Home CBB 100 Greatest College Basketball Players of the 2010s: 80-71

100 Greatest College Basketball Players of the 2010s: 80-71

110 Sports created a formula to determine the 100 greatest college basketball players of the last decade spanning from the 2010-11 season through the end of 2019-20. The base requirement to be considered for the list was making an all-conference first team and 1,351 players fit that basic criteria. All 1,351 players went through the algorithm to determine the greatest 100 to play the sport over the last 10 seasons.

Points (average of two best seasons) 1 point per 4 points (12 ppg = 3 points)
Assists (average of two best seasons) 1 point per 2 assists ( 6 assists = 3 points)
Rebounds (average of two best seasons) 1 point per 2 rebounds (6 rebounds = 3 points)
Steals (average of two best seasons) 1 point per 1 steal (3 steals = 3 points)
Blocks (average of two best seasons) 1 point per 1 block (3 blocks = 3 points)
Regular season title 3 points (major), 2 points (mid-major)
Conference tournament title 2 points (major), 1 point (mid-major)
NCAA Tournament appearance 2 points
Final Four appearance 4 points
National Championship 6 points
AP All-American 7 points (1st Team), 5 points (2nd Team), 3 points (3rd team)
Naismith Player of the Year 8 points

The formula is not perfect, but it takes out as much bias as possible. And please remember, this is an examination of the greatest players of the decade, not the best

With that being said, here are numbers 80 through 71 on the list.

80. F Melvin Ejim | Iowa State | 2010/11-2013/14

Total Points: 27 (Individual Points: 25)

At a Glance: 2013-14 AP Second Team All-American, 2013-14 Big 12 Player of the Year

Josh Mullenix: I forgot just how good Ejim was. I definitely didn’t remember him being a second team all-american and the best player in the Big 12 in 2013-14. But he had a phenomenal career as a Cyclone and I’ve ultimately got no issue with his position in the rankings. 

Chris Brown: Like Josh, I was a bit surprised in looking back just how impressive Ejim’s college resume is. He was Big 12 Player of the Year his senior season, but was pretty consistently not the player receiving the most attention even on his own team. A crucial part of Iowa State’s revival, Ejim will always be remembered for his Big 12 record 48 points against TCU in February 2014. A spot around 80th seems fitting.

Josh Doering: Ejim and Fred Hoiberg arrived in Ames at the same time. By year two, the Cyclones were 12-6 in conference and in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004-05. As Hoiberg’s first elite player, Ejim served as the bridge to the years where Iowa State was consistently in the top 25. He took the program from a 16-16 mark his freshman year to a top 10 team by the time he graduated. Anything lower than 80th is not going to fly with me.  

79. J.J. Mann | Belmont | 2010/11-2013/14

Total Points: 28 (17)

At a Glance: 2013-14 OVC Player of the year, four-time OVC regular season champion

JM: The next four guys on this list were all the best players on teams that won four straight regular season titles so it makes perfect sense why they are all right next to each other. Mann is a little less responsible for his team’s success. He only started two games his first two seasons and didn’t average more than 10 points per game until he exploded to average 18 his senior season. This is another one of those players that is on the list because his mid-major team was dominant in its conference. 

CB: Mann was a part of four straight regular season championships with the Bruins, first in the Atlantic Sun and then the Ohio Valley Conference. His senior year emergence to the tune of 18 points per game earned him conference player of the year honors, but like Josh said, with Mann not starting for Belmont regularly until his junior year, his role in the mid-major team’s success was smaller relative to others. I’d probably have Mann closer to 100 on my list.

JD: I don’t find Mann’s resume all that enthralling aside from the four regular season titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances. He didn’t become a regular starter or average double figures until his junior year. Mann’s senior season and his team’s dominance in two different conferences warrant a place on our list. That being said, he should be much closer to the bottom. 

78. G Tyler Kalinoski | Davidson | 2011/12-2014/15

Total Points: 28 (18) 

At a Glance: 2014-15 A-10 Player of the Year, three-time SoCon regular season champion, A-10 regular season champion (2014-15)

JM: Kalinoski is in a very similar boat: solid player his first four seasons, really good as a senior earning him A-10 Player of the Year honors. But again, he’s on this list mainly because of the eight points he got from Davidson winning four straight regular season titles. 

CB: Kalinoski was an all-time great for Davidson. He’s the only player in program history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, and 200 made 3-pointers. His progression looks pretty similar to Mann, though, as Kalinoski didn’t become a regular starter until his junior year and found a new level in his last season. Like Mann, I’d have him at least 10-20 spots lower, but am not upset with his placement here.

JD: There are certainly similarities between Mann and Kalinoski, but there are also important differences. Kalinoski averaged five rebounds per game twice, something Mann never did. He has 64 more assists and shot 2.7% better than Mann from three. Plus, Kalinoski spent his last season in the A-10 and was the best player in the conference. The gap between those two should be much larger than a single spot. 

77. F Zach Thomas | Bucknell | 2014/15-2017/18

Total Points: 28 (18)

At a Glance: 2017-18 Patriot Player of the Year, four-time Patriot regular season champion

JM: For what it’s worth, Thomas should be higher on the list than Mann and Kalinoski. He averaged 10 points or more three times and averaged 20 points and nine boards as a senior en route to a Patriot Player of the Year honor. Bucknell dominated the Patriot in the middle of the decade and Thomas is a benefactor of that on this list. 

CB: I completely agree that Thomas is appropriately ahead of both of the last two players. He became a double-digit scorer quicker in his career than both Mann and Kalinoski and reached a higher level his senior year, averaging 20.5 points per game along with 9.1 boards.

JD: I echo that sentiment; Thomas is in a different class than Mann and Kalinoski. He started 21 times as an underclassman and averaged more than 15 points twice. The fact that Thomas’ two NCAA Tournament appearances came in his final two seasons is significant to me as well. I feel like our scoring system did him justice. 

76. G Daniel Mullings | New Mexico State | 2011/12-2014/15

Total Points: 28 (22)

At a Glance: 2013-14 WAC Player of the Year, four-time WAC Tournament champion

JM: Mullings is the last of this quartet of players who won four straight championships in their conference. But Mullings and New Mexico State won four straight conference titles so he gets the majority of his points from going to the NCAA Tournament all four seasons. His best season was a 16.8, 3.5 and 4.9 season that ended in him being named the 2013-14 WAC Player of the Year. There is no other stretch like this in the formula, but it was bound to happen somewhere in the rankings. 

CB: Mullings reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons with the Aggies — the reason for his ranking ahead of similar players — and averaged 12+ points per game in each of his last three years. He was always one of the best defenders in the conference, and in 2013-14 won the WAC Player of the Year award after scoring nearly 17 points per contest along with 3.5 assists and roughly five boards. Like the three players just behind him, I’d likely have Mullings lower in my rankings, but I’m completely fine with him leading this group.

JD: Players like Mullings are why regular season champions should get their conference’s automatic bid. He lost four games in WAC play each of his first three seasons yet has made more NCAA Tournaments than the three guys right behind him. However, he did finish with more career points than Mann and Kalinoski. My order would be as follows: Thomas, Kalinoski, Mullings, Mann.

75. F Kelly Olynyk | Gonzaga | 2009/10-2012/13

Total Points: 28 (22)

At a Glance: 2012-13 AP First Team All-American, 2012-13 WCC Player of the Year 

JM: Olynyk is the rare case of a player taking a year to develop in the middle of his career. After a forgettable first two seasons, Olynyk was one of the five best players in the sport in 2012-13, earning first team all-american honors and winning WCC Player of the Year. He averaged 17.8 and 7.3 for a Zags team that went 32-3 and lost in the tournament to a Wichita State team that ultimately went to the Final Four. I’m indifferent about where he ended up but somewhere between 75 and 85 feels about right. I’ll never be mad if a first team all-american makes the list. 

CB: Olynyk’s senior season was certainly something special, as he averaged roughly 18 points, two assists, and seven boards per game, was a consensus all-american and won a conference player of the year award. He helped lead the Zags to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and transformed himself into a first round NBA Draft pick. But it’s the rest of Olynyk’s profile that limits his ceiling in the top 100. His freshman year was before the 2010s began and Olynyk started just four contests his sophomore campaign with an uninspiring 5.8 points per game before taking a redshirting his junior year. This range for Olynyk seems appropriate, though I certainly wouldn’t have him any higher than 75th.

JD: Olynyk’s choice to take a redshirt year in 2011-12 makes it hard to justify putting him any higher. For the purposes of this conversation, he was a two-year guy who played 13.5 minutes a game his first season. I am all for him being included on the basis of what he did as a senior and am completely comfortable with where he ended up. The combination of him entering college before the decade started and missing a year in the middle makes Olynyk one of the most interesting players to evaluate. 

74. F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | Kentucky | 2011/12

Total Points: 28 (25)

At a Glance: 2011-12 AP Third Team All-American, 2012 Final Four, 2012 National Champion

JM: Kidd-Gilchrist was solid on that great 2011-12 Kentucky team that won the National Championship. A deserving recipient of a third team all-american recognition, he was a part of the terrifying front court that included Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones. I don’t have strong feelings about Kidd-Gilchrist and understand why the formula slotted him here.  

CB: Anthony Davis’ running mate for the Wildcats’ 2012 national title season, Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t put up as elite of numbers — averaging 11.9 point and 7.4 rebounds per game — but he was an efficient two-point shooter who drew fouls and was named a consensus all-american. A spot in this range seems just fine.

JD: There should always be a place for an all-american on a national championship team. And the title team Kidd-Gilchrist was on just so happened to be as good as any this decade. I actually really like where he is on the list. He was not a transcendent talent like his teammate Anthony Davis was, thus the massive disparity in their rankings.

73. F CJ Fair | Syracuse | 2010/11-2013/14

Total Points: 28 (25)

At a Glance: 2013-14 AP Third Team All-American, 2013 Final Four

JM: It was a good time to be a Syracuse fan in the early part of the decade. Easily the four best years of the decade for the Orange were the first four years. Fair was the best player on the 2012-13 team that went to the Final Four and the 2013-14 team that finished second in the ACC. 16.5 points and six boards, a third team all-american and a Final Four is more than enough to make the list. 

CB: A significant contributor for Syracuse during a great stretch of basketball, Fair found another level his junior and senior years, starting 74 games and averaging 15.4 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest. Alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Fair led the Orange to the 2013 Final Four, and the next year he was named a consensus all-american. I’m completely comfortable with Fair around 70th.

JD: Let’s first recognize that Fair won 119 games and never played fewer than 18.6 minutes per contest. That in itself is pretty remarkable. Then you add in the Final Four and going 14-4 in the Orange’s first season in the ACC. He deserves this spot without a doubt. We’re getting to the part of the list where you wonder how somebody is so low only to look at the guys ahead of him and have a complete change of heart.

72. F Caleb Swanigan | Purdue | 2015/16-2016/17

Total Points: 28 (25)

At a Glance: 2016-17 AP First Team All-American, 2016-17 Big Ten Player of the Year

JM: Swanigan turned in one of the more impressive single seasons of the decade. In 2016-17, he averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for a team that won the Big Ten regular season title. This is a player I would’ve had higher on my personal list but the absence of real postseason success and only two seasons as a Boilermaker make it clear why he landed where he did. 

CB: One of the biggest threats for a double-double in college basketball, Swanigan, with 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game his senior season, became the first Boilermaker since 1994 to average a double-double. Swanigan was always a great interior presence and his sophomore year he transformed into a 45% shooter beyond the arc as well. I’d likely have Swanigan about 10-20 spots higher in my rankings.

JD: I wouldn’t have Swanigan any lower than the 60s. He was simply too dominant. The outright Big Ten regular season title helps his cause as well. That’s about all he has going for him though, which is why I’m not outraged he came in at 72. It would take quite a compelling argument for me to consider the possibility of putting him in the top 50.

71. F Ethan Happ | Wisconsin | 2015/16-2018/19

Total Points: 28 (28)

At a Glance: 2016-17 AP Third Team All-American, 2018-19 AP Second Team All-American

JM: I had to double-check because I couldn’t believe Happ didn’t make an all-american team in 2019-20. It was easily his best season statically, averaging 17 and 10 for a Wisconsin team that went 14-6 in the Big Ten. Even just a second team honor would’ve bumped him up to 33 points putting him in the mid-40s, which I would’ve been completely fine with. I think the Associated Press messed up this season not recognizing him and his lack of any substantial tournament success and no conference titles of any kind put him here. But it’s definitely too low. 

CB: One of just six players in NCAA history with at least 2,000 points, 1,000 boards and 400 assists, Happ averaged 12+ points and nearly 8+ rebounds each of his four seasons with the Badgers. Consistently one of the top players in the Big Ten, Happ isn’t higher because Wisconsin didn’t win a single conference title or reach the Final Four during his four seasons. We’ve seen players earlier perhaps get too much credit for their team’s success. Happ, meanwhile, seems to be knocked too much for his team’s lack of postseason success.

JD: No conference produces outstanding players on really good teams who leave college with little or no team accolades quite like the Big Ten. Happ is a case in point. He compiled 2,130 points and 1,217 rebounds in his career and reached the Big Dance three times. Twice he advanced to the Sweet 16. And the Badgers won absolutely nothing noteworthy during Happ’s four years there. It feels wrong to see his name this early on. 

Photos by Alexander Jonsei /Wikimedia Commons (Swanigan), GoIowaState.com/Flickr (Ejim) and Dirk DBQ/Flickr (Olynyk)  

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