Class Acts

I’m in the championship of my fantasy football league this weekend and hoping to win big. I love fantasy football, and fantasy sports in general. I think being able to assemble a team filled with a sport’s biggest stars is a fantasy (weak pun intended) that we’ve all had as young sports fans. I got to thinking about who I would want on my college basketball fantasy team. Of course, just picking one starting lineup of five guys is boring, and that conversation could go on forever. So instead, I went ahead and found the stars that I think are five of the best players in every class:

 

Seniors

  • G Maurice Watson, Jr., Creighton- How could I not go with the current leading assist man in the country (9 apg)? Watson’s ability to create shots for himself (12.8 ppg) and his teammates is a big reason Creighton is undefeated right now.
  • G Frank Mason III, Kansas- When the game is on the line, I’m putting the ball in Mason’s hands. His jumper with 6 seconds left to beat Duke showed that he has ice in his veins no matter what level. He has an uncanny ability to find a shot for himself anywhere on the floor, and to go with his 19.7 ppg, he’s also dishing out 5.8 assists, and pulling down 4.7 boards.
  • G/F Josh Hart, Villanova- The best player in the country in my opinion. Hart is so efficient (56% from the floor, 43% behind the arc) and so effective from everywhere on the court. For a guy who’s 6 and a half feet tall, his toughness down low allows him to play so much bigger than he is (6.6 rpg).
  • F Michael Young, Pitt- Am I crazy to think Michael Young is one of the most underrated players in the NCAA? Sure, Pitt isn’t grabbing a lot of headlines, but Young’s stat line is ridiculous (22.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.9 apg). His dominance will keep the Panthers relevant in the ACC.
  • F Alec Peters, Valparaiso- Playing for a mid-major won’t garner you a ton of attention, but Peters demands it. Averaging 26.4 points and 10 boards per game, he’s one of the games best frontcourt players (7 double-doubles). He doesn’t shy away from tough competition either (24 points, 8 rebounds in a loss at Kentucky).

Juniors

  • G Melo Trimble, Maryland- Trimble looked like a shadow of the player he was his freshman year and made the decision to come back to school for his junior year. That decision is paying off, as Trimble is the veteran leader (and leading scorer at 18.1 ppg) for a young 13-1 Maryland team.
  • G James Blackmon, Jr., Indiana- After missing all of conference play and the postseason last year, Blackmon came back strong and is currently the Hoosiers’ leading scorer at 18.5 ppg (to go with 5.4 boards), but his most valuable weapon is his 3-ball. Blackmon is taking 7.4 three’s per game, and making a ridiculous 45% of them.
  • G/F Trevon Bluiett- Xavier’s athletic wing really broke out last season, and has continued his steady stream of production for the Musketeers, puring in 19 points a game while pulling down 5.6 rebounds. Bluiett has a pretty good outside shot, but is strongest creating for himself, and his teammates off the dribble.
  • F Dillon Brooks, Oregon- Brooks, coming off a rough foot injury in the offseason, didn’t see action until Oregon went to Maui for the Maui Invitational, and didn’t see significant minutes until December 11th against Alabama. He’s still finding his groove, but when he can, it’s scary what he’s capable of. Example A: 23 points, 9 rebounds, and the game-winner against #2 UCLA, with a picture-perfect moment to boot (top).
  • F Jock Landale, St. Mary’s- If the Aussie wasn’t on your radar before, he should be now. The Gaels are a dangerous team out West, and Landale’s emergence is a big reason why. He’s exploded for 17.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Sophomores

  • G Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State- Evans could very well be the best scorer in the country. Averaging 20.2 points per game, the dude is just electric. He doesn’t get a ton of help from the Cowboys, but he’ll keep the ‘Pokes in tight games because of how dominant he can be.
  • G Luke Kennard, Duke- One of the leading candidates for Player of the Year, Kennard stepped up as Duke’s primary scoring option this year, developing his outside shot and stepping up in crunch time. Not to mention, he contributes 5.9 rebounds and 2. 8 assists.
  • G/F Dwayne Bacon, Florida State- The Baconator (please let that catch on) is a guard in a forward’s body, and he can play both positions too. He’s explosive in the lane and tough on the glass (4.1 rebounds), yet can handle the ball and does a decent job from behind the arc. At 16.9 points per game, he’s scoring in your face from everywhere on the floor.
  • F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue- Swanigan entered the draft but elected to return to West Lafayette. Good for Purdue. Swanigan has been a beast this year, averaging a double-double (18.3 ppg and 12.5 rpg), and turning Purdue into a legit Final Four team. At a level where his size and strength are advantages, “Biggie” is dominating.
  • F Dedric Lawson, Memphis- Lawson (along with his brother) makes the Tigers a serious threat in the AAC, and that’s largely thanks to how good he’s been for them down low. Lawson won’t blow anyone away physically, but he’s fluid on offense and can handle the ball a little in isolation. Another guy averaging a double-double (20.7 points and 10.8 rebounds).

Freshmen

  • G Lonzo Ball, UCLA- Ball has blown the minds of college basketball fans everywhere in the short time he’s played in Westwood. UCLA has a lot of offensive firepower, but a ton of it runs through Ball (8.3 assists). His court vision and knack for making tough passes is otherworldly, and while he’s a pass-first point guard, his other aspects of the game are thrilling (13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds).
  • G Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State- The potential top draft pick is finally playing like it, after a slow start to the season. He’s dropping 18.9 points per game, scoring from all areas of the floor, but now that NC State is adding weapons from injury and ineligibility, Smith is getting weapons to facilitate the ball to. On Wednesday, he poured in 19 points and dropped 16 dimes in a W.
  • G Markelle Fultz, Washington- Sure, the freshman fantasy team trots out three point guards. Sue me. Fultz is the best pure scorer of the three, as his size allows him to get some space and get up an extremely quick shot off the dribble. He’s doing a lot for a Washington team that doesn’t have a lot around him (22 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 6.3 apg), but it’s going to take a Herculean effort to get the Huskies to the postseason.
  • F TJ Leaf, UCLA- Ball is getting the attention, but Leaf has also been extremely productive for the Bruins. Leaf is averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in a balanced UCLA offense, using his solid footwork in the post and his mid-range game to do most of his damage offensively. He’s narrow, but his quickness allows him to get into position on the glass.
  • F Lauri Markkanen, Arizona- Markkanen is averaging 16.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg, which is doing a lot to keep the depleted Wildcats in the Pac-12 picture. The Finnish 7-footer has a beautiful shot, shooting a robust 43.5% from behind the arc. If he continues this type of production, Arizona is a dangerous team, and Markkanen may find himself in this year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

 

I’m not sure how to pit these teams against each other, but my goodness, that would be fun to watch. If I missed anyone, or you disagree with any of my selections, tweet me @clagore34.

 

Fun Fact of the Week: UConn put up a paltry 12 points in the first half Wednesday against Houston, but they were three times as productive as NIU was on January 26th, 2013 against Eastern Michigan. The Huskies scored only 4 first half points, an NCAA record, on 1-of-31 from the field (3.2%, also a record). Chin up, Kevin Ollie.

 

Photo via Sporting News

Connor Lagore
Maryland born, Milwaukee raised. Currently a sophomore at the University of Missouri and a 2016 NBA Draft entrant. Old enough to remember Perry Ellis's freshman year. For hot takes and more, follow my twitter @clagore34.

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