50 in 50 is a feature here at RCT counting down until the Jayhawks kick off the 2011 basketball season on November first. Got an idea for something you'd like to see featured here? tweet @rockchalktalk or @fetch9 or email me at fetch9 at gmail dot com.
We've reached the home stretch on our journey. Due to a lot of school work plus a friend of mine coming in this weekend the rest of the 50 in 50 (until the last one) will probably be things such as this, but as I say every time I tell a joke, they can't all be 10s.
Today I am going to roll out my final four picks, some NCAA tournament sleepers, and my All-American teams. I'm fairly certain I went 0-4 on my Final Four picks last year but it has been scrubbed from the internet so all is well. Hopefully I can do better this year:
Final Four Picks - North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Baylor
UNC should be fairly self explanatory. Syracuse has one of the most impressive collections of big men in the country this year and a veteran point guard who, when he is good, is as good as any around. Baylor was actually my national championship pick last year, so I am giving them another opportunity to redeem themselves. Oh and I almost forgot to mention...
National Champion - Duke
Honestly I'm not sure why Duke. They lost their three best players off last year's team, but I think Seth Curry is in for a monster year and they have enough muscle inside to match up with pretty much everyone down low. Also, if it's a close game do you really think they're not getting every call? Or, maybe I know how poorly Baylor played last year and this is an awesome reverse jinx. Never know.
Sleeper Final Four - Kansas, Alabama, Michigan, UCLA
Not terribly sure KU should be considered a sleeper per se, but they have a Senior and Junior backcourt, a potentially dominant post player, and perhaps enough three point shooting with Releford, Johnson and if Tharpe is a good shooter to pull a couple upsets and make a Final Four run.
I know offense wins in March, and Alabama has none, but they have a good enough defense to make it hard on teams to score and potentially win enough 60-55 type games to make it to the Final Four.
Michigan shoots a ton of threes (13th most last year) and plays really slowly, meaning if they are hot and shorten the game enough....it could happen. They'll need to find a creator to compliment Tim Hardaway Jr. though.
UCLA is a poor man's Syracuse, with a deep front line but they probably don't have good enough guard play to make a serious charge.
Mid Major Final Four - Belmont, George Mason, New Mexico, Creighton
I didn't want to throw Gonzaga in here because they're not really a mid major. So here we are. The Bruins should be a team everyone knows about already, as they went 30-5 last year. Sadly for them they faced Wisconsin, probably their worst possible matchup, in the first round of the tournament. Belmont loses two players off that team, but they used the 4th most bench minutes in the country last year so depth is no problem.
Mason, again, will have to overcome the Paul Hewitt problem, but they have the talent to do so. They were one of the best three point shooting teams in the country last year, and Paul Hewitt's teams have traditionally been good defensively.
New Mexico, as I mentioned yesterday, has some great rebounders and also has one of the most imposing home court advantages in the country. They might not have the three point shooting to mount a serious charge though.
Creighton is decent at both shooting twos and threes, and is a good enough rebounding team so that if their opponents have a tough shooting night, multiple upsets could happen.
National Player of the Year - Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin)
Taylor is absolutely phenomenal. He played in 90.6% of Wisconsin's minutes last year, 25th in the country, and did everything well. He shot 43% from three and drew 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes, best on Wisconsin and very good considering how slowly the Badgers played. While at the line he converted 83% of the time. But most important about Taylor is that he has the ball in his hands a lot a lot a lot and had an assist rate of 30.4% while having just an 8.5% turnover rate, which was 2nd best in the country. He doesn't have an NBA future, but he is the best college basketball player in America.
The rest of the first teamers:
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger, despite taking a lot of shots, had a 54.5% eFG last year and drew almost 7 fouls per 40 minutes. He shot 70.4% from the line, proving to be one of the most efficient scorers in the country last year. He also was a hell of a rebounder, with a 14% offensive rebounding rate and 26% defensive. He probably won't score as much from the floor this year with no Jon Diebler and David Lighty to take the pressure off him, but he could get fouled even more.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Jones is the rare elite player who doesn't really need the ball to be effective. He rebounded well (22.5% defensive), drew fouls (6.2 per 40) and blocked shots (6%, led team). A year of experience should help his scoring, and he seems the front runner for SEC POY.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina: Barnes struggled a bit in the first half of the season, but rebounded nicely in the second. Like Jones, a year under his belt will help his scoring and with so much talent around him I have a hard time thinking he won't put up huge numbers.
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: Zeller was pretty awesome last year. He shot 55% from two, rebounded reasonably well, drew a lot of fouls and shot 76% from the line. He was 2nd on the team in blocks only to John Henson, and he is a good interior defender overall.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas: It's one thing to say that he hasn't done much yet, but it's entirely another thing to look at the huge strides made offensively by Cole Aldrich and the Morri under Danny Manning, and then remember that Robinson is the most physically talented player of that group by far. He's been great all summer and looks like he dare I say has the potential to do a pretty good Danny Manning impression.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh: Gibbs made 49% of the 208 threes he took last year and shot 89% from the line, adding up to a 127.9 offensive rating, which was 17th in the country last year.
Perry Jones, Baylor: Jones shot 55% from two and a 15.8% defensive rebounding rate and is a probable top 5 pick in the NBA draft next summer. NBA talent doesn't always = college production, but Jones has as much talent as anyone and I'm betting that translates into production.
John Shurna, Northwestern
Shurna had a 58.3% eFG and made 43% of his threes, all while standing 6'8". He rebounds reasonably well and doesn't turn the ball over, and could lead Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Jenkins made 100 out of 245 threes last year, doesn't foul a lot, got to the line a lot, and made almost 90% of his free throws. I doubt Vanderbilt's status as a top 10 team a bit, but one person I don't doubt is Jenkins.