March Madness is almost done and we are down to our last two major conference reviews. As you may recall, we are looking at the starting fives for each college based upon pro accomplishments since 1980s. Today we take a look at the Big 12 nee Big 8. Given the haphazard way this conference was put together, it correctly seems to be among the weaker we have seen so far. Still, they have some famous programs to review. Let’s take a look:
Texas Tech: PG: Geoff Huston, SG: Jeff Taylor, SF: Mark Davis, PF: Darvin Ham, C: Tony Battie
Texas A&M: PG: Acie Law, SG: Antoine Wright, SF: Sonny Parker, PF: Winston Crite, C: DeAndre Jordan
Nebraska: PG: Ty Lue, SG: Erick Strickland, SF: Eric Piatkowski, PF: Mikki Moore, C: Dave Hoppen
Baylor: PG: Micheal Williams, SG: David Wesley:, SF: Vinnie Johnson, PF: Terry Teagle, C: Brian Skinner
Missouri: PG: Larry Drew, SG: Anthony Peeler, SF: Linas Kleiza, PF: Doug Smith, C: Steve Stipanovich
Iowa State: PG: Jamaal Tinsley, SG: Jeff Hornacek, SF: Jeff Grayer, PF: Marcus Fizer C: Kelvin Cato
Oklahoma State: PG: John Starks, SG: Tony Allen, SF: Desmond Mason, PF: Joey Graham C: Bryant Reeves
Colorado: PG: Chauncey Billups, SG: Jay Humphries, SF: Scott Wedman, PF: Joe Cooper, C: David Harrison
Kansas State: PG: Mike Evans, SG: Rolando Blackman, SF: Mitch Richmond, PF: Michael Beasley, C: Ed Nealy
Texas: PG: Johnny Moore, SG: T.J. Ford, SF: Kevin Durant, PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, C: LaSalle Thompson
Oklahoma: PG: Mookie Blaylock, SG: Brent Price, SF: Harvey Grant, PF: Blake Griffin, C: Alvan Adams
Kansas: PG: Kirk Hinrich, SG: Paul Pierce, SF: Danny Manning, PF: Drew Gooden, C: Raef LaFrentz
-Tech has had some really great dunkers over the years (Ham, Corey Carr, and Battie pre-knee injuries) but not many good players.
-A&M just barely put together a team. Parker had some decent years (though most were before 1980) but Jordan is the best modern NBAer by far, for whatever that’s worth.
-Nebraska has a decent amount of decent pros but they have no stars at all and no one who was a bona fide NBA starter for more than a year or two.
-Baylor’s roster is fun. It is a perfect Don Nelson team—four shooting guards and a center who won’t shoot under any circumstances. I would bump them up higher if they had even one NBA star. As it stands now, Wesley has had the best career of this group (I like Vinnie but he had 6,000 fewer minutes and was not more effective).
-Mizzou has hit lean times since the Tigers were contenders in the 1980s but they did produce a few decent players. Drew had the best peak but Stipanovich actually has the highest PPG for the Tigers. The only question is whether to take Kleiza or put Keyon Dooling at the two guard and moving Peeler to the small forward. Since Kleiza is a natural small forward we took him over Dooling but Dooling’s NBA career is a little better so far.
-Hornacek is Iowa State’s best player and the most famous walk-on player in NBA history. Outside of that, they have some decent players but are forced to use bust Fizer at the power.
-OK State seems loaded with good role players who hustle but can’t shoot for anything. Still, having Starks and a good center is a nice core and I imagine defensive studs like Allen and Mason would be tough when paired with Starks. Power forward is the sore spot where we have to choose between the Graham twins or the undersized Byron Houston. Lastly, Richard Dumas probably would’ve made the team but for his total inability to stay clean.
-My favorite Colorado player, Shaun Vandiver, never made the pros and, had he been eligible, was almost certainly a better choice than Cooper at power forward. As for the rest of the team, the strength is in the perimeter. They are very close in talent Kansas State outside of power forward.
-K-State is not terrible either. The talent is concentrated at two guard and they are forced to use Nealy at center but Richmond and Blackman gives a scoring punch that most teams don’t have.
-I was surprised to see how many good pros Texas has. Obviously, Durant and Aldridge help but they are fairly deep. The only question was what to do at two guard with Ford, Daniel Gibson, or D.J. Augustin. Hard to pick any of them but Ford’s longer career gives him the nod for now.
-You have to throw out all the rule for the Sooners. Griffin hasn’t played one full season but if he’s even close to as good as he seems, they could be the best team in the conference. As it is, they are a close second to the Jayhawks. Note that Griffin knocked out the respectable Wayman Tisdale, a good player in his own right. The weak point is two guard where we had to choose between Price and Anthony Bowie. Texas has an argument over the Sooners but the slightest of edges foes to Oklahoma, since they have the better point, power forward, and center.
-Kansas is obviously pretty well-stocked. The closest call came between LaFrentz and Greg Ostertag at center. LaFrentz was better overall but wasn’t really a great center and had a shorter career. Still, he was better enough a player to make up for his flaws. They are also very close to Texas and Oklahoma in talent but the difference is that the Jayhawks have no weaknesses at any position.
Onto part four of our NCAA-to-pro review. Today we look at the Big Ten. Much has been made of the pros pumped out of Michigan in the 1990s and the Michigan State in the early 2000s but are there any other pros of note here? Let’s take a look:
11. Northwestern: PG: Billy McKinney, SG: None, SF: None, PF: None, C: Evan Eschmeyer
10. Penn State: PG: Joe Crispin, SG: Tom Hovasse, SF: Frank Brickowski, PF: Calvin Booth, C: John Amaechi
9. Wisconsin: PG: Wes Matthews, SG: Devin Harris SF: Michael Finley, PF: Scott Roth, C: Paul Grant
8. Iowa: PG: BJ Armstrong, SG: Ricky Davis, SF: Kevin Gamble, PF: John Johnson, C: Brad Lohaus
7. Purdue: PG: Jerry Sichting, SG: Jimmy Oliver, SF: Glenn Robinson, PF: Carl Landry, C: Joe Barry Carroll (Editor’s Note: We changed center to Brad Miller, see comments below for more details).
6. Ohio State: PG: Mike Conley, SG: Michael Redd, SF: Jimmy Jackson,PF: Clark Kellogg, C: Herb Williams
5. Illinois: PG: Deron Williams, SG: Eddie Johnson, SF: Kendall Gill, PF: Nick Anderson, C: Ken Norman
4. Indiana: PG: Isiah Thomas, SG: Eric Gordon, SF: Mike Woodson, PF: Alan Henderson, C: Kent Benson
3. Minnesota: PG: Bobby Jackson, SG: Ray Williams, SF: Voshon Lenard, PF: Kevin McHale, C: Mychal Thompson
2. Michigan: PG: Gary Grant, SG: Jamal Crawford, SF: Glen Rice, PF: Chris Webber, C: Roy Tarpley
1. Michigan State: PG: Magic Johnson, SG: Steve Smith, SF: Jason Richardson, PF: Zach Randolph, C: Kevin Willis
-Northwestern becomes the first team we’ve seen in awhile that can’t field a full starting lineup.
-Penn State barely field a team. Brickowski is the best they’ve got by far.
-Wisconsin has two really good players and not much else. FYI, that is Wes Matthews the Elder not the current Blazer. The Father Matthews was a nice role player at point. Unfortunately, Roth and Grant barely played in the NBA, which undermines the Badgers ranking.
-Iowa is still looking for a pro star after all these years. Ricky Davis doesn’t quite count.
-Purdue’s front court is good but that backcourt…not so much. Interestingly, Carroll has the longest pro career of any Purdue pro, which you wouldn’t think given his bad reputation for sloth and selfishness.
-Some interesting calls on Ohio State. Jim Cleamons had a longer career so far than Conley but Conley has already matched Cleamons’ peak stats, so he gets the nod. Tony Campbell also has a claim but we go with JJ who has a better all-around player.
-In the grand tradition of Illinois’ Final Four team in 1990, this team has no center and has a bunch of shooting guard/small forward types. Still they are very talented and that’s without Derek Harper, who easily could’ve made the team. Had to go with Norman at center since the only big man of note is Brian Cook. Finally, in an odd note, Johnson and Harper both played the exact same number of pro games (1,199), to tie for first among Illinois alumni.
-Bobby Knight always had the rep of not developing pros. Post-1980, the Hoosiers haven’t done a great job. That doesn’t mean that Knight wasn’t a great coach but it certainly lets you know what type of player he looked for. Since Knight, the only pro of note they’ve produced is Gordon.
-Minnesota has a surprisingly strong team and might be a true small forward away from topping Michigan. Willie Burton is the best small forward we could find, so we opted to go with a three guard line up and Williams.
-Michigan might be better the Michigan State but Magic, to me, is the difference maker. As for the Wolverines, we take Tarpley over Juwan Howard because Tarpley was so much better, despite his short career and his issues.
-The Spartans are scary good. The interesting thing is that they have among the best passing guards at their respective positions in Magic and Smith but two of the bigger black holes in the front court. Still makes for a great team.
As promised, here is the third part of our college programs by conference. The standard of our review can be found here. Today, we look at the SEC, another large two-part conference. Who is number one here? In the ACC and Big East, the big names were clear. Here I don’t really have much of a guess, except possibly LSU (thank you, Shaq) and Kentucky or maybe a surprise team. So, let’s take a look and see:
12. Ole Miss: PG: Elston Turner, SG: Carlos Clark, SF: Gerald Glass, PF: Ansu Sesay, C: Justin Reed
11. Vanderbilt: PG: Charles Davis, SG: Jan Van Breda Kolff, SF: Jeff Turner, PF: Dan Langhi, C: Will Perdue
10. Mississippi State: PG: Derrick Zimmerman, SG: Jeff Malone, SF: Wiley Peck, PF: Lawrence Roberts, C: Erick Dampier
9. South Carolina: PG: Mike Dunleavy, SG: Brian Winters, SF: Alex English, PF: Renaldo Balkman, C: Tom Owens
8. Georgia: PG: Vern Fleming, SG: Willie Anderson, SF: Dominique Wilkins, PF: Jumaine Jones, C: Alec Kessler
7. Tennessee: PG: Allan Houston, SG: Dale Ellis, SF: Bernard King, PF: Reggie Johnson, C: Steve Hamer
6. Auburn: PG: Eddie Johnson, SG: Wesley Person, SF: Chuck Person, PF: Charles Barkley, C: Pat Burke
5. Arkansas: PG: Alvin Robertson, SG: Sidney Moncrief, SF: Joe Johnson, PF: Corliss Williamson, C: Andrew Lang
4. Florida: PG: Jason Williams, SG: Vernon Maxwell, SF: Mike Miller, PF: David Lee, C: Al Horford
3. LSU: PG: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, SG: Marcus Thornton, SF: Jerry Reynolds, PF: Brandon Bass, C: Shaquille O’Neal
2. Kentucky: PG: John Wall, SG: Derek Anderson SF: Tayshaun Prince, PF: Antoine Walker, C: Sam Bowie
1. Alabama: PG: Mo Williams, SG: Latrell Sprewell, SF: Gerald Wallace, PF: Derrick McKey, C: Antonio McDyess
-Ole Miss is by far the weakest team, without a single NBA player who lasted long as even a role player.
-Vandy…so boring. Will the Thrill is the best player.
-Some colleges teams have one good NBA scorer and little else (Alex English, Dominique Wilkins).
-Auburn and Tennessee also rely on one star (King and Barkley) but have a bit more substance in the rest of the line up. Alas, they both have fringers at center, which keeps them out of the top of the heap.
-Arkansas might be the most balanced squad in the SEC. The lack of a superstar, though, I think lowers their rank.
-Florida is also deep without a star but more talent up front than Arkansas. I vacillated on Lee versus Joakim Noah but figure Lee’s longer career is the difference at this point.
-With even decent shooting guards or small forwards, LSU would be number one. Thornton may improve over time but for now LSU has enough holes to keep them from number one.
-Kentucky is by far the deepest program for producing pros but are missing superstar. Wall could change that. As for the rest of roster, Antoine made it over Jamal Mashburn just barely. The main reason was that Walker could play power forward while Mash was a pure small forward.
-Alabama is a surprise number one because they are so good at every position. No Hall of Famers but they are above average everywhere and are overall better than Kentucky. Robert Horry could’ve made the squad over McKey but I felt McKey was really the better players, playoff shots be damned.
In furtherance of our best NBA pros by NCAA major conference we turn now to the ACC. Just a reminder, the guidelines can be found here. Anyway, here’s the ACC list:
12. Miami: PG: Guillermo Diaz, SG: John Salmons, SF: James Jones, PF: Tim James, C: Tito Horford
11. Virginia Tech: PG: Bimbo Coles, SG: Dell Curry, SF: Perry Young, PF: Allen Bristow, C: Wayne Robinson
10. Boston College: PG: Michael Adams, SG: Dana Barros, SF: Jared Dudley, PF: Craig Smith, C: Sean Williams
9. Virginia: PG: Roger Mason, SG: Bryant Stith, SF: Marc Iavaroni, PF: Olden Polynice, C: Ralph Sampson
8. Florida State: PG: Charlie Ward, SG: Sam Cassell, SF: Bob Sura, PF: George McCloud, C: Al Thornton
7. Clemson: PG: Chris Whitney, SG: Greg Buckner, SF: Larry Nance, PF: Horace Grant, C: Elden Campbell/Dale Davis
6. NC State: PG: Spud Webb, SG: Vinny Del Negro, SF: Thurl Bailey, PF: Tom Gugliotta, C: J.J. Hickson
5. Maryland: PG: John Lucas, SG: Steve Francis, SF: Joe Smith, PF: Buck Williams, C: Tom McMillen
4. Georgia Tech: PG: Mark Price, SG: Stephon Marbury, SF: Matt Harpring, PF: Chris Bosh C: John Salley
3. Duke: PG: Johnny Dawkins, SG: Luol Deng, SF: Grant Hill, PF: Elton Brand, C: Mike Gminski
2. Wake Forest: PG: Muggsy Bogues, SG: Chris Paul, SF: Josh Howard, PF: Rodney Rogers, C: Tim Duncan
1. North Carolina: PG: Raymond Felton, SG: Michael Jordan, SF: Vince Carter, PF: Rasheed Wallace, C: Brad Daugherty
-Miami and Virginia Tech barely field full lineups
-Virginia has somehow avoided any pros of note since the early 1990s
-Florida State is essentially tied with Virginia. Virginia is all forwards while FSU is all guards.
-Clemson is even deeper in the frontcourt (we even left out Tree Rollins) but the lack of guards prevented a high ranking versus NC State.
-Georgia Tech, Duke, and Wake Forest are all about tied. Wake’s two huge stars give them the edge in my opinion but you could make an argument for everyone of them.
-UNC is obviously number one and probably has the best team since 1980.
NCAA tourney time is upon the world of hoops. I won’t use this time to talk about the NBA game versus the NCAA game (I like them both). Nor am I going to give you my predictions for this year’s brackets. Instead, I thought we could look at the programs and the pros they have yielded. With the help of Basketball-Reference.com we’re going to go through the major programs and their best NBA starting five. I did this several years ago but times have changed and this is always fun to revisit.
As for criterion, I am not assessing the best college players but rather the best pros from that program. For examle, Christian Laettner is probably the most valuable forward/center in Duke history but, as a pro, he’s no Elton Brand. If pro careers are close, however, college success will be a tie-breaker. We’re also limiting our inquiry to 1980 and beyond. This is not to denigrate previous eras but the fact is that NCAA tournament became a big deal starting with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in 1979 so it only seems fitting to only look at players stats since that year (if a player’s NBA career started before that time we’ll consider his post-1979 stats only). We also reserve the right to play the best lineup of available players. So, if Georgetown has Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing, one can play power forward and the other can play center but you can’t play Dikembe Mutombo at small forward since that would never work in real life. So let’s jump in and see what we have by conference. Today, we’ll do the Big East ranking them based upon their staring lineups:
THE BIG EAST
16. West Virginia: PG: None, SG: None, SF: Joe Alexander, PF: Devin Ebanks, C: None
15. South Florida: PG: None, SG: Dominique Jones, SF: Curtis Kinchen, PF: Solomon Jones, C: James Grandholm
14. Rutgers: PG: Eddie Jordan, SG: John Battle, SF: Quincy Douby, PF: Roy Hinson, C: James Bailey
13. Seton Hall: PG: John Morton, SG: Terry Dehere, SF: Eddie Griffin, PF: Mark Bryant, C: Samuel Dalembert
12. Pittsburgh: PG: Vonteego Cummings, SG: Sam Young, SF: Charles Smith, PF: DeJuan Blair, C: Mark Blount
11. Providence: PG: God Shamgod, SG: Eric Murdock, SF: Eric Williams, PF: Austin Croshere, C: Otis Thorpe
10. Louisville: PG: Darrell Griffith, SG: Derek Smith, SF: Rodney McCray, PF: Pervis Ellison, C: Felton Spencer
9. Villanova: PG: Kyle Lowry, SG: Kerry Kittles, SF: Doug West, PF: Tim Thomas, C: Ed Pinckney
8. Cincinnati: PG: Nick Van Exel, SG: Ruben Patterson, SF: Pat Cummings, PF: Kenyon Martin, C: Danny Fortson
7. Marquette: PF: Doc Rivers, SG: Dwyane Wade, SF: Chris Crawford, PF: Maurice Lucas, C: Jerome Whitehead
6. St. John’s: PG: Mark Jackson, SG: Malik Sealy, SF: Chris Mullin, PF: Ron Artest, C: Jayson Williams
5. Syracuse: PG: Sherman Douglas, SG: Billy Owens, SF: Carmelo Anthony, PF: Derrick Coleman, C: Rony Seikaly
4. UConn: PG: Ben Gordon, SG: Ray Allen, SF: Caron Butler, PF: Clifford Robinson, C: Emeka Okafor
3. Notre Dame: PG: John Paxson, SG: Kelly Tripucka, SF: Adrian Dantley, PF: Laphonso Ellis, C: Bill Laimbeer
2. DePaul: PG: Rod Strickland, SG: Quentin Richardson, SF: Mark Aguirre, PF: Terry Cummings, C: Dave Corzine
1. Georgetown: PG: Sleepy Floyd, SG: Allen Iverson, SF: Jeff Green, PF: Alonzo Mourning, C: Patrick Ewing
A few observations here:
-It is amazing that West Virginia has produced pretty much no pros since the Jerry West Era. I’d expect this to change as Bob Huggins continues to manage the program.
-There are several levels to the rankings, which I know are far from scientific. After West Virginia and South Florida (who can’t field a full lineup), Rutgers, Seton Hall, Pitt and Providence are rosters without bona fide starters at every position.
-You could make an argument that Notre Dame through Marquette could be shifted around, as they are all close on aggregate talent.
-A good DePaul program feels like a long time ago but they were manufacturing really good pros in the 1980s.
-Georgetown has clearly the best team in the league.
-Like Pitt, Notre Dame has continued to be pretty good in the NCAA without producing many pros in the past decade.
-UConn has a nice team but they seem to have a high concentration of two guards and not so much up front or at the point.
Next time we’ll look at the ACC….