While basketball’s a team sport and there’s no “I” in team, their success as a group usually rides on the shoulders of the top player. But with the parity that currently exists in competitive sports, one man can’t do it all. So, here are the top five guys in the collegiate ranks standing right outside of the limelight, that are indispensable for their teams.
Ryan Kelly, Duke:
While Mason Plumlee might be responsible for leading the charge, his twin tower, Ryan Kelly, has stepped up this season when called upon. Whether he’s coming in to relieve Plumlee or being an additional big man in the middle, Kelly does his thing and does it well. Providing solid interior defense, while being effective from the free throw line and an occasion 3-pointer, Kelly’s the perfect counterpart.
Jeff Withey, Kansas:
With Kansas sitting at the top of the Big 12, they’ve been able to do so due to the leadership and production of Ben McLemore. Patrolling the painted area on both offense and defense, Jeff Withey is the prototypic big man, dominating the boards as well as being an excellent shot blocker. In the four years Withey has been at Kansas, he has fit well in his role, providing the intangibles that Kansas has needed to be in contention.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse:
If few players can come into college and make an immediate impact, Michael Carter-Williams is one of the few. While far from the leading scorer of the team, Carter-Williams pretty much does everything else, rebounding, assisting and playing lockdown defense, which will prove essential as the Orangemen look to make a run in March.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana:
The Indiana Hoosiers wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are now, if not for Cody Zeller, but even more importantly, his right hand man, Victor Oladipo. When Zeller is double-teamed, his first option to pass to is Oladipo, who’s a sharpshooter from long-range. Oladipo is also the consummate floor general and defensive stalwart, averaging over 2 steals, while keeping his turnovers to a minimum.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky:
John Calipari and his recruiting staff over at Kentucky have been known to pick up the best high school recruits in the nation, so when they went after Noel, it was no surprise. With defense being his forte, Nerlens literally goes above and beyond the competition, snatching rebounds and blocking shots. While his offensive arsenal is a bit lacking, when called upon, Noel comes through in the clutch by staying within his range and making every shot count.