In eight days, the men's 2021 NCAA tournament will kick off with the First Four, and all will be right again in the college basketball world after a year without March Madness. As special as the sport is in March, though, there been an entire season's worth of games that have already happened.
Heading into March Madness, Sports Illustrated has ranked the top 50 men's players of the regular season, a list that was previously headed by the likes of Zion Williamson and Obi Toppin. This year's ranking was determined by SI's Jeremy Woo, Kevin Sweeney and Molly Geary, and took into account everything from statistics, year-to-year growth, importance to team and overall performance.
First, we'll highlight 10 players that just missed the cut for our top 50. Then, the top 50 will count down from No. 50 all the way to No. 1.
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Honorable Mentions: Ochai Agbaji (Kansas), Keve Aluma (Virginia Tech), Scottie Barnes (Florida State), Julian Champagnie (St. John’s), Carlik Jones (Louisville) DeVante’ Jones (Coastal Carolina), John Petty Jr. (Alabama), Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech), Terry Taylor (Austin Peay), Mark Vital (Baylor)
College Basketball’s Top 50 Men's Players of 2020–21:
50. Max Abmas, Oral Roberts, Sophomore
The nation’s leading scorer isn’t Luka Garza or Ayo Dosunmu. It’s Abmas, a sophomore guard at Oral Roberts who has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Golden Eagles in Summit League play. He closed the regular season on a five-game heater that saw him average 34.8 points per game while shooting a blistering 59% from deep, and did all this while being hounded by opposing defenders night in and night out. He may be a bit undersized, but there are very few shooters and scorers as dynamic as Abmas at any level of basketball. And after he scored 23 as Oral Roberts punched its ticket to the Big Dance Tuesday night, America will get to see him on the big stage.
49. D’Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin, Senior
The strength of Wisconsin is in its experienced ensemble cast, but Trice, its point guard, is the straw that stirs the drink. Rarely off the court for the Badgers, the 6-footer has strengthened his play inside the arc this year to complement his always-solid perimeter shooting. His assist-to-turnover ratio is among the best in the Big Ten, but he isn’t afraid to hunt his own shot, particularly in crunch time (see: his incredible effort late in a near-comeback vs. Illinois).
48. Courtney Ramey, Texas, Junior
Texas is a balanced team with six players who average over 8.5 points per game, but Ramey has emerged as the top dog in a resurgent season for Shaka Smart’s club. The junior has torched the nets from deep, shooting a blistering 45% from beyond the arc after knocking down just 31% from deep last season. He also has continued to take on more distribution responsibilities from starting PG Matt Coleman, forming a three-headed backcourt monster with Coleman and shooter Andrew Jones. Ramey is also a terrific perimeter defender who has made life difficult for multiple star Big 12 guards this season.
47. Matt Mitchell, San Diego State, Senior
A four-year starter for the Aztecs, Mitchell has concluded his collegiate career in style as the leading scorer for a top-25 team. The pro departure of Malachi Flynn this past offseason left a significant scoring void for SDSU and Mitchell has filled it admirably, averaging over 15 points per game and shooting 38% from the field for the 20–4 Aztecs. Mitchell is a menace in transition and one of the most versatile defenders in the country thanks to his bulky 6' 6" frame. He’s definitely a name to know on one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the country this season.
46. Marcus Carr, Minnesota, Junior
The Golden Gophers have fallen off a cliff, losing seven straight to drop themselves out of NCAA tournament at-large contention, but don’t let that take away from Carr’s season. While shouldering a heavy load of minutes, the junior has had to carry the bulk of the Minnesota offense, whether that’s through scoring himself or setting up his teammates. While he hasn’t always done the former efficiently, he’s got super-scorer qualities, like when he dropped 41 points on Nebraska or 30 on Iowa. The best version of Carr involves him being aggressive with dribble penetration and getting to the line to put defenses on their heels.
45. Sharife Cooper, Auburn, Freshman
While it’s been something of a lost season for Auburn—and Cooper has missed most of it—he turned in a productive, exciting 12-game stint, averaging 20 points and eight assists and giving the Tigers a shot in the arm. His shooting splits left something to be desired, but Cooper was nearly impossible to keep out of the paint, drawing fouls at a prodigious rate and making an immediate impact. You wonder how things might have been different had he not lost the first half of the season to an eligibility battle.
44. Aamir Simms, Clemson, Senior
The big man has led Clemson to the cusp of an NCAA tournament berth in his senior campaign. Simms may not put up wild scoring numbers, but he influences the game in a multitude of ways for the 16–6 Tigers, leads his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. He’s the anchor of a defense that ranks No. 15 nationally in adjusted efficiency per KenPom, and Simms also plays a key role as a distributor when the Tigers play through the elbows or the post.
43. Matthew Hurt, Duke, Sophomore
Team-wise, this hasn’t been the season Hurt envisioned when he came back to Durham for a sophomore year, but he’s done his best to keep a young Blue Devils roster afloat. The 6' 9" forward has improved his three-point game to 43.7% this year, but it’s his ability inside the arc (65.2% shooting) that may be the true difference-maker. Hurt still does most of his damage on the offensive end, but there’s no questioning his production there.
42. McKinley Wright IV, Colorado, Senior
Wright became the first men’s player in Pac-12 history to tally at least 1,600 points, 600 rebounds and 600 assists in his career, a tremendous accomplishment for one of the nation’s best stat-sheet stuffers. Wright has led the way for a Colorado team in the midst of a third consecutive 20-win season, and the Buffaloes are a lock to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016 thanks to his high-level play at the point.
41. Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton, Senior
Creighton’s star point guard hasn’t quite emerged into the All-America candidate some predicted in the preseason, but Zegarowski remains one of the best floor-generals in the country and will lead a top-25 team into the NCAA tournament. Zegarowski is a smooth operator in space and thrives creating shots for a Creighton offense loaded with versatile wings who can score. For Creighton to make a deep run in the Big Dance, it will need elite play from its point guard to lead the way.
40. Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers, Junior
Harper appeared to be on an All-America trajectory early this season before going into a long shooting slump for much of Big Ten play. Still, he’s the best player and leading scorer on a Rutgers team that will likely reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years. Harper should pass 1,000 career points sometime during the Scarlet Knights’ run in Indianapolis. And if he can turn around the poor shooting that has seen him knock down just 14% from beyond the arc in his last 10 games, Rutgers will be very dangerous this month.
39. Collin Gillespie, Villanova, Senior
Gillespie’s season ended in heartbreak as he tore his MCL on senior night, a brutal blow to a Villanova team that had title aspirations. The senior had put together another fine year as the engine of the Wildcats’ offense, with his deft ability to weave through opposing defenses, draw the attention and then find his teammates when he wasn’t calling his own number. To understand Gillespie’s value, look no further than the 0.83 points per possession ’Nova put up in its first full game without him—a season low for Jay Wright’s group.
38. Neemias Queta, Utah State, Junior
The junior center from Portugal has shined this season after dealing with multiple knee injuries that slowed him down in 2019–20. With the graduation of superstar guard Sam Merrill, head coach Craig Smith redesigned the offense to flow through Queta in the post and the big man has continued to raise his game. Not only is Queta an excellent scorer and rebounder, but he also affects the game heavily with his ability to block shots. He ranks in the top five nationally in blocks per game at 3.0 per contest. Plus, Queta has raised his game down the stretch, averaging 21.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in the season’s final six games.
37. Jose Alvarado, Georgia Tech, Senior
The quiet, driving force behind a sneaky good Georgia Tech team, Alvarado has put together a remarkable season, posting elite shooting splits (59.2% from two, 40.6% from three, 88.1% on free throws) and ranking fourth among all Division I players in steals per game. He’s proven himself as one of the toughest players and competitors in college hoops and memorably led an upset of Florida State in January. Alvarado has never enjoyed the same fanfare as many of his peers on this list, but he’s been every bit as good.
36. Bones Hyland, VCU, Sophomore
Beyond having one of the coolest names anywhere, Hyland has had a breakout sophomore campaign to become one of the best guards in the country. He stepped into a lead guard role this season after multiple graduations from last year’s group and has shined, leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring and helping VCU to a bounce-back season. The Rams are in line for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and Hyland is the biggest reason why, keying an improved offensive attack while also being a ball hawk on the defensive end. With two more years of eligibility left, Hyland is on the verge of becoming one of college hoops’ biggest stars if he doesn’t depart early for the pro ranks.
35. Moses Moody, Arkansas, Freshman
Arkansas’s surprising emergence as one of the SEC’s best teams has been driven in part by Moody’s steady sharpshooting. Though not a finished product, he’s proven himself as one of the most college-ready players in this freshman class, shooting 48.1% from two and 38.6% from three and leading an otherwise guard-driven team in scoring and minutes played. Not many 18-year-olds are capable of stepping into a lineup in that fashion, and Moody has established himself as a projected one-and-done first-rounder in the process.
34. Jay Huff, Virginia, Senior
Huff is crucial to this Virginia team, serving as the defensive anchor in the paint for the Cavaliers’ pack line and helping mask some of the issues that keep this Virginia defense from being a vintage one. Plus, how many 7' 1" centers in college do you see shooting 40% from three? Huff is a true stretch five, and shooting 81.1% at the rim to boot. His presence—not to mention his screening ability on the perimeter—unlocks many options for the Virginia offense and its myriad shooters, and it's no surprise that Huff’s on/off splits show a significant advantage to the Hoos when he’s on the floor.
33. Moses Wright, Georgia Tech, Senior
Wright’s meteoric rise from being force-fed minutes and shooting 31% from the field as a freshman to the ACC Player of the Year has been nothing short of remarkable. The Raleigh native has blossomed into one of college basketball’s best power forwards, a menace on the offensive glass who blocks shots and can stretch the floor. Wright also raised his game when it mattered most, averaging 23 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game in the Yellow Jackets’ six-game winning streak to close the regular season. His outstanding senior campaign is a huge reason why Georgia Tech is likely to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
32. Austin Reaves, Oklahoma, Senior
Oklahoma’s stint near the top of the national rankings may have been short-lived, but Reaves has quietly been among the Big 12’s best players. Serving as the Sooners’ chief scorer, rebounder and playmaker, he’s admirably played a taxing, do-it-all role, lifting his team from off the early radar and into the tournament picture. Apart from streaky three-point shooting, Reaves has put together a memorable senior year, completing his evolution from shooting specialist at Wichita State to full-time lead guard.
31. Joe Wieskamp, Iowa, Junior
The Hawkeyes have a litany of offensive weapons, and Luka Garza of course gets the headlines, but don't overlook Wieskamp’s importance to Iowa’s success. The junior is shooting a deadly 48.9% from deep on 135 attempts, the highest percentage of anyone nationally who has attempted at least 75 threes. He uses his 6' 6" frame well in his ability to shoot over defenders, and he gets plenty of opportunities in a Hawkeyes offense that ranks sixth nationally in assist rate.
30. Trevion Williams, Purdue, Junior
The 6' 10", 265-pound center took another step forward as a junior, maintaining his absurd rebounding rate while shouldering the offensive load for a young Boilermakers team and turning into one of the country’s top big men. Only two players nationally take more of their team’s shots when on the floor than Williams, and he leads all major conference players. While he still remains a liability at the free throw line (51%), Williams is a force inside that few teams can match, whether in the Big Ten or elsewhere.
29. Oscar da Silva, Stanford, Senior
Da Silva has been among the most indispensable players in the Pac-12 and a major matchup problem for defenses, as a quality passer and scorer who can quietly dominate a given game. The Cardinal have lost momentum as a bubble team—dropping three straight games with da Silva out injured—but his productive year merits recognition, and he’ll finish among the conference’s leading scorers (and its most efficient). His versatility and consistency, particularly on a team that’s dealt with a host of injuries and absences, has shone through.
28. Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky, Junior
After a knee injury ended his sophomore year after nine games, Bassey got healthy and returned better than before, leading the Hilltoppers to a strong season on the strength of his rebounding and rim protection. He’s been a force in the paint, averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds and shooting 63% from the field, and memorably spurring a December upset of Alabama. If WKU can make it into the tournament, Bassey will be a load for any higher seed to contend with.
27. Kofi Cockburn, Illinois, Sophomore
One of college basketball’s most intimidating interior forces, Cockburn has raised his game as a sophomore and turned into one of the best big men in the country. While teammate Ayo Dosunmu gets most of the attention for the No. 3 Illini, the Jamaican post player ranks in the top 10 of KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings. A major area Cockburn has improved this year is his efficiency around the rim: He’s shooting 67% from the field this season after just 53% last year. Cockburn has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, and if the Illini get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2005 he’ll be a huge reason why.