Being the “college basketball website of the people” that we hope to be, we took a lot of joy in the overwhelming readership and response that our Top 100 rankings garnered. Like all subjective rankings, though, they were met with some criticism (and some compliments too – thanks!), and we wanted to take the time to address some of the most common gripes/questions. For some of these, we felt the criticism was fair – we over-valued one thing or another, or underestimated a player’s possible role – but in other cases, we stand by our rankings (and attempt to justify why below).
We continue to welcome feedback and thoroughly enjoy (rational, unbiased) discussion, so continue to hit us up on our Twitter handle @3MW_CBB, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have extended thoughts. We'll also have a podcast coming soon discussing the feedback we've received, if you're more of a "put the info in my earholes" kind of person. Thanks again for reading/listening!
Critique #1 – “Luke Maye and Ethan Happ are too high”
The knocks here are fairly clear – neither player has much (if any) star potential in the NBA, and might even struggle to stick in the league at all due to athletic limitations (Maye) and major shooting concerns (Happ). *Stephen A voice* HOWEVAH! They’re both phenomenally productive college players who warrant being ranked this highly for the 2018-19 season (which is all we were considering).
Maye’s production and efficiency combination is undeniable: he averaged a double-double while shooting 48.6% from the field and 43.1% from deep for a Top 10 team, and he added 2.4apg, 1.0spg, and 1.0bpg as well. His high-effort game isn’t glamorous – no one wants to read about how amazing he is at securing rebound position or establishing space deep in the post in UNC’s secondary break – but putting up his type of numbers for a nationally elite team is a highly compelling argument to rank him this high. He’ll need to prove he can maintain that production level without adept passers Theo Pinson and Joel Berry (UNC doesn’t have a clear point guard), but given the development curve he’s been on, we feel comfortable placing him in our top 5.
Happ is the country’s best true post player, blessed with preternaturally smooth footwork and an array of post moves. Outside of shooting (particularly free throws), he’s very good or great at basically every basketball skill: he’s dominant one-on-one inside, he’s one of the country’s best rebounders, he can bring the ball up and has solid handles, he’s an outstanding passer out of double-teams and even in the open court (just make more shots this year, Badger shooters!), and he’s a force defensively. He’s the only member of sports-reference.com’s top 10 in box score plus/minus that returns to school, and his per game averages of 17.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 3.7apg, 1.5spg, and 1.1bpg are particularly impressive given the injury-marred roster he was saddled with and the sloth-like pace at which Wisconsin plays.
Verdict: We stand resolutely by our rankings – these are both top 5 guys this year.
Critique #2 – “Where is Quentin Grimes??”
Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke presented unique ranking challenges. All three squads have massive roster turnover (they rank 275th, 326th, and 342nd in barttorvik.com’s returning minutes stat) while bringing in a plethora of talented freshmen and transfers. KU’s backcourt was a particularly tough puzzle for us – will Marcus Garrett and Charlie Moore emerge from a year in Bill Self’s player development machine as the next Kansas stars? Or will Grimes and Devin Dotson seize roles as freshmen? We were unsure, but the predominant sentiment has been that Grimes is head and shoulders above the rest, not even factoring in NBA potential. If that’s ultimately the case, then we likely missed this one.
Verdict: Fair criticism!
Critique #3 – “Zion da Gawd”
As mentioned in the Grimes critique, part of the difficulty in ranking freshmen is approximating that player’s role. In Zion’s case, we acknowledged that his potential with the ball in his hands is terrifying, but we also aren’t quite sure how often that will happen. He’ll be utterly dominant in transition, but Tre Jones is a consummate floor general (ranked in our “Others Receiving Votes” category), and we envision Jones and RJ Barrett getting more chances to facilitate the offense. Williamson offers massive value in a “lob and offensive rebound threat” - he's terrifying sitting in the shorter corner as a dump-off option for drivers - but he also has some game attacking mismatches (because really, who isn't a mismatch for him?). Releasing these rankings the same day that Zion lit up Ryerson University in his college debut (including 3/4 from deep, a premier small sample size theater example) was sub-optimal, but fellow top recruits Jones and Cam Reddish also didn’t play in that game, opening up for more opportunity for Williamson to shine.
Zion will absolutely lead the country in “oh my god did you see that?!?!” highlights, but whether he’s actually one of the best players in the country, full stop, will hinge on 1) his iffy perimeter shot and 2) how many opportunities he gets to handle and attack.
Verdict: TBD – but we’d probably bump him up 10 or so spots; both Matt and Ky admit to under-ranking him.
Critique #4 – “How is Rui #50?”
This is one where 3MW might have suffered a bit from groupthink. We are definitely in on Rui’s talent, and his combination of quickness, strength, and shooting is rare in someone of his size. He can also attack off the dribble from the perimeter, as evidenced by his outbursts in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, he also only averaged 20.7 minutes per game and is the team’s fourth-leading returning scorer. He played 36 minutes in the Florida State loss, but Killian Tillie’s absence had a lot to do with the minutes jump (and Tillie is a player we ranked above Rui). He managed a paltry 23 assists in 37 games (including a whopping ZERO in 80 NCAA Tournament minutes, which was a problem against FSU's tremendous length and athleticism), and his overall game is still far from complete. He actually ranked dead last of the Zags’ rotation players in box score plus/minus last year (also notice which two players clearly stand out on top):
Of course, Rui’s main appeal is that he’s constantly getting better at a rapid pace, and others are projecting that to translate into (in some cases) an All-American season. We resist that notion, instead expecting the pecking order to be similar to last season, albeit with Rui gobbling up some of Johnathan Williams III’s minutes and production.
Verdict: Somewhere in the middle – we’d move him up, but not past ~30-35.
Critique #5 – “What’s going on with the Big East?”
Alright, perhaps we got a little off the rails here. Kamar Baldwin has long been a favorite of the site, but he hasn’t proven as much as Markus Howard or Shamorie Ponds at this point – we’re fine with saying we might have him too high. We still expect a breakout year and possibly a Big East POY-level campaign, but that’s a lot of projection at this point. Ky has bent the knee on his Paschall resistance (79th?!), which would move him up quite a bit (Jim and Matt had him 31st and 35th, respectively). And while some questions exist around Myles Powell’s ability to be the primary guy (he excelled as defenses swarmed to Delgado, Carrington, and Rodriguez), he’ll likely be Top 100-level good.
Verdict: Fair criticism!
Critique #6 – “Why isn’t Freshman X higher? Why is Freshman Y so high?”
Ranking freshmen is really hard! We considered leaving them off the list entirely due to the concerns mentioned above – figuring out freshmen roles is often a puzzle inside of a riddle, guessing how their games will translate against new competition is often a shot in the dark – but we wanted to include them because they’ll be some of the most important players in the country. We obviously didn’t go strictly off recruiting rankings, instead making best guesses based on role + our own assessments of players’ games. Let’s not forget how blah Trevon Duval was last year, or how Skal Labissiere was nowhere near what recruiting analysts/workouts painted him to be. These are the most up-for-debate players at this point because the truth is, no one really knows – even you!
Verdict: The most TBD of TBDs.
Critique #7 – “Why the F*** does this list not have Ctrl+F functionality?”
Maybe we want you to actually look at the list, instead of finding the one guy you care about and exiting! Essentially - we do like that you can’t just copy/paste the rankings wherever you want. Really, though, we understand the frustration with this, and can see how it’d be useful to jump around within the article itself from player to player.
Verdict: We’ll consider in the future…
Critique #8 – “This list is trash!!!”
Is it? Tell us why! Make your own list and prove it!
Verdict: You’re trash!
Ultimately, we had a blast putting these together (it started as a Top 50 ranking, but we simply couldn’t stop ourselves). Getting a ton of feedback has been great, even the negative kind – we welcome any chance to re-examine where we might have messed up. As mentioned - @3MW_CBB on Twitter, or email@example.com for email. We hope you continue to read us throughout the run-up to the season (check out our previews – we’ll hit all 353 teams and 32 conferences by the time the season starts), and we’ll have plenty coming once the year gets underway, as well.