Gary Parrish and His Fabulous Preseason Position Rankings

No, I have not forgotten basketball but in accordance with the desire to give football it’s due I have been a little mum on the basketball, especially since there is not much to talk about anyhow. That all changed last week when CBS Sportsline’s Gary Parrish released his second round of position rankings for college basketball. UNC is well represented as you might expect for a team that is one of the favorites to win a national title.

The big men:

But let’s be certain we all understand you can’t add somebody to any list without taking somebody else off. So if you must argue, please argue under those guidelines … though you shouldn’t bother arguing about the No. 1 spot on the list of Bigs. Honestly, placing North Carolina’s star junior at the top was the easiest thing I’ve done all week.

1.Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina): Hansbrough is on his way to a possible national title, which would solidify this Missourian as one of the great college basketball players of his era.

First of all, I have to ask. Is there a class you take in journalism school or in whatever communication degree Parrish attained that teaches you hyperbole? Greatest player of his era? I love Hansbrough as much as the next Tar Heel fan but I would prefer we get a little further down the road before declaring Hansbrough to be on par with “great” players in his era. Secondly, I will say the stock I place in these rankings is about as high as Vonage’s right now mainly because Parrish likes to rank incoming freshman which is a little disconcerting since they have never been tested on the college level. That really makes these rankings more like a general guess on how good these guys might be. In this case I think ranking Hansbrough #1 is plausible but one issue Hansbrough has is playing defenders bigger than him. I am not sure how much of a knock that is on him as you compare him to other big men. Hansbrough is a solid defender but not* a game changer. I also would point out that NC State’s Brandon Costner is listed 9th which probably bugs a segment of the Wolfpack fan base since some of them believe (1) Costner is better than Hansbrough(I would argue they have different games which makes comparisons tough) and (2) They have bought into other preseason rankings which slate the Pack ahead of UNC in the frontcourt.

Point guards and combos:

2. Ty Lawson (North Carolina): Last season I ranked Lawson as the sixth-best point guard in the nation before he had ever played a game at North Carolina, and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams told the Chicago Tribune such praise was “dumb as dirt.” Obviously with this ranking, I stand by what I wrote, and then some.

It was “dumb as dirt” in fact I said as much then. And looking at those rankings again you see that Virginia Tech’s Jamon Gordon was ranked behind Lawson. I need not remind my readers what happened the two times UNC played the Hokies and the horrible things Gordon did to Lawson. So I think Lawson was a very good point guard at season’s end with there still being some questions concerning his perimeter offense and his conditioning. Lawson also showed his youth when he faced veteran PGs such as NCSU’s Engin Atsur. Heading into this season ranking him #2 is fairly reasonable but it also assumes that he is going to shoot the ball better, be a consistent defender and have conditioned legs under him. And it is also “dumb as dirt” to assume any team in this era of college basketball is going to consistently reel of 30 point wins unless they are playing cupcakes or Wake Forest.

Shooters and wings:

8. Wayne Ellington (North Carolina): Teamed with point guard Ty Lawson, Ellington is part of perhaps the best backcourt in the country, one that ranks right there with the likes of UCLA, Washington State, Memphis, Marquette, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee.

The above blurb is the purest example of lazy analysis. Parrish offers you zero reasoning for ranking Ellington here that is actually based on Ellington himself. The way I read that first sentence you could stick Marc Campbell in backcourt and by virtue of the fact he is teamed with Ty Lawson makes him the eighth best shooting guard in the nation. I have been critical of Ellington on this blog, mainly because I never felt he showed the type of perimeter shooting or offensive prowess he was hyped to have possessed. Look at it as tough love but I happen to think there is little basis to garnish Ellington with such praise. His performances last season, while resulting in 11 ppg, were erratic and it was never clear if whether he was capable of being the perimeter threat everyone assumed he was. So where Ellington is concerned I would like to see a body of work before I considering him one of the top ten shooting guards in the country. Incidentally, last year Parrish had Ellington seventh in his rankings, compared him to Rashad McCants, said he would challenge Hansbrough for leading scorer on the team and possibly be ACC Freshman of the Year. Care to stand by that one too, Gary?

In the end position rankings are worthless. A team can have the five best players at every position but if they do not gel as a team or have everyone properly understand their roles on the team then they will fall short of the national championship. The only #1 ranking is the one that is assigned to the team after that final game in April.

*Edit: Added after posting.

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2 Responses to Gary Parrish and His Fabulous Preseason Position Rankings

  1. sring says:

    I find it interesting that a writer who (admittedly I respect) was so willing to base a coach on potential has an issue basing players (Lawson and Ellington) on similar potential. This years football team is dominated by freshman, but few would argue that they won’t get better next year. Some freshman football players have shown flashes of brilliance but also flashes of struggle. It is hard not to argue that eventually Austin will be a phenomonal player, but right now he is just an amazingly gifted athelte who does make mistakes. Ellington and Lawson made similar mistakes last year, but have reportedly improved greatly in the off-season (particularly Ellington during the practice for the tournment he was injured. Likewise, Thompson would not be talked about so excitedly if he had not shredded the U-19 tournment like he did.

    My biggest concern is your de-valuing of Hansborough. He has dominated players through his first three years to the extent that Jamison did when he was at Carolina. Jamison, after three years, was recently named the best power forward ever at Carolina, above even Worthy (something which I, by the way, question). If Hansborough has a more productive year then last year (and based on his improved bulk this is realistic), he will leave Carolina with his jersey likely retired. In addition, based on the fact that he may not move up in the draft board, we could be looking at a four year player (yes, I said it). By this era, I suspect he means the five year period around Hansborough and I am not sure that there are more than to other people you could put on that list who stayed at least two years – please prove me wrong by coming up other dominant big men who stuck around past their freshman year – and played on dominant teams.

    I think that yes, Parrish perhaps slightly overvalues our players (although they are very similar to other lists I have read, but I am surprised by your level of critique

  2. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Here’s my thing. I carry serious disdain for hype and hyperbole being passed off as serious analysis. This is why I think ESPN is essentially worthless save for guys like Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis. I also think Parrish, like Gregg Doyel, posts things to generate controversy which is why most of his platitudes are empty. I am very particular to the degree I expect other writers to back up what they are saying if they present it as actual analysis because that is the standard I hold for myself. I have no problem with anyone ranking Hansbrough #1 but tell me why that is the case, tell me why is he is better than the guys below him and if you call him one of the greatest in an era please define that era so I have a basis to evaluate your assertion.

    My point is I was not trying to devalue our guys as much as I was pointing out the degree which Parrish was hyping them up. I actually do think he hits Hansbrough and Lawson pretty close to the mark. I think Lawson will do the necessary things to get better and Hansbrough will be more of a force because Deon will compliment him rather than upstage him so to speak. With Ellington I am being a bit of a jerk in respect to wanting to see some bona fides from him before I buy into him being the second coming of Rashad McCants. It also should be noted is I am far more cautious in how I praise our players since I do not care to come off as a “Rah Rah” fan as much as a fan who provides honest critiques of his team when warranted.

    The issue I am taking is with the folly of such preseason predictions and ranking freshman really drives me nuts. As I said if Parrish did a better job in couching his rankings and did not come off as though he ran through some actual data to determine where these guys line up I would be less critical of the articles.

    As for basing a coach on potential, my inclination that Butch Davis will be successful has less to do with the players and more to do with him and his known body of work. It also should be noted that I have been very forward with the idea that this team will probably lose a lot this season and it was basically an inconsequential point. As far as I know, I have not based my prediction for the football team on player potential but on the idea that Davis will correct the numerous missteps of the Coach Who Shall Not Be Named.

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