit of turnover on the Kentucky roster. Six key pieces from last year are gone, while the Wildcats bring in yet another loaded recruiting class. I think the combination of incoming backcourt talent and the remaining front court veterans is going to be a fun combination for Kentucky fans to watch, especially when Stanford grad transfer Travis is factored into the mix. The big question for Kentucky is going to be how they can put a team on the floor that can both shoot and play the kind of elite-level defense we all are expecting. Cal has plenty of weapons, and it will be fascinating to see how he decides to deploy them.

3. GONZAGA BULLDOGS

  • Who’s gone: Silas Melson, Johnathan Williams III
  • Who do they add: Geno Crandall, Brandon Clarke, Joel Ayayi, Filip Petrušev, Greg Foster Jr.
  • Projected starting lineup: Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell Jr., Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie

I’m not fully convinced that I love Perkins as a point guard, but with Norvell and Kispert a year older and Hachimura and Tillie on the front line, the Zags have a chance to be really, really good once again. Throw in the transfer additions of Clarke and Crandall as well as a couple more talented foreigners — Ayayi and Petrušev — and this is just about what you would expect for Gonzaga.

4. DUKE BLUE DEVILS

  • Who’s gone: Grayson Allen, Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr.
  • Who do they add: Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Joey Baker
  • Projected starting lineup: Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Javin DeLaurier

The Blue Devils are a team that has a lot left to figure out. Bagley, Trent, Duval and Carter are all following Allen out the door to make way for another loaded recruiting class. I’m still torn on how this Duke team — which will likely end up starting four freshmen — will play. That has not always been the path to success, but the talent here is impossible to ignore. There’s a non-zero chance that Barrett, Williamson and Reddish could end up going 1-2-3 in the 2019 NBA Draft. The big question with this group is going to be how well the pieces gel together and whether or not there is enough shooting (and willing defenders) to allow this group to play the way teams like Villanova, Golden State and Boston play. I explain that line of thinking more here.

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

5. VILLANOVA WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman
  • Who do they add: Jahvon Quinerly, Cole Swider, Brandon Slater, Joe Cremo, Saddiq Bey
  • Projected starting lineup: Jahvon Quinerly, Phil Booth, Jermaine Samuels, Eric Paschall, Cole Swider

Villanova did not fair well at the NBA early entry deadline, losing four of the top 33 picks in the draft. I’m still willing to ride with the Wildcats, as I think they are more experienced than they will get credit for — Paschall and Booth are fifth-year seniors after all — and because Jay Wright’s teams always have people ready to step in and contribute immediately. Expect a breakout year from Jermaine Samuels, and don’t be surprised when Paschall is an All-American and a first round pick come the end of the season.

6. NEVADA WOLF PACK

  • Who’s gone: Kendell Stephens, Hallice Cooke, Josh Hall
  • Who do they add: Tre’Shawn Thurman, Corey Henson, Jazz Johnson, Nisre Zouzoua, Kwame Hymes, Vince Lee, Trey Porter, Jordan Brown
  • Projected starting lineup: Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline, Trey Porter, Jordan Brown

Getting the Martin twins back is massive. Drew’s recovery from a torn achilles is also something that could be a problem, but this was a wildly talented team that came a point away from the Elite Eight despite losing their starting point guard and having their best player (Caleb Martin) deal with a foot injury the last two months of the season, and they basically bring everyone back. This is the best Mountain West team since Kawhi and Jimmer were running roughshod over the league.

7. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

  • Who’s gone: James Daniel III
  • Who do they add: No one
  • Projected starting lineup: Lamonte’ Turner, Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams

Tennessee won the SEC last season and returns literally everyone from that team outside of Daniel, who came off the bench. Williams was the SEC Player of the Year last year, and Rick Barnes has plenty of perimeter talent and switchable players at his disposal. There are also some young, talented pieces on this roster — Bone, Bowden, Yves Pons, Kyle Alexander — that still have room to develop. I don’t think it’s crazy to think Tennessee could end up making a run at a No. 1 seed.

(Eric Espada/Getty Images)

8. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

  • Who’s gone: Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, Nigel Johnson
  • Who do they add: Kody Stattmann, Kihei Clark, Francisco Caffaro
  • Projected starting lineup: Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Deandre Hunter, Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt

I’ll never doubt Virginia again (unless they are a No. 1 seed … kidding!), even when they are losing their best guard and their best defender. Hunter is ready to step up and be the star for this team, and I think Mamadi Diakite will have a chance to be an elite defensive presence. If there is a real concern here, it’s depth, but I trust Tony Bennett will be able to figure something out. Always trust in Tony.

9. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

  • Who’s gone: Joel Berry III, Theo Pinson, Jalek Felton
  • Who do they add: Coby White, Nassir Little, Rechon Black
  • Projected starting lineup: Coby White, Kenny Williams, Nassir Little, Cam Johnson, Luke Maye

Where you rank UNC in the preseason is going to depend entirely on two things: How good you think their freshmen — White and Little — are going to be, and what kind of development you expect out of Brandon Huffman, Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks. Will there be a returning player in college basketball this season that is better than Maye?

10. AUBURN TIGERS

  • Who’s gone: Davion Mitchell, Mustapha Heron, DeSean Murray
  • Who do they add: Samir Doughty
  • Projected starting lineup: Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley

Auburn will lose Heron, who might have been their best player last season, but return everyone else from a team that won the SEC. Their guards are just so talented, and that was without Purifoy and Doughty. The health of McLemore, who suffered a dreadful ankle injury in February, will be critical, as well as the development of Chuma Okeke. But we saw what Pearl could do with these pieces last season, and that was with the FBI investigation hanging over their head.

11. KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: No one
  • Who do they add: Shaun Williams
  • Projected starting lineup: Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Carter Diarra, Xavier Sneed, Dean Wade

This will probably be the highest that you see the Wildcats ranked heading into the season, but I really like this group. They have a crop of tough-minded, playmaking guards that can really get out and defend, and their best player might actually be a guy that the public at-large hasn’t really seen play in Wade. Bruce Weber is going to silence the haters!

Dean Wade (David Becker/Getty Images)

12. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

  • Who’s gone: Devin Wilson, Justin Bibbs
  • Who do they add: Jon Kabongo, Landers Nolley II, Jarren McAllister
  • Projected starting lineup: Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Chris Clarke, Kerry Blackshear

The Hokies bring back seven of their top eight players, but the key for this team is going to be the development of their rising sophomore class: Alexander-Walker, Wabissa Bede, P.J. Horne. We know how good Clarke, Robinson and Blackshear are, but if those three take a step forward we could be looking at a top ten team.

13. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

  • Who’s gone: Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Ben Carter, Gavin Schilling, Tum Tum Nairn
  • Who do they add: Foster Loyer, Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham Jr., Thomas Kithier
  • Projected starting lineup: Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, Josh Langford, Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman

I can’t help but look at this roster and see all the same issues that they had this past season, only without their two most talented players. Turnovers. Lack of star power. Some defensive issues. Winston has a chance to be a first-team all-Big Ten player, but Langford and Ward are going to have to live up to their potential. It feels like this group has nice pieces, but that those pieces doesn’t necessarily fit together. That said, who is better? What team is without warts?

14. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

  • Who’s gone: Braian Angola, C.J. Walker, Brandon Allen
  • Who do they add: Devin Vassell, David Nichols
  • Projected starting lineup: Trent Forrest, M.J. Walker, Terance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, Phil Cofer

I really like this group in theory. They have a whole bunch of athletic, switchable wings that can score. Mann, Walker and Kabengele returning was key, as is finding some point guard depth now that C.J. Walker left the program. Getting Cofer back for a fifth-year is enormous.

15. TCU HORNED FROGS

  • Who’s gone: Kenrich Williams, Vlad Brodziansky, Ahmed Hamdy
  • Who do they add: Kendric Davis, Kaden Archie, Angus McWilliam, Yuat Alok, Russel Barlow Jr.
  • Projected starting lineup: Alex Robinson, Jaylen Fisher, Desmond Bane, Kouat Noi, Kevin Samuel

Losing Williams and Brodziansky is going to be a blow, but there are still plenty of pieces. Bane and Noi should be in line for breakout seasons, and Jamie Dixon going small-ball with a two-point guard look should be fun to watch. Will Fisher ever be healthy?

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

16. UCLA BRUINS

  • Who’s gone: Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh, G.G. Goloman, LiAngelo Ball
  • Who do they add: Tyger Campbell, Shareef O’Neal, Moses Brown, Kenny Nwuba, David Singleton III, Jules Bernard, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill
  • Projected starting lineup: Jaylen Hands, Prince Ali, Kris Wilkes, Cody Riley, Moses Brown

This is a make or break year for Steve Alford. With every underclassmen except Aaron Holiday back, meaning that back-to-back top five-ish recruiting classes are on campus. It’s time for the Bruins to put up or shut up, and I think they’ll be right there as a favorite to win the Pac-12 … if they decide they want to play defense.

17. WEST VIRGINIA

  • Who’s gone: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, D’Angelo Hunter
  • Who do they add: Jordan McCabe, Derek Culver, Trey Doomes, Andrew Gordon
  • Projected starting lineup: Beetle Bolden, Brandon Knapper, Lamont West, Esa Ahmad, Sagaba Konate

West Virginia has survived losing program guys in past seasons, but Carter and Miles were responsible for turning West Virginia into Press Virginia. Calling them program guys is a disservice. So we’ll see how this plays out. At this point, we have to trust that Bob Huggins will figure out a way to make it work.

18. OREGON DUCKS

  • Who’s gone: Elijah Brown, MiKyle McIntosh, Troy Brown
  • Who do they add: Bol Bol, Louis King, Miles Norris, Will Richardson
  • Projected starting lineup: Payton Pritchard, Louis King, Paul White, Kenny Wooten, Bol Bol

For my money, Oregon’s season hung on whether or not Brown returned to school, and he’s gone. Bol and King are both potential one-and-done players, and Wooten is an elite defensive prospect, but I’m in a wait and see mode with them. Personally, I’m not on the Bol Bol bandwagon, but I understand why he is, in theory, a high-level prospect. They’re here because of the talent and Dana Altman, and we bought into that.

19. SYRACUSE ORANGE

  • Who’s gone: Matthew Moyer
  • Who do they add: Buddy Boeheim, Jalen Carey, Eli Hughes, Robert Braswell
  • Projected starting lineup: Tyus Battle, Franklin Howard, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, Paschal Chukwu

The Orange had no depth and very little perimeter shooting last season, but it looks like that was addressed in the offseason. With Battle and Brissett back in the fold, this Syracuse team has a chance to match watchable offense with one of college basketball’s very best defenses.

20. LSU Tigers

  • Who’s gone: Duop Reath, Randy Onwuasor, Aaron Epps, Jeremy Combs, Mayan Kiir, Galen Alexander
  • Who do they add: Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams, Javonte Smart, Darius Days, Kavell Bigby-Williams
  • Projected starting lineup: Tremont Waters, Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams

LSU is really young. They are also really talented. Waters is so entertaining, and the incoming trio of Smart, Reid and Williams is very good. Effort will be a key, as will their ability to play together, but they have a chance to be really good.

Tyus Battle (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

21. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

  • Who’s gone: No one
  • Who do they add: Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard, Jethro Tshisumpa Mbiya, D.J. Stewart
  • Projected starting lineup: Lamar Peters, Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary Weatherspoon, Aric Holman, Abdul Ado

I am not totally sold on Ben Howland getting this thing going at Mississippi State, but this will be his most talented team. The Weatherspoon brothers are both going to be good players, Peters still intrigues some NBA teams and Holman should fill a role. Reggie Perry should be a nice addition and an impact player as well.

22. CLEMSON TIGERS

  • Who’s gone: Gabe DeVoe, Donte Grantham, Mark Donnal
  • Who do they add: John Newman III, Hunter Tyson, Trey Jamison, Javan White
  • Projected starting lineup: Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed, David Skara, Aamir Simms, Elijah Thomas

With Mitchell and Reed back in the fold, plus Elijah Thomas in the paint, this has the makings of another team that will push for a top five seed.

23. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

  • Who’s gone: Moe Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, Jaaron Simmons
  • Who do they add: Ignas Brazdeikis, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns, Adrian Nunez, Colin Castleton
  • Projected starting lineup: Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers, Jon Teske

Losing Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman, the program’s two best offensive weapons, are major blows for a team that struggled to score a season ago. Matthews’ decision to return is key and they will really be able to guard again, but one of their three big wings is going to need to take a major step forward for them offensively.

24. N.C. STATE WOLFPACK

  • Who’s gone: Omer Yurtseven, Al Freeman, Abdul-Malik Abu, Lennard Freeman, Sam Hunt
  • Who do they add: C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels, Blake Harris, Jericole Hellems, Derek Funderburk, Ian Steere, Immanuel Bates
  • Projected starting lineup: Braxton Beverly, Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn, C.J. Bryce, Derek Funderburk

Kevin Keatts is going to miss Yurtseven, because he doesn’t have any size on his roster anymore. He does, however, have half-a-million guards on his roster, and all of them can play. That’s enough for me to bet on Keatts getting it done.

25. MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES

  • Who’s gone: Andrew Rowsey, Haanif Cheatam, Harry Froling
  • Who do they add: Ed Morrow, Joseph Chartouny, Joey Hauser, Brendan Bailey
  • Projected starting lineup: Markus Howard, Joseph Chartouny, Sacar Anim, Sam Hauser, Matt Heldt

Marquette will be the second-best team in the Big East if they figure out how to defense. Howard is an all-american, while the Hauser brothers will provide plenty of offensive firepower. Chartouny’s addition is key, as is Morrow’s. Both are tough, veteran defensive presences.

THE SEVEN THAT JUST MISSED:

26. Loyola-Chicago
27. Louisville
28. Indiana
29. Washington
30. Purdue
31. Florida
32. Providence

College Basketball’s All-Decade Team

NBC Sports
1 Comment

The 2010s are coming to an end, which should make you feel incredibly old.

We’ve now gone a full decade with John Calipari in charge of the Kentucky Wildcats. We’re more than a decade removed from the existence of Psycho T on a college basketball campus. In the last ten years, we’ve seen Kentucky and Duke win titles by playing as young as possible, Virginia win by playing as slow as possible, Villanova win by shooting as many threes as possible and UConn win a pair of titles by hoping a star point guard can carry them through a six-game tournament.

We’ve experienced Jimmermania. We survived Zion Williamson’s Shoegate. We watch Louisville win a national title and then had the NCAA erase it from our collective memory because an assistant coach like to turn dorm rooms into the Champagne Room.

It’s been a wild ride.

And over the course of the next two weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the best parts of the decade.

Today, we are taking a look at the best college basketball players from the last ten seasons.


Doug McDermott (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The criteria for picking the all-decade teams was kind of tricky with the one-and-done rule in effect.

On the one hand, some of the very best players that we have ever seen in the collegiate ranks spent all of six months playing college basketball. How do we weigh that against guys that had sensational three or four year careers without ever reaching the heights that some of those one-and-dones reached.

It was difficult to balance, and after spending too many hours thinking about it, I’ve come to the decision that there is no right answer.

And that that is OK.

So without further ado, here is college basketball’s All-Decade team for the 2010s.

SECOND TEAM | THIRD TEAM | ALL-LEGACY TEAM

ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Doug McDermott, Creighton

McDermott’s path to becoming one of the greatest college basketball players of a generation, not just the decade, was not typical.

He played his high school ball in Ames, Iowa, where he was completely overshadowed by his teammates, Harrison Barnes. His father, Greg, was the head coach at Iowa State at the time, but Doug committed to play for his dad’s old school, Northern Iowa. He eventually left Iowa State and took the head coaching gig at Creighton. Ben Jacobson let McDermott out of his letter of intent so that he can play for his pops at a league rival, and that turned out to be a costly decision.

Doug played in the Missouri Valley for three season. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 boards as a freshman, seeing that number jump to 22.9 points and 8.2 boards as a sophomore and 23.2 points and 7.7 boards as a junior. As a senior, when the Bluejays made the jump to the Big East, he led the nation by averaging 26.7 points.

He left Creighton as the fifth-best scorer in Division I history, amassing 3,150 points; he’s since been surpassed by Chris Clemons from Campbell. He was the first player in 29 years to be named a first-team AP All-American for three consecutive seasons. He is one of just three players in the history of men’s basketball to record 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and he owns an NCAA record by scoring in double figures in 135 games. He only played in 145 games for the Bluejays.

Not bad for a kid that was the second-best player on a public high school team in Ames.

Jalen Brunson (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

If things had gone the way that the Brunson family had wanted them to go, Jalen never would have ended up at Villanova. He would have played for their city rival, Temple. That’s where his father, Rick, played, and where he was going to get a job as an assistant before a legal issue ended that dream.

So Jalen went to Villanova, where he would become a starter that averaged 9.6 points and 2.5 assists, an integral piece of a team that won the 2016 national title. He was a first-team all-Big East player as a sophomore, but it was his junior season that is the real reason he is a first-team All-Decade player. Brunson would average 18.9 points and 4.6 assists, putting together one of the most efficient seasons in college basketball history en route to a National Player of the Year award and a second national title in three seasons for the team we named as the best in college basketball this decade.

In three seasons with Villanova, Brunson went 103-13 with a 45-9 record in the Big East. He won two Big East regular season title, two Big East tournament titles and two national titles. That’s decent.

Kemba Walker (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

KEMBA WALKER, UConn

“Cardiac Kemba does it again!”

That is the line that I will always remember about Kemba Walker’s 2010-11 season, which is wild when you really do think about it.

Because that line was delivered by Dave Pasch in the quarterfinal of the Big East tournament. Granted, the line was justified. Kemba had just dropped Pitt’s Gary McGhee to give UConn, the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament, their third win in three days over the league’s regular season champs. He would go on to lead UConn to eight more wins in a row, taking home not only the Big East tournament title but the national title as well.

Which leads me to one of the most incredible information nuggets that I’ve come across in my years as a college basketball writer: After averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 boards and 4.5 assists for a team that became the first to win a major conference tournament title by winning five games in five days before leading that same team to a national title as a No. 3 seed, Walker did not win any Player of the Year awards.

There are six major college basketball Player of the Year awards, mind you. And not a single one of them determine that Kemba was the best college basketball player that season.

In hindsight, I think that was a miss.

Zion Williamson (Lance King/Getty Images)

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Zion makes this list despite playing just 33 games in his college career thanks to Duke’s Elite Eight exit and a knee injury that stemmed from a shoe that exploded in the middle of a game against North Carolina. No one on any of these teams will have played fewer games.

But I didn’t think I could justify have the best player that I have ever seen in the college ranks not on the list. He finished the year averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 boards, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks. No one has done that since at least 1992-93, which is as far back as basketball reference’s database goes, and he was a freshman playing in the ACC. He holds the record for the highest PER in college basketball since 2009-10, which is as far back as that data goes.

We’ll never see anything like Zion Williamson ever again, so I have no problem making an exception to get him on this list.

Anthony Davis (Robert Willett/Getty Images)

ANTHONY DAVIS, Kentucky

I love the Anthony Davis story because I love the trajectory of his career.

When he was a sophomore in high school he was a goofy, 6-foot-2 guard that wore rec specs and was completely inconsequential. When he was a junior he grew to 6-foot-6 and got an offer from Cleveland State, but he was only part way through his growth spurt, as he eventually sprouted to 6-foot-11 without losing any of those guard skills while adding a 7-foot-5 wingspan, making him just an absolutely perfect player for modern basketball.

Suddenly, the dude that looked like this when he was a sophomore is the No. 1 recruit in the country and putting up 14.2 points, 10.4 boards and 4.7 blocks to lead Kentucky to their first national title since 1998 before becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft and, eventually, LeBron’s running buddy in LA.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Because in college, Davis was an absolute game-changer to the point that everyone that saw the Wildcats play immediately knew who their best player was despite the fact that he took the fourth-most shots on the team.

College Basketball All-Decade Second Team

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We discussed the criteria for picking the players on the all-decade teams in the intro to this series.

You can find that, and the All-Decade First Team, right here. The All-Decade Third Team is here, while the decade’s All-Legacy Team is at this link.

ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

JIMMER FREDETTE, BYU

Jimmer Fredette became an absolute sensation by his senior season at BYU. A native of Upstate New York, Jimmer was fine as a freshman and good as a sophomore, when he averaged 16.2 points for the Cougars. He exploded nationally when he set a McKale Center record for point scored by putting up 49 on Arizona. He finished the year averaging 22.1 points and .7 assists, setting the stage for an unbelievable senior season.

Jimmer became a national sensation as a senior. It really started in mid-December, when he scored 33 points in a win over that same Arizona team. Three weeks later, in the Mountain West opener on the road at UNLV (who was good at the time), he had 39 points and hit seven threes. Six days later, he scored 32 points in the first half and finished with 47 on the night in a win over BYU’s archnemesis, Utah.

Then things really got crazy.

He had 42 at Colorado State in late January and, just four days later, he put up 43 points on Kawhi Leonard’s San Diego State game in a battle of top ten teams.

From that point forward, he was appointment viewing despite the fact that you needed to find grainy, choppy internet streams to be able to watch him. He was Trae Young, but A) his team was good, and B) you could only watch him by digging through reddit for feeds that would, quite often, crash midway midway through the game.

His crowning achievement probably came during the Mountain West tournament, when Jimmer scored 52 points against New Mexico (who, again, was good at the time). We never got a chance to see what that BYU team could accomplish thanks to an honor code violation that ended Brandon Davies’ season, but for four months, Jimmer Fredette was the single biggest story in college basketball.

Coming from BYU, that’s saying something.

John Wall (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

JOHN WALL, Kentucky

John Wall was the start of a new era of Kentucky dominance.

The 6-foot-4 North Carolina native was John Calipari’s first elite point guard recruit at Kentucky, and he turned in a season for the ages. He averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 boards while leading a loaded roster to SEC regular season and tournament titles. If Kentucky doesn’t end up shooting 4-for-32 from three in the Elite Eight against West Virginia, than there is a very real chance that we never have to ask ourselves the question, “What if Gordon Hayward’s 50-foot prayer actually went in?”

I think what’s more interesting, however, is that Wall almost didn’t make it to Kentucky. When he was in high school, there was speculation that he actually would be eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft the same way that high schoolers like Anfernee Simons and Hamidou Diallo have been eligible. He was a fifth-year senior that turned 19 before the cut-off.

How different would Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky have been if Wall had never made it to campus?

Buddy Hield (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

BUDDY HIELD, Oklahoma

Hield’s career arc as a college player is fascinating.

As a freshman, he was considered something of a role player, a guy that would be a piece on a good team. As a sophomore, Buddy had his breakout season, and for the next two years, he put up right around 17 points per game as a good, all-Big 12 caliber player that looked to be on the fringes of the NBA’s radar.

Hield declared for the draft after his junior season and was told that he needed to improve on his handle, his ability to be more than just a set shooter. So he did. A notoriously hard worker who lives in the gym, Hield turned himself from Buddy Hield into #BuddyBuckets. As a senior, he averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 boards while shooting 46.5 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game while leading the Sooners to a 29-win season that culminated with a trip to the Final Four.

That hasn’t been the end for Hield, who has outperformed everyone’s expectations in the NBA – he’s averaging 21.4 points for the Kings this season – but none of us should be surprised by now.

We’ve saw, up close, the amount of work that Hield puts in and how he can change his game to fit what his team needs from in.

This is no different.

Jared Sullinger (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

JARED SULLINGER, Ohio State

Sullinger entered college basketball as a top five prospect in the Class of 2010, and he sure did live up to the hype.

As a freshman, Sullinger was one of the very best players in the sport. He averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 boards while anchoring an Ohio State team that was, far and away, the best team in college basketball during the 2010-11 season. Imagine trying to guard Sullinger and his ample backside 1-on-1 in the post before snipers like Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty were sitting beyond the arc, just waiting for a clean look at the rim.

That Ohio State team went 34-3. They were the last team to lose a game that season, going undefeated until a trip to a top 10 Wisconsin team in mid-February, and took down both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles before earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and promptly losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Sullinger was a first-team All-American and, surprisingly, opted to return to school for his sophomore year. He was just as good that season, and while Ohio State was not, the Buckeyes still managed to win 31 games and get to the Final Four. They’ll always be remembered as the team that lost the other semifinal the year an Anthony Davis-led Kentucky team played Louisville.

Frank Kaminsky (Robin Alam/Getty Images)

FRANK KAMINSKY, Wisconsin

Kaminsky is quintessential Bo Ryan.

An under-recruited, three-star big man from Chicago, Kaminsky get to Wisconsin as a freshman and proceeds to spend two seasons buried on their bench behind the likes of Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz. No one expects much of anything out of his junior season until, four games in, he goes off for 43 points against North Dakota.

From that point on, Kaminsky’s a star.

He helps lead the Badgers to the Final Four that season, where they lost to Kentucky in the national semifinals, and follows that up with a Player of the Year season as a senior in which he averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 boards and 2.6 assists while shooting 41.6 percent from three for a team that ended Kentucky’s pursuit of a 40-0 season with one of the most memorable and fun Final Four games of the decade.

Kaminsky would go on to be a top ten pick in the draft and has carved himself out a nice little NBA career. He’s currently averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 boards for the Phoenix Suns and will end up making more than $25 million in his professional career when it’s all said and done.

Not bad for a kid that couldn’t play over this guy for two years.

College Basketball All-Decade Third Team

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We discussed the criteria for picking the players on the all-decade teams in the intro to this series.

You can find that, and the All-Decade First Team, right here. The All-Decade Second Team is here, while the decade’s All-Legacy Team is at this link.

ALL-DECADE THIRD TEAM

SHABAZZ NAPIER, UConn

There are just seven college basketball players that won two national titles this decade, and I’m not sure anyone – including Jalen Brunson – played a bigger role in landing his team those two titles that Shabazz.

As a freshman, Napier emerged late in the season as a critical second ball-handler and scorer that allowed Kemba Walker to play off the ball while taking some of the defensive attention he drew away. That team, as you know, went on to win the 2011 Big East tournament as well as the national title.

UConn’s 2014 national title run, which came in Kevin Ollie’s second season at the helm, was not as easy. The Huskies did not win the Big East tournament, but they come out of Selection Sunday with a No. 7 seed, making them to lowest-seeded national champions since No. 8 seed Villanova beat Georgetown in the 1985 national title game.

Shabazz was unbelievable that season. He finished the year averaging 18.0 points, 5.9 boards and 4.9 assists, and like Kemba Walker in 2011, he was shut out of any and all National Player of the Year awards. That’s what happens when Doug McDermott’s senior season corresponds with your national title run.

Trey Burke (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

TREY BURKE, Michigan

Trey Burke is from Columbus. A childhood friend of Jared Sullinger, Burke played alongside him and another Ohio State player – J.D. Weatherspoon – in high school, but he was a year younger and then-Ohio State head coach Thad Matta opted to sign Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott instead, leaving Burke without a spot.

So John Beilein swooped him, and Burke immediately made Matta regret his decision. As a freshman, Burke averaged 14.8 points, 4.6 assists and 3.5 boards before coming back to school as a sophomore and turning into the National Player of the Year, averaging 18.6 points, 6.7 assists and 3.2 boards. He thrived in Beilein’s ball-screen heavy alongside the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary.

The Big Ten was absolutely loaded that season, so the Wolverines finished in fourth place, but they proved how good their were in the NCAA tournament by making a run to the national title game, where they lost to Louisville.

Frank Mason III (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

FRANK MASON, Kansas

Frank Mason’s career path is what makes college basketball so great.

Stories like this.

Mason was originally committed and signed to Towson, but he ended up failing a class as a senior in high school, making him ineligible and forcing him to attend prep school at a Military Academy in Virginia. It was there, and on the AAU circuit the summer before his prep year, that Mason impressed the Kansas staff enough to become the point guard that they signed in the recruiting class that included Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden.

It was the promise that he showed that convinced Self to let Naadir Tharpe walk, and by his senior year, Mason was the National Player of the Year. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it: Mason was in a recruiting class with three top 15 prospects, two of whom grow into top three picks, and he was the guy that ended up winning all the individual awards in college.

I guess why he was the guy that had a song written about him. #BIFM

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – JANUARY 12: Evan Turner (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

EVAN TURNER, Ohio State

Turner’s career at Ohio State started in 2007, but he had one of the best season’s that we’ve seen out of a college basketball player this decade in 2010.

Coming off of a season where he was first-team All-Big Ten as a sophomore, Turner was arguably the best player in the country as a junior. He averaged 20.0 points, 9.2 boards and 6.0 assists for the Buckeyes, which was enough to earn himself a tag as the National Player of the Year in a year that both John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins played for Kentucky.

But here’s the most incredible part: Turner quite literally broke his back during the season. He suffered transverse process fractures in early December, an injury that was expected to keep him out for two months. He was back within a month – after Ohio State dropped out of the top 25 – and not only did he turn their season right around, but he managed to set a Big Ten record for the number of conference Player of the Week awards for one player in one season despite missing five weeks of that season.

Should I mention that the Buckeyes won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles that year?

Denzel Valentine (Zach Bolinger/Getty Images)

DENZEL VALENTINE, Michigan State

Valentine was a solid piece for a few good Michigan State teams for his first three seasons in East Lansing, but it was his senior year that earned him a spot on this list.

The 6-foot-4 Valentine had an unprecedented season, becoming the first player since at least 1992 to averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 boards and 7.5 assists. He did this for a Michigan State team that was one of the best in the country, that won the Big Ten tournament and likely would have won the Big Ten regular season title if he hadn’t injured his knee midway through the season.

The proof is that the Spartans entered the NCAA tournament as the overwhelming favorite to win the national title.

That … did not end well.

College Basketball All-Decade: The All-Legacy team

Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We discussed the criteria for picking the players on the all-decade teams in the intro to this series.

This is going to be a little bit different.

While these guys did not do enough to earn a spot on any of the All-Decade teams, I thought it was important to highlight the guys that helped turn programs from doormats into powerhouses. These are those players.

You can find the All-Decade First Team right here. The All-Decade Second Team is here, and the All-Decade Third Team is here.

ALL-DECADE ALL-LEGACY TEAM

FRED VANVLEET and RON BAKER, Wichita State

It really is incredibly to think back on what these two were able to accomplish at Wichita State during their four seasons on campus.

Baker came in as a walk-on from a small town in rural western Kansas. Fred VanVleet came in as an under-the-radar recruit from Rockford, Illinois, and together they launched Wichita State’s basketball program to unprecedented heights. In 2012-13, they played critical roles on a team that made it all the way to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed. They might have played for the national title in a world where Louisville walk-on Tim Henderson doesn’t come out of nowhere to bang home two threes to spark a run that erase a 12-point Wichita State.

The following season, Baker and VanVleet were the centerpieces of a team that won their first 35 games, getting the absolutely brutal luck of drawing preseason No. 1 Kentucky, then a No. 8 seed, in the second round of the tournament. The following season, the Selection Committee did Wichita State even fewer favors, slotting them as a No. 10 seed despite the fact that they were a top 15 team in the country, according to everyone not on said Selection Committee. The Shockers did beat Kansas in the second round of the tournament that season, so it wasn’t all bad. As seniors, the Shockers fought through some early injury issues before winning two NCAA tournament games.

All told, VanVleet and Baker won 121 games with the Shockers, including three Missouri Valley regular season titles and one Arch Madness title. They won at least two games in every NCAA tournament except for the one when they entered 34-0.

It was enough to get the Shockers a move from the MVC up to the American Athletic Conference.

That’s a legacy.

Malcolm Brogdon (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

MALCOLM BROGDON, Virginia

Brogdon wasn’t the first player to commit to Tony Bennett at Virginia, and he wasn’t Bennett’s first pro, and he is certainly not the only that has played for this program that has helped turn it into a place that develops players and wins basketball games at unprecedented rates.

But his role in the development of Virginia from doormat to winner of four of the last six ACC regular season titles should not be diminished.

Brogdon was a top 100 recruit from Atlanta that committed the Wahoos when they were still bad. As a freshman in 2011-12, the Wahoos earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament – the first NCAA tournament they had reached under Bennett – but Brogdon missed the following season with a foot injury. UVA missed the tournament that year, but for the next three years, Brogdon was the star of a team that was the best program in the ACC.

In 2013-13, he was an all-ACC player on a team that went 30-7, won the ACC regular season title and reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed. The following year, he was a second-team All-American on a team that would have been a No. 1 seed and likely made it further than the second round of the NCAA tournament if Justin Anderson had not broken his wrist. As a senior in 2015-16, Virginia was once against a No. 1 seed as Brogdon finished the year as a consensus first-team All-American, getting UVA all the way to the Elite Eight, where they lost to Syracuse.

Today, Virginia is the healthiest program in the ACC and coming off of winning the program’s first national title.

And Brogdon had as much to do with getting them to this point as anyone.

Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono (Getty Images)

JOSH HART and RYAN ARCIDIACONO, Villanova

Hart and Arcidiacono ushered in this era of Villanova basketball.

It’s been covered to death at this point, but there was a turning point for Jay Wright’s basketball program around 2012, when he realized that he had gotten away from building a program the way he wanted to build it.

So instead of just targeting highly-rated players, he started targeting guys that he knew would buy into the Villanova Way, that would work hard, build a culture and hang around for three or four years, but who still had NBA upside. Arch and Hart were two of the first recruits that he targeted, the former in the Class of 2012 and the latter in the Class of 2013. Together, they won three Big East regular season titles, a Big East tournament title and the 2016 national title.

They laid the groundwork for the team that then won the 2018 national title, the best team that we have seen in the sport this decade.

If Villanova is truly a blue-blood program these days, they are there because Arch and Hart built it.

Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson (Kelly Kline/Getty Images)

JOEL BERRY II, JUSTIN JACKSON and THEO PINSON, North Carolina

Berry, Jackson and Pinson were all five-star recruits, top 20 prospects and McDonald’s All-Americans, and while it’s not all that hard to believe that UNC can land players like that right now, at the time it wasn’t happening all that often.

This was right in the middle of the fake class scandal that North Carolina dealt with, and the threat of potential NCAA sanctions had scared off five-star prospects in the years before and after. The most famous name was probably Brandon Ingram, who grew up a North Carolina fan but committed to Duke in the class after Berry, Jackson and Pinson because he was worried about what the NCAA would do to the program.

But those three went to North Carolina, and while none of them look like they are going to end up being superstars in the NBA, they carried the Tar Heels to one of the most memorable two-year runs in program history. In 2015-16, when they were sophomores, the Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title, the ACC tournament title and made it all the way to the national title game where, you might remember, this happened.

The following season, however, UNC did much of the same. They once against were the best team in the ACC – despite the fact that Duke had an absolutely loaded roster that year – before completing what would have been the best redemption story of our generation if Virginia hadn’t gone and did what they did last season.

That was a special group, one that will be remembered for a long, long time in Chapel Hill.

Grant Williams (Matthew Maxey/Getty Images)

GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

We can all see what Rick Barnes has going at Tennessee right now.

They are currently a top 25 team in college basketball, recruiting at levels we rarely see their football team recruit at, despite the fact that they lost four starters off of last year’s roster.

That’s when you know a program is operating at an elite level. They can lose important players unexpectedly without seeing a drop off.

And the reason they’re here has as much to do with Grant Williams as anyone else. Williams was an undersized, 6-foot-5 power forward that committed to Tennessee when they were not very good. After a promising freshman season, Williams turned in back-to-back All-American campaigns that led the Vols to a 2018 SEC regular season title. Tennessee was a top ten team in the two years where Williams was the best player on the floor, and if it wasn’t for his influence, it’s fair to wonder if the program would be where it is right now.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: No. 5 Michigan loses again, Badgers drop fourth in five

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

What looked to be a quiet night in college basketball ended up creating some noise, with a top-five upset leading the charge. Here’s everything you need to know from around the country.

1. Illinois gives No. 5 Michigan second loss in three games

Michigan is learning a lesson so many Midwestern tourists to the Bahamas learn upon returning home in December.

It was a helluva lot nicer down there.

The fifth-ranked Wolverines suffered their second loss in their three games since their expectations-busting Battle 4 Atlantis championship two weeks ago, this one coming to Illinois in a 71-62 setback.

Certainly, there’s no reason to completely abandon Juwan Howard’s team given both those losses were true road games, and one came against the top-ranked team in the country. Teams are going to lose road games, and maybe no one is going to win at the KFC Yum! Center other than Louisville this season. This Wolverines team was dismantling North Carolina and Gonzaga not so long ago, after all.

Their loss to the Illini seems to be more about an off-shooting night than any sort of structural problem. The Wolverines entered the night as a top-25 3-point shooting team, but connected on just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent), including 1 of 6 in the second half, in Champaign.

Sometimes, it’s not just your night.

As ‘meh’ as I am for the loss for the Wolverines, it’s a major victory for Brad Underwood’s Illinois. Prior to tonight, the Illini’s best win was KenPom No. 173 Hawaii at home.  All three top-100 teams they faced – No. 14 Arizona, No. 83 Miami and No. 9 Maryland – all beat them, with the Hurricanes and Terps games both last week.

Stopping a two-game losing streak and getting your first marquee win of the season against the team that had become something of a national darling is a really nice way to spend a Wednesday night.

It was an encouraging performance for the Illini, which had a balanced attack and a breakout performance from center Kofi Cockburn. The 7-foot center had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. It was a fantastic night for him, but, unfortunately, it’ll likely be remembered most by his celebration late in the game that left an official injured after a celebratory fist pump accidentally smacked referee Lewis Garrison in the head.

2. Wisconsin drops fourth in five at Rutgers

Things aren’t looking so hot in Madison right now.

The Badgers lost for the fourth time in five games, this one a 72-65 defeat at Rutgers.

Now, it’s early, but Wisconsin looks well off from being an NCAA tournament team now with a 5-5 record, albeit with quality wins against Marquette and Indiana on the resume. If the Badgers can’t find the consistency and success necessary to get a berth, it’ll be the second time in three years they’ll have missed the dance after going every single year from 1999-2017. I imagine that would get some people a little concerned about the trajectory Greg Gard’s program is on after he inherited the powerhouse program after Bo Ryan’s abrupt mid-2015-16 retirement.

The result Wednesday has to be especially disappointing given it comes on the heels of a 20-point win over the Hoosiers in Madison. That may be the silver lining for the Badgers as all five of their losses have come away from the Kohl Center.

Rutgers won despite making fewer 3s and free throws thanks to the 14 offensive rebounds it collected and by winning the turnover margin (14 to 11). Geo Baker scored 22 to lead the way.

3. Low-major, big stats

Let’s give it up to some of the little guys that had huge nights.

Lavar Batts, a 6-foot-3 sophomore for UNC Asheville – made 14 of 17 shots from the floor, 3 of 5 from distance and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line to score 40, albeit in a losing effort to South Carolina State, 90-85. Batts is the 11th player this year to hit 40 points in a game against Division I competition.