Every summer we make a list of the 50 best players in college basketball for the upcoming season. Here’s the list from 2011-2012, from 2012-2013, from 2013-2014, from 2014-2015, from 2015-2016 and last year, from 2016-2017. The criteria: 1/3 their NBA prospects, 1/3 their individual talent, 1/3 how vital they are to their team’s success. Some of the names below are in our 2018 NBA Mock Draft and on teams in the 2017-2018 College Basketball Top 25.
50. De’Monte Buckingham, Sophomore SG, Richmond: The A-10 freshman of the year – who was only a 3-star recruit – averaged 10.5 ppg and made 35 percent of his 3-pointers. Scored a career-high 26 in March vs VCU.
49. Ben Lammers, Senior C, Georgia Tech: Improved significantly as a junior, averaging 14.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 3.4 bpg (3rd in the country) while shooting 51 percent from the field.
48. Manu Lecomte, Senior PG, Baylor: Spent two years at Miami, and transferred to Waco, where he had an immediate impact (12.2 ppg, 41 percent on 3-pointers), and was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
47. Carsen Edwards, Sophomore PG, Purdue: Enjoyed big-time success on the U-19 national team this summer. It’s an indication he’s going to make a big leap from his 10.3 ppg.
46. Johnathan Williams, Senior F, Gonzaga: As the 3rd or 4th option last year he still averaged 10.2 ppg, 6.4 ppg in just 24 minutes a game. Made a wise move to remove his name from the NBA Draft.
45. Robert Johnson, Senior SG, Indiana: A three-year starter for the Hoosiers, Johnson averaged career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.4), 3-pointers made (2.1) and minutes (29.4) per game. A fantastic on-ball defender, Johnson should fit perfectly in Archie Miller’s system.
44. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Senior SG, Kansas: There’s been NBA talk about the sweet shooter since he got on campus, but he’s only 20. He shot 39 percent on 3-pointers last year, but defensive questions remain.
43. Obi Enechionyia, Senior F, Temple: If I could buy futures stock in Enechionyia, I would. The 6-foot-10 stretch four started last season hot, torching Florida State (16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks) and West Virginia (22-12-5) in November wins that opened NBA eyes. But it must have gone to his head, and he struggled from December-February before ending the season with four good games.
42. Jordan McLaughlin, Senior PG, USC: There are two other really talented PGs on the roster (De'Anthony Melton and Derryck Thornton, the latter whom transferred from Duke), but McLaughlin, right now, is the best option. The 3-year starter shot 40 percent on 3-pointers.
41. Angel Delgado, Senior C, Seton Hall: Averaged 15.2 points and an NCAA-leading 13.0 rebounds last year for the Pirates. Was First team All-Big East. Turns 23 in November.
40. Jock Landale, Senior C, St. Mary’s: One of the best players on the West Coast but got little publicity. Made the leap to 16.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg shooting 61 percent.
39. Moritz “Mo” Wagner, Junior F, Michigan: Is he on this list if not for his 26-point explosion against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament? Only played 23.9 minutes a night but averaged 12.1 ppg while shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers.
38. Devonte’ Graham, Senior G, Kansas: Excellent junior year ended with a thud against Oregon in the Elite 8 (0-for-7 shooting in 38 minutes). With Josh Jackson and Frank Mason gone, Graham will have to step up his scoring (13.4 ppg, 38 percent shooting 3-pointers).
37. Kamar Baldwin, Sophomore G, Butler: Impressive freshman season (10.1 ppg), and could become a star in the Big East.
36. Gary Trent, Freshman SG, Duke: Top 20 national recruit and the son of 9-year NBA veteran will probably play alongside Allen and Duval in a 3-guard attack that might be the team’s best look come January.
35. Malik Newman, Sophomore SG, Kansas: Former 5-star recruit averaged just 11.3 ppg as a freshman at Mississippi State before transferring to Lawrence and sitting out.
34. Troy Brown, Freshman, SG, Oregon: Top 15 recruit goes to a team that lost its three best players to the NBA, and Brown’s going to get a lot of shots. Gave him the nod here over one of my favorite players on the West Coast last year, Ducks’ PG Payton Pritchard.
33. Justin Jackson, Sophomore F, Maryland: The Canadian had a solid first year, put his name in the NBA draft, then withdrew. The 43 percent on 3-pointers (and 10.5 ppg) has the NBA intrigued. I’d expect him to be the focal point of the offense.
32. Jaylen Adams, Senior PG, St. Bonaventure: Was 24th in the country in scoring (20.6 per game) and 7th in assists (6.5 per game). I think he’s a 2nd round pick in 2018. One of four returning starters for the Bonnies, who should be dancing in March.
31. Jeffrey Carroll, Senior G, Oklahoma State: Made a huge leap to 17.5 ppg as a junior, and should be 1st team All-Big 12. Turns 23 in November.
30. Rawle Alkins, Sophomore SG, Arizona: The 6-foot-5 guard who removed his name from the NBA draft is one of the reasons Arizona will open the season #1. Averaged 10.9 ppg on 46/37 shooting as maybe the 3rd option.
29. Jalen Brunson, Junior PG, Villanova: Averaged 14.7 ppg and 4.1 apg while shooting 54/37. Might be the best point guard in the Big East.
27. Shake Milton, Junior G, SMU: Significantly improved his output from deep (82 three-pointers vs 52 as a freshman), and will be The Guy for the Mustangs this year, so expect him to build on 13.0 ppg, 4.5 apg and 4.1 rpg.
26. Bryant McIntosh, Senior SG, Northwestern: One of the best players Northwestern has had in the last few decades, he averaged 14.8 ppg and 5.2 apg, but actually shot better from the field his first two years. Gave Wisconsin 25-7-7 in February; scored 45 points in two NCAA Tournament games.
25. Joel Berry, Senior PG, North Carolina: Wisely pulled his name out of the NBA Draft, and has a chance to be a memorable 3-year starter on a team that goes to the NCAA Title game three years in a row.
24. Jevon Carter, Senior G, West Virginia: Emerged as a reliable shooter for the Mountaineers last year scoring 13.5 ppg and hitting 39 percent of his 3-pointers. Dropped 24 on Notre Dame and 21 on Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. Was the Big 12 defensive player of the year.
23. Chimezie Metu, Junior C, USC: Averaged 14.8 ppg and 7.8 rpg as a sophomore and nearly went to the NBA. Saved his best for last: 28 points vs Baylor in a narrow NCAA 2nd round loss.
22. Nick Ward, Sophomore C, Michigan State: Had a major impact for the Spartans as a freshman, scoring 13.9 ppg and collecting 6.5 rpg. Had four double doubles for the Spartans.
21. Wendell Carter, Freshman PF, Duke: The Blue Devils frontcourt will be crowded with Marquese Bolden and Justin Robinson (son of David Robinson), but Carter is the most talented right now. At just 18 years old, he’s 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds.
20. Mike Daum, Junior SF, South Dakoka State: I believe the highest ranking for a low-major player since we started this list. He averaged 25.1 ppg in guiding the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament. Shot 41 percent on 3-pointers. I hope he gets an NBA look.
19. Lonnie Walker, Freshman G, Miami: Suffered an injury that was going to threaten his season, but now it looks like he’ll be back for the opener. Is the most highly-touted recruit to hit Coral Gables in six years.
18. Matt Farrell, Senior PG, Notre Dame: Might be the most underrated point guard in the country. Averaged 14.1 ppg and 5.4 apg, but it was his 42 percent on 3-pointers that helped him blow up.
17. Bennie Boatwright, Junior SF, USC: Has the size (6-foot-10) and 3-point touch (36 percent) to have a big impact in the pros. Averaged 15.1 ppg during the regular season, but upped it to 18 in three NCAA Tournament games. The Trojans are loaded.
16. Trevon Bluiett, Senior F, Xavier: Consummate college star in the Big East who has averaged double figures each of his 1st three years. Gave Cincinnati 40 points in January; nearly as impressive was his 29-point effort vs FSU in the NCAA Tournament.
15. Ethan Happ, Junior F, Wisconsin: Good passer, good defender and feels like a throwback NBA power forward. Happ will be flying solo, with everyone gone from the time when he was a freshman, way back in 2015-2016.
14. Mohamed Bamba, Freshman C, Texas: The Longhorns lost Jarrett Allen to the 1st round of the NBA draft, but replace him with Bamba, a defensive force who should be a lottery pick in 2018.
13. Bruce Brown, Sophomore SG, Miami: Quietly averaged 11.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg, and played his best against the elite (30 points in a win over UNC and 25 in a win over Duke).
12. Collin Sexton, Freshman PG, Alabama: The 5-star point guard was the MVP of the FIBA Americas U17 Championship and almost certainly will get the Tide back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
11. Trevon Duval, Freshman PG, Duke: The best point guard in the Class of 2017, Duval could have Tyus Jones-like impact on the Blue Devils. They lacked a true point guard last year, but that won’t be the case with Duval, who is pass-first like Lonzo Ball, but less flashy.
10. Landry Shamet, Sophomore, F, Wichita State: The Shockers are loaded, and Shamet is their most talented player. Made 44 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman. Watch him vs Kentucky, it’s impressive.
9. Robert Williams, Sophomore F, Texas A&M: NBA scouts love him because he’s a live wire – 11.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg in only 25 minutes a game – but he’s foul-prone and only made two 3-pointers all season.
8. Kevin Knox, Freshman F, Kentucky: A 6-foot-9, 205 pound wing who can play shooting guard, but likely will play all over for the Wildcats.
7. Bonzie Colson, Senior F, Notre Dame: Unveiled a 3-pointer last year (made 26 while shooting 43 percent) and was one of the best players in the ACC (17.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg).
6. Grayson Allen, Senior G, Duke: Let’s hope for a suspension-free season. Allen moved to point guard at times last year, but with Trevon Duval coming in, Allen will be back to shooting guard. Was better as a sophomore (21.6 ppg, 41 percent 3-point shooting) when the team was his.
5. Allonzo Trier, Junior, G/F, Arizona: Very good sophomore campaign (only 18 games) ended with thud in the Sweet 16 vs Xavier. Averaged 17.2 ppg while shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. On a loaded Wildcats team, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles fewer shots.
4. DeAndre Ayton, Freshman C, Arizona: The traditional center seems lost in the NBA, but in college basketball, they can still dominate. Remember Jahlil Okafor? Ayton is a legit 7-footer who would be wise to develop a reliable 3-pointer, but for now, should dominate inside.
3. Hamidou Diallo, Freshman G, Kentucky: Dabbled with the idea of going to the NBA, but didn’t get a high enough guarantee in the draft to enter, so the explosive guard will have to settle for highlight reel dunks in Lexington for a year.
2. Miles Bridges, Sophomore F, Michigan State: The best freshman in the country last year who decided to pass on the NBA draft. Shot 48/39 while scoring 16.9 ppg and collecting 8.3 rpg. Best player in the Big Ten.
1. Michael Porter Jr., Freshman F, Missouri: Best player in the country as a high school senior, and I see some Tracy McGrady in Porter. The 6-foot-10 wing was slated to go to Washington, but switched to Missouri. Already dating an actress. The favorite right now to be the #1 pick in the 2018 draft.
JUST MISSED: [We will update this list with glaring omissions you submit. We decided to leave Mitchell Robinson off the list since he’s leaving Western Kentucky. We also left Marvin Bagley Jr. off the list, even though he’s attempting to reclassify.]
Tyus Battle PG Syracuse
Quentin Snider G Louisville
Marcus Foster G Creighton
Cane Broome PG Cincinnati
Aaron Holiday G UCLA
Jerome Robinson G Boston College
Vladimir Brodziansky C TCU
Tacko Fall C Central Florida
Isaac Haas C Purdue
Kelan Martin F Butler
Jarred Vanderbilt SF Kentucky
Deng Adel F Louisville
DJ Hogg SF Texas A&M
Markis McDuffie F Wichita State
Vince Edwards SF Purdue
Tyler Davis F Texas A&M
Mikal Bridges F Villanova
Rob Gray G Houston
Jacob Evans G Cincinnati
Shaq Morris F Wichita State