Top 30 wings: Barnes an ace, but Vandy has terrific pair

by | Senior College Basketball Blogger

Today we move on to the players who, by and large, have the most NBA potential. All that length requires scouts to wear a bib to games. The wing position in college is becoming more and more refined and defined. You will notice below we've got players that range about seven inches in height.

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Different offenses can uses different-size guys, but the definition of a wing player has become more and more clear in the past five years. The only real black sheep on this list is Darius Johnson-Odom. But D.J.O.'s way too good to neglect, so into the rankings he goes.

I wanted to take a minute to focus in on the Vanderbilt duo, which cracks the top 15 (center Festus Ezili will be making an appearance in Friday's list of best big men). One of three critical pieces to Vandy's Final Four hopes this season, John Jenkins averaged 19.5 points per game last year, but more importantly had an offensive rating of 123.5. That means he scored 1.24 points per possession. That was among the best in the nation. He and Jeffery Taylor pair so well together, it's hard to believe Vanderbilt won't remain in the top 15 all season.

Then again, we know Vandy's history. Part of me wonders if these guys will play well all season, yet won't see their games fully bloom until after college. Taylor, who's bigger than Jenkins by about three inches, shares the ball tremendously well. In fact, for two guys who are high-volume in that offense, they do a great job of picking their spots. Taylor's best ability is his adaptation to a speed game. His jump shot has gotten exponentially better, too.

There is no better combo of wings in college than what Kevin Stallings has in Nashville. Sweet music being made on the hardwood there.

Top 15 wing men
1. Harrison Barnes (So., F, North Carolina)
If you find an argument with Barnes at No. 1 here, then you're either desperate for attention or can see into the future and know of a world where Barnes' ability has inexplicably dropped out of orbit. The UNC 3/2 hybrid has so many polished facets to his game, but it's his toughness that has recently come on and taken him to the elite level.

2. John Jenkins (junior G, Vanderbilt)
The Commodores will need reliable scoring. Thankfully, Jenkins led the SEC in scoring and also in 3-pointers per game (3.1).

3. Austin Rivers (Fr., G, Duke)
Rivers is a true college-level 2, and I'm interested to see how much control and freedom Mike Krzyzewski gives to him in the first month of the season. A very fun player to watch who isn't afraid of taking the big shot.

4. Jeremy Lamb (So., F, Connecticut)
Lamb really emerged in mid-February last season, when he became nearly as much of a threat to opponents as Kemba Walker. Lamb's limbs are as long as a neighborhood telephone line. He has good bounce to pair with a 15-foot shot that teams will respect more and more.

5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Fr., F, Kentucky)
I'm eager to see him play, basing this high ranking off reports from the past two years fawning over his ability. Tremendous athlete with matching drive and a fatigue bar that doesn't deplete. Anthony Davis (who will be highly ranked on the top 30 bigs list) is considered the better player, but Gilchrist could be the one that gets UK to the Final Four.

6. William Buford (Sr., G, Ohio State)
Buford is the quiet killer for the Buckeyes. He deserves more recognition for his ability because he's a marked man on every scouting report. The senior will flawlessly replace David Lighty this year.

7. Marcus Denmon (Sr., G, Missouri)
Calling it right now: Marcus Denmon will be a second-team All-American. With Laurence Bowers going down for the Tigers, Denmon's going to be relied upon for even more scoring. I also love: He's not a point, yet had the most secure handle in the nation last season, only giving it away on 8.2 percent of his trips down the floor.

8. Elias Harris (Jr., F, Gonzaga)
Quintessential Gonzaga wing. Get the feeling Mark Few will ask him to score better than 17 a game this season. The future NBA Draft pick is up for it.

9. Kris Joseph (Sr., F, Syracuse)
The 6-foot-7 Joseph would vault into the top five if he became a definitive go-to scorer for Syracuse this year. Many believe the Orange need him to be that for the team to win the Big East and get to the Final Four.

10. Terrence Ross (So., F, Washington)
This is our sleeper selection. You think Washington's going to be down and out without Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holliday, Venoy Overton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning? No. Ross is going to be a first-team guy in the Pac-12.

11. Brad Beal (Fr., G, Florida)
Jeff Goodman says he's going to remind a lot of people of Ray Allen. I say slam the breaks on that, but I'm eager to see how quickly -- if it happens -- the other three Florida guards acquiesce to Beal's ability, which is beyond the skills of Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.

12. Robbie Hummel (Sr., F, Purdue)
This is evidence of what injuries can do to a player's value. Hummel's probably going to will Purdue to two or three more wins than it should have, but he's no longer a top-10 wing. (I would love to be wrong, for the record.)

13. LeBryan Nash (Fr., F, Oklahoma State)
Absolutely: Oklahoma State will be as exciting as it has been in recent memory thanks to Nash's easy-to-watch style. Here's a couple of videos that get my point across.

14. Will Barton (So., F, Memphis)
Barton gets it so, so much more now than he did a year ago. There's more perspective to his game which, by the way, is a perfect fit for Josh Pastner's style in Memphis.

15. Jeffery Taylor (Sr., F, Vanderbilt)
He's dangerous because he has shown the dedication to taking his game to the next level. He used to be wiry and raw; now he's a full-bodied 225 pounds and honing his skills with each game.

The next 15
16. Tim Abromaitis (Sr., F, Notre Dame) 21. Jorge Gutierrez (Sr., G, California) 26. DeAndre Kane (Jr., G, Marshall)
17. Orlando Johnson (Sr., G, UC-Santa Barbara) 22. Jabari Brown (Fr., G, Oregon) 27. Kyle Casey (Sr., F, Harvard)
18. Adonis Thomas (Fr., F, Memphis) 23. Jason Clark (Sr., G, Georgetown) 28. John Shurna (Sr., F, Northwestern)
19. Kyle Weems (Sr., F, Missouri State) 24. Khris Middleton (Jr., F, Texas A&M) 29. Arsalan Kazemi (Jr., F, Rice)
20. Quincy Miller (Fr., F, Baylor) 25. Darius Johnson-Odom (Sr., G, Marquette) 30. Rodney McGruder (Jr., G, Kansas State)
2011-12 Season Preview
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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