Top College Hoops Seniors Feb 14th, 2008
CappersPicks.com NBA Handicapping Staff
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NCAA Basketball Betting: Scintillating Seniors
College seniors are a rare breed. Here are five of the best in the nation
It has become decidedly un vogue to spend four years playing college basketball.
Prior to the NBA implementing an age restriction for draftees, prized recruits wouldn’t be caught dead wearing college colors. Now that the elite are forced to attend unstylish post-secondary institutions, they’ll hang around for one season – at most – before going pro.
Because of this, we should take time to celebrate the rarest of the rare: NCAA seniors who have stuck around. Stuck around long enough to know where the SUB is. Long enough to know where the best pizza on campus is. Long enough to turn their programs into national powers.
Without further ado:
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Pundits were skeptical when Hibbert returned to school after a successful junior season. When you’re a 7-foot-2-inch center who just led Georgetown to the Final Four, you usually call it your collegiate swan song, pick out a suit and practice potential handshakes with David Stern.
What more did Hibbert have to gain? Surely his stock could only plummet playing for the Hoyas for another year, so why stick around?
“His growth and his understanding have been tremendous,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III recently told the Philly Inquirer. “If someone were to pick up a stat sheet and look at that, you may not see that. But his game has really grown. And then you get what you get from seniors. You get to this point of the year, and there is definitely an understanding, a sense of urgency. Roy’s going to have a lot of years to play basketball in his life, but his time here is coming to an end. Seniors understand that.”
Surprisingly, Hibbert’s game has improved while his numbers have plateaued. There’s a negligible difference between his points (12.9 last year, 13.2 this year) and rebounds (6.9 last year, 6.8 this year) per game, but the intangibles – leadership, basketball IQ, competitive edge – have flourished. His consistency has distanced Georgetown from the rest of the Big East pack, no small feat given it’s widely considered to be the best conference in the country.
Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
A year ago, Foster and 76ers draft pick Derrick Byars formed a lethal one-two scoring touch from the perimeter. The two led Vandy to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1993.
This year, Foster is going at it alone – but he’s doing just fine.
He’s become the Vandy’s leading scoring, averaging 18.9 points per contest, the fourth-best total in the SEC. He’s also emerged as the best three-point shooter in the conference (he leads in makes, with 93), no small feat considering that University of Tennessee rival Chris Lofton, who we’ll get to in a second, is hot on his heels.
Foster has taken his experiences from last season and emerged as a crucial leader for a young Commodores team. Second-leading scorer A.J. Ogilvy is a freshman while the backcourt is led by sophomore Jermaine Beal.
This team has come a long way in the four years that I’ve been here,” Foster told ESPN.com. “It’s been great to be a part of. A lot of great guys, great coaches. Team chemistry has come a long way from my freshman year until now
D.J. White, Indiana
Everything you need to know about White’s game can be summed up in this YouTube clip. CBS talking head Clark Kellogg calls White “an absolute man” in the painted area, something that the Ohio State Buckeyes can attest to… and then some.
What scouts love about White is that his decision to stay in school accentuated his growth as a basketball player. In his senior year, White’s numbers have skyrocketed. He’s averaging a double-double (17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game) and is attacking the rim with ferocity.
His put-back dunks and highlight-reel crams – ones Buckeyes freshman Kostas Koufos has become quite familiar with – make him a prized possession for Hoosiers head coach Kelvin Sampson.
“He’s such a strong leader for this team,” Sampson said of White, who has 15 double-doubles in his last 19 games. “And these guys do a great job of following him. D.J. has a mindset (that says,) ‘Just follow me. I’ll help you get where you want to go.'”
Derrick Low, Washington State
Low is the most unassuming player of this quintet. His career at Pullman has been a study in consistency, dishing out assists and playing lockdown defense.
While he has struggled with his shot in his senior year (his three-point and field goal percentages are down from a year ago) his presence on the defensive end of the floor has more than made up for it. Solely in charge of guarding point guards, Low utilizes his strength and tenacity to shut down opponents’ primary ballhandlers.
“He’s stronger and quicker than a couple years ago,” Wazzu coach Tony Bennett said. “On the ball, he’s really sitting down. His strength helps him.”
It’s helped Low become one of the 30 finalists for the Wooden Award, annually awarded to the most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball players.
Chris Lofton, Tennessee
Lofton is a perfect example of the accolades one can rack up with a full four-year collegiate career. In December, Lofton passed former Volunteers great Allan Houston to become Tennessee’s all-time leader in three-pointers made.
In January, he passed former Arkansas standout Pat Bradley for the all-time SEC lead. This past week, Lofton received his seventh SEC Player of the Week honor, setting him apart from any other player in conference history – no other SEC player had won the award more than six times.
He’ll likely go down as one of the greatest players in UT basketball history, putting himself in distinguished company alongside Houston, Bernard King, Dale Ellis and Ernie Grunfeld. But Lofton has his sights set on more than just personal glory; his desire to get the Vols past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history is burning.
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