Which college conference fields the best NBA lineup?
If each major conference in college basketball had a starting five and they all faced off in a round robin-style tournament, who would win?
Kevin Durant, one of the best players in the game, highlights the Big 12 All-Star team in a fictional round robin tournament between the power conferences.
Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports
By Lauren BrownlowFOX Sports Carolinas
Running the various NBA trade scenarios is fun for us fans, but it's all essentially fantasy basketball. We have no idea how various personalities would fit together, if the player in question would even be willing to stay in a certain market longterm, and so on.
So why not play the most fun game of fantasy basketball imaginable -- picking a team of All-Stars from each major college basketball conference and have them hypothetically face off against one other in a fictional tournament?
No offense to Mario Chalmers, but give me Kirk Hinrich at the helm for my team -- even at his advanced age -- any day of the week over the sometimes-shaky Chalmers. It was either Bradley, Anderson or the very young Ben McLemore (or the very old Tony Allen) at shooting guard. At the three, there's either Durant, or -- yeah, OK, unless the other option is "LeBron James," it's Durant no matter what. Power forward is probably the league's strongest position, so I decided to go with two of them rather than a traditional center (of which this group doesn't really have at the moment) -- LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.
Wall is one of the best young point guards in the league, and while Rondo is fantastic, it's hard to argue with Wall's upside and (comparative) health. His Wizards backcourt mate Bradley Beal is an up-and-coming star as well, and then there's the ageless Joe Johnson at the small forward spot.
It was a much tougher call for the big guys. I'm not a slave to advanced stats, but Davis and Cousins are two of the best players in the league when it comes to those. But there are a ton of great choices at center especially -- David Lee was the only difficult omission at power forward, but DeAndre Jordan, Joakim Noah and Al Horford would have all been excellent choices.
Lopez is one of the best centers in the league, especially one coming out of a major conference. Westbrook is dynamic, Thompson is a sharp-shooter, Harden is a playmaker and Love is one of the best bigs in the league as well. This roster is LOADED.
Move Irving over to the two-spot and give Chris Paul the ball, and I'll take my chances. Add in Carmelo Anthony, grandfathered in with the addition of Syracuse, and the Big Fundamental Tim Duncan at power forward and that's a pretty darned good team.
The only issue is who would start at center. The ACC had just two starting centers listed on the final 2013-14 depth charts -- Miles and Mason Plumlee. While both are very good players, they're not on the level of a Favors. It was a tough call between he and fellow former Georgia Tech big man Chris Bosh, but ultimately, Favors is younger and a bit more willing to bang down low than Bosh is at this stage of his career.
The Big 10's best is as good as anyone's. Unfortunately for Legends and Leaders, they don't have a ton of depth, particularly when it comes to big men. When Kris Humphries is your only starting center and Reggie Evans your only other starting power forward, then, yikes. But Zach Randolph is as good an NBA power forward as you'll find, even at nearly 33 years old, and Evan Turner's an up-and-coming wing.
Jamal Crawford just keeps on going. He's 34, and the shooting guard is still an NBA starter -- an impressive feat in its own right. Most of the Big 10's NBA mainstays, though, are aging out of the league and it will be up to the young talent -- like Burke, Turner, Sullinger, Draymond Green and Kosta Koufos -- to carry the league's banner, so to speak.
These conferences are being merged for our purposes, since they're basically a pretty solid mix of each other right now.
There are some really good players on this team, but again, the depth issue. Losing Syracuse hurt in terms of the Big East's talent, although Villanova and Georgetown certainly hold their own in that department. There are a lot of question marks with Rose, though -- but his upside is ultimately probably higher than that of Lowry or Walker.
This exercise can also be done for players that came straight out of high school (Brandon Jennings is included for these purposes, since the one-and-done rule prevented him from going straight to the NBA, which is the only reason he went to Europe for a year) and international stars. Would those teams be better?
That's not a bad team right there. Not a lot of options at certain positions, but the big men are top-notch. Oh, and LeBron James. So yeah. Can't assume a healthy Kobe, but even a hobbled and older Kobe gets tenure over Ellis, who was probably the next-best option.
And this can be done with international players as well, although, again, not a ton of quality depth to choose from:
Now, who comes out on top if they all play each other?
If it's a round robin-style tournament, let's group these into two equitable "regions" based on seeds -- so the No. 1 seeds are the Pac 12 and the Big 12, so they're in separate regions. Pac 12 will go with the two-seed of Team High School, while the Big 12 gets a young but talented two-seed in the SEC. The 3-seed in the Pac 12 region is the ACC, while the Big 12 gets Team International. Then the Pac 12 gets the Big 10 as its 4-seed while the Big 12 gets the Big East/AAC conglomerate.
The Pac 12 advances out of its region with a perfect record -- team Big 10 goes winless, the ACC goes 2-1 and Team High School finishes with a shocking 1-2 mark. Blame Dwight Howard.
It's not so simple in the Big 12 group. The Big East goes winless, but Team International beats a young SEC to go 2-1 while the SEC knocks off the Big 12 to hand it its only loss in group play. Typical of a young team, right?
But the tiebreaker goes to the Big 12, which scored more points than either of the other two. The SEC team won its games with its defense, and the Big 12 put a hurting on the Big East that helped skew its totals.
So it's Pac 12 versus Big 12. Griffin is a monster and Aldridge is excellent, but having a shot-blocker down low in the form of Brook Lopez is more than enough of a difference-maker for the Pac-12.( Just ask Kevin Durant how easy it was without the Thunder's shot-blocker this year.) The Big 12 has the best player in Durant, but ultimately it's the Pac 12's advantage at both guard spots with Westbrook and Thompson being much more dynamic than Hinrich and Bradley.
Meaning absolutely nothing -- save pride -- the Pac 12 wins this fictional tournament. Go brag to the other conferences!