If you copy the link to the recently published Top 100 And 1 ranking of the best players in college basketball and paste it into the Twitter search bar, you will quickly realize how contentious rankings of this sort can be. There are 357 Division I basketball teams, which translates to just 0.28 players per team on the list.
That means many programs did not land a single player on the list, not even their leading scorer or prized freshman. Naturally, that’s created some blowback from spurned fan bases. It’s all part of the fun; rankings are meant to be debated and build anticipation for the season.
But the ranking was a collaborative undertaking of four writers who each brought unique perspectives and their own criteria into evaluating what makes a player one of the best 101 in the sport. We each had to compromise at times, and the final list is not a reflection of any one writer’s opinion.
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So as the debate rages over who was snubbed, we are each sharing the one player we wish we’d lobbied harder for — or lobbied for at all — during the process.
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola-Chicago
Loyola-Chicago has been a sub-100 KenPom team each of the past two seasons. So perhaps it’s an out-of-sight/out-of-mind thing. But, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I would’ve lobbied for Cameron Krutwig to be included on our Top 100 And 1 list. He’s been a consistently good player for three years now. The 6-9 center averaged 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds as a freshman for that surprising Final Four team in 2018, 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds as a sophomore, and 15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists last season. He’s already scored 1,384 points at the Division I level. And considering his career field goal percentage is 59.6, the in-state product would maybe have a shot to cross the 2,000-point barrier if not for the pandemic that’s going to reduce the number of games played this season. Bottom line, he’s just a super-productive and reliable frontcourt presence. And with the Ramblers projected by most to win the Missouri Valley Conference, Cameron Krutwig should return to the national spotlight this season and get the attention he deserves. — Gary Parrish
Tre Mitchell, UMass
OK, fellas. First off, I’ve been out there in those Twitter streets taking ALL the heat. My @’s have been a bit of a bonfire going on three days now. I’m tweeting out our list, proudly, and the shrapnel’s coming in from all angles. The fans’ passion is tremendous, but I see David Cobb and Kyle Boone dodging all the blowback! So it goes. Now, UMass fans, I hear you and I see you. I’m gonna say this: Tre Mitchell was not in my top five players that just missed, but he was in my top 10. He was on the radar, and you have a case. Mitchell averaged 17.7 points and 7.2 rebounds and was the best freshman in the Atlantic 10 last season. The 6-foot-9 center has Minutemen fans dreaming that a return to the NCAA Tournament can happen by 2022. Gotta keep the turnovers down (he coughed it up one in every five possessions last season) and his offensive rating was 98.5, which is not stellar. But he’s a really good player with a pretty good shot at proving us wrong by March. It’s been a long time since UMass was truly relevant. It’s not there yet, but Mitchell is the type of player who can help the program turn the corner in that league. — Matt Norlander
David Duke, Providence
The situation at Providence sets up perfectly for David Duke to make the proverbial leap. The Friars lost leading-scorer and rebounder Alpha Diallo as well third-leading scorer Luwane Pipkins to graduation. And all told, the team’s top three rebounders are gone, too. That leaves Duke, who averaged 12.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season, as the leading returning scorer, rebounder and facilitator for a Providence team that was picked to finish third in the Big East’s preseason coaches poll. — Kyle Boone
Ethan Thompson, Oregon State
While writing our Pac-12 preview, I became keenly aware of how valuable Oregon State’s Ethan Thompson, Cal’s Matt Bradley and Washington State’s Isaac Bonton will be to their teams this season. The three teams are projected to be the bottom feeders in an improved league, but those three are really good players who could start and produce for virtually anyone. I nominated all three during our decision process, but none made the list. In retrospect, I should have pushed harder for Thompson. The senior guard has improved each season at Oregon State, reaching 14.8 points and 4.5 assists per game last season, and he is set for a statistical explosion this year as the Beavers replace leading scorer Tres Tinkle. Thompson is a former top-40 prospect with little ego who has toiled mostly outside the spotlight during his first three seasons. Now he’s the unquestioned leader of a power conference team, and even if the country won’t be watching him this season, you can bet some NBA scouts will. He has the all-around game to be a steal in the second-round of next year’s draft. — David Cobb