With 357 teams comprising Division I college basketball, there was only room for 0.28 players per team on our list of the sport’s top 101 players that was published in November. Sure, the Ivy League and a couple other teams have since dropped out of the 2020-21 season, but when our team of college basketball writers was deliberating who to include on the list, no one had dropped out of the season yet.
So, even though 101 players sounds like a ton, it’s really just a blip on the radar when you think about the scope of the sport and the fact that there are well over 4,000 Division I college basketball players. Naturally, the first half of the season has made it obvious there were some top 101-calibers players from the sport’s vast talent pool who missed the list. For this week’s edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are naming the snubs that stick out most to them.
These are four players who, in retrospect, our writers believe should have made the list or been ranked higher. We now extend our heartfelt apologies to each of them.
We knew Texas would likely be good this season based on what the Longhorns returned and enrolled. So it made sense to have multiple UT players on our top 101 list in the preseason. But did we get the right players? We had Greg Brown at No. 37 and Matt Coleman at No. 46. Through 13 games this season, however, it’s Andrew Jones who has emerged as the Longhorns’ leading scorer. He’s averaging 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 29.0 minutes per game for a team that’s ranked sixth in Wednesday morning’s Top 25 And 1. That’s tremendous without context. But when you consider that all of this is happening just three years after Jones was sidelined by a leukemia diagnosis, it can reasonably be called one of the best stories in the sport. — Gary Parrish
We undervalued and underestimated Robbins’ impact at Drake. He’s become the second most important player on a Minnesota team that’s on a steady track to make the NCAAs. Without him, I’m not convinced Minnesota’s a top-six team in the Big Ten. With him, Rick Pitino’s team has wins over Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. At Drake, Bulldogs coach Darian DeVries told me Robbins was the best defender in the Missouri Valley. He averaged 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. At Minnesota this season, he’s at 13.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. He’s not a top-50 player, but he is top-100, for sure. — Matt Norlander
Pitt entered 2020-21 fresh off a fourth consecutive losing season and with no clear-cut alpha on its roster. Then, right before our eyes, Justin Champagnie became a star, making his presence felt early, often and with relentlessness. He posted a double-double in the third game of what has been a breakout sophomore campaign, culminating with a monstrous two-game stretch in December in which he had 20 points and 20 boards vs. Northwestern, followed three days later with 24 points and 21 boards against Gardner-Webb.
At 6-foot-6, he’s a combo forward who does a little of everything on the court for Pitt. He not only leads the team in scoring and rebounds — he leads the ACC in scoring and rebounds. Officially announcing himself on a national stage Tuesday, he led Pitt to a 79-73 win over Duke by posting a career-high 31 points, with 14 boards to boot.
It’s high time we acknowledge our mistake of neglecting him to include him in our top 100 (and one). I’m not afraid to admit it an oversight, of which this was absolutely one: Champagnie’s having an All-American caliber season and we completely whiffed on him. One of the best breakout players in all of college basketball this season. — Kyle Boone
Georgia Tech started as poorly as possible with losses to Georgia State and Mercer that will make qualifying for the NCAA Tournament an uphill climb. Don’t let that dilute your appreciation for Jose Alvarado, who was never even nominated for our top 101 players list but is doing his best to rally the Yellow Jackets after their horrid start. The generously listed 6-foot point is averaging 24.7 points on 73.7%(!) shooting over his past three games — all victories — and has led Georgia Tech to wins in six of its last seven games.
Alvarado earned third-team All-ACC honors for averaging 14.4 points and 4 assists per game as a junior last year, and the way he closed the season suggested that a fantastic senior season was coming. Alvarado averaged 17.8 points while helping Georgia Tech win its last four games and finish alone at fifth in the ACC standings. He’s picked up where he left off by averaging 18.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.1 steals, all while shooting a career-best 40.9% from 3-point range. That production made him third in the ACC in scoring and steals, and tied for eighth in assists entering Tuesday’s action. That sure sounds like a top-100 player. — David Cobb