Scouting college basketball's five best players at the five different positions

Whether Marvin Bagley will actually be cleared to play at Duke this season remains undetermined. But, just for fun, let's assume the projected No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is in uniform and ready to go when the season starts. How will he be?

Great?

Good?

Or just a work-in-progress -- a better prospect than player?

My guess is ... great.

Hand to heart, I really do believe Bagley will be terrific from Day 1. And, by end of the season, I think it'll be clear that he lived up to the hype and established himself as a fantastic prospect and player who looks like the NBA's next great thing. Put another way, I think he'll be the best power forward in all of college basketball.

Which got me thinking.

Who will be the second-best power forward? And what about point guards? And shooting guards? And small forwards? And centers? So, with that in mind, I sat down and made a list. The result is below. Let's call it the Five Best College Basketball Players At College Basketball's Five Different Positions.

(Or something like that.)

Here we go ...

Point guards

Rank

Player

School

Class

Height

2016-17 numbers

1

Jalen Brunson

Villanova

Junior

6-3

14.7 ppg, 4.1 apg

2

Joel Berry 

North Carolina

Senior

6-0

14.7 ppg, 3.6 apg

3

Landry Shamet

Wichita State

RS Soph.

6-4

11.4 ppg, 43.9 3-pt pct

4

Trevon Duval

Duke

Freshman

6-2

16.1 ppg, 7.5 apg (HS) 

5

Collin Sexton

Alabama

Freshman

6-2

32.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg (HS)

Explanation: Brunson is experienced, steady, a good-enough shooter and a total winner who is terrific at the free-throw line and thus built to close games. So, I think, he's the best point guard in college basketball. But Berry, the reigning Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, is a reasonable alternative. If you prefer him, that's not stupid. Shamet could be this season's breakout star. And though I considered SMU's Shake Milton and Kansas' Devonte' Graham for the fourth and fifth spots, I went with Duval and Sexton because, almost every year, elite first-year point guards emerge. Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox were those guys last season. Duval and Sexton should be those guys this season.

Shooting guards 

Rank

Player

School

Class

Height

2016-17 numbers

1

Allonzo Trier

Arizona

Junior

6-5

17.2 ppg, 39.1 3-pt pct

2

Grayson Allen

Duke

Senior

6-5

14.5 ppg, 36.5 3-pt pct

3

Jevon Carter

West Virginia

Senior

6-2

13.5 ppg, 38.9 3-pt pct

4

Bruce Brown

Miami

Sophomore

6-5

11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg

5

Hamidou Diallo

Kentucky

RS Freshman

6-5

19.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg (HS, '16)

Explanation: It's probably reasonable to go with Trier or Allen in the top spot here. But I went with Trier simply because he was significantly better than Allen last season. He shot it better from the field and from 3-point range. He scored more and rebounded more. So Trier's the pick. But I do think Allen will have a bounce-back season. If he's an All-American, it won't surprise me. Carter doesn't register with casual fans. But he's been a productive guard for a team that's made three straight NCAA Tournaments, including two Sweet 16s. I'm expecting a big season from Brown, who averaged 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a freshman. And Diallo should be the nation's best freshman shooting guard, in my opinion. He'll benefit from the time he spent practicing with Kentucky last season.

Small forwards

Rank

Player

School

Class

Height

2016-17 numbers

1

Miles Bridges

Michigan State

Sophomore

6-7

16.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg

2

Michael Porter Jr.

Missouri

Freshman

6-10

36.2 ppg, 13.6 rpg (HS)

3

Trevon Blueitt

Xavier

Senior

6-6

18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg

4

Kevin Knox

Kentucky

Freshman

6-9

28.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg (HS)

Mikal Bridges

Villanova

RS Junior

6-7

9.8 ppg, 39.0 3-pt pct

Explanation: Bridges and Porter could be listed as power forwards; they each play some small-ball four. But I decided to put them in the small forward category because that's their natural position. And I went with Bridges over Porter -- even though I believe Porter is the superior NBA prospect -- because I think Bridges is just going to be awesome this season. Unless I change my mind for some reason, he'll be my pick for National Player of the Year in the preseason. I could easily see him averaging 20 and 10 and producing countless highlight-reel dunks for a Big Ten champion. Bluiett should end up surpassing the 2,200-point scoring mark for his career this season. Knox is one of UK's next one-and-done stars. And Bridges should have the breakout season a lot of people thought was coming last season.

Power forwards

Rank

Player

School

Class

Height

2016-17 numbers

1

Marvin Bagley

Duke

Freshman

6-11

24.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg (HS)

2

Bonzie Colson

Notre Dame

Senior

6-5

17.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg  

3

Robert Williams

Texas A&M

Sophomore

6-9

11.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg

4

Mike Daum

South Dakota State 

Junior

6-9

25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg

Bennie Boatwright

USC

Junior

6-10

15.1 ppg, 90.7 FT pct

Explanation: Colson is the only CBS Sports All-American from last season back in school. He could reasonably be placed at the top of this position. But, like I've said and written many times, Bagley is special. So he has to be No. 1 ahead of Notre Dame's leading scorer and rebounder. Williams averaged 11.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season and should be better in every category this season. Daum is the nation's best so-called mid-major player. He averaged 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds while leading the Jackrabbits to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. And the fifth spot went to Boatwright, who led USC in scoring last season while averaging 15.1 points and shooting 90.7 percent from the free throw line. He barely edged Georgia's Yante Maten and Michigan State freshman Jaren Jackson for the fifth spot.

Centers

Rank

Player

School

Class

Height

2016-17 numbers

1

DeAndre Ayton

Arizona

Freshman

7-1

26.0 ppg, 15.0 rpg (HS)

2

Angel Delgado

Seton Hall

Senior

6-10

15.2 ppg, 13.1 rpg

3

Ethan Happ

Wisconsin

Junior

6-10

14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg

4

Jock Landale 

Saint Mary's

Senior

6-11

16.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg

Mohamed Bamba

Texas

Freshman

7-0

14.0 ppg, 8.0 bpg (HS)

Explanation: Everything I've heard out of Arizona is that Ayton has been tremendous in offseason workouts. So he should be the Wildcats' next one-and-done star and, possibly, the key to Sean Miller's first Final Four. Delgado averaged 15.2 points and a national-best 13.1 rebounds last season. He's a no-brainer pick for this list. And I can't tell you how much me and some of my friends who are also college basketball writers argued over Happ. Some thought he should be listed as a power forward. But the truth is that he spends most of his time playing what amounts to center for the Badgers. So I placed him on the centers list -- just ahead of Landale, who averaged 16.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. And the fifth spot went to Bamba, who should be a one-and-done shot-altering standout at Texas. He edged USC's Chimezie Metu, who averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds last season.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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