Getty Images

Bracketology: Welcome to the top line, San Diego State

1 Comment

Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Welcome to the top line, San Diego State.  The Aztecs join Baylor, Gonzaga, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in our latest bracket update.  SDSU remains the only unbeaten team in college hoops, buoyed by wins over tournament teams Iowa, Creighton and BYU.

The West-leaning geographical slate of top seeds means someone has to go East.  As SDSU is the fourth overall seed, that adventure belongs to them.  Several additional power conference teams are pushing for the top line, too – including Florida State, Michigan State and surging Seton Hall.  And let’s not forget about Louisville, a preseason top seed.  The Cardinals put together an impressive road win at Duke on Saturday.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 20, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
WEST REGION NC State vs. VCU
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)

SOUTH Houston                           WEST – Los Angeles
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
8) Arkansas 8) Illinois
9) Memphis 9) HOUSTON
Tampa Sacramento
5) Colorado 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NC State / VCU
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
St. Louis Greensboro
6) Marquette 6) Michigan
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Saint Mary’s
3) LOUISVILLE 3) Duke
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany Spokane
7) Wisconsin 7) LSU
10) USC 10) Oklahoma
2) SETON HALL 2) Oregon
15) WILLIAM-MARY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Rutgers 8) Indiana
9) STANFORD 9) Florida
Albany Cleveland
5) Kentucky 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Villanova 4) DAYTON
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Penn State 6) Auburn
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown 11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) COLGATE 14) WRIGHT STATE
Tampa Cleveland
7) Ohio State 7) Wichita State
10) DePaul 10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) NORTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Virginia Tech Purdue Washington
DePaul NC State Minnesota Saint Louis
Saint Mary’s Georgetown Arizona State St. John’s
BYU VCU Xavier Richmond

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way

Getty Images
4 Comments

A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.

I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.

But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.

So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.

One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.

Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.

Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.

The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.

I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.

But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.

I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. BAYLOR (15-1, Last Week: 2)
2. GONZAGA (20-1, 3)
3. KANSAS (14-3, 6)
4. FLORIDA STATE (16-2, 12)
5. LOUISVILLE (15-3, 13)
6. SETON HALL (14-4, 15)
7. DUKE (15-3, 1)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (19-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (16-2, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (14-4, 7)
11. BUTLER (15-3, 4)
12. AUBURN (15-2, 5)
13. OREGON (15-4, 10)
14. KENTUCKY (13-4, 11)
15. WEST VIRGINIA (14-3, 14)
16. TEXAS TECH (12-5, 17)
17. VILLANOVA (14-3, 18)
18. IOWA (13-5, 22)
19. ARIZONA (13-5, NR)
20. HOUSTON (14-4, NR)
21. MEMPHIS (14-3, 25)
22. MICHIGAN (11-6, 20)
23. MARYLAND (14-4, 21)
24. ILLINOIS (13-5, 24)
25. CREIGHTON (14-5, 23)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

Ranking the best college basketball teams of the decade

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
6 Comments

More college basketball all-decade content here.

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 watched Louisville win a national title and then had the NCAA erase it from our collective memory because an assistant coach liked 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 giving you the ten best college basketball all-decade teams of the last ten seasons.


North Carolina after defeating Gonzaga in the 2017 national title game (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The criteria for ranking the best teams in college basketball over the last decade was pretty simple: We’re not ranking how good the players on these rosters ended up being once they reached the NBA, or how good those teams looked on paper, or even basing it strictly on whether or not they won the national title. Take, for example, 2015. Duke won the national title that season, but I think everyone will agree that the Kentucky team that started the season off at 38-0 was the best team in college basketball that year.

And, for clarity’s sake, we are including the 2009-2010 season in this discussion. We did consider this season as well, but since everyone in college basketball stinks this year, our life was made easier.

So without further ado, these are the definitive, unquestioned best teams that set foot on a college basketball court in the last decade.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

2010 DUKE: Mike Krzyzewski’s first national title of the decade. It might go overlooked among Coach K’s best teams because there were no eventual superstars on the roster, but that team won a share of the ACC regular season title, the ACC tournament title and, of course, the national title with a team that had six NBA players on it. That number doesn’t include Jon Scheyer, who was a senior All-American that probably would have made a roster somewhere if he hadn’t injured his eye.

2014 WICHITA STATE: This was the best team that Gregg Marshall had at Wichita State. The Shockers won their first 35 games of the season, with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker running the backcourt, but the best player on the roster that year was actually Cleanthony Early, who was eventually picked in the second round of that June’s draft.

2016 VILLANOVA: This season’s version of the Wildcats won the national title and rid Jay Wright of the stigma of being unable to get out of the first weekend of the tournament. I think that the 2018 iteration of the Wildcats was significantly better, but this group had to be considered because A) they won the national title, and B) there were six NBA players on the roster, including three (Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson) in the starting lineup.

2017 NORTH CAROLINA: I was such a big fan of this group. With Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks leading the way, the Tar Heels won the outright ACC regular season title before making a run to win the national title, redeeming themselves for a loss in the same game the previous season.

2019 DUKE: This Duke team had as much, if not more, talent on their roster than any team that we’ve seen the last decade. R.J. Barrett became the first player to average 22 points, seven boards and four assists at a high-major since Penny Hardaway in 1993, and he was the second-best player on that team. Remember Zion? The Blue Devils finished third in the ACC regular season standings, but they won the ACC tournament and entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed before flaming out in the Elite Eight.


Definitive proof Louisville won the 2013 national title (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

10. 2013 LOUISVILLE

RECORD: 35-5 (14-4 Big East)
WHAT THEY WON: Big East regular season title, Big East tournament title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell

Before we get into it, I need to clarify something: I know you remember this team. I know that you watched them win the national title, and that we all remember Russdiculous doing Russdiculous things and Luke Hancock hitting four straight threes in the title game. But none of that happened. The NCAA erased it all from the history books when they punished Louisville.

So just remember that, as we discuss this group, you are legally barred from actually remembering them. It’s the NCAA’s rule, my hands are tied.

In all seriousness, this was one of my favorite college basketball teams of the decade. It was the last great team from the old Big East, winning a share of the regular season title before taking home the Big East tournament title. They finished the season with the second-best rating in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric in his database, and they did it all with one of the most entertaining players we’ve ever seen in Russ Smith. They played fast, they forced turnovers and they were the crowning achievement for Rick Pitino, who went from building the best team of the 1990s at Kentucky to one of the best teams of the 2010s at Louisville.

Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger and the rest of Ohio State’s 2011 team (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

9. 2011 OHIO STATE

RECORD: 34-3 (16-2 Big Ten)
WHAT THEY WON: Big Ten regular season title, Big Ten tournament title, lost in the Sweet 16
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, David Lighty, William Buford, Jon Diebler

For my money, this was the best team that Thad Matta ever had at Ohio State. I know he had the one year with Greg Oden and I know they reached the Final Four in 2012, but to be honest, this was his best. I just don’t know how you thought you were going to be able to guard them. Sullinger was a first-team All-American low-post scorer and he was surrounded with three big, long wings (Lighty, Buford, Diebler) who all shot at least 43 percent from three. Diebler shot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc while taking more than six threes per game. Craft was the guy that tied it all together.

The Buckeyes were clearly the best team in the country in 2011. They were No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings, and gap between them and the team sitting at No. 2 was the biggest of any season this decade. They just happened to get a 2-for-16 shooting performance from Buford on the wrong night, as the dropped out of the tournament in the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin after defeating Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

8. 2015 WISCONSIN

RECORD: 36-4 (16-2 Big Ten)
WHAT THEY WON: Big Ten regular season title, Big Ten tournament title, lost in the national title game
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Josh Gasser

The 2014-15 version of the Wisconsin Badgers was the consummate Bo Ryan basketball team. It was built around a 7-foot center in Frank Kaminsky that entered the program as an unknown three-star prospect that spent two seasons as a seldom-used sub before exploding into an All-American as a junior. He was paired on the front line with Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker, the former a future All-American and the latter a first round pick, to give Ryan three players that were impossible to guard because they could post-up, play on the perimeter and shoot the three.

The result was arguably the best offense that we’ve seen this decade. The Badgers posted the highest adjusted offensive efficiency in the KenPom era, and while there is a lot of noise in that number, there are two things that make me believe there is some truth to that statement: A) There are only two teams in KenPom’s database that had a higher raw points-per-possession, and B) This was posted in what was the best season of the decade. Seven teams finished the year with four or fewer losses, the only time that’s happened since the turn of the century.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

Duke won the 2015 national title, Coach K’s fifth (Lance King/Getty Images)

7. 2015 DUKE

RECORD: 35-4 (15-3 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: National title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Quinn Cook, Grayson Allen

The interesting thing about this Duke team is that, for much of the season, they didn’t even look like the best team in the ACC. There was a point in mid-January where it looked like this thing could end up spinning off the rails. They had lost to N.C. State on the road, their first loss of the season, and they had gotten run out of Cameron Indoor Stadium by a pretty regular Miami team just two days later. They fell out of the top 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency and it looked like the idea of pairing a slow-footed center with a point guard that’s not exactly known for his physicality and toughness would come back to bite them.

Hell, they didn’t win the ACC regular season or tournament title.

But when it mattered, in the NCAA tournament, it all came together. Duke was awesome defensively throughout their run. The only team to score more than 1.0 points-per-possession against them was Wisconsin in the national title game, who had 63 points on 60 possessions. The Blue Devils ended up sweeping the Badgers – they had won by 10 in Madison in December – en route to Coach K’s second title of the decade.

North Carolina in 2012 before Kendall Marshall got hurt (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

6. 2012 NORTH CAROLINA

RECORD: 32-6 (14-2 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: ACC regular season title, lost in the Elite Eight
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Reggie Bullock, James Michael-McAdoo, P.J. Hairston

From a neutral’s perspective, I don’t think that there was a more disappointing injury to take place during this decade than when Kendall Marshall fractured a bone in his wrist during the second round of the NCAA tournament against Creighton.

The Tar Heels were absolutely loaded. Every member of their starting lineup ended up being a first round pick, with four of the five getting selected in the top 17 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft. They had played Kentucky to a stalemate in Rupp Arena that December, losing when Anthony Davis blocked a John Henson shot at the buzzer to seal a one-point win. Kentucky was considered far and away the favorite to win the national title that season, but North Carolina was right there with them and on the opposite side of the bracket.

Everyone wanted the rematch.

And thanks to one, single scaphoid fracture, that never happened.

That should not change how we view the 2012 North Carolina team. They were, as you can see, absolutely loaded.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

Kentucky had a lot of talent in 2010 (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

5. 2010 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 35-3 (14-2 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, SEC tournament title, lost in the Elite Eight
WHO WERE THE STARS?: John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller

John Calipari’s first season with the Wildcats really set the tone for what we would get from him during his tenure.

For starters, Cal brought in an absolutely electric recruiting class, headlined by John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, arguably the two best recruits that season. Throw in Eric Bledsoe and add a sprinkle of the veteran presence that came from Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller, and suddenly Cal had a roster that included five NBA players – including two top five picks and four lottery picks in total. That team would go on to win both SEC titles before falling short of the Final Four when they went 4-for-32 from three in the Elite Eight against West Virginia.

That’s not the last time we’ve see a Coach Cal team loaded with talent lose because they couldn’t shoot it all that well.

But what made that season truly notable came during the draft. Five Kentucky players were selected in the first round, and Cal said that it was the greatest moment in the history of the program, something that rankled the feathers of Kentucky’s old guard. But it was also a prescient statement on the future of the program he wanted to build: He was going to turn Kentucky into the prime spot where you go to do your eight months before jumping to the NBA. Getting someone like Daniel Orton picked in the first round despite averaging three points was evidence that you didn’t need to thrive at Kentucky to make it to the next level. You just needed to be there.

And in the decade since, he’s had as much success as any coach in the country, even if there is only one title to show for it.

Virginia after their 2019 redemption (Matt Marriott/Getty Images)

4. 2019 VIRGINIA

RECORD: 35-3 (16-2 ACC)
WHAT THEY WON: ACC regular season title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Mamadi Diakite, Kihei Clark

We all know about just how good Virginia is on the defensive side of the ball, and this roster was no different. Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite were both plus-defenders, among the best that you are going to find in college basketball at their position. There’s an argument to be made that De’Andre Hunter is the best defensive player that we saw in college basketball this decade. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.

But what set this version of the Cavaliers apart was just how efficient and lethal they were offensively. Kyle Guy was an NBA draft pick because of how well he can shoot. Ty Jerome was a first round draft pick because of his ability to operate in ball-screens. And Hunter was simply bigger and more athletic than anyone that tried to defend him.

When you give a Tony Bennett team three NBA players who excel on the offensive end of the floor, you are going to be very, very difficult to beat.

John Calipari’s only national title came in 2012 (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

3. 2012 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 38-2 (16-0 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, Darius Miller

We always hear about just how close the 2015 Kentucky team came to going undefeated on the season. We don’t hear all that much about how close this Kentucky team, the first team to win 38 Division I basketball games in a single season, came to finishing out the year unblemished. If it wasn’t for a buzzer-beating Christian Watford three at Indiana and an SEC title game loss to a Vanderbilt team that had three pros, we might remember this group differently.

As it stands, Kentucky had the consensus National Player of the Year, Anthony Davis, surrounded by a perfect compliment of young talent (Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist) and wily veterans (Lamb, Jones, Miller). They finished the season as one of the nation’s elite offenses, and defensively, Davis took them to another level. Fun fact: Kentucky finished the 2012 season with the highest block rate of the decade. The only teams in the KenPom era that bettered them were a couple of the UConn teams in the mid-00s.

This group also changed college basketball in a pretty significant way. This proved that national titles could be won with rosters built around the best freshmen in the sport. The one-and-done era was already in full swing, but this win turned each and every recruiting class into an arms race. Arizona jumped in the mix. Kansas jumped in the mix. Even schools like LSU, or Missouri, or Cal tried to replicate what Kentucky did in 2012.

I think there’s an argument to be made that this team was the most influential team of the decade.

Kentucky was two games away from 40-0 in 2015 (Mark Cornelison/Getty Images)

2. 2015 KENTUCKY

RECORD: 38-1 (18-0 SEC)
WHAT THEY WON: SEC regular season title, SEC tournament title, lost in the Final Four
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis

I think there’s a very strong case to make that this Kentucky team is the best team in college basketball history that didn’t win the national title. There was so much talent on the roster that, if you remember, Coach Cal had to talk about ‘platoons’ as much as possible to try and keep everyone happy. They legitimately went 10 deep. Devin Booker, who is one of the top five young scorers in the NBA, came off the bench. That is an embarrassment of riches for one roster.

And what made this team so good is that they were unquestionably the best team in the country on the defensive side of the ball that season. The only two teams that have posted better adjusted defensive efficiency numbers in KenPom’s database were Texas Tech in 2019 and Louisville in 2013. When you have a team with that much game-changing talent – remember what Karl-Anthony Towns did to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight? – that is willing to sacrifice minutes, accept roles and defend the way they defended, it’s the Coach Cal masterpiece.

It’s unfortunate that they didn’t win the title.

Because if any team deserved a 40-0 record, it was this group.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

The best of the decade (Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

1. 2018 VILLANOVA

RECORD: 36-4 (14-4 Big East)
WHAT THEY WON: Big East tournament title, national title
WHO WERE THE STARS?: Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth

This team was Jay Wright’s Mona Lisa. They were old, they were positionless, they shot a ton of threes and they were loaded with soon-to-be NBA players.

Let’s start with the basketball side first. This team finished as the second-best offense in the KenPom era, according to his adjusted offensive efficiency metric, but no one since 2002 has posted a higher raw points-per-possession than this Villanova team. They shot better than 40 percent from three while firing up nearly half of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. What made them so difficult to defend was that their point guard, Jalen Brunson, the National Player of the Year, was a lethal post scorer while Omari Spellman, their center, shot 43.3 percent from three and averaged two blocks per game. Throw in myriad versatile, sharp-shooting wings that would go on to play in the NBA, and there was just no way to stop this group. They only lost two games at full strength all season long – at Butler when Butler shot 15-for-22 from three, and at Creighton in overtime when Creighton shot 12-for-29 from three.

But the other side of it is that this roster was quintessential Jay Wright. Brunson was a McDonald’s All-American, but he needed three years in college because the NBA doesn’t recognize talent when it doesn’t come in freak physical packages. Bridges was a redshirt junior because he needed to add weight in college and accepted playing behind Josh Hart as a sophomore. Paschall was a redshirt junior after transferring into the program from Fordham. Booth (redshirt junior), DiVincenzo (redshirt sophomore) and Spellman (redshirt freshman) all missed a season due to injury or, in Spellman’s case, academics.

Booth is the only one of those five that hasn’t found success in the NBA, and I think he’ll get there eventually.

When you combine next-level talent and elite shooting on an unselfish, old roster, this is what happens.

You get the Team Of The Decade.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE TEAMS

College Basketball’s All-Decade Team

NBC Sports
1 Comment

More college basketball all-decade team content here.

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 all-decade players.


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.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE SECOND 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.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE THIRD TEAM

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.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALL-DECADE LEGACY TEAM

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.

Monday’s Overreactions: Tyrese Maxey, West Virginia, and UCLA

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

It is not a coincidence that, in the two biggest wins Kentucky has had this season, Tyrese Maxey was the star. On Saturday, in a 78-70 overtime win over then-No. 3 Louisville, Maxey went off for 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting while hitting 4-for-5 from three. This came after his 26 point outburst on the opening night of the season in a win over Michigan State.

And that right there is what makes the difference for the Wildcats. Nick Richards played the best game of his life Saturday. Ashton Hagans was as solid as always, even if his scoring wasn’t quite there. Immanuel Quickley stepped up and hit some big shots in big moments. But having a go-to guy, a bucket-getter that was create something out of nothing is absolutely enormous for a team that has so many question marks elsewhere on their roster.

We don’t know what Kentucky is going to do at the four. We don’t know if Kahlil Whitney or E.J. Montgomery or Johnny Juzang are going to be able to contribute this season in significant ways. Some of that gets mitigated if Maxey can be the guy that can create offense on the most important possessions of a game.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia

There was not a team in college basketball that I was more wrong about being bad than West Virginia. I thought they were going to be the worst team in the Big 12.

Turns out, they are not.

The Mountaineers landed themselves a marquee win on Saturday, beating Ohio State in Cleveland in fairly dominant fashion despite the fact that Oscar Tshiebwe played eight scoreless minutes due to foul trouble. Much of that is the result of Miles McBride, who went for a career-high 21 points, but it also had quite a bit to do with the fact that West Virginia’s defense is suffocating.

They aren’t Press Virginia anymore, but they are one of the 10 best defenses in college hoops.

And now, they are sitting pretty with wins over Ohio State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Pitt and Rhode Island. That is a serious resume this early in the season.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. I FEEL BETTER ABOUT LOUISVILLE NOW THAN I DID BEFORE THE KENTUCKY GAME

The biggest knock of Louisville this season is that they are a team that is forced to ride or die with Jordan Nwora because they don’t have anyone else on the roster that is capable of creating for themselves. This is why they looked so bad offensively against Michigan and Texas Tech, and why they struggled so much in the first half against Kentucky. Through the first 100 minutes that the Cardinals have played against elite defenses this season, they had mustered a total of 139 points in 171 possessions, or 0.813 PPP. For reference, the best defenses in college basketball hover around the 0.850 PPP allowed range.

It’s not a coincidence that, in that same time frame, Jordan Nwora was 14-for-47 from the floor and 3-for-17 from three.

That’s relevant because, in the second half and overtime on Saturday afternoon, Nwora more or less played as a decoy. Kentucky face-guarded him wherever he was on the floor, and he simply got out of the way. That’s when he wasn’t actually on the bench. Louisville erased a 12-point second half deficit against the Wildcats on Saturday, and the run to regain a foothold in the game came when Nwora was out.

Steve Enoch finished with 18 points, knocking down a three and getting his back-to-the-basket game going. Dwayne Sutton had 14 points and 10 boards, making some key defensive plays and picking up a few critical loose balls.

But the most important performance came from Fresh Kimble, a grad transfer point guard from St. Joe’s that currently backs up Darius Perry. He had 12 points and four assists, making some crucial plays in the second half to keep the Cardinals moving in the right direction. Point guard play has been the biggest concern for Louisville this season, and playing arguably the best team in what was definitely the toughest venue they’ve seen this year, Kimble had his best game. Someone needs to be able to make plays to create easy offense for people not named Nwora, and Kimble – along with Sutton, Enoch and even Darius Perry, to a point – were able to do that and bring Louisville back.

That’s big, even if it comes in a loss.

2. SATURDAY SHOWCASED THE BAD SIDE OF OHIO STATE’S POINT GUARD PLAY

After Ohio State’s win over Kentucky, I sang the praises of D.J. Carton and, to a lesser extent, C.J. Walker, as they were instrumental in leading the Buckeyes to a massive win over the Wildcats.

On Sunday, we saw the other side of things. Carton was 1-for-5 from the floor, turned the ball over five times and, in his 22 minutes, looked exactly the way you would expect a raw freshman to look against West Virginia. Walker wasn’t much better, finishing with one assist and four turnovers.

Ohio State does not have all that much offensive firepower. There really aren’t that many guys that can create offense for themselves, so when their point guards aren’t able to initiate offense and can’t create easy points for their teammates, they’re in trouble.

3. SO LET’S TALK ABOUT UCLA AND MICK CRONIN

Over the weekend, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports wrote a column blog post about UCLA that, in so many words, said that Mick Cronin should not be judged based on this season because he has a roster that lacks anything close to the talent we typically see on a UCLA roster.

It created quite a bit of dialogue, both on twitter and in private conversations, among the people I talk to, so I figured this space was the perfect place to do that after a slow weekend.

If you missed it, UCLA lost to Cal St.-Fullerton on Saturday night, a team that ranks 274th in KenPom and did not have a single win over a top 300 team prior to that game in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins are now 7-6 on the season, and Mick Cronin is getting more and more frustrated.

Now, I’m going to be talking out of both sides of my mouth here, but there’s a lot to chew on with this discussion.

Cronin knows how to win. He’s one of just six coaches to reach each of the last nine NCAA tournaments, along with Coach K, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Mark Few and Roy Williams. He did it at Cincinnati with his defense. His teams finished an average of 15th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric over that nine-year run.

But the Cincinnati program has a very different culture and ethos to the one that he walked into in UCLA. That doesn’t change overnight, as evidenced by the fact that a roster loaded with four-star, top 100 talent is currently sitting at 199th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric.

It took four years for Cronin to get it rolling at Cincinnati. It’s going to take him some time to get it rolling at UCLA, and he should not be judged on his ability to turn that thing around until he has three or four years under his belt and “his guys” in the program.

That said, what UCLA has done this season is terrible. Think about it like this: Steve Alford was fired right around the New Year last season after a 7-6 start that featured home losses to Belmont and Liberty, two mid-majors that won an NCAA tournament game last season. As the calendar flips this season, UCLA is sitting at … 7-6 with losses to mid-majors Hofstra and Fullerton, neither of whom are as good as Belmont or Liberty was last season.

This summer, I wrote about how much work Cronin has in front of him re-establishing the culture he needs to win. I think there is still the same chance that he can get there as when the season started.

But this season is a mess, and while Alford did not leave Cronin with a roster good enough to get to a Final Four, he certainly left him one that should be good enough to beat Fullerton and Hofstra in their own building.

4. JORDAN BONE WAS THE SINGLE-BIGGEST EARLY ENTRY LOSS IN COLLEGE HOOPS

Losing Jordan Bone was always going to be a major blow for Tennessee. As a junior, Bone was one of the best point guards in the SEC. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.8 assists for the Vols, and if he had returned to school, he might have been a preseason All-American.

And that’s to say nothing of the fact that a perimeter attack that consisted of Bone, Lamonte’ Turner, Josiah-Jordan James and Jordan Bowden would be among the best in the country.

But now that Turner is gone, his loss is magnified even more. Tennessee got absolutely steamrolled on Saturday afternoon, scoring just 48 points in a blowout loss at home against a Wisconsin team that was 0-5 away from the Kohl Center. It was all bad, and it stemmed from the fact that Tennessee does not have a point guard on the roster right now. Having Bone would have made a difference.

The good news is that reinforcements have arrived. Freshman point guard Santiago Vescuvi, a native of Uruguay, enrolled last week and arrived in Knoxville on Saturday morning.

Just in time for league play.

Bueno suerte, hermano.

5. ARKANSAS IS DANGEROUS

Eric Mussleman’s best Nevada teams were known as offensive juggernauts where he let his best players rock out while hoping that they would be able to do just enough defensively to get the wins they needed. He let Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline do what they do, and the result was 110 wins over four years, three straight seasons with at least 28 wins, two tournament berths and a trip to the Sweet 16.

At Arkansas, he’s once again letting his guys rock out. Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe are both having terrific individual seasons. The difference is that the Razorbacks are a top 10 defense in college hoops right now, which gives me hope that this 11-1 start to the season isn’t a fluke.

I don’t fully trust this team just yet. Their best win is at Indiana, who may or may not be good themselves, and I cannot get the thought of the overtime period at Georgia Tech out of my head.

But this team has a chance, and in an SEC where we are not sure who is actually good outside of Kentucky and Auburn, that may be enough for a top three finish.

Monday’s Overreactions: St. John’s, McKinley Wright and why Kentucky and Arizona are overrated

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: McKinley Wright, Colorado

It’s probably not a coincidence that, in the first game that the Buffaloes played where they legitimately looked like a team that could contend for the Pac-12 title, McKinley Wright was the best player on the floor.

In what will likely go down as the biggest game of Colorado’s non-conference slate, Wright finished with 29 points and 10 boards to lead the Buffaloes past No. 13 Dayton in overtime. Colorado desperately needed that win, too. Entering Saturday, the best win that the Buffaloes had this season came in the season-opener, when they picked off Arizona State. The Sun Devils are only marginally better, according to KenPom’s metrics, than Clemson.

That’s unless you want me to be impressed with wins over the likes of UC Irvine or Colorado State.

And while the Pac-12 is improved this season, there are still four teams that rank outside the top 100 on KenPom in the league and just two teams currently in the top 40. As weird as it sounds, beating Dayton gave Colorado their marquee non-conference win.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: St. John’s Red Storm

I don’t know how many coaches are the country have had a better start to the season than Mike Anderson.

He entered St. John’s without a shred of expectation this season, and while I was more bullish than the field on Anderson long term, I didn’t expect this: On Saturday, the Johnnies flew across the country to play a neutral site event against Arizona in San Francisco to honor Chris Mullin, the head coach they fired in April.

And they won despite the fact that their best player, Mustapha Heron, was injured.

It will go down as the second top 25 win of the season for the Johnnies, who also picked off West Virginia this month.

We’ve seen this St. John’s program land big wins before disappearing in recent years – anyone else remember when they won at Villanova and then beat Duke in back-to-back games after starting Big East play 0-11? – so I’m not going to overreact to this just yet, but rest assured, the Johnnies are now on everyone’s radar.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. IT’S OK IF YOU STILL THINK KANSAS IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

On Saturday, Kansas went on the road in their last game before the Christmas break, played in front of 20,000 Villanova fans and lost, 56-55, to a program that has won two of the last four national titles because Devon Dotson missed this shot:

View this post on Instagram

Down goes No. 1!

A post shared by Rob Dauster (@rob.dauster) on

If you believed heading into this game that Kansas was the best team in college basketball, than you are more than justified in keeping the Jayhawks at No. 1 today. If your opinion of a team boils down to what happens on the final possession of a one point game, than you probably shouldn’t be allowed to rank teams.

That’s not to say that it shouldn’t impact the way that NCAA tournament bracket projections work.

Wins and losses should matter there. There should be some tangible impact on whether or not that last second shot goes in. It should lower Kansas a bit in the No. 1 overall seed pecking order.

But if it has an impact on the way you view Kansas in the longterm, or whether or not you buy into them as the best team in the country, you’re doing this wrong.

2. KENTUCKY IS NOT FIXABLE

Kentucky more or less invented the superteam era in college basketball, so it would be awfully ironic if the team that has thrived in the one-and-done era as much as any program in the country had their season saved by a grad transfer fro Bucknell.

And that may end up being the case this season.

Nate Sestina came back from injury on Saturday and scored a team-high 17 points while hitting five threes. That’s important for a couple reasons. For starters, the Wildcats have been just atrocious shooting the three this season. They entered Saturday making just 27.5 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, and if you take Sestina’s shooting on Saturday out of the equation, the rest of the roster was just 2-for-15 from deep against Ohio State.

Getting someone on the floor that will punish defenses for selling out on drives is pretty important. Sestina does that.

But just as important is that Sestina provides some scoring pop at the four. E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards have had some good moments this season, but most of those moments have come against the bad teams that the Wildcats have faced. Combined, those two are averaging 10.5 points and 8.0 boards against the four high-major opponents Kentucky has faced. Keion Brooks has had some flashes of potential, but that’s about it. Kahlil Whitney has looked less like a lottery pick and more like a guy destined to be in Lexington until he transfers because he’s sick of being recruited over.

John Calipari (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Sestina has his limitations physically, but he plays hard, he provides some leadership and he does the thing none of those guys have been able to do: Provide some scoring pop.

And with him back in the fold, it does feel like Kentucky is getting closer to figuring this thing out. Tyrese Maxey’s making shots again. Ashton Hagans has really been the one guy that has consistently performed for the first seven weeks of the season. The execution wasn’t there against Ohio State – that has as much to do with Ohio State and Chris Holtmann as it does Kentucky and John Calipari – but the effort was there. The fight was there.

Editor’s note: Need tickets to Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville game? Click here

I don’t think Kentucky is ever going to look like a top ten team, and I doubt Cal is ever going to feel comfortable about what’s going on at the five, but the good news is that given the landscape of college basketball this season, you don’t have to be great. You just have to give yourself a chance.

3. ARIZONA AND DAYTON HAVE THE MOST OVERRATED RESUMES IN THE COUNTRY

Dayton is objectively good this year. They’ve blown out Virginia Tech, they’ve blown out Georgia and they have a convincing win over Saint Mary’s on a neutral court. That’s before you consider how well the Flyers can shoot and the fact that they are built around a future lottery pick in Obi Toppin. They’re legit.

Their biggest issue is that they lost to Kansas and Colorado in overtime. Those might end up being the two best teams that they play this season, and while those losses shouldn’t affect how you view the Flyers, they assuredly will affect how they are seeded come Selection Sunday. Results matter on a resume, and right now, Dayton’s resume does not match where they (deservedly) are being ranked.

The same can be said about Arizona, but I have much less conviction about this team actually being good. Arizona has now lost three of their last four games. The losses are by a total of 12 points, but in each one of those games, Arizona rallied late to make the final score respectable. They were down double-figures in the second half of all three.

And as it stands today, their best wins are Illinois at home, New Mexico State at home and Wake Forest on a neutral. That’s not exactly worthy of a No. 1 seed.

4. SAN DIEGO STATE IS 2014 WICHITA STATE

At this point, it is undeniable that San Diego State is a good basketball team. I’m not sure why any one would argue against one of the three remaining unbeatens being good, but if you are, you’re wrong. The Aztecs are 12-0 with wins over Creighton, Iowa, at BYU and by 28 against a Utah team that, just three days earlier, beat Kentucky. They’re good. I promise.

The question, however, is just how good they actually are, and that’s somewhat up for debate. I think that Iowa and Creighton will end up being tournament teams, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. I think BYU is good, but generally speaking, WCC teams with four losses in non-conference play aren’t making runs for at-large bids. Could all three end up being NIT teams? That’s certainly in the range of outcomes.

Which leads me to my next point: There really aren’t any great wins available in the Mountain West this year, not if Utah State’s actually the 48th-best team in the country, as KenPom says they are. The only other top 100 teams in the league are New Mexico (who just lost a pair of starters) and Nevada (who may or may not have last season’s success baked into their rankings right now). Is it crazy to think that the Aztecs, like the 2014 Shockers, can climb to the very top of the polls as the nation’s last remaining unbeaten even if their body work doesn’t necessarily justify it?

5. THE STATE OF COLLEGE HOOPS IS PROVEN BY THE IRRELEVANCE OF UNC-UCLA

We spoke about this on the podcast in each of the last two weeks, so I’ll be brief here.

I never would have thought that a Saturday afternoon tip off between UNC and UCLA would be a complete afterthought nationally for college hoops, but that is precisely what it was this Saturday. This epitomizes a point that I’ve made repeatedly – and one that was backed up by both Jay Wright and Bill Self on Saturday: College basketball is down this year. The talent level is down, the quality of the teams is down and, as a result, the level of play is down.

In total, these two teams lost six players to early entry. That’s part of the problem. Cole Anthony being injured is another part of the program. UCLA going through a coaching change certainly doesn’t help.

But the simple fact of the matter is that two of college basketball’s bluebloods were playing on Saturday, and it was overshadowed by Utah State-Florida and Butler-Purdue, which tipped at the same time.