timme.jpg

Gonzaga has an historically great offense built around easy looks near the basket. Baylor has a lethal offensive attack buttressed by its otherworldly 3-point shooting efficiency. Houston and UCLA are both dynamic teams that are sound on both ends, with the Cougars' best asset being their offensive rebounding and the Bruins' being their ability to catch lightning in a bottle. Each Final Four team brings a different flavor to the dining table.

To try and dichotomize this quartet, I ranked all 20 starters from each team to get a feel for who has the upper hand entering the final weekend of March Madness. What I found won't shock you: Gonzaga and Baylor are best-represented. They account for 60% of my top 10. But Houston and UCLA have strong depth throughout here and some surprising stars included near the top of my rankings, as you'll see below.

Now to my criteria: this ranking is not based entirely on output -- though it was taken into consideration. Overall team impact on offense and defense was most strongly considered. Recent performance is also weighted more heavily because, as the saying goes, this is March. I want to know who is playing their best ball right now.

Without further ado, let's dive in.

Final Four Player Rankings

Ranking the Final Four starters
1
Drew Timme Gonzaga Bulldogs F
After scoring 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting and adding three blocks, five boards and four assists in a blowout win over USC in the Elite Eight, Timme's on a trajectory to be this tournament's MOP. He's averaging 21.3 points per game in March Madness and a stunning 25 points and 8 boards over his last three.
2
Corey Kispert Gonzaga Bulldogs F
The scoring leader for Gonzaga's ridiculously efficient offense all season, Kispert now ranks second on the team behind Timme in points scored but still is a no-brainer No. 2 on this list. I'll let you in on a secret: This is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams Mark Few has ever had. But Kispert is at 46% from deep on the season. He's able to balance out this offense and give it a dimension it wouldn't otherwise have.
3
Johnny Juzang UCLA Bruins G
A year ago, Kentucky couldn't even find a spot for Juzang in its rotation. Now after a transfer, he's the leading scorer for UCLA and as red-hot as any player in the country. He scored 28 points Tuesday against No. 1 seed Michigan in the Elite Eight and is averaging more than 20 points per game in the Big Dance. Juzang's got an ankle injury that's bugged him off and on of late, but he's still finding ways to produce as the team's go-to scorer.
4
Davion Mitchell Baylor Bears G
Rarely does Davion Mitchell's box score pop off the page. He's consistent and steady as an offensive weapon, and he's not swatting shots left and right like, say, Evan Mobley. But he's the front-line attack for Baylor's defense and the most dangerous prober on offense when they need to get to the rim. Nobody in the NCAA Tournament has the burst or ability to take your breath away like Mitchell has.
5
Jalen Suggs Gonzaga Bulldogs G
If Suggs weren't sharing the spotlight on a veteran Gonzaga team with Kispert and Timme, perhaps he's even higher. I still think this is pretty generous. He's been just-OK overall statistically, though he's no doubt stepped up in big spots when the Zags need him. He's coming off his best NCAA Tournament performance yet after going for 18 points, eight assists and 10 boards vs. USC.
6
Quentin Grimes Houston Cougars G
After losing preseason AAC Player of the Year Caleb Mills early in the season, Grimes has tidily slotted in as Houston's go-to scoring option. He's averaging 18.0 points and shooting a team-high 41.2% from the 3-point range this season. Grimes is averaging 18.0 points and shooting 44% from deep in the NCAA Tournament.
7
Jared Butler Baylor Bears G
Macio Teague has asserted himself as Baylor's most prolific scorer over the last month and Davion Mitchell's rise to superstardom has been swift, but Butler no doubt has the juice to be a difference-maker in any game. He can create off the bounce and has good vision as a passer. The catch: he's 6-of-24 from deep in the NCAA Tournament. So he's down a few notches from where a season-long ranking would be. But he's still shooting above 40% from 3-point range on the year and remains a key cog that's keeping the Bears squarely in the hunt.
8
MaCio Teague Baylor Bears G
Sandwiched between two relatively pedestrian offensive performances against Villanova and Wisconsin, Teague has turned in 22 point showings in the Elite Eight and in the first round to give Baylor a gigantic boost. Teague is not a big creator on this Baylor team -- he's a beneficiary of playing next to Mitchell and Butler -- but he's been a reliable spot-up shooter all season and his role continues to expand.
9
Jaime Jaquez Jr. UCLA Bruins G
Jaquez Jr. really struggled to find his shot against Michigan's vaunted defense -- like everyone else in that 51-49 barnburner of an Elite Eight -- but he's been nails as a trusty second option next to Juzang. His biggest performance came in the First Four when he scored 27 points and helped lead UCLA to an OT win, but he's added a punch as a rebounder and clutch shot-maker in big spots as well.
10
Marcus Sasser Houston Cougars G
Houston snuck past Oregon State to secure a Final Four spot in huge part because of Sasser, who scored 20 points and drilled five triples in the win. Sasser, a sophomore, can be a little hot and cold -- he's got 20 double-digit scoring outings this season and some seriously inefficient duds sprinkled in -- but he has been more good than bad this postseason. The shot volume for him is going to be there so his role -- and performance -- will be key if Houston is going to advance to the title game.
11
Jules Bernard UCLA Bruins G
Bernard went 2-of-10 from the field against Michigan after going 4-of-15 against Alabama in the Sweet 16. Yet despite those struggles, he's still finding ways to contribute to UCLA's success as a rebounder and facilitator. He's averaging 7.0 rebounds per game during the tournament and 10.8 points per game, both above his season averages.
12
DeJon Jarreau Houston Cougars G
During the first minute of Houston's first NCAA Tournament game, Jarreau sustained a hip injury that took him out for that game and has limited his ability to play at full strength all tournament. Still, Jarreau is adhering to Kelvin Sampson's principles by attacking the rim hard, crashing the glass and hustling like hell. He's not been very efficient but he always seems to come up with big plays in big spots. Heart and soul of this Houston team.
13
Joel Ayayi Gonzaga Bulldogs G
Ayayi turned in an NCAA Tournament-low 9 points against USC, but it was on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting while adding six boards, three assists and a block. Because Gonzaga is so loaded with star contributors, those type of nights aren't unexpected. What we know is that despite the logjam, he can still have huge games; he's the only player in Gonzaga history to record a triple-double. He's still a key piece of Gonzaga's title hopes.
14
Justin Gorham Houston Cougars F
Houston is the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the country and the 6-foot-7 Gorham is the most important part of that formula. He led the AAC in offensive rebounding rate during league play, according to KenPom data, and accounted for five of the team's 19 offensive boards during its Elite Eight win over Oregon State.
15
Tyger Campbell UCLA Bruins G
UCLA's starting point guard is a tad undersized at 5-11, but his game is plenty big. He can create passing lanes by knifing in and out of traffic and he has a good pulse on when to push the pace, when to slow it down, when to attack and when to defer. Not putting up huge numbers, but Cronin trusts him to facilitate this team, and this team is one of the most unlikely Final Four teams in a decade. Counts for something.
16
Mark Vital Baylor Bears G
Vital is averaging just 4.0 points per game for Baylor in the NCAA Tournament. But the two-time All-Big 12 defensive team standout is the glue that keeps Baylor's defense together. He's a 6-5, 250-pound bowling ball who wields his weight with force and wreaks havoc as a rebounding maniac who can lock down his matchup.
17
Andrew Nembhard Gonzaga Bulldogs G
How's this for a luxury: Nembhard, a former five-star recruit, scored 7 points and had four assists against USC. Ho-hum. Yet the Zags still won by 19 points. Nembhard has come up with some big games -- he had 17 points and eight assists vs. Creighton -- but he's not relied on in the same way most of the rest of Gonzaga's starters are. Having him 17th on this list doesn't represent his talent, to be clear. If anything it underscores the embarrassment of riches Gonzaga is working with.
18
Cody Riley UCLA Bruins F
The impact Cody Riley makes for UCLA goes beyond the numbers. The 6-9 big man bangs with every team's best big and more than holds his own, even if offensively he's not a huge factor. Foul trouble has been an issue for him, though; he has fouled out five times this season and on seven occasions finished a game with four fouls. Keeping him on the floor and out of foul trouble against Drew Timme will be a huge priority for UCLA in the Final Four.
19
Reggie Chaney Houston Cougars F
Houston's tough as nails on the boards and that is where Reggie Chaney really comes into the picture. He's a starter playing rotation minutes, but he makes the most of that time by crashing the glass, picking up second-chance points and tipping out loose balls. He affects the game with effort and energy.
20
Flo Thamba Baylor Bears F
Undoubtedly an important piece to the Baylor puzzle -- Thamba is 6-10 on an otherwise small Bears frontcourt -- he comes in at No. 20 largely because of his smaller role. Thamba's playing only 15 minutes per game on the season and averaging just over that (17.8) during the tournament.