Fun offseason stuff from Basketball Prospectus – they attempted to rank the “Best” 100 players in college basketball. It is an exercise in futility, obviously, but a fun one. Let me put this out there – some names and rankings on this list strike me as batshit crazy (but isn’t that what lists are supposed to do?). Here are what I thought were the nine most puzzling rankings (plus one non-ranking) that left me scratching my head. At a minimum, the list will provide you with some low-major and mid-major players to keep an eye on this season.
31. Christian Watford, Indiana (Jr., PF)
He might have been the 31st best player in the Big Ten last year. Ok, half-kidding. Maybe he was 21st. The kid improved across the board from his freshman to sophomore season, but again, we’re talking about the best players in the country. What will Cody Zeller’s presence do to Watford? Will his numbers slip, or will he be more effective as a role player? I think this ranking is ridiculously high, and Watford belongs in the 60s or 70s.
22. Tony Mitchell, Alabama (Jr., PF)
Does anyone know if Drew Cannon, the guy who wrote this, went to Alabama? He has two players from the Tide in the Top 22. Guess that means the Tide should be a Top 15 team, right? Mitchell is a solid player. A 15 point, 7-rebound guy who was second team All SEC last year. But you could have easily argued Tobias Harris, Jeffrey Taylor or Rotnei Clarke deserved the honor ahead of him. I’d rank Mitchell ahead of Watford, but closer to the high 40s or low 50s than the low 20s.
39. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Jr., C)
Couldn’t get on the floor last year due to the Morris twins, who were both taken in the first round of the draft. I’m on record predicting Robinson will loiter in the 20-10 range this year. He’ll be a lottery pick next year – because unlike the next guy on the list, he actually is a power forward (not sure why he’s listed here as a center). Question: If you polled 20 college basketball coaches in the Big East, Pac 10 and Big 12, and asked them which power forward they’d rather have, Watford, Mitchell or Robinson, what direction do you think they’ll go? I’ll guess 18 of 20 coaches would take Robinson.
30. Javon McCrea, Buffalo (So., PF)
An undersized freshman forward (6-foot-6) who had a strong rookie year (11-6, 63% shooting) in a bad conference is somehow the 30th best player in the country? If you just look at certain stats, he looks like an OK player (but certainly not Top 100 material), but as a freshman, he sure was inconsistent. This is probably the most shocking ranking on the list, if not for …
NR. Aaron Craft, Ohio State (So., PG)
Really? Honorable mention? He’s a tenacious defensive player, enjoyed a very good freshman campaign and needs to improve his 3-point shooting. To completely leave him off the list is a joke. He’ll probably be the 2nd team preseason All Big-10 point guard after Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor. Yes, I’d have Craft ahead of Michigan State’s Keith Appling, who is a pretty nice player and could flourish with Kalin Lucas having graduated.
44. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (Jr., PG)
I consider myself a rabid college basketball fan, though I probably don’t pay as much attention to the Summit League as I should. I had never heard of Wolters until I saw him on this list. You want to throw a guy like this into the 80s or 90s, fine. But the 40s? I’m not a small conference snob. I loved Keith “Mister” Jennings and Shelvin Mack and Stephen Curry. But this list has 25 point guards on it. There are a few in the top 10. By my count, they consider Wolters to be the 10th best point guard in the country. When you consider …
70. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (So., PG)
… how can you not laugh at the Wolters ranking? Marshall’s added playing time turned UNC’s season around, and spurred them to an Elite 8 run. His stats don’t blow you away, but with all the talent around him, they don’t need him to score, just run a clean floor game. Wouldn’t it be neat if we swapped Wolters and Marshall for a month and observe what went down?
51. C.J. Leslie, NC State (So., PF)
Because UNC is loaded and Duke is a Top 10 team, too, the bound-to-be-bad Wolfpack will struggle (again). But Leslie is a stud, and should probably be in the 30s or 40s on this list. He’s probably a 1st round draft pick next June, and at 6-foot-9, he’s a pretty sick athlete.
94. Alex Oriakhi, Connecticut (Jr., PF)
Really like his length at both ends, and my guess is that this year he’ll be a much bigger factor with the Huskies. Anyone remember Terrence Roberts? Syracuse recruit who went to St. Anthony and was supposed to be a star? Oriakhi reminds me of Roberts – except he’s better. Maybe he’ll lead the Big East in blocked shots.
74. Dion Waiters, Syracuse (So., SG)
Even though he had a modest freshman campaign when he came off the bench for the Cuse, I believed by the end of last season the Orange were better off with him on the floor as opposed to chucker Brandon Triche. Problem is, Triche and point guard Scoop Jardine are both back, so how will Waiters get the necessary burn in 2012? I actually think 74 is quite low, even for a reserve who played just 16 minutes a night and shot 41 percent from the field.
Ultimately, I didn’t have many problems with the Top 10. I wouldn’t have had Vandy’s Festus Ezeli in there (maybe the 20s or 30s), and I actually liked Vandy’s previous foreign center, A.J. Ogilvy, better than Ezeli. Since we’re going off last year’s stats and 2012 projections, I certainly would have had Perry Jones of Baylor in the Top 10. The other swap I’d make is to flip Alabama’s JaMychal Green (I had him on my fantasy hoops team for two years, so I’m very familiar with his work) and UConn’s Jeremy Lamb. Green is 5th on the list; Lamb is 17th.
Previously: 2011-2012 College Basketball Preseason Top 25