Note that I am not always going to pick just the best player here. My own prejudices and likes/dislikes will factor in here, plus I want to be able to pick a guy that I will most remember from this season. And, in the case of a tie, a senior will get the nod, although I think you’ll find this team heavily weighted towards juniors. Anyway, without further delay, here it is:
00 – Rick Jackson, Jr, Syracuse – compared to his frontcourt mates, Jackson gets the least pub, but as the Orange push on towards Indianapolis, he has been a key contributor all year long.
0 – Jacob Pullen, Jr, Kansas State – fear the beard, Pullen and his backcourt partner Denis Clemente have been a fearsome duo for all opponents all year long.
1 – Da’Sean Butler, Sr, West Virginia – a strong number, with guys like Darington Hobson, Scottie Reynolds, Al-Farouq Aminu and Andy Rautins all throwing their name in the ring, but it is Butler with his numerous clutch plays that takes down the #1 jersey for the 09-10 season.
2 – Landry Fields, Sr, Stanford – awful tough to leave behind guys like Devan Downey, Ryan Brooks and, perhaps most egregiously, Nolan Smith, but Fields was a do-everything guy for a bad Cardinal team this year.
3 – Randy Culpepper, Jr, UTEP – Culpepper led the Miners to the regular season Conference USA title and was just an exciting blur in doing so. He takes home this award over guys like Devin Ebanks, Trevon Hughes, Manny Harris and Jerome Randle.
4 – Wesley Johnson, Jr, Syracuse – the transfer from Iowa State dropped jaws early in the season in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd, and was perhaps the most vital component in the Orange’s stellar season.
5 – Ali Farokmanesh, Sr, Northern Iowa – okay, without a doubt, a week ago this probably would have gone to Damion James, or even Kevin Jones. Maybe Deonta Vaughn. And even after Farokmanesh hit the game winner in the first round against UNLV, he probably was only going to be in the “also-considered” category here. But that “no-no-no-YES!” three against Kansas sealed the deal, and then some.
10 – Greg Monroe, So, Georgetown – when I watched the Hoyas play Temple way back in November, I got so frustrated watching a major talent like Monroe repeatedly defer to teammates and fail to take control down the stretch (even though he did hit the game winner on a jump hook in the lane). But, to Monroe’s credit, even though the Hoyas went out in disappointing and surprising fashion in the Tournament, it was not due to any timidity on Monroe’s part.
11 – John Wall, Fr, Kentucky – Wall has been the most electric player all season long. He may not have been the best (and in fact, some would say that he was the most over-rated), but he has certainly been must-see TV.
12 – Aubrey Coleman, Sr, Houston – a tough battle at #12, with Kyle Singler and Ashton Gibbs coming up short, when the leading scorer in Division I led his team through four days on the Conference USA tournament to steal a bid with the tournament championship.
13 – Ekpe Udoh, Jr, Baylor – the transfer from Michigan gave the perimeter-oriented Bears a legitimate and versatile inside threat, transforming them from a bubble-type team at best to a threat in March.
14 – Kevin Anderson, Jr, Richmond – Anderson was such a solid, do-everything guy for the Spiders this season, getting to the hoop, knocking down outside shots, running the offense, playing great defense and stepping up to make the big play time after time in clutch situations.
15 – Austin Freeman, Jr, Georgetown – this was one of the toughest decisions at any number. Guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Donald Sloan, Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bouldin, however, wound up getting left behind to give this to Freeman. While Freeman was diagnosed with diabetes in February, he continued to make big, clutch plays for the Hoyas, leading furious second-half comebacks on more than one occasion. But the game I’ll remember from Freeman came in early January when he scored 28 points in the second half to come back from a 15-point deficit against Connecticut and save the Hoyas from losing back-to-back games. Not that his 24-point second half outburst at Louisville to bring the Hoyas back from a six-point halftime deficit after having already lost consecutive games was anything too shabby either. I can just say I’m very much looking forward to getting to watch this guy play as a senior.
20 – Dominique Jones, Jr, South Florida – if you never saw Jones play for South Florida, just look at the list of guys he beat out at this number and you might get some idea how good he is: Gordon Hayward, Quincy Pondexter, Elias Harris and Jordan Williams just to name four. Jones was the leading scorer in the Big East and is probably more likely to be playing for a Bulls team in Chicago next season than a Bulls team in Tampa.
21 – Evan Turner, Jr, Ohio State – Turner is my pick for best player in the land, so anyone else that wears that #21 uniform is fighting for second place. Sorry Greivis Vasquez.
22 – Marcus Morris, So, Kansas – sometimes there is just a number that doesn’t have as many great numbers as others. Perhaps there is a more deserving candidate than the better of the Morris twins, but I couldn’t find one.
23 – James Anderson, Jr, Oklahoma State – Anderson was just a deadly scorer, capable of creating points off the dribble or on a catch-and-shoot, on an offensive stickback or off a post move.
24 – LaceDarius Dunn, Jr, Baylor – I would guess that Dunn’s game would drive a coach up the wall from time to time, as he is known to put up a bad shot on a fairly regular basis, and he can definitely fall in love with his jumper, but in Scott Drew’s offense Dunn is a streaky offensive weapon who can light up the scoreboard like few others. Eric Bledsoe? You’ll have to settle for runner-up at the 24 spot.
25 – JaJuan Johnson, Jr, Purdue – Johnson’s offensive game has improved every year, but this year he began to add more strength to his silky-smooth post play. Siena’s point Ronald Moore is a close runner-up at this spot.
30 – Jon Scheyer, Sr, Duke – Scheyer took over the point guard spot for Coach K about halfway through last season, and he has never looked back, running the offense smoothly and getting the rest of Duke’s weapons involved while still being able to get his when necessary.
31 – Gani Lawal, Jr, Georgia Tech – just an amazing physical specimen, big, long arms, major-league hops, skills with both hands and the ability to run the floor like a guard. How did these Yellow Jackets finish under .500 in a weak ACC?
32 – Jimmer Fredette, Jr, BYU – I had an awful hard time leaving Lazar Hayward on the sideline, not to mention Jarvis Varnado, but Fredette was a fun, explosive offensive player playing for a fun, explosive offense. Although I still feel ripped off that Fredette was sick for the second half of the showdown with New Mexico for the MWC regular season title.
33 – E’Twaun Moore, Jr, Purdue – Moore combined with our #25 on this list to keep the Boilermakers alive after the season-ending injury to Robbie Hummel, combining a seemingly effortless offensive game with tough perimeter defense, although fellow juniors Tre’Von Willis and Jon Diebler are at least in the conversation somewhere here.
34 – Adam Koch, Sr, Northern Iowa – the MVC Player of the Year and a versatile offensive big man for the Panthers, one of three UNI seniors on this list.
35 – Trevor Booker, Sr, Clemson – it seems like Booker has been at Clemson forever, and he has certainly provided plenty of “WOW” moments over his time as a Tiger: spectacular dunks, ferocious blocks and plenty of skill packed into a 6-foot-7 and 215 pound frame.
40 – Kelvin Davis, Sr, San Diego State – not the best player in an Aztec uniform, maybe not even the leader on the squad despite being the only senior, but SDSU only lost once when he was in the starting lineup (their opening round Tournament loss to Tennessee), and the inspiration others took from his recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was reason enough for his inclusion at this spot.
41 – Anthony Jones, So, Baylor – for some reason, kids in college generally aren’t big on the numbers in the 40s and 50s. There are certainly exceptions, but I’m not finding a ton of great players at this number, so the nod goes to Jones and his exciting athleticism and upside.
42 – Tai Wesley, Jr, Utah State – a crafty veteran around the hoop, Wesley is just one on a handful of excellent Aggie juniors who should make USU a tough out next year too. Guys like Jamelle Horne, Ivan Aska and L.D. Williams come up a little short here.
43 – Tony Easley, Sr, Murray State – one of two veteran leaders for the Racers (the one who didn’t get his 15 minutes for hitting a game winning buzzer beater in the Tournament), Easley was a beast in the paint in the OVC this season. He sneaks it out at #43 over Portland’s Luke Sikma.
44 – Luke Harangody, Sr, Notre Dame – while Harangody’s ended with a poor performance in an opening-round Tournament loss to Old Dominion, leaving ‘Gody without a Tournament win in his career, he still had four productive years of great stats and will be a presence not easily replaced around South Bend.
45 – Tweeny Carter, Sr, Baylor – the tie goes to the senior, and Kansas’ junior Cole Aldrich gets left behind here. Carter teams with Dunn (our # 24) to give the Bears a prolific backcourt, and does a great job of keeping an offense that could easily careen out of control on the tracks.
50 – Omar Samhan, Sr, St. Mary’s – Samhan went from little more than a warm body four years ago to one of the best post-players in the country in his senior year, and is in the midst of pushing his Gael team through a March NCAA Tournament run.
51 – David Foster, So, Utah – Foster is a 7-foot-3 gangly behemoth in the middle for the Utes. While his offensive game is still a work in progress (and that is a kind estimation), he controls the paint on the defensive end and blocked about four shots a game this season.
52 – Terrell Holloway, So, Xavier – Holloway took a big step forward this season for the Musketeers, improving from an inconsistent freshman to a rock-solid presence in an excellent XU backcourt.
53 – Jordan Egleseder, Sr, Northern Iowa – Eglseder doesn’t look like much more than a fairly immobile 7-foot-1 mountain in the middle for the Panthers, but he has developed a pretty skilled offensive game and is a key cog in UNI’s Tournament run.
54 – Matt Howard,Jr, Butler – Howard earns this one by a hair over Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson due to the vital role he plays in the Bulldogs offense. As the only true interior player on an undersized Butler team, Howard has a vast responsibility, but always seems to take care of business.
55 – Jordan Crawford, So, Xavier – part of me wanted to go with a senior and give this one to Duke’s Brian Zoubek, who’s improved physical presence in the middle for the Blue Devils is probably most responsible for their emergence as a legit national championship contender. But Crawford is such a fun player to watch, whether it be bombing from deep or gliding to the hole and finishing with a twisting, turning, swooping scoop shot. Along with Holloway (our #52), Crawford gives the Muskies one of the handful of best backcourts in the country, and if he can withstand the lures of the NBA draft for another year, Xavier may be knocking on the door of the Final Four again next year.
Oh, and while I'm on numbers, I've got another one:
65 - NCAA Tournament teams - it's fine the way it is. 64 would likely be better, but that horse done left the barn already. 68 is acceptable, but let's not screw up a great thing.