I’ve mentioned time and time again that Doug McDermott is going to win all of the national player of the year awards he’s eligible for in college basketball this year. He has by far the weakest supporting cast of any player of the year candidates and he’s essentially the only reason Creighton is relevant, let alone a clear top 25 team.
But the fact that everyone else is fighting for second place doesn’t diminish the fact that Syracuse is the only team with multiple players on the 15 member list of finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, and Tyler Ennis is also one of the ten semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy (despite not even being on the preseason top 50).
And in spite of SU’s current 1-3 skid, they still have legitimate Final Four aspirations thanks to the elite duo of Ennis and C.J. Fair. In fact, I believe the Cuse have the best collegiate 1-2 combo in America.
When it comes to NBA potential, that distinction belongs to Kansas, who has a very real possibility of providing the first two picks in the June draft with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embid. And Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are in both the “now” and “future” conversations as well, but they play the same position and have overlapping skill sets which limits their ceiling as a truly complementary duo.
In terms of elite pairings for the here and now, the stiffest competition for Ennis and Fair comes from the so-called mid-major ranks. Wichita State would not be the first team in 10 years to finish the regular season undefeated if it weren’t for point guard Fred VanVleet and big man Cleanthony Early. And as far as ideal inside-outside pairings go, you’d be hard pressed to beat a dangerous New Mexico squad’s combination of last year’s conference player of the year (shooting guard Kendall Williams) and this year’s heavy favorite (power forward Cameron Bairstow).
But all things considered I’ve gotta stick with the Cuse combo, which pairs the best pure point guard in the country with a veteran do-it-all forward who oftentimes keeps a flawed offense from completely imploding. The intangibles are off the charts as well for both Ennis and Fair, but they’re first and foremost extremely gifted players who make the most of their talents both individually and in the team concept.
It’s tough to love anything going on with the Orange of late, but in the big picture fans in Central New York could do a lot worse than a 26-3 record, a stifling defense, a Hall of Fame coach, and two of the best players in the country. Whether they ultimately earn a 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament or not, I guarantee this is a group nobody wants to face as part of March Madness.