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.
Now the players are really elite. It’s 20-11 as we get closer to No. 1.
20. G Joel Berry II | North Carolina | 2014/15-2017/18
Total Points: 39 (Individual Points: 31)
At a Glance: Two Final Fours (2016, 2017), 2017 National Champion
Josh Mullenix: We were just seconds away from a world where North Carolina was the first team to win back-to-back titles since Florida did it in the mid 2000s until Kris Jenkins hit one of the biggest shots in tournament history. Berry started and was the second leading scorer on both of those teams playing just over 30 minutes per game. I’m a little surprised he’s this high with a lack of individual accolades, but I’m glad he is.
Chris Brown: Berry didn’t have quite the ceiling of others around him on this list, but the guy was a warrior, and nearly a two-time national champion. He became the first player since Bill Walton in the early 70s to score 20+ points in back-to-back title games. In 2017, the second of those years, Berry tallied 22 points and six assists against Gonzaga in the title game despite playing with injuries to both ankles. I may have had him a few spots lower, but Berry is certainly deserving of a high rank.
Josh Doering: I’m glad our formula rewards guys like Berry, who was nearly a two-time national champion and averaged 17 points the year after North Carolina won it all. He started 112 games in his college career and played over 30 minutes a contest for three straight seasons. I have no qualms about him cracking the top 20.
19. C Gorgui Dieng | Louisville | 2010/11-2012/13
Total Points: 39 (32)
At a Glance: Two Final Fours (2012, 2013), 2013 National Champion
JM: If I’m going to be cool with Berry going where he did, I have to be cool with where Dieng ended up. Dieng also started on two straight Final Four teams, won one of the two and played at least 31 minutes per game both seasons. Berry’s individual stats are more impressive and calling Dieng an offensive threat is generous, but the principle of the thing I can’t be upset about. With that being said, I would’ve liked to see Dieng a few spots lower and certainly behind Berry.
CB: Dieng feels like the most over-ranked player within the top 20, as I’d likely have him somewhere around 30th instead. One of the best defenders in college basketball and the glue that held back-to-back Final Four Cardinals teams together, his value was immense and frankly immeasurable, but his 9.45 points per game in his final two college seasons combined just isn’t enough to crack the top 20, no matter what else a player does, in my view.
JD: I would have Dieng outside the top 20, even with the two Final Fours. Yes, Dieng was the defensive anchor of a national championship team. He also never averaged double figures. There is only so much impact a player can have without being an offensive threat, and I’m one of those people who will talk about contributions outside the box score all day long. Dieng deserves to be in the top 25, just not the top 20.
18. G Denzel Valentine | Michigan State | 2012/13-2015/16
Total Points: 39 (33)
At a Glance: 2015-16 AP First Team All-American, 2015-16 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2015 Final Four
JM: Valentine would be even higher on our list if we had used the AP Player of the Year instead of the Naismith. But Buddy Hield was the best player in the country in 2015-16 and deserved that nod. Valentine had one of the more impressively unique years of the last decade — 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds — during his senior season. Frankly, the only dig on Valentine is that the Spartans fell in the first round to Middle Tennessee State when he was the best player on the team, but he did start every game a year prior when they went to the Final Four.
CB: A solid contributor for Michigan State in his first three seasons, Valentine’s spot on this list is undoubtedly due to his senior year, where his numbers were off the charts, and illustrated the versatility of his game. Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per contest in 2015-16. He wasn’t truly elite in any way, but the sum of his many strong parts was enormous. Somewhere around 20th in the rankings seems entirely appropriate.
JD: Valentine is without a doubt the best all-around player of the last 10 years. There is not a player ahead of him on the list who could score, pass, defend and rebound the way Valentine did. That being said, he was never good enough at one thing to consistently impose his will on games. The late teens seem like a fair place for him considering his accomplishments and lack of a signature moment.
17. G Trey Burke | Michigan | 2011/12-2012/13
Total Points: 39 (36)
At a Glance: 2012-13 Naismith Player of the Year, 2012-13 AP First Team All American, 2012-13 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2013 Final Four
JM: There’s only one player left to be named who played fewer seasons than Burke did in college, and that’s saying something. If he stays for just one more year he’s probably in the top three on this list considering Michigan won the Big Ten and went to the Elite Eight the year after Burke went to the NBA. But he left after he was the best player in the country and that certainly makes sense. I’m glad he finished where he did, mostly because the guys coming up next definitely had better college careers.
CB: A starter from day one, Burke quickly turned into the best player in college basketball by his sophomore year, averaging 18.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.2 boards per game while leading the Wolverines to a championship game and sweeping the player of the year awards. With his quickness, strength, and range, Burke was the power behind back-to-back outstanding Michigan teams. No. 17 seems appropropriate to me for his ranking.
JD: Burke has one of the most well-rounded resumes of anyone on this list: a shared Big Ten regular season title, numerous national player of the year awards, a Final Four and a clutch gene that can’t be taught. He was really good as a freshman and phenomenal as a sophomore. There’s a significant gap between Burke and Sullinger for me, but I have no issue with him being ahead of Valentine, Dieng and Berry.
16. F Jared Sullinger | Ohio State | 2010/11-2011/12
Total Points: 42 (34)
At a Glance: Two time AP First Team All-American (2010-11, 2011-12), 2012 Final Four
JM: Not many players on this list can say they’ve been a first team all-american and gone to a Final Four. Sullinger has done both averaging a career 17.3 and 9.7 at Ohio State. The Buckeyes of the early 2010s might be the most forgotten college basketball teams of the last 30 years and as a result Sullinger is forgotten a little bit, as well. He belongs right around here on the list.
CB: Sullinger was one of the most dependable offensive centers in college basketball from the moment he first stepped on the court, averaging a double-double his freshman year and just missing the mark in 2011-12. The Buckeyes appeared to be the best team in the NCAA for most of the 2010-11 season before falling to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Sullinger returned to lead a worse Ohio State team all the way to the Final Four the next year. I likely would have ranked Sullinger a few spots lower, but the 16th spot certainly is a lot more reasonable than I believed at first glance.
JD: It is so easy to forget just how good Sullinger was his two seasons in Columbus. He won the Big 10 regular season title twice as a First Team All-American and reached a Final Four. The only other multi-time AP First Team All-American in the past decade never won a major conference title of any kind or reached the Sweet 16 in four years. There is only one player ahead of Sullinger on the list who left for the NBA as an underclassman, and that’s exactly how it should be.
15. F Justin Jackson | North Carolina | 2014/15-2016/17
Total Points: 46 (38)
At a Glance: 2016-17 AP First Team All-American, 2016-17 ACC Player of the Year, Two Final Fours (2016, 2017), 2017 National Champion
JM: I’m not sure how either of my colleagues have any sort of issue with Jackson going where he did when they didn’t have an issue with Berry going where he did. Quite frankly, a starter on both Final Four teams, a national champion, a first team all-american and an ACC Player of the year belongs nowhere except in the top 15.
CB: There’s no disputing the great impact Jackson had on the Tar Heels teams that reached the title game in 2016 and won the title the next year. That being said, his numbers, recognition, and overall ceiling just doesn’t quite measure up with others in this ballpark. Jackson would likely have ranked outside of my personal top 25.
JD: Jackson averaged 12.2 points on a team that made the championship game as a sophomore and was the best player on the best team in the country as a junior. He wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as some of the guys coming up, which is why I wouldn’t put him in my top 15. Our formula has him in the right ballpark though.
14. G Buddy Hield | Oklahoma | 2012/13-2015/16
Total Points: 2015-16 Naismith Player of the Year, 2014-15 AP Third Team All-American, 2015-16 AP First Team All-American, 2016 Final Four
At a Glance:
JM: Hield is a top five scorer in college basketball over the last decade and the best scorer in the Big 12 ever in terms of stats. Multiple all-american honors is an underrated accolade, in my opinion, but the Final Four appearance helps him get to a spot that I like. If anything, Hield put together a resumé that validates him being a few spots higher, but most of the guys right ahead of him deserve to be there as well.
CB: You couldn’t help but be captivated by Hield at his best. Without the 2016 Final Four run, it would have been more difficult to justify this high of a spot in the rankings, but it’s certainly deserved. Longevity, something increasingly rare in the college game over the last decade, was certainly in Hield’s favor. After performing as a role player his freshman year, Hield broke out to the tune of roughly 17 points per game the next two years and 25 per contest his senior season as the best player in the country. His scoring outbursts and range made him so fun to watch. 14th seems about appropriate, though I could make a case for even higher.
JD: Let the record show it is an absolute travesty Hield didn’t sweep the national player of the year awards his last year in Norman. Fair or not, that Final Four did wonders for him on a list like this. I would have a hard time justifying why someone with no Final Fours or conference championships of any kind deserves to be in the top 15, even if that person is the best scorer in the history of the Big 12. The next three guys would be ahead of him on my personal list as well, so 14th is spot on from my perspective.
13. Shabazz Napier | UConn | 2010/11-2013/14
Total Points: 47 (47)
At a Glance: 2013-14 AP First Team All-American, 2013-14 AAC Player of the Year, two Final Fours (2011, 2014), two National Championships (2011, 2014)
JM: Napier is here because he contributed in 2011 and then was one of the best players in the country on the title team in 2014. I’ve got no issues with him landing here, but he can’t be much higher when UConn only went 12-6 in the AAC in 2013-14. With that being said, UConn beat the second, third, fourth and first seeds in their region en route to that national championship. There wasn’t an upset to make their road any easier.
CB: Of the seven college basketball players who captured two national titles in the 2010s, Napier was perhaps the most critical to his team’s success. He emerged as a significant scorer alongside Kemba Walker to help the Huskies win the title in 2011. And he was instrumental in what was perhaps the most unlikely national championship of the 2010s in 2014, when he willed UConn to the title, scoring 22 points against Kentucky in the title game. I may have moved a few players ahead of him in my own ranks, but this is certainly a reasonable range for Napier.
JD: The first thing that comes to mind about the 2013-14 UConn team is Napier, which almost justifies a spot in the top 15 by itself. And don’t forget he played 24 minutes a game as a freshman on the other national championship team. The lack of team success outside of the NCAA Tournament puts him in the 11-15 range for me.
12. F Luke Maye | North Carolina | 2015/16-2018/19
Total Points: 48 (37)
At a Glance: 2017-18 AP Third Team All-American, two Final Fours (2016, 2017), 2017 National Champion
JM: This is one of the instances where I wish we could give percentage points for a national championship depending on the role that player played in the title run. There is something to be said about the fact that when Maye was the best player in Chapel Hill UNC was knocked out before the Elite Eight twice. I get why his ranking is this high, but placing him above everybody else from 20-13 is a little bit laughable. There isn’t a player there that you would take after taking Maye and that’s saying something.
CB: Maye was a great college player, make no mistake about it, but he’s probably the highest-ranked player here that I feel is significantly misplaced in the rankings. The logic for his 12th spot isn’t hard to understand: he has two Final Fours and a National Title on his resume. But all that came in Maye’s first two seasons, when he was a rotational piece with a relatively low scoring output. That’s not to say he shouldn’t get some credit for those great UNC seasons, as well as significant credit for averaging a double-double his junior and senior years, but he would make more sense to me in the 20s than at No. 12.
JD: I find Maye’s legacy to be the most interesting of any player on our list. How do you evaluate someone who made two Final Fours as a rotational piece and then averaged a double-double in the ACC two years in a row? Maye is by no means the 12th-best player of the last decade, but it’s hard to argue he’s not the 12th greatest. I am quite pleased with the way our formula treated him.
11. G Cassius Winston | Michigan State | 2016/17-2019/20
Total Points: 48 (37)
At a Glance: 2018-19 AP First Team All-American, 2019-20 AP Second Team All-American, 2018-19 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2019 Final Four
JM: Winston is too low, but that’s a result of him not getting to play in the 2020 NCAA tournament. He’s one of the best point guards of the last decade and maybe the best passer over a four-year stretch. The other Josh is exactly right, how lost Michigan State looked without him playing well is a testament to just how good he was and how much of a leader he was on the floor.
CB: Winston displayed just about every trait you could want from a college point guard. One of many gifted players in Tom Izzo’s greatest recruiting class (which included Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, and Josh Langford), Winston rose to the top to define an iconic program like no one else. I’m happy with him at 11th.
JD: Winston ends up in the top 10 if coronavirus doesn’t cancel the 2020 postseason tournaments. The numbers and accolades speak to how great of a player he was, but the thing I will always remember about Winston was how lost Michigan State looked when he wasn’t playing well. Tom Izzo needed him to play like an All-American every night, and he did so a vast majority of the time.
Photos by: ChristopherM01 / Wikimedia Commons
Marc-Gregor Campredon / Wikimedia Commons
Matthew D. Britt / Flickr