Monday, January 24, 2011

Will Ben Hansbrough's impressive performance against Pitt earn him some national attention?

Generally speaking, when discussing the most underrated players in college basketball, everyone on the list is their for one of three reasons -- 1) They star for a major conference program that isn't good enough to make Sportscenter after every game. 2) They play for a mid-major team that doesn't get much attention from the national media. 3) They are a second or third option for a top 25 team, and thus take a back seat to that team's star player.

Rarely do you see the leading scorer and best player for a top 15 team from the Big East remain as anonymous as Ben Hansbrough has been this season.

After carving up Pitt's defense for the final 15 minutes of Notre Dame's enormous 56-51 win at the Peterson Events Center -- he scored 15 of his 19 points and had three of his seven assists during that stretch -- that will likely change. But if you were paying attention this season, you wouldn't have been surprised by this performance.

Hansbrough has been terrific throughout the season. He averages 16.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, and 3.7 rpg for the No. 14 team in the country. He's been better in league play, upping his averages to 18.1 ppg, 4.1 apg, and 4.0 rpg. He shoots 42.5% from three and 85% from the line. He is Notre Dame's leader on the floor, he's their best playmaker, and, as Mike Brey said after the game, "he is the guys who makes us think we can win."

Hansbrough also happens to be Notre Dame's best perimeter defender. On Monday night, he chased Ashton Gibbs around for 40 minutes, holding a kid that averages 15.9 ppg to just nine points on 4-13 shooting. He did the same to Kemba Walker in Notre Dame's 73-70 win over the Huskies, holding the player of the year candidate to 19 points on 8-23 shooting while scoring 21 points and handing out five assists. Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor was 6-19 against Hansbrough. Chris Wright of Georgetown went 1-9.

The Big East is a guard heavy league this season. Every one of the league's top ten scorers plays in the back court. You have to go all the way to Cleveland Melvin at 15th before you get to a player that isn't perimeter oriented.

Despite all that talent, Hansbrough is my pick -- and was my pick before tonight -- to join Kemba Walker on the Big East's all-conference first team.

Who else is underrated? (I easily could have made this list 35 names long. So leave a comment, tell me who you think I left out.):

  • Brandon Davies, BYU: When talking about the Cougars, the first, second, and third name you mention is Jimmer Fredette. Then comes Jackson Emery. After Fredette a couple of more times, you eventually get to Davies, who has developed into quite a reliable post scorer and pressure release for Dave Rose's back court. He averages 11.5 ppg and hasn't scored less than double figures again DI competition since early December.

  • Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper has legitimized the preseason hype that he could develop into an NBA prospect. A 6'10" forward, Harper is averaging 18.1 ppg and 6.7 rpg and has become a deadly three point shooter, hitting 47-94 (50%) on the season.

  • Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota: Hoffarber is the Gophers leading scorer at 13.7 ppg. He also happens to lead the team is assists at 4.4 apg and is their best three point shooter at 39.8%. He reminds me a lot of Andy Rautins. With Al Nolen likely done for the season with a foot injury, Tubby Smith is going to need Hoffarber to step up.

  • Justin Holiday, Washington: Holiday is the do-it-all guy for U-Dub. He can score when needed (he averages 12.5 ppg and has gone for 20 four times this season), he can rebound the ball, and he is the Huskies best perimeter defender.

  • Reggie Jackson, Boston College: If you factor anyone from Duke out of the equation, Jackson is probably the player of the year in the ACC. He's the focal point of the Eagle's potent offensive attack and averages 19.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, and 4.6 rpg while shooting 45.8% from three. Unfortunately, he plays too large a role in BC's horrific defense.

  • Sam Muldrow, South Carolina: Muldrow is a terrific shot blocker (3.4 bpg) who has seen his role on the offensive end of the floor grow of late. He averages just 10.8 rpg and 7.3 rpg, but ask Fetsus Ezili of Vanderbilt (who saw Muldrow go for 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks) or Terrence Jones of Kentucky (who got 23 points and 13 boards from Muldrow) if he can play.

  • Gerald Robinson, Georgia: While Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie have received their fair share of praise for Georgia's resurgence, the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team has been Robinson, who transferred in from Tennessee State. A dynamic back court playmaker, the 6'1" Robinson averages 14.1 ppg and a team-high 4.2 apg.

  • Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: Like Hansbrough, Taylor plays in a league with a ton of back court talent -- Demetri McCamey, Kalin Lucas, Talor Battle, Darius Morris, and Juice Thompson should be names you have heard of. That said, there is an argument to be made that Taylor is the best of the bunch. He's a very good scorer with a great understanding of when his team needs him to put up points and when they need him to facilitate. In other words, he has a knack for making clutch shots down the stretch. His numbers -- 17.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 40.2% 3PT -- are impressive. More impressive. He has 21 turnovers in 19 games playing 35.3 mpg as a primary ball handler.


Anonymous said...

What about Tu Holiday from Xavier? How is he not getting more national attention. One of the most efficient scorers in the country (33 points on 15 shots against Richmond) and one of the best rebounding point guards.

Anonymous said...

I believe you are correct and I am huge Justin Harper fan (my cousin). I believe they both will be drafted !!!