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Top Player Rankings for the 2021-22 College Basketball Season

By Dan Vasta in College Basketball
| November 14, 2021 6:07 am PDT

The college basketball season is arriving, and the excitement is through the roof. There are plenty of storylines that the fans across the country have patiently been waiting for all offseason.

The best coaches will admit that their players are the ones that dictate the success that programs endure.

These are college kids that are often teenagers these days. The ups and downs of programs are imminent, but the journey along the way is what makes the season so thrilling.

Here are the top player rankings for the 2021-22 college basketball season.

Top Five Point Guards

  • Collin Gillespie, Villanova
  • Remy Martin, Kansas
  • Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
  • JD Davison, Alabama
  • Marcus Carr, Texas

The SEC has a bevy of guards that would make any conference jealous. We could see a handful of them get drafted as lottery picks. Tyty Washington Jr. of Kentucky and Scotty Pippen Jr. of Vanderbilt could post gaudy numbers this season.

Pippen was a tremendous point guard last season due to his scoring ability. Vandy is likely to miss the dance again, but SPJ has a chance to post video game numbers with the likelihood of playing in the NBA.

There are plenty of studs out there waiting to shine. Many missed the cut, but college basketball has turned into a positionless game. We often see wings bringing the ball up, and many believe some forwards will play the point this season.

Gillespie brings the most experience, and he has been battle-tested after suffering a devastating injury (MCL) in the Big East Tournament. He is back and is one of the classic Jay Wright-led guards that can carry the team on his back.

The recent tournament runs for Villanova should allow for the point guard to achieve further success.

  • 2021: Sweet 16 (lost to Baylor)
  • 2019: Round of 32 (lost to Purdue)
  • 2018: National Champions (beat Michigan)
  • 2017: Round of 32 (lost to Wisconsin)
  • 2016: National Champions (beat North Carolina)

While the overall skills may not lead to a future lottery pick selection, the Nova lead-guard is the perfect leader for the Wildcats to make a return trip to the Sweet 16.

We have seen grad transfers take over in college basketball. Guards that can score are a challenge to land, and many took the nation by storm these past few seasons.

Marcus Carr was at Minnesota, but he will now tee it up for Chris Beard and Texas in the Big 12. Remy Martin was with Arizona State and now is the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.

Top Five Shooting Guards

  • Johnny Juzang, UCLA
  • Jaden Ivey, Purdue
  • Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse
  • Eli Brooks, Michigan
  • Josh Minott, Memphis

Eli Brooks is one of the top glue guys in the country due to his exceptional skills in about every category. He lacks elite size or athletic ability, but he is a tremendous perimeter defender that can knock down big shots.

Michigan has often struggled when foul trouble looms or if Brooks is inept on the offensive end. An undersized quick guard will be looking to create opportunities for a solid Wolverine frontline.

Brooks certainly will be needed this season in a few pivotal non-conference games.

  • Vs. Seton Hall (11/16/21)
  • Vs. UNLV, Arizona/Wichita State (11/19-21/21)
  • At No. 19 North Carolina (12/1/21)
  • Vs. San Diego State (12/4/21)

Jaden Ivey is a tremendous slasher that can score at the rim with an elusive ability to finish among the top rim protectors in the country.

Ivey is a star in the making, and he could give the Boilermakers their first Final Four appearance since 1980.

Juzang carried UCLA to national prominence last season with heroic performances in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins struggled for most of the season on the offensive end, but the star-studded wing carried them in March.

  • Play-in game vs. Michigan State: 23 points, 9-20 FG
  • Round of 64 vs. BYU: 27 points, 10-16 FG
  • Round of 32: Abilene Christian: 17 points, 7-15 FG
  • Sweet 16 vs. Alabama: 13 points, 5-18 FG
  • Elite 8 vs. Michigan: 28 points, 11-19 FG
  • Final Four vs. Gonzaga: 29 points, 12-18 FG

Many can claim him as a two-guard or a small forward. These stars are positionless, and every team is different based on the strengths of a team. Peyton Watson and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are likely to see extended minutes at small forward and power forward.

The Bruins are national title contenders with their key pieces intact, none bigger than Juzang. If he continues to be clutch near the basket, UCLA is in great hands.

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Top Five Small Forwards

  • Joe Wieskamp Iowa
  • Patrick Baldwin, Milwaukee
  • Emoni Bates, Memphis
  • Keion Brooks Jr., Kentucky
  • Jaden Shackelford, Alabama

There are so many stud wings, but the small forward is the least talked about position. Most studs play the two-guard or at forward. We have a ton of underrated stars that range from college players to future potential NBA All-Stars.

Joe Wieskamp played second-fiddle last season. Luka Garza was elite and won all the accolades, including the National Player of the Year. 

Iowa fell short to Oregon in the Round of 32, but Wieskamp played a role all season. The hope is he can become a star to end some March struggles for the program.

  • Last Sweet 16: 1999
  • Last Elite 8: 1987

Getting the Hawkeyes back to the dance will be a challenge. The Big Ten has turned into the top conference in the country. These past few seasons have been grueling due to the depth.

The Iowa SF can put the ball on the deck and create due to his size. The sharpshooter is a challenge to defend.

The SEC is another conference that should be picking up steam this season. Kentucky has endured some struggles recently, and they need to find success quickly in the season.

  • Last Final Four: 2015
  • Last 1-seed: 2015
  • Last National Title: 2012

John Calipari has an experienced squad entering the season. Hopefully, he can rely on Keion Brooks Jr. to pick up loose change that the opposition will leave on the court.

Every team needs to have a player that can pick up the loose basketballs on the floor and near the rim. Brooks is a solid athlete, with the size to play the four for Kentucky, but he showed last season that he can dominate in stretches.

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Top Five Power Forwards

  • Drew Timme, Gonzaga
  • Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
  • Paolo Banchero, Duke
  • Trevion Williams, Purdue
  • EJ Liddell, Ohio State

Drew Timme was named to every preseason watch list last season, and his name will be in the running for most awards this season as well.

Gonzaga has been dazzling the nation for years under Mark Few, but they have recently become the top program in the country before March.

They may not earn everybody’s respect until they win a national title, but they have been a remarkable program. The Bulldogs have had an array of offensive playmakers. I feel they are going to have an exceptional amount of success in the non-conference slate again.

  • Vs. No. 5 Texas (November 13)
  • Vs. No. 2 UCLA (November 23 in Las Vegas)
  • Vs. No. 9 Duke (November 26 in Las Vegas)
  • Vs. No. 14 Alabama (December 4 in Seattle)

The dangerous part of Timme and Gonzaga is that there will likely be a few other playmakers around him that will free him near the basket.

If teams attempt to double down near the paint, he can dish it to the open man to knock down deadly shots from downtown.

Paolo Banchero looks like he could be one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year if he carries Duke. In the final season of Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious coaching career, somebody must become a star. Banchero is an athletic forward that has the strength to finish with authority near the rim.

Duke has been lacking productive guards over the years, but having one of the top players in the country can often hide any flaws they may have.

There were far too many firsts last season under Coach K, and many point towards missing the dance as a reason for retirement.

  • Last time missed NCAA Tournament pre-2021: 1995
  • Last Final Four, National Title: 2015

There is a possibility that the Blue Devils put together one of their best seasons in years, with Banchero leading the way. Another historic program that has been in a tailspin for years has been Indiana.

The son of former NBA veteran Dale Davis, Trayce Jackson-Davis, has returned for one final season in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are on their fifth coach since the 2007 season. They need to get back on the national map.

Jackson-Davis is a double-double machine, and his production will be crucial for getting over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. If he can pick up where he left off last season, IU should be sitting pretty.

  • Freshman: 13.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 56.6 FG%
  • Sophomore: 19.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 51.7 FG%

Top Five Centers

  • Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
  • Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
  • Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga
  • Armando Bacot, North Carolina
  • Mark Williams, Duke

The big man in the middle still has a role in college basketball despite the increased production from players on the perimeter. The top choice looks to be Kofi Cockburn out of Illinois.

He was suspended three games for selling apparel, but he will feast when he returns.

  • Vs. Jackson State (11/9/21)
  • Vs. Arkansas State (11/12/21)
  • At Marquette (11/15/21)

Cockburn carried the Illini to a 1-seed for Illinois, their first since their national championship appearance in 2005. The team has loads of talent again but staying out of foul trouble and improving as a foul shooter will make him an All-American.

Michigan has a 7-footer that needs to shine when the bright lights are on during Big Ten play. Dickinson struggled at times in the NCAA Tournament due to foul trouble of his own.

He shot nearly 70% from the free-throw line in the dance, but Michigan was unstoppable when he played 30 minutes a game.

Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren is ready to flourish in Spokane. Being surrounded by a star-studded cast that Mark Few has assembled will be a joy to watch.

The athletic 7-footer is likely to attack the rim and dominate the West Coast Conference. He could be the top selection in the NBA Draft. The combination of Timme and Holmgren is an albatross scenario for the opposition.

The ACC has two stalwarts in the paint that can control the glass. Hubert Davis is thankful for Bacot because he is their number one stud down low.

His presence will allow his guards to get extra shots up. North Carolina had their struggles last season, but they will continue to dominate the boards.

  • Rebound margin: +10.4 (led nation)
  • Offensive rebounds per game: 15.76 (led nation)
  • Three-point field goals per game: 5.6 (No. 307)

If the Heels can control the boards, they should improve upon their shooting woes. That could turn them into a Top 10 squad with so much talent returning.

Duke will be the same with Mark Williams. In the final few weeks of the season, he turned into a double-double machine that kept the Blue Devils competitive against the top frontcourts in the ACC.

Betting on College Basketball in 2021-22

Gonzaga is still searching for their first national title, and they will take on all challengers. The road to the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four is always thrilling.

Be sure to check out the latest college basketball betting sites to avoid missing out on picking some winners this season.

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