I wanted to do this before conference games started, but oh well; 2-3 games into conference play is closer to halfway through the regular season, anyway. (Note: I'm excluding Kyrie Irving because he's likely out for the year.)
(Additional note: Like always, I try to make my picks in a way that could be an actual basketball team. So even if I think the best five players are guards, I'm not gonna pick five guards. Fortunately, that's rarely the case.)
He's starting to cool off after his outrageous start and as the strain of A)carrying a meager supporting cast and B)facing tough Big East defenses starts to show: he's 25-of-68 from the floor and 4-of-21 from three in conference play. Still, he's been the most productive player in college basketball's first two months.
G- Nolan Smith, Duke (19.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.6 apg)
Smith has responded to Kyrie Irving's injury- and additional ball-handling duties- far better than anyone imagined. After a two-point effort in the first game post-Irving, Nolan is averaging 26.2 points and 5.6 assists in his last five games. The career 43% shooter is hitting at an absurd 53.4% percentage from the floor. My runner-up for first-half National Player of the Year.
F- Jordan Hamilton, Texas (19.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 apg)
The only nitpick with him is that such a gifted scorer built like a prototypical NBA small forward should get to the line a lot more. But his shot selection is far better than last year; he's doubled his production from last year across the board and he's an outstanding shooter.
F- Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (18.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 59.5 FG%)
How do you lose the nation's best player and get better? By replacing him with the new best player in the nation. Sullinger hasn't been everything on the low blocks and the glass he was touted to be. He's far more. Not only is he dominant in the post, but moreso than Turner his presence allows others- Lighty, Lauderdale, Buford, Diebler- to fully function in their niches. That isn't a slight on Turner, who was awesome in college. It just is what it is: I'd rather have Sullinger. That's why Ohio State is markedly better. (It also helps that they brought everyone back except Turner, and not only added Sullinger but highly productive forward Deshaun Thomas.)
Reports of Purdue's demise post-Hummel have been greatly exaggerated, and Johnson is the main reason why the Boilers are 14-1 and still in the Top 10 without Robbie (along with E'Twaun Moore). Purdue hangs their hat on their No. 2-ranked defense, which is led by Johnson defending the rim. Offensively he and Moore have done a terrific job of picking up the slack left by Hummel's absence on a team void of any other regular scoring threat.
Illinois had a mid-December slump against UIC and Mizzou but don't blame McCamey, the best pure point guard in the nation. No guard is playing at a higher all-around level right now with DMac's combination of highly efficient scoring and prolific playmaking. He's off to a good start in Big Ten play after a fine preconference season: 41 points (on just 18 field goal attempts) and 17 assists in his first two conference games.
I kind of feel like I'm slighting him after his 39-point explosion at UNLV tonight, but Walker's scoring even more than him and Smith is far more well-rounded. Still, he's a scoring machine a mere few games shy of his 2,000th point.
F- Kyle Singler, Duke (17.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 apg)
His overall numbers are down as he's playing fewer minutes and being asked to do less on a much deeper team, and Nolan Smith has emerged as the leading man for the Dukies sans Irving. Not a shocker, as Smith, Singler and Scheyer shared the load equally in last year's title run. Still, he's the most versatile and most important player for the nation's best team and I suspect he'll be the go-to guy when it's crunch time again.
F- Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State (15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
The best player on the nation's most suprising undefeated squad, No. 6 San Diego State, Leonard doesn't quite fit the prototype of either a small forward or a power forward at the next level. I think that makes him the next Shawn Marion, but that's also neither here nor there: he's highly versatile and a beast on the glass whose numbers would be even more eye-popping if not for SDSU's rather slow pace (64.4 possessions a game ranks 308th).
C- Keith Benson, Oakland (17.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.5 bpg)
Oakland has tailed off after beating Tennessee but Benson has proven he's among the nation's elite true centers with his performances against a tremendously tough schedule: he's averaging 15.6 points and 10.5 rebounds against power conference opponents, including Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State.
G- Tu Holloway, Xavier (21.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.6 apg)
Kemba-lite: he's exploded as a scoring point guard on a Xavier team depleted from last year. What is it with former Indiana signees scoring 20+ points a game at Xavier? Not too late, Mo Creek: you can average 25 a game in 2012-2013 if you hop one state to the east now.
Shooting the ball better than ever, rebounding more than ever and taking better care of the ball than ever before. In short, he and Johnson have stepped up their games to the point where something near-unthinkable has happened: they have, between the two of them, effectively nullified the loss of Hummel.
Far and away the most efficient scorer in college basketball. An effective inside-out forward who's physical around the rim and has a terrific outside touch, he shoots 65.1% from the floor, has made 14 of 20 three-pointers and shoots 77.7% from the FT line, averaging 8.7 FTA a game. Arizona appears bound for an NCAA tourney return without any other consistent scorer because Williams carries the offense in a manner of efficiency not seen in college basketball since Ike Diogu.
Ohh.....not the Morris twin you'd first think of? I prefer the slightly bigger Markieff, who's a much better rebounder, a better defender and now is scoring almost as much as Marcus (15.5 ppg). Plus, this one hasn't been ejected from any games.
Has kind of tailed off after a ridiculous start but is still a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Kentucky may not have a dominant post threat sans Kanter, but Jones has given them an explosive frontcourt player who can score in almost every way: from deep, posting up, midrange, driving, anything.
G Marcus Denmon, Missouri
G LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
G Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
G Austin Freeman, Georgetown
G Darius Morris, Michigan
G Brandon Knight, Kentucky
G Marcus Jordan, Central Florida
F Jordan Williams, Maryland
F Jon Leuer, Wisconsin
F Marcus Morris, Kansas
F Rick Jackson, Syracuse
F Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
F Draymond Green, Michigan State
F Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Probably a few more I'm missing.
Last edited by TheGame414 : 01-06-2011 at 03:06 AM.
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