Who needs another preseason All-America team? This year at SI.com we did something different, gathering four writers and asking them to match wits in our first-ever College Hoops Draft. The assignment wasn't to build the best team in a fantasy sense -- based on individual stats -- but rather the five players and coach who would give them the best shot of winning a national title. On Thursday, we held a six-round, online draft with the following selection order (which snaked through the rounds): 1.
Here's an edited (for propriety) transcript of the how the draft unfolded.
I will select
It was very hard not to pick
Curry can score any time he wants without needing a teammate to get him the ball, and as he'll show this year, he's a better point guard than most people realize.
I was assuming Hansbrough would be off the board by No. 2. But I'm still using the pick on someone else:
He can score in close, which is going to be more important this year with the three-point line moving back.
First off, at No. 4:
I'll eat a live frog if Harden doesn't make first-team All-America. He's going to have a huge year. He can do it all from the outside and driving to the rim, and his midrange game is much improved.
Big Blake has more athleticism than Hansbrough -- and more upside, which I think he'll start tapping this year (before he goes pro).
I've got Mr. Outside in Curry, and now The Gody will take care of the paint. He scores, he rebounds, he drives the bus, he cooks team meals ...
I'd like to find a good guard complement to Curry at No. 9, but think we're still in the best player available part of the draft, so I'm going with
He'll be an even better perimeter scorer this year, he can score inside and out, and best of all he can really defend. Gives us some Big East toughness.
At No. 10, I'm taking
He's used to playing with an all-star cast, he's great distributor, can score and is familiar with Mr. Hansbrough.
Flynn is a terrific distributor who's also a lockdown defender (which we'd notice even more if the 'Cuse played more man).
With Harden and Griffin on board, I don't need a high-scoring wing so much as a visionary passer who can defend and provide leadership. I'm a huge Williams fan. (Seattle hoops baby!)
He'll be thrilled to get out of that mess in Arizona and will finally realize his potential. Budinger is an unselfish, athletic player who can score.
So I'll take
(My third choice was
For my fifth player -- and the 20th pick -- I'll go with ... Tulsa's
He's a 7-foot shot-blocking fiend who can also rebound and will work well alongside fellow Okie
He's perfect guy to lead a team that will run, shoot three's, play balls-out defense and press from time to time. (Terrence Williams likes this pick too.)
Seriously, it's beyond me why no AD has hired a woman to coach men's Division I basketball. I guess it took someone like me who's man enough to do it.
Guards: Stephen Curry, A.J. Price; forwards: Sam Young, Luke Harangody; cemter: Jarvis Varnado; coach: Pat Summitt
Guards: Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday; forwards: Tyler Smith, Patrick Patterson center: Hasheem Thabeet; coach: Bill Self
Guards: Ty Lawson, Kyle McAlarney; forwards: Chase Budinger, Tyler Hansbrough; center: A.J. Ogilvy; coach: Billy Donovan
Guards: Jonny Flynn, James Harden; forwards: Terrence Williams, Blake Griffin; center: Jerome Jordan; coach: Rick Pitino
I knew that since we had the whole country to choose from, I would have plenty of options to find guys who could score. So I put a special emphasis on players who could defend and show physical toughness. I don't think there's any question that I drafted the best defensive squad of the four of us. Taking Curry over Hansbrough was not an easy call, but it was a lot of fun building the team around him. I needed a strong post scorer and rebounder, and the third piece was a guard who could run and score with him in the backcourt -- and like Curry, who could play both guard spots. Getting Vanardo as my glue-guy shotblocker was especially sweet after Grant and Bill voiced their displeasure at having lost out. Finally, the Summitt pick was made at the last second. I was going to go with Ben Howland (a defensive coach who still lets his guys run and gun), but I like getting outside the box. I honestly think it is ridiculous that some athletic director at a low-major Division I school, or even at a Division II or III school, hasn't made the leap and hired a woman to coach a men's team. People question whether a woman could motivate, but if she's got scholarships and playing time to give out, I say she can.
I've always thought it's easier to get to win a national title with a peerless defensive team that's also pretty good -- like, top 10, but not
I felt like I could wait until a little later in the draft to take a four-man, and get pretty similar value out of an overlooked guy like
My guys are going to score, both in transition and in the halfcourt. Like I said in the chat, McAlarney is my three-point specialist who will open things up for Hansbrough. Killer inside-outside combo there. Budinger will be able to run from the wing, and Lawson will push tempo. I would have liked my team better with Varnado erasing shots back there, but Ogilvy will fit in just fine as a complement to Hansbrough. Defensively, we may struggle a bit, but we are going to score plenty, so hopefully that is enough. Finally, I think I have the top coach. Billy D will keep this all-star team as motivated and focused as his '07 Gators.
If I had a guiding philosophy for my team, it was to assemble five guys who have a lot of talent but figure to play well together, fill specific roles and play top-notch defense under a coach who can bring out their best characteristics. (I.e., this wasn't going to be an all-star team.) I wanted my team to be an up-tempo outfit that had scoring options at multiple positions but could also defend, rebound, pass and block shots.
In the end, I feel really good about this group. Flynn, Harden and Griffin can be my three-headed scoring monster, Williams is my dynamic pass-first wing and Jordan is a 7-foot shot-blocker extraordinaire who should be this year's Jarvis Varnado. The only bummer was when Seth took Varnado himself, but Jordan may end up being just as good. I'm also psyched that my team can play lockdown defense across the board, it can rebound with abandon and it has a coach (Pitino) who will play the up-tempo style I want (which explains why I didn't pick, say, Ben Howland) while demanding full commitment on defense, often over 94 feet.
Looking at the other teams, the best one I see (other than mine) is Seth's. If A.J. Price is fully recovered his backcourt of Price and Steph Curry is awfully good (though I think my backcourt of Flynn and Harden is almost as explosive and defends better), while Sam Young's toughness, Varanado's defense and Luke Harangody's scoring/rebounding are also impressive (even though I'd take my guys' ability to play up-tempo ball). Luke has a nice lineup too -- especially at the defensive end -- though I fear he's lacking a go-to guy. And Bill's guys are going to be a lot of fun to watch offensively, but defensively they'll be more than a little suspect. Inspired call by Seth on Pat Summitt!