July 20, 2009

Which player is the best to build a team around?

We have started work on a 2009-10 college basketball yearbook, and much has been made in the office about how tough it is to pick a preseason first-team All-America squad because there are so many guys who could be on it.

There were 10 to 12 names bandied about before we chose five. And that led to a different argument: If you could pick any college player, including an incoming freshman, to start a team, who would it be?

We asked Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee to put their answers in writing.

STEVE MEGARGEE PICKS KANSAS' COLE ALDRICH

I thought about going with Notre Dame power forward Luke Harangody before I remembered the Irish couldn't reach the NCAA tournament last season even with a veteran lineup surrounding him. And it was even more tempting to take Kentucky freshman phenom John Wall, but if I could have my pick of one player in the entire country, I wouldn't want to gamble on someone who still hadn't played any college basketball.

Just about anyone building a team would start out with a point guard or center. Unless you're already sold on Wall's upside, there really isn't a consensus on the best point guard in college basketball? You could make equally solid cases for Kansas' Sherron Collins and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas. So I decided to go with Kansas' Cole Aldrich, the clear-cut choice as the game's best center.

Aldrich collected 21 double-doubles last season and had developed into one of the nation's top defensive players by the end of the season. He averaged a double-double (14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds) and also delivered 2.7 blocks per game. He even recorded a triple-double in the NCAA tournament, with 20 rebounds, 13 points and 10 blocks in a second-round victory over Dayton.

Aldrich probably won't end up being the best player in college basketball this season, but you know what you're going to get from him. He's going to win his matchup with the opposing post player just about every game. Aldrich's status as the game's elite center would give my team a rare commodity. As long as I could find adequate guards and forwards, Aldrich's ability to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor would make my team a winner.

MIKE HUGUENIN SAYS NORTH CAROLINA'S ED DAVIS

It's all about potential with Ed Davis - as in, he has the potential to be the best big man in the country. In that scenario, give me the best big man in the nation to start my team, and I'll be happy. I'd rather have a dominant big man than a dominant point guard, especially next season, when there is going to be a plethora of talented point men but a paucity of big-time big guys.

Davis was a key reserve for North Carolina as a true freshman last season, averaging 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in just 18.8 minutes per game - yet still was considered a sure-fire top-five pick in the NBA draft had he left school. But he is staying for his sophomore season, and with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough, Davis will become a starter and the Tar Heels' most dominant player.

Davis' rebounding and defensive skills were utilized last season, and his offense will come to the fore next season. He has the athleticism and physical nature to be an 18-points-per-game scorer, and he should be expected to average a double-double - say, 18 points and 11 rebounds, along with 2.5 blocks.

Davis' presence is a major reason the Heels won't far fall next season despite the loss of four starters off a team that won the national title.



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