Nation's Top 25 Players
Top 25 players in college hoops
6. Aaron Gordon, Arizona Wildcats
I realize I have Gordon a little higher than some other list-makers might, but I did declare the freshman to be Arizona's most valuable player and I'll stick to that here. Gordon is Sean Miller's MVP because the Wildcats are a team built on defense, and without the 6-9 freshman's rare combination of size and agility, that D would be measurably less effective.
True, Gordon's season totals on offense -- most especially his 42 percent shooting at the line -- indicate a young talent that's a work in progress. (And for a 42 percent free throw shooter to average one 3-point attempt per game surely merits a special Profile in Courage award. Or maybe that should go to Miller for giving Gordon a green light.) But despite those limitations on offense, the freshman has shown some proverbial flashes, such as his 17-point effort on 8-of-12 shooting against Oregon State last weekend. In a highly-hyped freshman class nationally, Gordon has done his fair share in meeting those expectations.
8. Nick Johnson, Arizona Wildcats
Over the course of his three seasons at Arizona, Johnson has evolved from a supporting player who struggled to make shots into the reliable and productive featured scorer on one of the nation's top two teams. That's a testament to both Johnson and his coach. (And when you think of the jump in performance that Derrick Williams recorded between his freshman and sophomore seasons, it does make you wonder whether Sean Miller is some kind of player development guru.)
I may tout Gordon as the Wildcats' most valuable player, but there's no doubting Johnson's importance to this team. Arizona is good much more often than it is great on offense, and to compete, the Wildcats need their star to do what he does. Johnson has been highly effective inside the arc this season while showing just enough perimeter range to command some attention out there. He also distributes the ball and stays away from turnovers. If he ends up staying for another season, his improvement to date suggests fans in Tucson may be treated to an amazing senior season.