Besides following the recruiting trail, there's no real better way to pass the dog days of the college basketball off-season by generating lists. You know, like the ones Bleacher Report puts out year round as a way to garner cheap web site visitors to keep their advertising deals healthy.
Over at Basketball Prospectus, they graced us with something that took a lot more effort, however, taking a look at the entire college basketball landscape for the upcoming season and hitting us with the top 100 players for next year.
A list this comprehensive and thought-out is certainly worth a solid look, as yesterday contributor Drew Cannon published his top 10 players for next season, ending the six-week series.
After we gave it a comb through, we both have some beef with the rankings, and agree wholeheartedly with a few of the more surprising selections. If you're more of the eye-test guy than number cruncher don't worry, despite being under the BP masthead, you won't get too bogged down with figures and obscure statistics to justify say, UCLA's Josh Smith ranked a new notches higher than Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs...although you'd probably need it in this case to prove such a stunning revelation.
But anyway, be sure to read Cannon's Top 100 for yourself and follow the jump to get our take.
Most Egregious Error
Nick: Yea the aforementioned Josh Smith-over-Ashton Gibbs-selection left my jaw agate, but Jeremy Lamb is not the 17th best player in the country. He's more like the seventh, or fifth, or something, and it looks like Cannon weighed each third of last season equally. No player improved more over 2010-2011 than Lamb, who scored 12 or more points in nine of UConn's final 11 games of the season, with a true shooting percentage of around 60 to boot. But throw the numbers aside, if you're playing pick up, you know you're taking Lamb over Texas A&M's Khris Middleton (#10), Xavier's Tu Holloway (#5) and maybe even Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (#3). The dude has a fantastic mid-range game, and is a budding star.
Dave: My apologies in advance, but Kenny Boynton isn't even remotely close to the 26th best player in the sport. Heck, I'm not even sure he's the 26th best point guard in the country. I know, I know, it's just so hard to disregard a former five-star recruit as anything less than extraordinary when projecting to the future, but what exactly has Boynton given us to indicate he's anything more than a bad three point shooter who takes bad shots? The fact that he basically posted the exact same numbers across the board as a freshman and sophomore is a serious red flag for me, because quite simply, he isn't improving. Look, we've seen two full years of this kid getting about 35 minutes a night, and he can be downright explosive and drop a boatload of points, or he can lay down brick after brick and essentially shoot the Gators out of games. Inconsistency is what we've come to expect from this kid, and I would have no problems sticking him in the 60-90 range. Hit 40% from the floor over the course of a season and then we'll talk.
Couldn't Agree More With
Nick: Just putting Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom in the top 100 yields a golf clap for Cannon, but slotting him in at #46 was admirable. Far more versatile than anyone gives him credit for, DJO poses match-up problems for less-physical guards. Finishing seventh in the Big East in scoring last season, there's no doubt this guy will improve on that number, and he could turn last seasons 51 EFG figure in to something scary good if he can find more ways to create his own shot. I'm also OK with Cannon's decision to leave Ohio State's Aaron Craft off this list. Despite being a perfect fit in Columbus, it's hard to tell how effective this kid is without all those playmakers around him.
Dave: Giving Draymond Green his due at #14. You really can't say enough about Tom Izzo's slimmed down point forward and the way he's improved over the last two years. Not many guys in the sport are as versatile AND serve as the focal point of their team's offensive set every time down the floor. Despite already showing us that he's a legit triple double threat, it seems like only a portion of his contributions actually translate to the box score, and that's what sticks out most about this kid to me when I watch him. Considering this top 100 list has some advanced statistical backing to it, it's nice to see that Green didn't get caught up with the masses.
Right or wrong, it's an intriguing story line to follow
Nick: It's tough for me to get excited about a team whose two star players habitually get bounced from the NCAA Tournament a round or two early, but placing both Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli and John Jenkins (Nos nine and seven, respectively) in the top 10 probably means the Commodores should challenge Kentucky for the SEC title. Heck, four of the top 10 players in the list hail from the SEC. Throw in Florida's depth and means the football-first conference will pack quite a punch through the winter. A bit defensively challenged, Vandy will look to outpace many of their opponents, and it starts with Jenkins sharp shooting and Ezeli's improving post game.
Dave: The guard rotation in Missouri. Cannon listed junior Michael Dixon at #72 and teammate Marcus Denmon at #28. Denmon's ranking is spot-on and well-deserved, but Dixon as a top 75 player is absolutely questionable. Cannon mentions Dixon's defensive skills and steady hand as the basis for his reasoning, despite the fact that guard Kim English (unranked) is a much better perimeter defender, and sophomore Phil Pressey (unranked) is a more adept passer and facilitator. So when you strip those two things away, we're left with 10 PPG scorer who barely shot 40 percent from the floor as a sophomore. Is that the 72nd best player in the sport? I'm not so sure. With Denmon leading the way from a scoring standpoint and plenty of talent in the frontcourt, it's hard to believe any of Mizzou's three aforementioned guards will be able to step up and post numbers that would correlate with a top 100 ranking. If somebody does however, my vote goes to Pressey.
Oh how far they've fallen
Nick: Two years ago scouts and fans alike were gushing over the prospects of Gonzaga's Elias Harris. Today, he's on the outside looking in, according to Cannon, but I tend to agree. Harris was simply overmatched in nearly every game where a bigger, more physical opponent stood opposite him, and he declined in nearly every statistical category that matters for big men. At the next level, it appears he does not have a position, and that's a terrible place to be. Another player who appears to be on the downswing is an all-time favorite of mine, Scoop Jardine. Scoop-a-loop checks in at #98. I think he just attempted five three-pointers in the time it took you to read that.
Dave: If there was a 2010 version of this list that came out last summer, I'm inclined to believe Kansas State's Jamar Samuels would have made the cut. His 09-10 numbers (11.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 53.9% FGs, 37.3% 3Ps) are not all that different from many of the names that populate Cannon's rankings. The most impressive part of Samuels' sophomore campaign was the fact that he played just 23 minutes per night, making him one of the more effective low-usage players in the country. And yet now, after watching his shooting percentage drop from 53.9 to a meager 41.3 last season, Samuels is nowhere to be found on the national radar. Jaw-dropping statistical regression will do that to a player.