Home CBB 100 Greatest College Basketball Players of the 2010s: 50-41

100 Greatest College Basketball Players of the 2010s: 50-41

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.

Here are the players who just cracked the top 50 of the list.

50. F Draymond Green | Michigan State | 2008/09-2011/12

Total Points: 32 (Individual Points: 27)

At a Glance: 2011-12 AP First Team All-American, 2011-12 Big Ten Player of the Year

Josh Mullenix: Michigan State’s team success came prior to the beginning of this decade so Green doesn’t reap the benefits of those points. However, he had two really solid seasons to start the decade and was one of the best players in the country in 2011-12 — hence the first team all-american honors. I’m surprised to see him make it into the top 50, but a Big Ten Player of the Year who was a consensus top-five player in the country definitely belongs somewhere on this list. Right in the middle is fine with me. 

Chris Brown: With both of Green’s Final Four appearances coming before the 2010s began, I’m surprised to see him this high. But when you consider he averaged 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and four assists per game his final two college seasons, leading the Spartans to a Big Ten regular season and tournament title in 2012, when he was named a first team all-american and conference player of the year, it starts to make more sense. Green wasn’t especially elite in one facet of the game, but he was really good at basically everything, and I’m happy to see him make the cut for the top 50.

Josh Doering: I’m mildly surprised one Big Ten regular season title and one conference tournament championship were enough for Green to sneak into the top 50. Keep in mind his Final Four appearances came before the decade started. I’m not bothered by where Green ended up but don’t feel like he has to be in the top half of the list either. The 2010-11 team barely made the Big Dance and the 2011-12 team was a 1 seed, which only makes evaluating Green more difficult.

49. F Georges Niang | Iowa State | 2012/13-2015/16

Total Points: 32 (28)

At a Glance: Two-time AP Third Team All-American (2014-15, 2015-16)

JM: For me, Niang is at the top of the “wow he was really good, better than I thought he was” category. He was impactful all four seasons in a Cyclones uniform and one of the 15 best players in the country twice. The fourth all-time leading scorer in Big 12 history was also a part of those Iowa State teams that figured out how to give Kansas trouble year in and year out. That’s worth something, especially in the decade dominated by the Jayhawks. 

CB: Niang was a significant contributor for the Cyclones for all four years of his college career and helped lead Iowa State to two Big 12 Tournament titles and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. His senior year, Niang averaged 20.5 points, 3.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game and was named a third team all-american for the second straight year. I’m satisfied with this ranking.

JD: Green has the edge over Niang in best single season, but I’m taking Niang’s overall body of work in the 2010s all day long. I place a tremendous amount of stock in the trouble the Cyclones caused Kansas during Niang’s time in Ames, something no other Big 12 team could do. They were also consistently in the top 25 and he was their primary offensive weapon. I don’t care where he goes as long as it’s somewhere in the top 50.

48. C Przemek Karnowski | Gonzaga | 2012/13-2016/17

Total Points: 33 (21) 

At a Glance: Four NCAA Tournaments and WCC regular season championships, 2017 Final Four

JM: There is, by definition, no better winner in the history of college hoops than Karnowski: 137 victories is just stupid regardless of where you play and what conference you are a member of. His impact cannot be underestimated despite his numbers not being anywhere near blowing you away. The first version of this list accidentally gave credit to Karnowski for a fifth NCAA tournament and WCC championship in a year he redshirted. That put him closer to 25 and I was completely fine with that, too. He’s a winner and he got to the Final Four. He’s on the right side of the halfway mark. 

CB: He never was a high volume scorer, but Karnowski was one of the best passing centers of the last 10 years. Karnowski also left Gonzaga as the winningest Division I men’s basketball player of all time with 137 victories on his resume. He allowed some outstanding Gonzaga teams to attack opponents in a wide variety of ways. Karnowski definitely belongs on this side of the top 50 and I may have even had him a few spots higher.

JD: Karnowski falls into the same category as Niang for me: I’m good as long as he’s on the top half of the list. As Chris and Josh pointed out, the sheer amount of winning Karnowski did cannot be ignored. It’s also worth mentioning he was arguably the most important non-transfer on that Final Four team. If nothing else, he was good enough to keep Zach Collins, Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura out of the starting lineup.

47. G De’Andre Hunter | Virginia | 2016/17-2018/19

Total Points: 33 (25)

At a Glance: 2018-19 AP Third Team All-American, 2019 Final Four, 2019 National Champion

JM: Hunter is one of those guys that was really good on an elite team and gets remembered for that. I remember him similarly to how I remember Jarrett Culver: the best player on one of the best teams in the country. Ultimately, like Culver, he had one solid season and a season that got him on this list. He’s just higher on this list than him because Hunter won the 2019 national championship and Culver didn’t. A third team all-american and best player on the team with the best storyline of the decade can be in the top 50 and you’ll get no grief from me. 

CB: One imperfection in our formula is that a player gets the same credit towards team achievements regardless of the role they played on that team. Trying to avoid that leads to plenty of further complications, but it’s important to note that Hunter received credit for Virginia’s 2018 NCAA Tournament appearance despite not playing in the tournament due to a broken wrist. There’s no denying Hunter’s impact on that team, or the Cavaliers team that won the title the following year. But with that in mind, I’d likely drop Hunter below a few names in my rankings.

JD: Hunter played two seasons, one as a redshirt freshman and one as a redshirt sophomore. Virginia made NCAA Tournament history both times. One tournament Hunter missed; the other he starred in. Yes, he was that valuable in 2017-18 even though he didn’t start a single game. No, that’s not an excuse for losing to a 16 seed. The larger point is that Hunter was the most talented — and most important — player on the best team in college basketball from start to finish. That pretty much gets you in my top 50 by itself.

46. G Fred VanVleet | Wichita State | 2012/13-2015/16

Total Points: 33 (26)

At a Glance: Two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year (2013-14, 2015-16), 2013 Final Four

JM: VanVleet is one of the five most important and decorated mid-major players of this decade on one of the best mid-major teams of the decade. He’s one of the few players on this list with multiple player of the year awards and he went to the Final Four. An elite winner at the college level who was clearly the best player in his conference at least two of his four years at school belongs in the top 50. I’m very pleased with his placement and would’ve been happy with him being several spots higher as well. 

CB: Let’s start with this: the Shockers went 121-24 in VanVleet’s four seasons, as he and Ron Baker took the program to new heights and pulled off some major upsets — their second round upset of No. 1 Gonzaga in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tourney comes to mind — along the way. The numbers aren’t especially flashy, but VanVleet’s role in transforming that program, his consistent shooting and his knack for coming up big when it mattered most were truly impressive. This goes against some of my previous logic, but I actually would have had VanVleet at least 5-10 spots higher.

JD: Seeing VanVleet’s name here does not bother me in the slightest. His four seasons as a Shocker went as follows: Final Four, undefeated regular season, conference player of the year, conference player of the year. Wichita State cracked the top 10 of the AP poll the three years VanVleet was a starter as well. The knock on him is that the Shockers didn’t do much outside of dominating the MVC when he was an upperclassman.

45. G Ja Morant | Murray State | 2017/18-2018/19

Total Points: 33 (27)

At a Glance: 2018-19 AP First Team All-American, 2018-19 OVC Player of the Year

JM: I’ve got no issue admitting that Morant’s impact on my hometown Memphis Grizzlies makes me a huge fan of him. However, His 24.5 points, 10 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in 2018-19 mean he doesn’t need my bias to land in the top 50. It’s quite simply one of the best individual seasons of the decade and there’s something to be said for being named a first team all-american at a mid-major. That’s not easy and not many players did that this decade. If he plays one more season, he goes 20 spots higher, easily. No. 45 is about as low as anyone should have him.

CB: There’s a strong argument that Morant was the most dominant player in college basketball in 2018-19, when he averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game while starting 33 contests and averaging nearly 37 minutes per game. Now throw in that he was a significant contributor — 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.5 rebounds — his freshman year and won back-to-back conference regular season and tournament titles, and you’ve certainly got a top 50 player. I would likely have had Morant even a few spots higher.

JD: Any list that has Morant anywhere lower than 50 is flat-out wrong. Forget about the 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds he averaged as a sophomore for a second. Morant won at least a share of the Ohio Valley regular season title and the conference tournament both seasons. The ridiculous numbers are backed up by team success. Having Morant in the top 50 is non-negotiable for me.

44. C Willie Cauley-Stein | Kentucky | 2012/13-2014/15

Total Points: 33 (28)

At a Glance: 2014-15 AP First Team All-American, two Final Fours (2014, 2015)

JM: Ever wonder what the career of a Kentucky player would look like if they stayed longer than one year? Well, it would probably look something like Cauley-Stein’s career. A first team all-american and a major part of two Final Four teams might suggest he is lower than he should be. While individual statistics aren’t the end all, be all, they should be taken into consideration and Cauley-Stein just doesn’t have that in his favor.

CB: I know a great player’s contributions are always more than just a few basic numbers, but I just inherently have a problem with a player who never averaged more than nine points, 6.5 rebounds, or one assist per game in a season making the top 50. As we’ve all discussed with several players in the previous 20-30 spots, playing a prominent role on an extremely successful team is really important. Cauley-Stein was a major part of two Final Four teams. But when evaluating him next to others in this range, I would have had Cauley-Stein at least 10-15 spots lower in my rankings.

JD: Let’s first appreciate Cauley-Stein managing to become a first team all-american while averaging 8.9 points per game. Then there are the two Final Fours featuring a perfect regular season that deserves bonus points. Cauley-Stein’s 70 starts and 105 games played at Kentucky are the basis for an argument he is too low. I just can’t buy it when he scored eight points a game for his career. 

43. G Jimmer Fredette | BYU | 2007/08-2010/11

Total Points: 33 (31)

At a Glance: 2011 Naismith Player of the Year, 2011 AP First Team All-American, 2011 MWC Player of the Year

JM: I personally really like where Fredette finished on this list for a couple of reasons. First, BYU was ultimately irrelevant on the national stage so Fredette shouldn’t be crazy high. Second, Fredette only had one season count towards his score and I really like where his really incredible individual season puts him on this list. It’s very appropriate. If his entire career is under consideration he moves up even more to a place that would also be appropriate. I’m gonna pat us on the backs here, the formula got this one right. 

CB: Eight of the 10 players to win the Naismith award in the past decade are in the top 30 in this list. The only exceptions: Fredette and Obi Toppin. Fredette’s individual numbers certainly measured up with the best, particularly in 2010-11, the only season counting for this exercise. But the Cougars were knocked out in the Sweet 16 that season, and Fredette didn’t receive any credit for tourney appearances the previous three years or two additional regular season conference titles. Strictly speaking, Fredette’s performance in the 2010s wasn’t among the greatest 30 or so players, which is why he appropriately falls here. But I’d certainly say he was one of the 30 greatest players to have played in the 2010s.

JD: The formula got this one right too. I won’t go any higher because BYU was never a threat to win a national title. Still, the Cougars went 32-5 and reached the Sweet 16 with Fredette as the deserving winner of the Naismith Award and numerous other player of the year honors. There’s also the reality that these numbers came in the Mountain West. That’s not a real criticism, just something else to be acknowledged.

42. C Jahlil Okafor | Duke | 2014/15

Total Points: 33 (33)

At a Glance: 2014-15 AP First Team All-American, 2014-15 ACC Player of the Year, 2015 Final Four, 2015 National Champion

JM: Okafor has been uninspiring in the NBA but he’s had one of the better single seasons of any college basketball player this decade and is a perfect example as to how high the ultimate single season can get you. In one season, Okafor was a first team all-american, the ACC Player of the Year and a National Champion. That gets him to 33 points and to a place that I like. Elite players who played longer finished higher but Okafor gets considerable recognition for a one-and-done year that would be really hard to beat. 

CB: One of the very best interior scorers in college basketball over the last decade, Okafor averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 boards per game while shooting 66% from the field in his lone season with the Blue Devils. His numbers weren’t as eye-popping as other big name one-and-done players on this list, but his key role in leading Duke to the 2015 title is indisputable. I’m happy with Okafor here but like Fredette I would have likely had him a few spots higher myself.

JD: Okafor’s season pales in comparison to what Fredette did as a senior, but the latter never came close to winning anything of real significance. I will give the slight edge to the guy who faced the tougher competition and brought home a natty. Trying to compare players like Okafor and Fredette is what makes doing lists like this fun. Props to our formula for putting Okafor ahead of Fredette.

41. G Grayson Allen | Duke | 2014/15-2017/18

Total Points: 34 (32)

At a Glance: 2015-16 AP Third Team All-American, 2015 Final Four, 2015 National Champion 

JM: Allen’s performance in the national championship game alone validates him getting credit for a championship in which he was merely a bench player. At the same time, it’s easy to see why he’s this low despite having one of the better, longer careers of any player this decade. Ultimately, Allen’s time at Duke was known more for tripping guys than anything else and that shows in his ranking which, by the way, is completely appropriate, in my opinion. 

CB: You’d think an NCAA title and average of nearly 19 points per game in his best two seasons would have landed Allen a higher spot on this list, but as Josh will mention, the Blue Devils’ postseason success in every year but 2015 was somewhat underwhelming. With a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in college basketball, Allen was certainly one of the more memorable players of the last decade. A ranking here around 40th seems appropriate.

JD: It is not difficult at all to explain why Allen is this low: Duke won one conference tournament while he was there. That’s it. The national title and averaging 21.6 points the next season meant he was going to be in the top half of our rankings. If you really think about it, Allen’s three years as a starter were defined more by controversy and disappointing results than anything else. 

Photos by Dennis Adair / Flickr (Cauley-Stein), TonyTheTiger / Wikimedia Commons (VanVleet) and Lpdrew / Wikimedia Commons (Fredette)

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