By LARRY VAUGHT
College basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy ranks the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top 10 players at each position in this weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Sporting News magazine.
He has Kentucky junior Patrick Patterson as the No. 1 power forward and UK freshman John Wall as the No. 2 point guard behind Sherron Collins of Kansas.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Patterson will have the liberty to function away from the basket, but having the handcuffs removed doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t free him from the responsibility to play inside when it counts,Ã¢â‚¬Â DeCourcy writes about PattersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s freedom under John Calipari versus Billy Gillispie.
DeCourcy offered these other insights into his preseason rankings.
Question: Was Patterson an easy choice and how much better do you think he could really be with more freedom this year?
DeCourcy: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He was one of the easiest All-Americans to choose. He’s a great talent, a great leader and now will be part of a significant team, which is important with awards such as these. Team success does matter.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think PatrickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s improvement will come as the result of not having to defend the opposing teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big man. He can check forwards, which is what he belongs doing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What made you put J Wall as the nation’s No. 2 point guard?
DeCourcy: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yeah, I guess it could have been No. 1. But Collins has a (NCAA championship) ring, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be running the team with the best combination of talent and experience, so it seemed like he was the one to place at the top. But Wall has talent that few point guards ever have matched.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: You have eight SEC players listed among your top 50. Does that mean it will be a better year for the SEC?
DeCourcy: Absolutely. We have several SEC teams rated in our top 25, as well.
Question: Did any other UK, or SEC players, merit consideration for the top 50?
DeCourcy: I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure what to do with DeMarcus Cousins yet, but he is an impressive player. As far as SEC veterans, it killed me to exclude Tasmin Mitchell from LSU. I’ve always loved him as a player, but sometimes you run out of room.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Any doubt in your mind that Kentucky is the SECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best team and a legitimate national title contender?
DeCourcy: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mississippi State and Tennessee are going to be very, very good. They’ll have a say as to whether UK is the SECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best. But on paper, nobody in the league has that kind of talent. Few teams anywhere do.Ã¢â‚¬Â