Now that ESPN announced Oscar Robertson as No. 2 on their 25 Greatest Players in College Basketball, there's no doubt Lew Alcindor's No 1.
Was there ever any doubt?
Their final list was different from mine (with a slightly different order while Bill Bradley and Jerry West replacing Scott May and Danny Manning), but overall there's not much to disagree about. Alcindor and Bill Walton, for both their individual accomplishments and NCAA Tournament dominance, will always be regarded as two of the game's best. The on-court brilliance of Robertson and Pistol Pete also make them top 5 locks.
And while I'll disagree with their final list a bit (as do others, particularly when it comes to omitting players from the south and the heartland), it seems strange to think that no player from the last 20 years was higher than 12 on ESPN's list. There were only five from the last 25.
The college game hasn't produced a recent player who could be considered among the all-time greats? Really? The modern game lacks any elite players?
We may bemoan today's game because the best players rarely stay four years or they rely only on their athleticism, but someone – even if it's Christian Laettner, perhaps the most reviled player of the last 20 years – has to rate.
(I had Laettner behind Manning on my list, but even the Laettner haters have to give the guy his due. Winning back-to-back titles is a rare feat and he was the game's best all-around player his junior and senior seasons. Hate him if you like, but respect the game.)
It makes me wonder if someone like Tyler Hansbrough – already a two-time All-American and headed for his third honor this season – stays all four seasons at North Carolina and wins an NCAA Tournament could make us re-think our rankings. Time would burnish Hansbrough's accomplishments and reputation, which would boost him up lists like these, possibly into the top 15.
I'm probably dreaming. Even if Hansbrough did get that high, it'd be the rare exception in a game where the best players stay one or two years, then bolt for the NBA.
Players like Glenn Robinson, Elton Brand or Kevin Durant don't leave a lasting legacy like the ones in ESPN's top 25. Those guys all left before their junior seasons and would've been likely candidates to etch their names in our collective memory.
That's what three straight titles or an 88-game win streak will do. After all, who could one ever top those?