November 19, 2009

How do you build the ultimate college squad? This week we asked four college basketball writers to match wits in our second annual College Dream Team Draft, in which they selected the five players and coach whom they felt would give them the best shot at winning a national championship in 2009-10. (The consensus is that the inaugural draft was won by Grant Wahl, who picked a killer lineup of Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, Arizona State's James Harden, Louisville's TerrenceWilliams, Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Tulsa's Jerome Jordan, with Rick Pitino as coach.)

The order of selection for '09-10 was as follows: Grant Wahl, Luke Winn, Seth Davis, Kevin Armstrong, with picks snaking through the rounds.

The following is an edited transcript of how the online draft unfolded:

Wahl: With the first selection of the 2009-10 SI draft, I select ... Cole Aldrich, center, Kansas. He has a unique skill-set -- he rebounds, scores, and blocks shots!

Davis: I thought for sure you'd take Beckham. Book sales are more important than this draft, you know.

Winn: With the second pick ... I'm taking John Wall, point guard, Kentucky. By the end of the season he'll be unguardable -- and he's pretty close to it now.

Davis: Obviously, with the third pick, I will be taking The Gody.

That's how his name will appear on his uniform, though I may drop the y. [For the uninformed, the Gody is Notre Dame power forward Luke Harangody.]

Davis: Kevin is now on the phoneasking Tom Konchalski whom to pick.

Armstrong: Tom suggested Connie Hawkins, but I'll announce my independence and go with Oklahoma's Willie Warren. If Willie keeps up the assists, he'll be the best guard in the country, Wall included.

Second Round

Armstrong: With the first pick in the second round, I'll go with a center: Jamican sensation Jerome Jordan of Tulsa.

Wahl: Isiah Thomas says Jordan is good. Warning flag!

Armstrong: Jordan added pro post moves to his blocking. He's the best player to enter C-USA without [Worldwide] Wes in a few years.

Davis: That is nuts, man. You really think Jerome Jordan is the fifth best player in the country?

Winn: I almost didn't even have him on my Naismith list.

Armstrong: I stand by my man.

Davis: I'll take my guy Evan Turner, point guard, Ohio State. Now I know how Jerry Krause felt after the Blazers drafted Sam Bowie.

Winn: I'm going the small-ball route and taking Sherron Collins, Kansas. That (along with Wall) gives me a backcourt that can't be beat ... and in this dream setting, Sherron is never hurt.

Davis: Great. You've got two guards who need the ball in their hands all the time.

Winn: Wall will need the ball, but Collins can be unselfish enough to make it work.

Wahl: Yep -- I'll take Kalin Lucas, point guard, Michigan State. Proven player who can handle the tough road environments.

Davis: Now that's a good pick. Lucas was my coach at the Michigan State media practice last year. I sucked, but that wasn't his fault.

Armstrong: Few coaches could pull off that miracle fix-up job.

Davis: I was a playa back at Camp Equinunk. All downhill since then, I'm afraid.

Winn: You're not allowed to plug that book here.

Third Round

Wahl: With my third pick, I'll take Kyle Singler, small forward, Duke. Good guy to have on the wing -- and notice how experienced my team is!

Winn: I need to start building a frontcourt ... so my third pick is, Patrick Patterson, power forward Kentucky. A classic double-double guy who's going to make the most of his senor year. (And now I, too, have experience.)

Wahl: Can't wait for Luke to pick Calipari as his coach.

Davis: I'll head out west and take Isaiah Thomas from Washington. He'll mix well with Turner -- both guards can score and make plays for others.

Winn: You figured since you have the biggest point guard, you'd find the smallest shooting guard available ...

Armstrong: My third pick is UConn point guard Kemba Walker, a misnomer and a mismatch for most. Speedy on offense; deadly on D. Pair him with Willie [Warren] for best backcourt in the country.

Winn: I'll put Wall and Collins up against Walker and Warren any day.

Davis: Wall and Collins are better individual players, but I still don't think they would play well together.

Winn: It could blow up, but Sherron played well with Chalmers in '08, and he seems OK with Xavier Henry taking a lot of shots this year.

Davis: It's not a question of chemistry/character -- I just don't like the way their skill sets mesh. If you had Jerome Jordan, I would feel differently.

Fourth Round

Armstrong: For my power forward, I'll take Ed Davis, North Carolina. He's a Roy Williams-trained big man that can run with my guards.

Davis: I've got Gody, Turner and Thomas, so I need an in-betweener who can make plays and make everyone better. Hence ... Tyler Smith, Tennessee.

Winn: I took him last year and then he didn't even shoot 30 percent on threes. I still like him, though.

Davis: I'll pick up a marksman in the next round.

Winn: My backcourt is going to eat up so many shots that I can afford to have a defensive center -- therefore, Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State. He's right up there with Aldrich as the nation's best defensive force, and might be better.

Wahl: Really?

Winn: He's definitely not a better all-around center, but defensively ...

Davis: Varnardo is overrated. Only a good weakside defender. Doesn't stop his own man.

Wahl: Varnado reminds me of Emeka Okafor ... as a freshman.

Winn: You guys are harsh. Jerome Jordan was off the board!

Wahl: For my fourth pick, I'll select Scottie Reynolds, Villanova. A great scoring guard who gives my lineup some needed quickness -- and adds more experience.

Fifth Round

Wahl: With my final player pick, I'll take Devin Ebanks, West Virginia. He's ready for a big jump this year, and my coach will keep him on track.

Winn: Now that he's on your team, can you divulge what the personal issue is that kept him out of opener?

Wahl: My coach, Devin and I will be having that discussion shortly.

Winn: Well, I hope everything's OK. My last opening is at the wing, where I'll take a guy who can play inside and out: Manny Harris, Michigan. He's like Evan Turner with less hype -- and after Wall, the most athletic guy on my team.

Wahl: Nice pick. I like what Harris has become under Beilein.

Winn: Like Seth blogged last week, Manny's season-opening triple-double doesn't fully count because it wasn't against a D-I team (he played Northern Michigan). But you have to be a little excited about 18-13-10 in the opener.

Davis: As you all pointed out I need a long-range shooter and scorer ... so I'll go with A.J. Slaughter from Western Kentucky. Best mid-major player next to Jerome Jordan.

Winn: I did not see that one coming.

Armstrong: I thought Seth might take Lance Stephenson as his shooter.

Wahl: Inspired pick. I really like WKU this season.

Winn: I would've liked to have Orlando Mendez-Valdez on my dream team last year instead of Jrue Holiday.

Wahl: That's Lou Dobbs's favorite player.

Winn: Because he hates hyphens?

Armstrong: With the last pick, I'll take Al-Farouq Aminu, from Wake Forest. He's more than just a good BB-gun shot -- he could be a consistent double-double guy from the wing.

Winn: He was the highest player left on my board -- I had him, Damion James and James Anderson right next to each other. So, nice pick.

Coaching Round

Armstrong: I'll take Michigan State's Tom Izzo, to toughen my squad up.

Davis: I'll take Kansas' Bill Self. He does a great job coaching both sides of the floor, and his teams are always tough.

I was going to take Izzo, by the way. That almost makes up for the Jordan pick.

Wahl: Izzo was at the top of my list, too.

Winn: Because of my potential guard-coexistence issues ... I'm taking Villanova's Jay Wright. He knows how to manage multiple star guards, coaches defense well, and has Final Four experience.

Davis: Well-played. Well-dressed, too.

Wahl: The coach my team needs (and in particular Devin Ebanks) is Roy Williams. Ol' Roy will work his magic with Ebanks the way he did with Rashad McCants in '05.

Davis: You sure it's not cause you want all-access for another SI piece?

Wahl: It's been too long. Time for another. I'm Roy's boss now, right?

Davis: Your boy Aldrich will do more running on that team than he has in his life.

To recap, here are the four dream teams, with players in draft order:

Wahl: Cole Aldrich, Kalin Lucas, Scottie Reynolds, Kyle Singler, Devin Ebanks; coach: Roy Williams.

Winn: John Wall, Sherron Collins, Pat Patterson, Jarvis Varnado, Manny Harris; coach: Jay Wright

Davis: Luke Harangody, Evan Turner, Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Smith, A.J. Slaughter; coach: Bill Self

Armstrong: Willie Warren, Jerome Jordan, Kemba Walker, Ed Davis, Al- Farouq Aminu; coach: Tom Izzo

So who has the best team?

Davis: It's hard to go against Luke's squad -- at the least they'll be the most entertaining.

Winn: Thanks, Seth. After bombing last year with UCLA's backcourt, I had to make up for it.

Armstrong: Grant's got a few crafty scorers (Reynolds, Singler) plus speed (Lucas) and an X-Factor in Ebanks.

Davis: I'd go with Grant second, though Ebanks was a risk -- not just character but an unproven guy (though with much potential).

Winn: I do think Kevin's backcourt could end up being scary. Maybe not scary enough to make up for the Jerome Jordan pick, but scary.

Armstrong: Izzo will coach Jordan up until he's running into the crowd for rebounds.

Wahl: I like Seth's combination of players. That team would play well together.

Winn: Yeah -- I cannot believe he got Evan Turner at No. 6.

Davis: I think I'm the only one with two legit national player-of-the- year favorites.

Finally, we asked each of the four draftees to reflect on his squad ...


As usual, I didn't want to simply draft five high-scoring All-Stars.

This process was about building a team, and I feel like this team will play well together. Also, several important roles got filled. Cole Aldrich is a unique player who can score, but he may be more important as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Scottie Reynolds is my main deep- threat shooter, but Kalin Lucas, Kyle Singler and Devin Ebanks can do that as well.

There's plenty of defensive quickness on this team, but we also have a high basketball IQ, a willingness to share the ball and a ton of experience. Aldrich, Reynolds, Lucas, Singler and coach Roy Williams have all been in the big games, and their seasoning will have a hugely positive impact on the talented but immature Ebanks. I also like the way Roy Williams's teams play. All but one of my players are tailor-made for Ol' Roy's up-tempo style, and something tells me he'll make sure Aldrich is in the shape of his life to get up and down the court.


Before the season, Sherron Collins took umbrage to all the hype John Wall was getting, saying, "I'm the old guy, and I ain't gonna let no young boy get the best of me." I thought the best way to keep this spat between the country's two best point guards from escalating was to put them on the same team, where they could steamroll opponents by averaging a collective 40 points per game, win a national title, split the Naismith and Wooden Awards, and have everything be copacetic. I'd need a coach who could figure out the chemistry, so I picked Jay Wright, the man behind Villanova's great backcourt brigades.

My 3-4-5 players are all good fits: Manny Harris, a steal in the last round, is a great distributor and can run with Wall and Collins; Patrick Patterson is a blue-collar, NBA-quality power forward who'll dominate on the glass and be tough on D; and Jarvis Varnado, despite my fellow draftees' jabs, is the country's best shot-blocker, and won't need to score more than a few points per game. It probably goes without saying, but I love this team.


To be honest, I was drafting from the worst position. It was towards the end of the order, but I never had a chance to draft two players in a row. With those hindrances, my selections were naturally brilliant.

As I said during the chat, I'm the only guy whose team has two front runners for national player of the year. Moreover, I obviously placed a huge emphasis on picking a team that would play well together -- a whole that would exceed the sum of its parts. That's why I took two of the most versatile players in the country in Evan Turner and Tyler Smith. I also took two perimeter players who are legit combo guards; both Thomas and Slaughter can score in huge numbers but also run the point if necessary. And what can you say about The Gody? He deserves to play on a great team once in his life. He and Bill Self are gonna get along great. Self just needs to show Luke where the gym is, and let The Gody take care of the rest.


The ability to have lockdown defenders in both the post and on the perimeter was my guiding light. In UConn point guard Kemba Walker (three steals per game), I have a ballhawk who frustrates even the craftiest scorers in the Big East. In Jamaica-born Jerome Jordan (three blocks per game) I have a seven footer creating a no-fly zone around the rim.

If there are any questions about Jordan's softness, I'm confident Michigan State coach Tom Izzo can have him banging the boards like a Flint-Stone in no time. Transition off of turnovers will drive the offense, and Willie Warren -- he of the 7.5 assists per game thus far -- can bring a dual threat in driving to the cup or pulling up from the outside.

Likewise, understated UNC forward Ed Davis can sprint baseline-to-baseline better than almost any other big man. When I needed a wing, I went for Al-Farouq Aminu. He can glide in with athleticism or step back as a marksman. As far as frontlines go, I may have the greatest cumulative wingspan in the nation, and pit bulls like Walker and Warren can only prosper for an Izzo team.

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