This season started with an intense focus on the hyped up freshman class that had big names like Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Every major program seemed to have a fresh face that was ready to lead the way. Instead, it’s the college seniors who deserve your attention as we barrel towards the 2014 NCAA Tourney (Click here to see the NCAAB Tourney schedule). This is the best 7 college seniors who have more than earned their shot at championship glory.
Top 7 College Seniors Who Deserve To Win 2014 NCAA Tourney
Doug McDermott – Creighton Bluejays
Why start anywhere else? Dough McDermott is known around the country as one of the best college players of all time, an all around nice guy (he gave up his scholarship so his friend could stay on at Creighton) and is now fifth all-time in terms of NCAA scoring. Gamblers became endeared with McDermott after he helped the Bluejays earn a blistering 18-13 ATS record. For the record, most of those failed covers came at the end of the season.
McDermott is a beast. Comparisons to Adam Morrison are unfair and also ridiculous because they’re very different scorers. He’s a great rebounder, leading his team with 7.0 per game, and almost always shows up when his team needs that all important “W”. A great career can be capped by a national title, and McDermott’s hard work puts him at the top of my list of college seniors who deserve to win the 2014 NCAA Tourney.
Cleanthony Early – Wichita State
What a long road it’s been for Early. From a junior college transfer, to one of the most invaluable pieces on the only undefeated team from the 2014 season. Wichita State will enter the NCAA Tourney as one of the favorites at around 10-to-1 and the continued effort from their stud player will push them deep in to March Madness.
The Shockers are no longer a Cinderella team, but their improbable hero has a strong chance of leading an improbable program to an equally improbably national title. The road less travelled will lead to the top of the mountain if Early is as dominant as he was at this time last season.
Cory Jefferson – Baylor Bears
Sitting on the bench behind Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller, and lost in the shadow of Percy Jones III, it’s taken a while for Jefferson to make a name for himself. This season he’s logged 13.6 points per game and has chipped in 8.3 rebounds while coming up with monster performances in big games. He’s had 14 double-doubles this season. If that doesn’t tell you that he’s one of the best college seniors in the country, and one of the most deserving longshots to win the 2014 NCAA Tourney, I don’t know what will. He finally has the eyes of the world…let’s see what he can finally do with the spotlight. So far, so good.
Shabazz Napier – UConn Huskies
Napier has been on a slow burn at UConn and is one of the few holdovers from the legendary Jim Calhoun era, and that guy knew a thing or two about point guards. This season, Napier has been one of the best point men in the country averaging 17.6 points and 6.0 rebounds while displaying a knack for taking over games with an incredible ability to penetrate and break down defenses.
Napier is the mold for consistency and while the Huskies aren’t as good as they’ve usually been when they were a mainstay in the Big East, Napier is pretty much the only reason they’ve been remotely competitive.
Patric Young – Florida Gators
Throughout his four year career, Young has been the backbone of the Florida Gators. There’s nothing to say that you probably don’t already know. He’s a freaking beast in the paint who imposes his will on the opposition and wins brawls against players that are far better from a talent perspective. Young is going to be an excellent, blue collar pro and has made the Florida Gators the team to beat in the 2014 NCAA Tourney. On route to doing that, he’s quietly established himself as one of the most dominant college seniors in the game today.
Aaron Craft – Ohio State Buckeyes
LaQuinton Ross might be the star of the Buckeyes, but Craft is the undeniable heart and soul of this team. He’s a crafty guard and an old school, pitbull point guard in terms of hustle and defense. There are very guards who are as strong defensively as Craft, and while he’s always played second fiddle to the big names at Ohio State – like Evan Turner and Ross – Craft deserves a shot as one of the best college seniors in the country. A 2014 NCAA Tourney run could help legitimize all the hard work he’s submitted during an excellent career.
Russ Smith – Louisville Cardinals
It’s probably a little silly to include Smith amongst the college seniors who deserve to win the 2014 NCAA Tourney since he won last year, but the pint sized point guard has continually proved that he’s one of the most dominant players in the country.
Smith’s averaged 17.5 points and 4.8 assists per game and has shown a routine ability to dive in to his bag of tricks when his team needs him the most. Louisville has gone relatively unnoticed in a busy, busy year for college basketball and his 36 points against UNC didn’t make the rounds because it was in a loss. But his recent 42 pipebomb against Houston in the AAC Tourney has raised a lot of eyebrows.
The truth of the matter is that Smith isn’t on anyone’s radar in the NBA Draft. He doesn’t even crack the top-50 on most boards, which is a shame because he almost never turns the ball over and has a huge shot and the type of speed that could keep make him a deft bench scorer. If this is the best time of his athletic career and the NBA never comes calling, there’s no way you can’t be cheering for Smith is a college senior who deserves to win the 2014 NCAA Tourney…again.