Trae Young is awesome. He is the most exciting story in college basketball this season, if not this decade. He's on track to become the first player to lead college basketball in points and assists. He's being touted as the first in what we should assume will be a long line of sharp-shooting smaller guards inspired by Steph Curry. The player who was not considered a one-and-done prospect coming into the season feels like a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
These are all still true, but so is this: On Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Trae Young and No. 12 Oklahoma got outplayed by an Alabama team and their own late-blooming, explosive point guard who will also be a lottery pick come June.
Alabama's Collin Sexton is the final player who makes it into my top tier of players for the 2018 NBA draft. (You could make an argument about Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr., but I'm not ready to.) Sexton has the potential to be a franchise player, a guy in that explosive, do-everything Russell Westbrook mold. Entering the Oklahoma game, Sexton was shooting a respectable 36.7 percent from 3 and averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
His role has been different than Young's this season; while he's one of the highest-usage players in the nation, Alabama has much more scoring talent around Sexton than Oklahoma has around Young. So Sexton is smart to defer to teammates.
On Saturday, we saw why Sexton is one of the two best point guards in the upcoming draft. He scored 18 points on an efficient 14 shots, while Young had to put up 17 shots to score only 17 points. Trae Young has been such a phenom this year that it's been easy to overlook Sexton's talent.
Alabama has been somewhat disappointing this season. The team that was ranked in the top 25 in November already has seven losses in January. But it should be noted that Alabama's schedule has been one of the most difficult in the country; KenPom.com ranks Alabama's strength of schedule as the 12th-hardest in the country. I expect Alabama to make the NCAA Tournament, and March could be Sexton's time to really shine.
I get that you want to give more shine to Young. He deserves it. He's been the best player in college basketball, and it hasn't been particularly close. But in a way that has been given much less attention, Sexton has also shown us why he too could be one of those franchise-changing talents that NBA teams will happily tank for.