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LJWorld.com weblogs Tale of the Tait

Embiid, Wiggins crack blogger's list of today's Top 25 college players

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In a recent blog ranking the 25 best players in college basketball today, ESPN.com's John Gasaway placed two Jayhawks on his list but perhaps not as high as many of you might expect.

Because the blog falls under the ESPN Insider pay wall, I can't link to it here because I don't want to send those of you who aren't "Insiders" to a link you cannot access.

But we can still discuss Gasaway's rankings.

First thing's first: He put freshman center Joel Embiid at No. 9 and freshman wing Andrew Wiggins at No. 21.

The top five looked like this: 1. Doug McDermott (Creighton), 2. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), 3. Lamar Patterson (Pitt), 4. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and 5. Julius Randle (Kentucky).

I have to admit I was a little surprised not to see Embiid and/or Wiggins higher on the list and also surprised that Duke's Jabari Parker did not crack the Top 5. For what it's worth, Gasaway ranks Parker sixth, so that's not a huge slight. And, really, if you read his explanation for the rankings, putting Embiid and Wiggins where he did is not a knock either.

Those of you who can check out the full blog should go take a look. In it, Gasaway explains that the entire exercise was done to give a better indication of the top college players who impact the college game better than anyone else. He acknowledges that often — perhaps too often — college players are judged and ranked based on their potential impact in the NBA and using that as a filter for current collegiate players often skews the process of identifying the top college players.

No one better backs up that theory than McDermott, who is as good as it gets at the college level but may not project to be quite the pro of Parker or Embiid or Wiggins.

It's an interesting concept and, for those of you out there who may consider yourselves college basketball purists, probably one that's rather refreshing.

Even if it's not, I don't think you should take it as a slight toward Embiid or Wiggins. Landing in the Top 25 is solid no matter where you are and Gasaway's explanations for both players point out that he is very aware they're likely to be among the top picks in the June draft. Again, though, for this blog, he's looking purely at how they impact the college game.

Here's a look at what he said about the two Jayhawks in his Top 25:

9 - Joel Embiid, Kansas Jayhawks
Embiid may well be the first player taken in the 2014 NBA draft, so what's he doing way "down" here at No. 9? I see no contradiction here. The NBA is correctly registering that players of Embiid's height and ability are exceptionally rare. This list is attempting to correctly measure Embiid's impact as a college player over his first 409 minutes.

Clearly, that impact has been huge. Embiid makes 70 percent of his 2s as a supporting player in a Jayhawks offense centered on Wiggins and Perry Ellis. He also blocks shots and cleans the glass at both ends. On the other hand, Embiid is still averaging more than six fouls per 40 minutes, and he has recorded four or more fouls in four of his past six outings. His minutes are limited (and that lowers the benefit KU draws from his shot-blocking), but when he's on the floor Embiid changes the game dramatically. I don't blame the NBA one bit for being keenly interested in the young man.

21 - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks
Wiggins will be one of the first two or three players selected in the 2014 NBA draft based on an expectation of what an 18-year-old (he'll turn 19 next month) this skilled might become in the very near future.

Meantime, he also happens to be one of the best college players in the country, one who carries a larger workload than any teammate on the offense of a national title contender. Wiggins' shooting percentages from the field are, as yet, just fair, but he takes care of the ball, draws fouls and shoots 76 percent at the line. Don't be surprised if his ranking improves on future versions of this list.

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