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 cracked the top 40 as the countdown to number one continues.
40. G Kemba Walker | UConn | 2008/09-2010/11
Total Points: 34 (Individual Points: 32)
At a Glance: 2010-11 AP First Team All-American, 2011 Final Four, 2011 National Champion
Josh Mullenix: Walker makes it on the list because of the incredible season he had at the beginning of the decade. Even though his team wasn’t elite for the majority of the season, he certainly was averaging 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Here’s the difference between elite players and great players: they are at their highest level while the competition is at the highest level. That’s what Walker was. He averaged 24.6 points per game in the 11 straight that UConn won to end that season. He shouldn’t be too terribly high just because it’s only one season, but 40th on this list is cool with me.
Chris Brown: Walker showed real talent in his first two seasons with the Huskies, but it was his junior year that will be remembered for decades to come. He averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2010-11, but the most memorable part of that season was what Walker did in March. He seemingly put the entire UConn team on his back, averaging 26 points per contest in a five-game stretch in the Big East Tournament, scoring 33 and 36 points in NCAA Tournament games on the way to the Final Four, and carrying the Huskies past Kentucky and Butler to claim the title. I would have had Walker in the 20s in my rankings.
Josh Doering: Only two players had better single season in the last 10 years than Walker and they are both ahead of him, so I am generally satisfied with where he is on the list. The run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments earns him a spot in the top 50. I’m not putting him any higher than this for the simple fact that he and his team were great for a month. Let’s not pretend like this was an elite team throughout the season.
39. F Montrezl Harrell | Louisville | 2012/13-2014/15
Total Points: 35 (27)
At a Glance: 2013 Final Four, 2013 National Champion
JM: The separation between Harrell and Walker is the AAC regular season title Harrell got in 2013-14. Apart from that, the two have fairly similar resumés. He did enough for the 2012-13 team that I’m fine with him getting credit for it — 16 minutes per game and just under six points — but this is a situation where I would like to be able to differentiate between the value a player had on a national championship because clearly Walker was the best player on that UConn team. But we didn’t make that distinction and this is the result.
CB: Harrell got bonus points from Josh Doering for his role on the 2013-14 Cardinal team. For me, Harrell, if anything, loses a few points simply due to the overall limited role he played in Louisville’s 2012-13 national championship season. Perhaps those balance out. Either way, I don’t believe Harrell’s peak measures up with several others in this range, and I think the formula really failed here in placing Harrell over Walker.
JD: Harrell gets bonus points from me for becoming a key part of Louisville winning the AAC regular season and tournament title the year after the national championship. He won two different conferences and contributed in a meaningful way all three seasons. Harrell serves as an interesting divider of sorts between the great players and the great players on great teams.
38. F Rui Hachimura | Gonzaga | 2016/17-2018/19
Total Points: 35 (27)
At a Glance: 2018-19 WCC Player of the Year, 2018-19 AP Second Team All-American, 2017 Final Four
JM: Hachimura’s transformation is impressive. A 17-point increase over just three seasons is pretty spectacular. Was Hachimura an elite player in 2018-19? Yes. Is he this high on the list because he played at Gonzaga and went to a Final Four even though he only played four minutes per game that season? Also, yes. Does Hachimua deserve to be on this list for being the best player on a Gonzaga team that went 33-4 and 16-0 in the WCC, yes, but he shouldn’t be 38th. It’s just a little too high.
CB: Hachimura’s transformation in his three years with the Zags was tremendous. He averaged just 2.6 points and 4.6 minutes per contest in the Bulldogs’ 2016-17 Final Four season, which alone indicates he deserves to fall a bit in the rankings, but by his junior season Hachimura averaged roughly 20 points per game and was not only the conference’s best player, but one of the best in college basketball. Like I mentioned, I’d still drop Hachimura about 5-10 spots personally.
JD: I want to give Hachimura credit for being the guy on a team that spent five weeks at No. 1 in the AP poll while acknowledging he played 4.6 minutes per game on the Final Four squad. He started two games before the 2018-19 season though he did contribute 11.6 points off the bench as a sophomore. He wasn’t an elite player long enough to justify a place in the top 40 but 38th isn’t too far off.
37. G Dillon Brooks | Oregon | 2014/15-2016/17
Total Points: 35 (27)
At a Glance: 2016-17 Pac 12 Player of the Year, 2016-17 AP Second Team All-American, 2017 Final Four
JM: I wonder when the last time the Pac 12 Player of the Year was a second team all-american and only started 27 of the 35 games he played. Brooks struggled with a foot injury that season and still accomplished everything that he did. He is the epitome of a player that makes good things happen on the floor even if he won’t blow you away athletically and he’s continued that in the NBA. Two 30+ win seasons, an all-american, conference player of the year honors and a final four spells out a player who should be around this spot on the list.
CB: Brooks was an immediate contributor from day one with the Ducks, and by most measures his sophomore season was actually better than the junior season for which he was named conference player of the year. The consistency of high-level point totals game to game was lower than some others around him on this list, but I’m fine with Brooks falling around 40th.
JD: Brooks actually averaged more points, assists and rebounds in 2015-16 than he did in 2016-17. He also averaged double figures as a freshman, a rare feat for any college player, even ones who made our list. All that to say, he was much more than the go-to scorer on a team that got hot in March. Anywhere lower than the 30s would be unjust.
36. F Terrence Jones | Kentucky | 2010/11-2011/12
Total Points: 35 (30)
At a Glance: Two Final Fours (2011, 2012), 2012 National Champion
JM: Jones could’ve been a top 15 player if he had stayed for one or two more years. There’s also an argument that he would’ve gone higher in the NBA draft if he had gone after his freshman year at Kentucky. But he didn’t do either of those things, he went to two Final Fours, won a national championship but wasn’t the best player on either Kentucky team and left before he got the chance to be. With that being said, two final fours is not something most players can say they’ve done, so I’m cool him being here and he shouldn’t be any higher.
CB: Jones burst onto the scene his freshman year, averaging nearly 16 points and nine rebounds per game for the Wildcats. He played a significant role on Kentucky’s national title team the next season, but in large part because of the cast around him, Jones wasn’t relied on as a high volume scorer as much — he took a step back to 12.3 points and 7.2 boards per contest. Jones wasn’t around long enough to rack up the individual accolades — like all-american honors — that I think would guarantee him a spot in the top 40 for me. I’d still have him in the top 50, though.
JD: The main thing keeping Jones this low on the list is that he only played two seasons. He left before the individual recognition could come. Still, he did more than enough in two seasons to end up in the top 40. I don’t think I could put him much higher than here because so much of his resume is based on team success.
35. C Udoka Azubuike | Kansas | 2016/17-2019/20
Total Points: 35 (30)
At a Glance: 2019-20 Big 12 Player of the Year, 2019-20 AP Second Team All-American, 2018 Final Four
JM: Azubuike is one of the more dominant big men of the last decade. In 2019-20, there was nobody in the country who could stop him and if he doesn’t get injured as a junior Kansas’ season is much different and they probably win the Big 12 again. Azubuike is 35th because of an injury and a global pandemic ending this season prematurely. If things go differently, he gets more points from his junior season and he could’ve gone to the Final Four this season. There’s a world in which Azubuike is in the top 15 of this list.
CB: One of the best defensive big men in college basketball in the 2010s, Azubuike was well-deserving of his conference player of the year honors after averaging 13.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this past season. Injuries limited him to just 15 total games in his freshman and junior years, but there was no doubting the talent. I’m satisfied with this ranking.
JD: There is an argument to be made that the Jayhawks’ Big 12 regular season title streak is still intact if Azubuike doesn’t get hurt. He was giving Bill Self 13 points, seven rebounds and elite rim protection every night. Azubuike took another step forward as a senior and jumps at least five spots if he got to play in the NCAA Tournament. He is in the second tier of Kansas players in the last 10 years.
34. Tyler Ulis | Kentucky | 2014/15-2015/16
Total Points: 36 (26)
At a Glance: 2015/16 AP First Team All-American, 2015-16 SEC Player of the Year, 2015 Final Four
JM: Ulis was an integral part of both seasons at Kentucky. Don’t let Ulis’ zero starts and five points per game as a freshman fool you because he played 23 minutes per game and was at the mercy of Calipari’s system that season. It’s the same system that left Karl Anthony-Towns towards the bottom of this list. Then, he turned in the season that leaves him as, in my opinion, the best point guard of the decade in the SEC. He averaged 17 points and seven assists while committing just two turnovers. He absolutely deserves the spot and I would be ok with him being a little higher than this.
CB: I’ll admit that my first thought was that 34th was much too high for Ulis. A deeper look at the numbers reveals he’s ranked appropriately. He transformed from a solid reserve on an extremely deep 2014-15 Kentucky team to a first team all-american the next year, averaging 17.3 points, seven assists, three rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. His assist rate that season was more than two times his turnover rate, and Ulis scored 10+ points in 23 of Kentucky’s final 24 games that year. He’s right where he belongs in these rankings.
JD: Kentucky was so loaded in 2014-15 that I refuse to view Ulis as a backup on that team. He was just part of the second group of starters. Ulis returned to school and put together the best season from an SEC point guard this past decade (stay tuned for more details when player No. 30 is revealed). I would encourage anyone who doesn’t believe he is worthy of a spot in the top 35 to do some deep introspection.
33. F Mike Daum | South Dakota State | 2015/16-2018/19
Total Points: 36 (27)
At a Glance: Three Time Summit League Player of the Year (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19), three NCAA Tournament appearances
JM: My guy! I encourage you to look up how Mike Daum ended up on a Division I college basketball team. It’s quite fantastic and makes the fact that he’s No. 7 in points in NCAAM history even more impressive. Quite frankly, Josh is wrong. This isn’t too high for a guy who averaged at least 23 points three times, won three conference player of the year awards — I don’t care if it’s the Summit — and played for a team that won three regular season titles.
CB: Let’s start by acknowledging that, yes, Daum played in the Summit League and, yes, the Jackrabbits never made it far in the NCAA Tournament. But the individual numbers are just astounding. Daum averaged 23 or more points in each of his final three college seasons while starting 103 total games in that stretch. The conference’s best ever player, Daum was named Summit League Player of the Year three times, and led his team to three regular season titles, three conference tournament titles, and two NCAA Tournament appearances. A spot just outside of the top 30 seems just right for Daum to me.
JD: This seems a little bit too high for me but I can’t say I actually have a problem with it. Chris Clemons’ exemption from this list proves being an all-time great scorer is not enough by itself, which is the difference between him and Daum. Daum averaged a double-double twice on a consistent NCAA Tournament team, which matters a great deal to me for a mid-major player. He got to perform on the sport’s biggest stage even if his appearances didn’t last long.
32. G Payton Pritchard | Oregon | 2016/17-2019/20
Total Points: 36 (28)
At a Glance: 2019-20 AP First Team All-American, 2019-20 Pac 12 Player of the Year, 2017 Final Four
JM: Pritchard is in a different conversation if Oregon goes to the tournament. One, he gets more points but he also isn’t just a great college basketball player, but one who was the best player on a team who you could reasonably say had a shot of going to the Final Four. This is one of those instances where I don’t disagree with the ranking, but I can’t help think about where he would’ve ended up had the 2019-20 season not been stopped in its tracks.
CB: I can’t help but think of how much Pritchard could have climbed in these rankings with a deep NCAA Tournament run this past March. Another Final Four run and there’s certainly a case to be made that Pritchard belongs in the top 20 or even top 10. Even just a few wins in the NCAA Tournament and he would’ve been comfortably in the top 25 in my book. It’s fun to wonder what if, but that aside, a spot around 30th seems appropriate.
JD: Few players, if any, could have benefited more from the 2019-20 NCAA Tournament from a historical perspective than Pritchard. Had Oregon made another deep run, I would have happily had a conversation about whether he belongs in the top 10. Is there a better definition of a great college basketball career than starting on a Final Four team as a freshman and reaching it again as a senior First Team All-American? Pritchard had a decent shot and would be in my top 30 for that reason.
31. F Brice Johnson | North Carolina | 2012/13-2015/16
Total Points: 36 (31)
At a Glance: 2015-16 AP First Team All-American, 2016 Final Four
JM: A first team all-american averaging a double-double for a Final Four team that thought they were going to win the national championship for five seconds before Kris Jenkins’ buzzer beater in 2016 deserves a spot in the top half of this list. Johnson averaged at least 10 points and six rebounds each of his last three seasons including 17 points and 10 rebounds his senior season. I’m cool with where he ended up.
CB: Johnson’s development during his four seasons with the Tar Heels was impressive. He grew from a solid bench piece his freshman year to having one of the best seasons in college basketball his senior year. Johnson averaged 17 points and 10.4 rebounds while helping power UNC to the Final Four in 2016. It’s important to note that season wasn’t completely out of nowhere, though, as Johnson averaged 10+ points and six or more rebounds in both his sophomore and junior years. I’m happy with him here.
JD: Johnson is right where he’s supposed to be. Anyone who averages a double-double on a 33-7 ACC team that comes seconds away from a national title is at least in the conversation for the top 30. Johnson also contributed 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game when the Tar Heels went to the Sweet 16 in 2014-15. Not many players can say they averaged double figures in three seasons, made a Final Four and earned first team all-american honors. Johnson can, which is why he belongs in this vicinity.
Photos by: Marc-Gregor Campredon / Wikimedia Commons, Matthew D. Britt / Flickr