By Kevin Sweeney
One thing I have learned this offseason is that ranking college basketball players is extremely hard to do. Many have given valiant efforts at their top 100 players in college basketball, but between the variances in conference, experience, and perhaps most importantly, position, it’s nearly impossible to make a list that is reasonable. Rather, in my opinion it is best to rank players by position, as it allows for the clearest and most direct comparisons between players.
So, this week I will be releasing my top 10 mid-major players at each position. Monday will be point guards, Tuesday will be shooting guards, Wednesday will be small forwards, Thursday will be power forwards, and Friday will be centers. Feel free to tweet at me (handle is @CBB_Central) or comment below to give me your thoughts on my rankings!
#1. Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
Stats: 20.6 ppg, 6.5 apg, 35.6% 3-pt FG%
You could make a case for Adams as one of the top point guards in the entire country, let alone the mid-major level. The only player in the country to average at least 20 points and 6 assists per game last season, Adams is an elite playmaker who can score at will and also create for others proficiently. After exploring the NBA Draft process this spring, Adams elected to return to Olean for his senior campaign, a move that certainly makes the Bonnies an Atlantic 10 title contender.
#2. Jonathan Stark (Murray State)
Stats: 21.9 ppg, 5.2 apg, 42.5% 3-pt FG%
Murray State is my early pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference, and Stark is a huge reason why. In his first season with the Racers after 2 years at Tulane, Stark was nothing short of extraordinary, posting outstanding numbers. He’s capable of taking over games with his scoring ability, but he is also an excellent distributor who is more than willing to get his teammates involved.
#3 Brandon Goodwin (Florida Gulf Coast)
Stats: 18.5 ppg, 4.1 apg, 35.3% 3-pt FG%
The point guard position is, in my opinion, the most important position in college basketball. They contribute to winning more than any other player on the floor. And few floor generals contribute more to winning than Goodwin. He contributed 6.3 win shares last season for FGCU, the most of any returning mid-major point guard in the country. He was also exceedingly efficient, posting a player efficiency rating of 26.7 that was among the best in the Atlantic Sun this past season.
#4. Devin Watson (San Diego State)
Stats (from 2015-16 at San Francisco): 20.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 34.9% 3-pt FG%
One of 2 transfers who will be in their first season playing with their new team to crack this list, Watson is one of the players I’m most looking forward to watching this season. He adds an entirely new element to a SDSU offense that was ugly at times last season. His elite scoring ability along with being able to create for others makes him an incredible addition to a San Diego State team that hopes to challenge for a Mountain West title this season.
#5. Jon Davis (Charlotte)
Stats: 19.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 38% 3-pt FG%
Davis is one of the best mid-major players you’ve likely never heard off. Already nearing 1,000 career points as he enters his junior season, Davis is a prolific scorer from the point guard position. He has prototypical size as well for his pro future, and Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports noted that NBA scouts are already taking notice:
The one area where Davis must look to improve is taking care of the basketball and making better decisions (over 3 turnovers per game last season), but he is already one of the finest point guards in college basketball and is only getting better.
#6. Chris Clemons (Campbell)
Stats: 25.1 ppg, 2.6 apg, 35.5% 3-pt FG%
There is nothing typical about Clemons. He stands just 5-9, and is best classified as a “ball guard” rather than a true point guard. By that, I mean he plays with the ball in his hands almost at all times, but is much more of a shoot-first than pass-first playmaker. While his position might be debated, one thing that can’t be is that he is an unstoppable scorer. He ranked second nationally in points per game last season with over 25 per contest. His performance in the Big South quarterfinals vs UNC-Asheville was a sight to behold:
#7. Thomas Wilder (Western Michigan)
Stats: 19.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 44.4% 3-pt FG%
Wilder is another guy that simply doesn’t get enough attention for just how good he is. An elite shooter who has improved as a ball-handler and distributor each year of his collegiate career, he enters his senior season in Kalamazoo as one of the top players in the MAC. If he can get enough help around him, he could lead the Broncos to a MAC championship in his senior season.
#8. Erick Neal (UT-Arlington)
Stats: 10.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 35.6% 3-pt FG%
Honestly, I almost feel bad about putting Neal this low. He’s the consummate floor general, an excellent distributor and pass-first point who is also capable of “getting his” when the shot clock runs low. Him and teammate Kevin Hervey (who will crack a list later this week) form one of the most dyamic pairings in mid-major basketball, one that hopes to lift the Mavs to an NCAA Tournament berth in their senior season.
#9. Jordan Johnson (UNLV)
Stats (For Milwaukee in 2015-16): 12.5 ppg, 8.1 apg, 31.6% 3-pt FG%
2 years removed from ranking second nationally in assists per game, Johnson is part of an influx of talent Marvin Menzies brings in at UNLV with the hopes of bringing the Rebels back to prominence in the Mountain West. In many ways, Johnson is the perfect fit for what Menzies is trying to do. He’s an ideal run-and-gun floor general who will get his teammates involved. I expect big things from him in his lone season in Las Vegas.
#10. David Nichols (Albany)
Stats: 17.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, 35.4% 3-pt FG%
Nichols’ improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore year was nothing short of extroardinary. He went from averaging just 2.7 points per game as a freshman to 17.9 ppg and all-conference honors as a sophomore. Nichols can flat-out score the ball, and can hurt you from anywhere on the floor. He’s the latest in a line of great point guards to run the offense for Will Brown at Albany, from recent “The Bachelorette” contestant Mike Black to DJ Evans to Evan Singletary, and it would surprise me if he didn’t at some point do what the previous 3 did and lead his team to an NCAA Tournament.
Just Missed the Cut
- Makai Mason (Yale)
- Trae Bell-Haynes (Vermont)
- Otis Livingston (George Mason)
- Lamarr Kimble (St. Joseph’s)
- Geno Crandall (North Dakota)
- Ahmaad Rorie (Montana)
- Jordan Davis (Northern Colorado)
- Joe Chealey (College of Charleton)
- Jon Elmore (Marshall)
- Lamonte Bearden (Western Kentucky)
- DaQuan Bracey (Louisiana Tech)
- Emmett Naar (St. Mary’s)
- Austin Luke (Belmont)