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2011-12 season preview: Top 100 players in college basketball

CBSSports.com
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UNC's Dexter Strickland, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Harrison Barnes all make the list. (Getty Images)  
UNC's Dexter Strickland, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Harrison Barnes all make the list. (Getty Images)  

Of all the features that are part of our preseason college hoops content here at CBSSports.com, this is among our favorite. Who are the top 100 players in college basketball? Well isn't that just an impossible task for anyone to get a true grip on.

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But in being as objective as possible, and using a formidable, fair nomination method between the four of us, we feel we accurately and rightfully assembled the true tally of talent in hoops for 2011-12. We eliminated all agendas as best we could. That meant Jeff Goodman couldn't force the Arizona guys into high positions, Gary Parrish was curbed from getting three Memphis players in the top 15, Matt Norlander's love of South Dakota State's Nate Wolters went unrequited and Jeff Borzello's plea to include the guys with the best "bro factor" went largely ignored.

We note to you, this list does not match up exactly with our All-Americans, and the reason for that is simple. The A-A's were the work of Goodman and Parrish. The CBSSports.com Top 100 Players in College Basketball is a four-man measure.

Think the young ones still rule college hoops? No way. Sixty-five percent of our selections are upperclassmen. Here's how it breaks down by class:

Seniors: 35
Juniors: 30
Sophomores: 22
Freshmen: 13

As for positions, the least prominent position is, of course, center. We've got five. The guards vs. forwards matchup is pretty close; 50 forwards vs. 45 boys in the backcourt. The most plentiful position listed is senior forward -- 18. Second-most: junior guards (16). We love our vets.

A non-BCS player cracks our top five; the Pac-12 doesn't get representation until No. 23. Four schools (Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut and Ohio State) account for 20 percent of this tabulation, with the Heels getting a list-best six guys into the rankings. And if you think we don't appreciate the small-conference ballers, you best take that attitude to some other site. Our master manifest of talent has precisely 25 percent of players from outside the Big Six. In total, 16 conferences are represented.

As for the big leagues breakdown: Big East and SEC lead the way (15), followed by the Big Ten and ACC (12), the Big 12 (10) and Pac-12 (nine).

If you doubt the passion and thought that went into this list, we only wish we could send you the email correspondence that went on between the four of us over the course of the past three weeks. We know this compilation will not sit well with you. Find us on Twitter and let's have a go of it.

The top 100

1. Jared Sullinger (sophomore forward, Ohio State). Sullinger is big and strong and the nation's best player, which is why he's ranked where he's ranked. — Gary Parrish

2. Harrison Barnes (sophomore forward, North Carolina). Barnes finished strong last season and could lead the Tar Heels to a national championship. — G.P.

3. Jordan Taylor (senior guard, Wisconsin). Taylor was mostly unknown outside of the Big Ten this time last year. That's no longer the case. — G.P.

4. Tu Holloway (senior guard, Xavier). Kelvin Sampson's resignation at Indiana was a blessing for Xavier because it led to Holloway becoming a Musketeer. — G.P.

5. Perry Jones (sophomore forward, Baylor). Jones' decision to return to Baylor was a surprise. Him leading the Bears to a Big 12 title won't be. — G.P.

6. Thomas Robinson (junior forward, Kansas). Look for a huge season for the relentless, athletic forward, especially with the departure of the Morris twins. — Jeff Goodman

At No. 7, Kentucky's Anthony Davis is the highest ranked of 13 freshmen on the list. (US Presswire)  
At No. 7, Kentucky's Anthony Davis is the highest ranked of 13 freshmen on the list. (US Presswire)  
7. Anthony Davis (freshman forward, Kentucky). Not sure there's anyone more versatile in the nation and that's why many NBA types have him pegged as the top overall pick in 2012. — J.G.

8. John Henson (junior forward, North Carolina). His offensive game is still a work in progress, but he's long and is arguably the most dominant defensive player in the nation. — J.G.

9. John Jenkins (junior guard, Vanderbilt). There's no better pure perimeter shooter in the country, and his game is no longer one-dimensional. — J.G.

10. Austin Rivers (freshman guard, Duke). Doc Rivers' kid can score the basketball. He's strong and can really get to the basket and make plays. — J.G.

11. Terrence Jones (sophomore forward, Kentucky). What's it tell you about Jones that he was humbled, accepts his faults, is on his way up ... and is still this high on the list? If he can learn to go right with consistency, look OUT. — Matt Norlander

12. Kendall Marshall (sophomore guard, North Carolina). His game is so pure at the point, only Jordan Taylor is a more enjoyable backcourt player to watch. Perfect guy for this group of Tar Heels. — M.N.

13. Tyler Zeller (senior forward, North Carolina). Back-to-back Heels. Zeller can run the floor beautifully and has done a fine job fulfilling the expectations put on him when he replaced Tyler Hansbrough. He's not better than Hansbrough, but he's as close as you could expect him to be. — M.N.

14. Ashton Gibbs (senior guard, Pittsburgh). Gibbs scored almost 1.3 points per possession last year, which was top 20 in the country. As he goes, so does Pitt. — M.N.

15. Jeremy Lamb (sophomore forward, Connecticut). He's our highest-ranked Husky, but will he be considered the most valuable by year's end? And will he be the highest-drafted UConn player off this team? Would you take that bet right now? — M.N.

16. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (freshman forward, Kentucky). Do-it-all freshman could be a steadying influence for star-studded Wildcats. — Jeff Borzello

17. Trevor Mbakwe (senior forward, Minnesota). Underrated on a national level, Mbakwe is a double-double machine and is only getting better. — J.B.

18. William Buford (senior guard, Ohio State). This could be the year Buford truly breaks out; one of the top wing scorers in Big Ten. — J.B.

19. Marcus Denmon (senior guard, Missouri). Sleeper candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year, Denmon is a scoring machine. — J.B.

20. Elias Harris (junior forward, Gonzaga). He's looking to bounce back from a down season, but has the talent and experience to do it. — J.B.

21. Andre Drummond (freshman center, Connecticut). By the end of the season, this ranking might seem way too low for Drummond. — J.B. (Norlander note: That is because he is a dragon.)

22. Kris Joseph (senior forward, Syracuse). It's Joseph's turn to be the leader for an Orange team looking for its next go-to-guy. — J.B.

At No. 23, Washington's Terrence Ross is the first Pac-12 player on the list. (Getty Images)  
At No. 23, Washington's Terrence Ross is the first Pac-12 player on the list. (Getty Images)  
23. Terrence Ross (sophomore forward, Washington). An easy choice for a breakout player, Ross could be the Pac-12's top scorer. — J.B.

24. Reeves Nelson (junior forward, UCLA). It's not pretty, but Nelson is one of the toughest players in the country and a great rebounder. — J.B.

25. Aaron Craft (sophomore guard, Ohio State). One of the best on-ball defenders in the country, Craft will look to build on solid frosh campaign. — J.B.

26. Brad Beal (freshman guard, Florida). Think Ray Allen. Smooth, good size and can really shoot the ball. — J.G.

27. Draymond Green (senior forward, Michigan State). May not blow you away, but he does a little -- no, a lot -- of everything for the Spartans. Scores, rebounds, passes and also leads. — J.G.

28. Robbie Hummel (senior forward, Purdue). Health is the major concern following a pair of torn ACLs. When healthy, the skilled veteran brings the entire package to the table. — J.G.

29. Patric Young (sophomore forward, Florida). He has a man's body and his game reminds some of Ben Wallace. Needs to develop a go-to offensive move. — J.G.

30. Alex Oriakhi (junior forward, Connecticut). Consistency is the key. He's an athletic big man who has the rap of being too nice. — J.G.

31. Le'Bryan Nash (freshman forward, Oklahoma State). Oklahoma State's tournament hopes and dreams rely on this freakishly talented freshman. — G.P.

32. Will Barton (sophomore forward, Memphis). Barton is out of control often, but his talent is undeniable. — G.P.

33. Scoop Jardine (senior guard, Syracuse). Jardine is a solid point guard except for in those times when he tries to do too much. — G.P.

34. Jeffery Taylor (senior forward, Vanderbilt). Taylor's development of an outside shot has turned the elite athlete into a possible lottery pick. — G.P.

35. Tim Abromaitis (senior forward, Notre Dame). Abromaitis will miss the first four games because of a stupid NCAA ruling, then try to shoot the Irish back to the NCAA tournament. — G.P.

36. Orlando Johnson (senior guard, UC-Santa Barbara). Stud of a player who I'm really glad got this high of a ranking. Johnson's the real deal. Can be a future pro, and he deserves a moment in the 2012 NCAA tournament. — M.N.

37. Adonis Thomas (freshman forward, Memphis). Haven't seen a lot of Thomas, but I'm fairly certain Parrish ranked him something like eighth overall when we started this process. Could be the piece that gets Memphis back into national conversation. — M.N.

38. Kyle Weems (senior forward, Missouri State). Blowing up Goodman's spot here. He thinks Weems is way, way too high. I say he wins the Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley. Again. — M.N.

39. Doug McDermott (sophomore forward, Creighton). And if Weems doesn't win it, McDermott will. McD's an extremely effective shooter. — M.N.

40. Myck Kabongo (freshman guard, Texas). Texas hoops will be down, somewhat, but Kabongo -- with that name and all (first name pronounced as "Mike") -- will make Rick Barnes' team very watchable. Awesome athlete. — M.N.

41. Tarik Black (sophomore forward, Memphis). Black has more heralded teammates, but he's probably Josh Pastner's most important piece. — G.P.

42. Josh Smith (sophomore center, UCLA). A weight issue is the only thing preventing Smith from becoming a dominant big. The height and touch and feel are all in place. — G.P.

43. Quincy Miller (freshman forward, Baylor). Miller is the latest future pro Scott Drew has lured to Waco. — G.P.

44. Maalik Wayns (junior guard, Villanova). Wayns' minutes and points both doubled last season. — G.P.

45. JaMychal Green (senior forward, Alabama). Green led the Crimson Tide in scoring and rebounding last season. — G.P.

46. Josiah Turner (freshman guard, Arizona). Sean Miller likely to hand Turner the ball from Day 1. Talented floor leader with the size, strength, athleticism and talent to be a star in Tucson. — J.G.

47. Jorge Gutierrez (senior guard, California). It's hard not to love this kid. Terrific work ethic and can do it all for the Bears. — J.G.

48. Marquis Teague (freshman guard, Kentucky). A mix of the past two point guards that came through Lexington: Brandon Knight and John Wall. He's a pure point guard who is a blur. — J.G.

49. Jabari Brown (freshman guard, Oregon). Could wind up being Dana Altman's leading scorer. Strong, athletic and can fill it up. — J.G.

50. Jason Clark (senior guard, Georgetown). It's his turn to shine with Chris Wright and Austin Freeman gone. His offensive game has come along -- and he's a quality defender. — J.G.

51. Festus Ezeli (senior center, Vanderbilt). Without Ezeli, Vandy's not a top-10 preseason team. Man deserves more credit for his shot-blocking abilities, by the way. — M.N.

52. Khris Middleton (junior forward, Texas A&M). To me, a bit of an enigma, and I wonder if he gets lost in the shuffle this year. (He will nationally, I'm guessing.) A&M was picked atop the league with Kansas. New coach Billy Kennedy better make Middleton the focal point, because he deserves it. — M.N.

53. Darius Johnson-Odom (senior guard, Marquette). DJO! Incredibly tough player who's about as businesslike as you can find at the college level. Plays about four inches taller than he is (6-feet-2). — M.N.

54. Andrew Nicholson (senior forward, St. Bonaventure). The last time the Bonnies had a forward this talented was, of course, Essie Hollis in the mid-'70s. Nicholson has become an incredibly effective player across the board. Help spread the word on him. — M.N.

Ivy League's Harvard draws a mention with Keith Wright at No. 55. (US Presswire)  
Ivy League's Harvard draws a mention with Keith Wright at No. 55. (US Presswire)  
55. Keith Wright (senior forward, Harvard). Wright's one of two key pieces that can make this, and should make this, the greatest season in the 101-year history of Harvard hoops. — M.N.

56. Michael Glover (senior forward, Iona). Might be the best player in the New York metro area. Glover is a dominant inside force. — J.B.

57. DeAndre Kane (junior guard, Marshall). If Marshall is to make a run in C-USA, expect Kane's explosive scoring to be a primary reason. — J.B.

58. Drew Gordon (senior forward, New Mexico). Former UCLA transfer quietly averaged a double-double last year; has more offensive duties now. — J.B.

59. Kyle Casey (junior forward, Harvard). When healthy, Casey is one of the most talented -- and productive -- players in New England. — J.B.

60. Joe Jackson (sophomore guard, Memphis). After struggling to start last season, Jackson proved he can be one of the best PGs in America. — J.B.

61. John Shurna (senior forward, Northwestern). A bad ankle limited Shurna last season in Big Ten play, but he's healthy and ready to post big numbers now. — G.P.

62. Kevin Jones (senior forward, West Virginia). Jones is a good offensive rebounder and Bob Huggins' top returning scorer. — G.P.

63. Dee Bost (senior guard, Mississippi State). Bost, teamed with Arnett Moultrie and a reasonably focused Renardo Sidney, could take MSU to the Sweet 16. — G.P.

64. Arsalan Kazemi (junior forward, Rice). Kazemi is proof that there are talented players in C-USA who don't reside in Memphis. — G.P.

65. Matthew Dellavedova (junior guard, Saint Mary's). Dellavedova is one of four returning starters for a program that has won at least 25 games in four straight seasons. — G.P.

66. Rodney McGruder (junior guard, Kansas State). Without Jacob Pullen, the Wildcats' perimeter scoring load will fall to McGruder; he's ready for it. — J.B.

67. Shabazz Napier (sophomore guard, Connecticut). He's not Kemba Walker, but Napier showed flashes of his potential last season. — J.B.

68. Tim Hardaway Jr. (sophomore guard, Michigan). Wing scorer played extremely well down the stretch; had six games of 20-plus points. — J.B.

69. Doron Lamb (sophomore guard, Kentucky). The freshmen will get most of the attention, but Lamb's shooting will be a key for the Wildcats. — J.B.

70. Ryan Kelly (junior forward, Duke). The offseason reports on Kelly are all positive; his inside play could be the difference for Duke. — J.B.

71. Peyton Siva (junior guard, Louisville). Has developed into a quality point guard, can also score and has plenty of intangibles. — J.G.

72. Seth Curry (junior guard, Duke). Stephen's little brother is known for his perimeter shot, but he'll get a chance to run the Blue Devils' offense this year. — J.G.

73. Deshaun Thomas (sophomore forward, Ohio State). Instant offense. Has the size and can really score the ball, especially from deep. — J.G.

74. Ray McCallum (sophomore guard, Detroit). Coming off a strong freshman campaign for his dad, Little Ray knows how to play. High IQ, makes his teammates better and scores when necessary. — J.G.

75. Casper Ware (senior guard, Long Beach State). Vastly underrated. Terrific work ethic, gets after it on the defensive end and also can score and set his teammates up. — J.G.

Tyshawn Taylor is one of two Jayhawks and 10 players from the Big 12 on the list. (Getty Images)  
Tyshawn Taylor is one of two Jayhawks and 10 players from the Big 12 on the list. (Getty Images)  
76. Tyshawn Taylor (senior guard, Kansas). The potential is there. Now he needs to show it. Taylor should have the opportunity this season, along with Thomas Robinson, to be a go-to guy. — J.G.

77. Allen Crabbe (sophomore guard, California). A lights-out perimeter shooter who needs to develop more versatility in his game this season. — J.G.

78. Brandon Davies (junior forward, Brigham Young) Big, strong and athletic. Will likely be the No. 1 option for Dave Rose now that The Jimmer is gone. — J.G.

79. Robert Sacre (senior center, Gonzaga). He's a man-child in the middle for the Zags, especially in the WCC. Can score in the post and is also an adept rebounder and shot-blocker. — J.G.

80. Mike Rosario (junior guard, Florida). Put up lofty numbers at Rutgers and while he likely will share the spotlight in Gainesville, he'll still get his points. — J.G.

81. Christian Watford (junior forward, Indiana). Watford's one of those guys I'm willing to bet will seem undervalued on this list by mid-February. We have him at 81 now, but he could turn into a top-60 player. — M.N.

82. C.J. Leslie (sophomore forward, North Carolina State). So raw as a freshman. Here's hoping he makes a big leap this year. — M.N.

83. James McAdoo (freshman forward, North Carolina). Many tab him a future lottery pick, but with so much NBA talent around him, we had to not give him the benefit of the doubt just yet. — M.N.

84. Damian Lillard (senior guard, Weber State). Quintessential small-league guy who can run roughshod over said league. Lillard's going to make it rain -- nay, I say storm -- in the Big Sky this season. — M.N.

85. Jared Cunningham (junior guard, Oregon State). Stupidly crazy athleticism. Jared, you craft a worthwhile jump shot into your game, and you're in the first-team Pac-12 conversation. — M.N.

86. J'Covan Brown (junior guard, Texas). Brown is better off the ball than on the ball, and Myck Kabongo will allow him to play that spot almost exclusively. — G.P.

87. Mouphtaou Yarou (junior center, Villanova). Yarou is a strong, defensive big ready for a breakout season. — G.P.

88. Trent Lockett (junior guard, Arizona State). Lockett is undersized for a wing, but he still got 13 points and five rebounds per game last season. — G.P.

89. Tony Mitchell (junior forward, Alabama). Mitchell averaged 16.4 points in SEC games last season and could emerge as an all-league player. — G.P.

90. Durand Scott (junior guard, Miami, Fla.). Scott is gifted but limited because he's not a true point guard. — G.P.

91. Javon McCrea (sophomore forward, Buffalo). McCrea could be on his way to being the next dominant mid-major player. If he doesn't make a huge leap this year, it will come next year. Was the fifth-most effective offensive rebounder in the country last season. — M.N.

92. Rakim Sanders (senior forward, Fairfield). Will, or should be, the MAAC's best player. Transfer from Boston College. Maturity is the key; talent is not a question. — M.N.

93. D.J. Cooper (junior guard, Ohio). Lookie here, it's another MAC player. Had a coach's-dream 44.7 percent assist rate last season, second-best in D-I. — M.N.

94. Kevin Foster (junior guard, Santa Clara). West Coast has plenty of representatives on this list, and Foster wraps it up for the conference. He makes the Broncos a contender in what's a pretty laudable league. — M.N.

95. Brandon Paul (junior guard, Illinois). Can Paul deliver to Bruce Weber what he hoped to get out of Demetri McCamey the past two years? This is a choice based upon potential. — M.N.

96. Reggie Hamilton (senior guard, Oakland). Becomes the go-to-guy without Keith Benson -- averaged 23.5 points in the month of March. — J.B.

97. Dexter Strickland (junior guard, North Carolina). The forgotten fifth starter for UNC, Strickland is arguably the team's best on-ball defender. — J.B.

98. Arnett Moultrie (junior forward, Mississippi State). A transfer from UTEP, Moultrie is getting NBA attention despite sitting out last year. — J.B.

99. Jae Crowder (senior forward, Marquette). One of the most difficult matchups in the Big East, Crowder can score inside and out. — J.B.

100. Mike Scott (senior forward, Virginia). Before his injury last year, Scott was one of the most productive players in the ACC. — J.B.

2011-12 Season Preview
DateFeatureDateFeature
Oct. 13Preseason Top 25 (and one) Nov. 1Top freshmen
 Projected NCAA tournament field Nov. 2Top transfers
 Goodman and Parrish bracket picks Nov. 3Under the radar players
Oct. 14Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC Nov. 4Breakout players
Oct. 17Preseason All-Americans Nov. 5Best shooters
Oct. 18Top 100 players Nov. 6Best defensive players
Oct. 19Positional rankings: Point guards Nov. 768 things ...
Oct. 20Positional rankings: Wing men Nov. 8Ranking the preseason tourneys
Oct. 21Positional rankings: Big men Nov. 950 can't miss games
   Nov. 10Coaches on the Hot Seat
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