Pre-March Madness: The Top 25′s Top 25 Players
The NCAA Tournament is swiftly approaching and, if you’re like the average American male, at this point you can’t wait to capitalize on the best procrastination tool sports has to offer: March Madness On Demand.
The polls that USA Today and the Associated Press have to offer are simply a barometer of a team’s success, but also show which teams and players have finished the season near the top in the pecking order among the expert analysts.
I’ve picked the 25 best players from the teams listed in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll, ranging from perennial major conference powerhouses to sneaky mid-major squads. This is subjective, obviously, and will no doubt change by the end of the season, but here are the top 25 players on ranked teams as of now in my eyes.
25. Mike Moser — UNLV
The UCLA transfer has thrived for the Runnin’ Rebels, making a name for himself as one of the nation’s leading rebounders and showing the ability to step out and hit the three.
24. Cody Zeller — Indiana
A key part of Indiana’s return to national prominence, Zeller has shown great offensive maturity during his freshman season
23. William Buford — Ohio State
His shooting numbers are a little bit down from last season, but he’s stepped up in big games for the Buckeyes and is still one of the most savvy veteran guards in the country.
22. Terrence Jones — Kentucky
Once considered a surefire lottery pick, Jones’ stock has taken a big hit this season with a consistent lack of intensity.
21. Perry Jones — Baylor
He has the talent to land in the top five, but he’s in the same boat as Jones: the drive has simply not been there as the season has progressed.
20. Quincy Acy — Baylor
Truly one of the most unselfish players you will ever see, Acy has a terrific motor and is tenacious rebounder and defender. He has the opposite demeanor of the two aforementioned players.
19. Austin Rivers — Duke
After a slow start, Rivers has shown the nation he is indeed a clutch player and will only keep getting better.
18. Doron Lamb — Kentucky
One of the most dangerous sharp-shooters in the country, Lamb is excellent at spacing the floor offensively and hits nearly fifty percent of his threes.
17. Trey Burke — Michigan
One of the breakout players this season, Burke has led Michigan to a respectable season and should warrant talk for Big Ten Player of the Year as a freshman.
16. Aaron Craft — Ohio State
One of the truly tenacious perimeter defenders in the country, Craft has excellent court vision and is the epitome of a floor general.
15. Isaiah Canaan — Murray State
Hopefully he will gain more recognition during the tournament, as he leads arguably the nation’s best mid-major team.
14. Darius Johnson-Odom — Marquette
He’s part of the nation’s most offensively talented duo, and is dangerous from anywhere once he crosses half-court.
13. Kenny Boynton — Florida
He’s finally living up to the hype of being a feared scorer, and has stayed consistent for a shaky Florida team this year.
12. John Henson — North Carolina
His offensive post-game has greatly improved this season, and he remains one of the nation’s most dangerous shot blockers.
11. Tyshawn Taylor — Kansas
After showing inconsistent tendencies to start the season, Taylor has played extremely well over the course of conference play.
10. Marcus Denmon — Missouri
Mired in a shooting slump early during conference play, Denmon returned to hit clutch shot after clutch shot and prove himself as one of the nation’s most lethal assassins.
9. Doug McDermott — Creighton
He has the complete package offensively, with size and a fantastic stroke from outside.
8. Jae Crowder — Marquette
He does it all for the Golden Eagles and has sneaked up as a potential candidate for Big East Player of the Year.
7. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — Kentucky
Few freshmen show as much passion and ferocity as Kidd-Gilchrist on both ends of the floor, and according to him he’ll be back for three more years.
6. Harrison Barnes — North Carolina
Perhaps the most NBA-ready scorer the nation has to offer, Barnes has improved his game from last year and uses his large frame to score at will.
5. Draymond Green — Michigan State
Green has carried the Spartans to a top five ranking in the polls, and does everything for the team including shooting and passing.
4. Tyler Zeller — North Carolina
Zeller has truly emerged as an elite college basketball player. No one runs the floor as well as he does, and hardly anyone has his smarts.
3. Jared Sullinger — Ohio State
His intimidation has worn off a bit in his second season, but he has shown time and time again that he has all the answers down the stretch.
2. Anthony Davis — Kentucky
Arguably the best shot blocker in college basketball history, Davis can handle the ball like a small forward and is more than capable offensively.
1. Thomas Robinson — Kansas
Pair unending hustle with elite talent and you get Thomas Robinson. An absolutely ferocious rebounder and low post scorer, he is the heart and soul of the Jayhawks.