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.