Photo: New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony talks to the media at NBA teams media day Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Greenburgh, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
The 76th UAAP season just ended and for all my Thomasian brothers and sisters… let’s not be second place next year (congratulations to DLSU as well).
Anyway, with college hoops being the “in” thing (we still have the NCAA in contention) I am here to bring you the 20 best players of the US NCAA Final Four Tournament. This article happened as I saw Jeron Teng hoist the UAAP Finals MVP award after the title match. This is an important award in terms of NBA Draft prospect scouting. The scouts know these players are potential stars but when the going gets tough, these players exude grace under pressure with perfection.
Before I get into the list, I will use the same stat equation I use in most of my lists. The ranks are based solely on their FINALS STATS and not on their HEART and INTANGIBLES! I will also veer away from rivalries, emotional brouhahas, and other non stat-based variable because this will tamper my list. I will always use the available numbers to determine the Most Outstanding Players so if you hate my list, go make your own. This list is also exclusive to NBA players. Whether they became global heroes or global journeymen, for as long as they played in the NBA, they will be on the list.
Also for ignorance’s sake, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kobe Bryant never played college basketball, Tim Duncan never made the NCAA Finals, and Michael Jordan never won the award during his college career (North Carolina did win a title but it was his teammate James Worthy that was hailed the Outstanding Player).
But yeah, I will agree with you that it would be a better list if we had rivalries like Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon versus Patrick Ewing, and even Joakim Noah versus Greg Oden mentioned in this series. As for favorite players, I would have wanted Christian Laettner to make the list but because his outputs were too pedestrian (plus Duke pretty much had a lot of guns), he failed to make the list.
Here is the first batch:
20 – MAGIC JOHNSON – MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
1979 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Yes… this made the list. Before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird took their battles on a higher stage, they faced off in the 1979 NCAA Finals. With the spotlight on these two, Johnson had 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists to whip the Indiana State Sycamores to the tune of 75 to 64. And if you’re curious to the outputs of Larry Legend… he did also well with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists. But among these two, Magic got the Most Outstanding Player award.
19 – SHANE BATTIER – DUKE BLUE DEVILS
2001 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Known as a three-pointing defensive specialist in the NBA, Shane Battier had a bigger role playing for Duke. Against the Arizona Wildcats in the 2001 Finals, Battier scored 18 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks in a no relief job to victory. Battier, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and former San Miguel import Nate James battled Arizona’s Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton, and frequent Gilas opponent Loren Woods in the final.
18 – CARMELO ANTHONY – SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN
2003 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Even then we all knew that Lebron James was the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft but Melo wouldn’t just give him that satisfaction (although eventually LBJ would win it). Anthony gave Syracuse the 2003 NCAA title and he did this with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Orangemen (also with former Phoenix Sun Hakim Warrick) faced stiff odds as they battled the Kansas Jayhawks led by Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison.
17 – JERRY WEST – WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
1959 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Now before becoming the league’s logo, Zeke from Cabin Creek was one of the most outstanding collegiate players of his generation. In the 1959 NCAA Finals, West had 28 points and 11 rebounds against the California Golden Bears led by Darrall Imhoff and Bill McClintock. Sadly, West Virginia lost. It’s kinda cool though that West is perhaps the only player to lose in both NCAA and NBA finals and still manage to win what is corresponding to the Finals MVP.
16 – JOAKIM NOAH – FLORIDA GATORS
2006 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Unfortunately, this was not the year when Joakim Noah faced off against Ohio State’s Greg Oden. With a nucleus that also included Al Horford and Corey Brewer, Noah battled the UCLA Bruins and came through with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 F’N blocks! Florida won the title despite strong resistance from Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Luc Mbah A Moute, Darren Collison, and former Ginebra import Cedric Bozeman.
15 – JERRY LUCAS – OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
1961 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Here’s another awardee who failed to give his team a victory. Actually, the Buckeyes won in 1960 but in 1961, they faced the fierce Cincinnati Bearcats led by Paul Hogue. In the loss, Lucas had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Lucas would then use his Hall of Fame skills with the same city that represented the school his school lost to – the Cincinnati Royals. Lucas’ teammate during that stretch is Boston Celtics Hall of Famer John Havlicek.
14 – SIDNEY WICKS – UCLA BRUINS
1970 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Sidney Wicks’ UCLA rise happened after the departure of Lew Alcindor and the before the arrival of Bill Walton. A ferocious inside operator, he would showcase his skills at the 1970 NCAA Finals against Artis Gilmore and the rest of the Jacksonville University Dolphins. This title win will be UCLA’s sixth in seven years and it had to happen with Wicks’ 17 points and 18 rebounds. Among Wicks’ teammates were Curtis Rowe and Henry Bibby – the father of Mike Bibby.
13 – GLEN RICE – MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
1989 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Iman Shumpert’s current hairdo was once sported by this deadshot shooter (also check out actor Kadeem Hardison). Anyway, as a key member of the Michigan Wolverines, Rice would feast on his defenders and he did so against the Seton Hall Pirates – led by Anthony Avent and Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze. Alongside NBA vets Terry Mills, Loy Vaught, and Rumeal Robinson, Rice prevailed and took home the crown with his 31 points and 11 rebounds in the 80 to 79 overtime victory. This was a couple of years before the vaunted Michigan Fab Five by the way.
12 – EMEKA OKAFOR – CONNECTICUT HUSKIES
2004 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Georgia Tech tried their best but they never stood a chance against the UConn Huskies especially with Emeka Okafor on deck. Okafor had 24 points and 15 rebounds along with 2 blocks to finish off the Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum’s Yellow Jackets. Using the momentum to apply in the NBA Draft where he was selected second (behind Dwight Howard in 2004), his teammates included Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, and former Ginebra import Denham Brown.
So I’m going to end this list with eleven players left.
With zero intentions to spoil you, a lot of old school warriors will comprise the Top Eleven.
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