- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
Now that the regular season has been in the books for a few hours, I decided it's high time that I update my rankings of the top 25 players in Division I. The premise of my list is simple:
The NBA doesn't exist. If we were evaluating these players purely on college production and not on anticipated professional potential, who would rise to the top as the best performers in Division I?
To find that answer, I've gone back to a number of my preferred information sources, including but not limited to:
• My observations based on watching hundreds of hours of college hoops (I like my job)
• The excellent individual player stats generated by Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com
• Data on play-by-play performance collected by Jeff Haley and available at hoop-math.com
• Translations that project NBA performance based on college metrics, compiled by Insider colleague Kevin Pelton
Here are my choices for the 25 best players in the college game.
(Who'd I miss? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter -- @JohnGasaway.)
Note: Statistics through games of March 8.
It's been a while since we've seen a scorer from the top third of Division I combine accuracy and volume the way McDermott has in 2013-14. The first place to check is 2010-11, when both Arizona's Derrick Williams and BYU's Jimmer Fredette had seasons for the ages. Turns out Williams was even more accurate than McDermott from the field and at the line (as measured by true shooting percentage), but the Wildcats star carried a much smaller workload on offense. Fredette shouldered a similar load but was less accurate.
No, to find a worthy comparison for McDermott, we may have to expand our search, whether to include mid-major sensations (Damian Lillard in 2011-12? Stephen Curry in 2007-08?) or to encompass major conference stars from the far fringes of trusty metric history (Christian Laettner in 1991-92?).
You get the point: McDermott has been extraordinary, posting shooting percentages of 56, 45 and 87 on 2s, 3s and free throws, respectively, while recording 38 percent of the Creighton attempts that occur while he's on the floor.
That being said, the true measure of McDermott's individual excellence is what Creighton has been able to accomplish as a team on offense. (Defense, granted, is another matter.) The Bluejays have ranked in the top 10 nationally in offensive efficiency for the balance of the past two seasons. With all due respect to Ethan Wragge's shot-making or Greg McDermott's play calling, in a year or two we may look back on this multiseason run of high efficiency and reflect that No. 3 in the Creighton uniform had something to do with that. Doug McDermott has been quite simply the best player in Division I this season.
Mike Krzyzewski has handed the entirety of the Duke offense over to Parker to an extent that we haven't seen in Durham since the days of J.J. Redick. Keep in mind that Redick had to work up to that point over the course of four seasons. Parker, conversely, was given the keys to the Blue Devils offense at the tender age of 18. (He will turn 19 on Saturday.) Given that Duke has quite possibly the best offense in the country -- one that has scored 1.19 points per possession in ACC play -- I put it to you that the freshman must be doing something right.
John Gasaway draws on a variety of advanced metrics and his personal observations to generate his list of the top 25 players in college basketball based purely on performance.