Drew is counting down his top 100 players for 2012. Previously: 71 to 100.
No, there isn't a reason behind the number of players I'm grouping together. Mostly, I'm just writing until I hit 2000 words, then I keep going until I hit someone with a "1" or a "6" at the end of their ranking. I'm going for a Bill James, New Historical Baseball Abstract, "I'm just going to write as much about this guy as I have to say, even if it stops being about the player himself at all," vibe.
70. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (So., PG)
I know, I know. He's supposed to be higher. Here's the thing about Marshall: He's a heck of a passer, agreed. But he still turns the ball over constantly (30 percent of possessions!), and has a tough time when he has to become the scorer for a play. And while his defense is very good when he's guarding someone slower, quick guys can just annihilate him. Don't get me wrong -- I ranked him No. 70 for a reason. He was one of the best passers in the country as a freshman. Marshall was given credit for the Tar Heels' turnaround because he got the job he should have had all along -- and then suddenly the Heels improved. I just think it was more that Harrison Barnes finally got rolling right around then, too. Correlation rather than causation and all that. Now, maybe I'm the idiot and Marshall was 100 percent the reason Barnes went off. But I'm certainly of the opinion that people are going to be a little disappointed when they pay real close attention to Marshall.
69. Melsahn Basabe, Iowa (So., C)
I scarcely heard a word about Basabe all year long, but he put together quite a freshman season. He might have turned the ball over a little too often, but he rebounded very well on both ends, shot 57 percent from the field, got to the line, and hit 71 percent of his free throws. He looks to have some burgeoning shot-blocking skills, as well. A lot to like. I'll certainly be keeping better tabs on him this year.
68. Durand Scott, Miami (Jr., SG)
Neither Scott nor Malcolm Grant was really a point guard for Miami, but both of them were ballhandlers. I didn't like Scott's game much when he was a high school senior -- he really lived up to his reputation as a shot-jacker in the games I saw. But Frank Haith reined Scott in enough for him to be an efficient scorer, shooting perfectly acceptable percentages of 46/39/84. Jim Larranaga's slow-tempo style is more publicized, but Haith's teams usually ran in the same low- to mid-60s possessions per game range. So Scott shouldn't have to adjust his sometimes freewheeling game as much as you might think.
67. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati (So., SG)
You may not have heard much about Kilpatrick in 2011, but he put together a remarkably solid season for a freshman. He was undeniably efficient while using 24 percent of the Bearcats' possessions in his first year. Kilpatrick should be on breakout watch.
66. Doug McDermott, Creighton (So., SF)
The first freshman to make the All-Missouri Valley first team since 1952 (Cleo Littleton, Wichita State), McDermott was the best player on a pretty good Creighton team last year. He shot 57 percent on twos and 41 percent on threes while taking 28 percent of his team's shots. Not a lot of people did that, freshmen or otherwise. McDermott also grabbed more than his share of rebounds on both ends of the floor. The next step is improving on defense.
65. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina (Fr., SG)
Much like his future roommate James Michael McAdoo, Hairston is in danger of being kept off the floor by more experienced teammates. Hairston's certainly in less danger, though, because Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald, and Dexter Strickland aren't quite in the same league as John Henson and Tyler Zeller. Hairston's ready to play college basketball right now, and he can definitely help North Carolina's outside shooting, although I would have said the same thing, and more emphatically, about Bullock a year ago. His success likely depends on playing time and little else, and his playing time will probably be there as long as his defense is college-ready.
64. Jae Crowder, Marquette (Sr., PF)
Crowder was the 2010 junior college National Player of the Year, and led his Howard College team to a national title. Nevertheless, he, like the overwhelming majority of juco prospects, entered the NCAA with very little fanfare. The Big East doesn't name an All-Defense team, but, if they did I'd have been shocked if Crowder didn't make it. On the offensive side, he hit 55 percent of his twos and 36 percent of his threes, while posting the third-lowest turnover percentage in Division I. If he wants to take his game up a notch, he'll need to either expand his role offensively or improve a so-so free throw stroke.
63. Terrell Stoglin, Maryland (So., PG)
Stoglin stepped on the court at Maryland and was immediately a very successful combo guard. He had the highest assist rate on the team and shot percentages of 51/36/83 while using 27 percent of the Terps' possessions. Stoglin's not quite the passer Kendall Marshall is, but he's quicker, a better shooter, and a much more dangerous slasher, one who doesn't have Marshall's turnover problems. I understand why he got so much less buzz than Marshall, but I don't know why I heard even teammate Pe'Shon Howard's name more often. For the record, Stoglin's the latest in a series of guards whose potential I utterly failed to recognize in advance.
62. Marquis Teague, Kentucky (Fr., PG)
With Brandon Knight off to the NBA, Teague should take the ball from day one at UK. He's an incredible slasher with great speed and athleticism. Teague's not a real shooting threat and his decision-making has been questioned, but he seems like such a can't-miss scorer that I still feel comfortable putting him this high.
61. J'Covan Brown, Texas (Jr., SG)
Improving his decision-making would make Brown a downright elite college player. His turnovers weren't an issue in 2011, although there's certainly room to get better. Brown's real problem lies in his 42 percent two-point shooting. To steal a term from Bill Simmons, Brown has a bit of an irrational confidence problem: He's always willing to take the big shot, but sometimes it's not clear he should be shooting it. Brown thinks he can do anything with the ball, and there are games where it feels like he's right; skill and athleticism are rarely his problem. He shot 39 percent from three and 86 percent from the free throw line while using a higher percentage of possessions than Tristan Thompson and dealing out more assists per play than Cory Joseph. If he focuses on shot selection, he could leap into the next echelon of college players.
60. Drew Gordon, New Mexico (Sr., C)
I've had Gordon in very different places on this list. He was a highly regarded recruit who didn't fulfill expectations in his year and a half at UCLA, then played great basketball in his half-season at New Mexico. Gordon shot 53 percent from the floor, using more than a quarter of the Lobos' possessions, and the only Division I players with higher defensive rebounding percentages were Kenneth Faried and Rice's Arsalan Kazemi. The question is whether this improvement is just the beginning of Gordon fulfilling his potential, or if, after a shaky start to his college career, we should consider it an accomplishment that he made it this far. This ranking is my attempt to split the difference.
59. Joe Jackson, Memphis (So., PG)
Most of what I said about Kendall Marshall can also be said about Jackson: He shot poorly and turned the ball over way too much last year, but was one of the better passers around. True, Jackson's tiny and blazing fast rather than 6-3 and on the slow side, but he has defensive questions of the same magnitude. Jackson and Marshall were even ranked similarly in the high school class of 2010. So why am I ranking Jackson higher than Marshall? The simple answer is that Jackson used 30 percent of the Tigers' possessions while Marshall used only 19 percent of North Carolina's. There's also something else, a theory for which I have no proof. In my eyes Marshall's turnovers are created because his vision is just so good. That is, he sees more ways to get his teammates the ball than just about anyone, but he can't always physically get the ball there before the gaps close. Marshall's turnovers come from his ability to see impossible angles. Sometimes, those passes find teammates, and it's an automatic bucket. Sometimes, they get away or get stolen, and it's a turnover. If you agree with this evaluation, it's clear that if Marshall were to cut down his turnovers he would also be losing some of those otherworldly assist numbers. Jackson's turnovers, conversely, aren't fundamentally related to what makes him a good basketball player. He's just a little out of control at times. So, even though Marshall was probably more effective last year (Jackson's 92 offensive rating can only be so helpful, even at 30 percent of possessions), I'd take Jackson for 2012.
58. Kris Joseph, Syracuse (Sr., SF)
It's rare that you see a team with five players as similarly effective, per-possession, on offense as the 2011 Orange were with Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Brandon Triche, and C.J. Fair. The worst of the five was probably freshman Fair (110 offensive rating, 18 percent of possessions) and the best was probably Joseph (109 offensive rating, 23 percent of possessions). I'm ranking Joseph this much higher than those four primarily because only he and Fair separated themselves on defense and on the boards, and Fair's offense just doesn't stand up. Nor am I alone in my view of Joseph as the top dog -- he was the only Syracuse returnee to make an All-Big East team in 2011. I'm even sensing a general push to anoint Joseph as Syracuse's star, but that's where I have to disagree. The Orange will be a top-five team because they're the only squad in the country with five proven talents, not because any of those five are individually outstanding. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see any of them finish the season as the team's star, I'd just be most surprised if Joseph disappeared.
57. Laurence Bowers, Missouri (Sr., PF)
Bowers is just a really good all-around player. He scores inside, gets to the line, makes his free throws, rebounds, doesn't turn the ball over, and was a deserving member of the Big 12 All-Defense team.
56. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (Jr., SG)
No returning player in the country took on a bigger per-possession load than McCollum in 2011, and he did it while maintaining a perfectly respectable offensive rating of 103. He actually didn't shoot particularly well (44 percent on twos, 32 percent on threes), but he racked up more assists than turnovers and hit 85 percent of his 233 free throws. On the other end of the floor he ranked in the top 40 nationally in steal percentage and, despite being 6-3 and 165 (!), grabbed 19 percent of available defensive rebounds. I don't know that he had a higher defensive rebounding percentage than anyone else his weight in the country, but nobody in the Kenpom top 100 in the statistic weighed less than 190, and McCollum ranks No. 256. Four of Lehigh's 2011 starters were underclassmen, and the Mountain Hawks nearly ranked second in the Patriot League in Pomeroy rating despite their final 6-8 conference record. If Lehigh can challenge what should be a very good Bucknell team, McCollum will start getting national ink. Hopefully, he will even if they don't.
55. Carl Jones, Saint Joseph's (Jr., PG)
Jones put up a 104 offensive rating and used 29 percent of his team's possessions as a sophomore in 2011. The Hawks went 11-22 against a schedule tougher than Missouri's or Xavier's, playing more than half their games against Kenpom top 100 squads. The team's record and Jones's size (6-0, 146) are the only reasons I can come up with to explain his failure to garner an All-Atlantic 10 nod. Comparing him to a third-team guard like Xavier's Mark Lyons makes this obvious: more assists, fewer turnovers, significantly larger role in the offense, more free throws at a higher percentage. I'll be keeping an eye on Jones in 2012.
54. Malcolm Grant, Miami (Sr., PG)
My thoughts on Malcolm Grant are essentially the same as my thoughts on Durand Scott -- see No. 68 above. Scott is a better slasher, and Grant is a year older and a significantly better shooter, but they occupy the same general space in my mind.
53. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure (Sr., C)
Nicholson was rightfully selected to the All-Atlantic 10 first team as a junior, backed by a 108 offensive rating on 30 percent of possessions. The gap between him and Carl Jones on this list is small for two reasons: Saint Joseph's schedule was considerably better than St. Bonaventure's (thus making Jones's numbers more impressive), and Nicholson's extra year of age means he projects for less improvement.
52. Tim Hardaway, Michigan (So., SG)
With an outstanding distributor like Darius Morris gone, I'm a little nervous ranking Hardaway this high. Michigan's replacement point guard is likely either a freshman (Trey Burke, or perhaps Carlton Brundidge playing slightly out of position) or Hardaway himself -- he posted the highest assist rate on the team outside of Morris. A lot of Hardaway's scoring was made easier by Morris. (It's tough to shoot 37 percent on over 200 threes without a really good drive-and-dish point.) That said, Hardaway had an awfully good season as a freshman, against one of the tougher schedules around. I bet he's got a pretty good year up his sleeve, regardless of who takes over the ball for the Wolverines.
51. C.J. Leslie, NC State (So., PF)
Nobody on this list has a wider range of possible 2012s than Leslie. There's an argument to be made that he has the most raw talent of any college basketball player in the country. There's also no one I'm less confident will finish the season at their school.
Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.
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