CBS Sports released its top 100 college hoopsters yesterday, with three Duke basketball players checking in. Senior forward Mason Plumlee leads the Blue Devils at No. 26, freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon ranks No. 87 and senior guard Seth Curry rounds out the crew at No. 98.
Two of The Chronicle’s basketball writers Brady Buck and Bobby Colton sat down to respond to the rankings. Did they put these guys too high? Too low? Just right? How about the exclusion of Ryan Kelly?
No. 26 Mason Plumlee
Brady Buck: Too low. After averaging nearly a double-double last season, Plumlee should be one of the premier big men in both the ACC and college basketball during his senior campaign, especially if he can improve his conversion rate at the charity stripe. The Blue Devils will have reliable 3-point shooting threats at the point guard through power forward positions most of the time, which should prevent defenses from being able to double-down on him in the lane.
To critique the rankings, Plumlee’s scoring and rebounding averages from last year were better than forward Gorgul Dieng (Louisville), who is ranked ahead of Plumlee at No. 22. And ranking unproven freshmen Kyle Anderson (UCLA) and Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) at No. 19 and No. 20, respectively, in front of Plumlee is quite a stretch for the time being.
Bobby Colton: Plumlee has the ability to be a dominant big man in the NCAA this season. He’s consistently increased his point output since joining Duke, and this year the Blue Devils will have to lean on him to take on more of the scoring onus. Additionally, he was third in the ACC in rebounding, behind UNC’s Tyler Zeller and John Henson, both of whom have graduated to the NBA.
The Mason Plumlee we saw last year started calling for the ball in the paint and let the guards hear about it if the ball didn’t find him. What’s more, Plumlee even improved his free throw shooting down the stretch, shooting 77 percent from the charity stripe over his final five games, compared to the 53 percent he put up for the season.
This ranking was very kind to shot-blocking big men, like No. 18 Jeff Withey (Kansas) and No. 22 Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), but Plumlee has proven to be a more complete player than either of them over the course of his career.
No. 87 Rasheed Sulaimon
BB: Just right. Interestingly, Rasheed Sulaimon is the highest-ranked Duke guard even though he likely will not be in the starting lineup, at least initially. As the season progresses, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard could very well be in the first five largely because of what he brings to the table defensively. Sulaimon’s length and foot speed should enable him to be the team’s best on-ball defender this season. He will also be dangerous offensively due to his consistent stroke from a three-point range and slashing capabilities.
BB: Too high. Sulaimon is too high simply because we’ve never seen him play at the college level. Furthermore, we have no idea how much Sulaimon will play at the get-go considering guys like Seth Curry, Tyler Thornton, Quinn Cook and Alex Murphy are all going to get significant minutes at the point and on the wings.
If Sulaimon comes in and is the player he was in high school—wreaking havoc on defense and putting up points on offense—we’ll look back and say he’s too low on this list. However, right now Sulaimon may not even start for Duke, let alone be its second best player.
No. 98 Seth Curry
BB: Just right. Curry had a tendency to disappear during games last season despite averaging 13.2 points per outing. Moreover, his limitations defensively are what justify his lower ranking. The senior lacks the size to guard opposing shooting guards on most nights and can be a liability when matched up against speedy point guards. Offense is a different story as the senior is arguably the best pure shooter in the ACC heading into this year.
BC: Just right. Curry is a tough case because his ranking is dependent on what position he plays. Last season Curry was the primary point guard playing next to Austin Rivers, and Curry is just not a point guard. His 2.4 assists in over 30 minutes per game confirms that.
He is at his best when his job is to score. Blessed with perhaps the best shot in college basketball, Curry is better suited to play off the ball. Playing the point, Curry had to look for his teammates first, which detracted from his ability to change the game with his scoring. Hopefully for his development, Quinn Cook will take the reigns at the point in his sophomore season, freeing up Curry to play the two. If he’s the main shooting guard, he’s too low on this list. If he’s forced to play point guard, he would fall out of the top-100.
BB: Kelly should have received some love in the rankings. There are very few power forwards in college basketball that are 6-foot-11 with the ability to shoot above 40% from beyond the arc. Kelly is one of those players and because he can stretch opposing defenses it greatly benefits Duke by creating driving lanes for the guards. He’s also one of the smarter defensive post players in the country.
BC: Kelly is by no means a perfect player. He doesn’t rebound nearly enough for a man 6-foot-11 (he averaged just 5.3 last season), has holes on defense, and sometimes disappears in tough games (zero points against No. 2 Ohio State, five against Temple, and two against No. 6 UNC at Cameron). However, he deserves to be ranked for what he brings to this Duke team.
With the size of a true power forward, Kelly shot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc, meaning opposing big men will have to vacate the pain to keep Kelly from taking open jumpers. That leaves Mason Plumlee more room to operate underneath and leaves driving lanes open for guards to penetrate. On the other side of the ball, Kelly frequently sacrifices his body setting for charges, and often completely changes the momentum of games by drawing key offensive fouls.
He should be ranked above Sulaimon and Curry the point guard.