No, I have not forgotten basketball but in accordance with the desire to give football it's due I have been a little mum on the basketball, especially since there is not much to talk about anyhow. That all changed last week when CBS Sportsline's Gary Parrish released his second round of position rankings for college basketball. UNC is well represented as you might expect for a team that is one of the favorites to win a national title.
The big men:
But let's be certain we all understand you can't add somebody to any list without taking somebody else off. So if you must argue, please argue under those guidelines ... though you shouldn't bother arguing about the No. 1 spot on the list of Bigs. Honestly, placing North Carolina's star junior at the top was the easiest thing I've done all week.
1.Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina): Hansbrough is on his way to a possible national title, which would solidify this Missourian as one of the great college basketball players of his era.
First of all, I have to ask. Is there a class you take in journalism school or in whatever communication degree Parrish attained that teaches you hyperbole? Greatest player of his era? I love Hansbrough as much as the next Tar Heel fan but I would prefer we get a little further down the road before declaring Hansbrough to be on par with "great" players in his era. Secondly, I will say the stock I place in these rankings is about as high as Vonage's right now mainly because Parrish likes to rank incoming freshman which is a little disconcerting since they have never been tested on the college level. That really makes these rankings more like a general guess on how good these guys might be. In this case I think ranking Hansbrough #1 is plausible but one issue Hansbrough has is playing defenders bigger than him. I am not sure how much of a knock that is on him as you compare him to other big men. Hansbrough is a solid defender but not* a game changer. I also would point out that NC State's Brandon Costner is listed 9th which probably bugs a segment of the Wolfpack fan base since some of them believe (1) Costner is better than Hansbrough(I would argue they have different games which makes comparisons tough) and (2) They have bought into other preseason rankings which slate the Pack ahead of UNC in the frontcourt.
2. Ty Lawson (North Carolina): Last season I ranked Lawson as the sixth-best point guard in the nation before he had ever played a game at North Carolina, and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams told the Chicago Tribune such praise was "dumb as dirt." Obviously with this ranking, I stand by what I wrote, and then some.
It was "dumb as dirt" in fact I said as much then. And looking at those rankings again you see that Virginia Tech's Jamon Gordon was ranked behind Lawson. I need not remind my readers what happened the two times UNC played the Hokies and the horrible things Gordon did to Lawson. So I think Lawson was a very good point guard at season's end with there still being some questions concerning his perimeter offense and his conditioning. Lawson also showed his youth when he faced veteran PGs such as NCSU's Engin Atsur. Heading into this season ranking him #2 is fairly reasonable but it also assumes that he is going to shoot the ball better, be a consistent defender and have conditioned legs under him. And it is also "dumb as dirt" to assume any team in this era of college basketball is going to consistently reel of 30 point wins unless they are playing cupcakes or Wake Forest.
8. Wayne Ellington (North Carolina): Teamed with point guard Ty Lawson, Ellington is part of perhaps the best backcourt in the country, one that ranks right there with the likes of UCLA, Washington State, Memphis, Marquette, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee.
The above blurb is the purest example of lazy analysis. Parrish offers you zero reasoning for ranking Ellington here that is actually based on Ellington himself. The way I read that first sentence you could stick Marc Campbell in backcourt and by virtue of the fact he is teamed with Ty Lawson makes him the eighth best shooting guard in the nation. I have been critical of Ellington on this blog, mainly because I never felt he showed the type of perimeter shooting or offensive prowess he was hyped to have possessed. Look at it as tough love but I happen to think there is little basis to garnish Ellington with such praise. His performances last season, while resulting in 11 ppg, were erratic and it was never clear if whether he was capable of being the perimeter threat everyone assumed he was. So where Ellington is concerned I would like to see a body of work before I considering him one of the top ten shooting guards in the country. Incidentally, last year Parrish had Ellington seventh in his rankings, compared him to Rashad McCants, said he would challenge Hansbrough for leading scorer on the team and possibly be ACC Freshman of the Year. Care to stand by that one too, Gary?
In the end position rankings are worthless. A team can have the five best players at every position but if they do not gel as a team or have everyone properly understand their roles on the team then they will fall short of the national championship. The only #1 ranking is the one that is assigned to the team after that final game in April.
*Edit: Added after posting.