CBB All-Decade: Top-10 Individual Seasons
CBB All-Decade: Top-10 Individual Seasons

Welcome, analytics junkies!  Statistics are not just for baseball.  With 2020 right around the corner, we thought it'd be fun to take a look back at some of the most memorable college basketball seasons of the decade.  This article will focus on individual players, not teams.  This also means not necessarily collegiate careers, but just individual player seasons.  This article will also slant slightly towards statistics and figures.  If there are any more caveats, you will find out along the way.

Here are some general definitions for terms for the uninformed, the informed, and everyone in between, that may help to understand the criteria used when ranking these monstrous campaigns.

Player Efficiency Rating (PER):  sums up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player's performance.

Box Plus/Minus (BPM): relies on a player's box score information and the team's overall performance to estimate a player's performance relative to "league" average.

Points Produced (PPr): used to measure how much a player contributes to the offense, taking into account made shots, assists and offensive rebounds. 

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%): adjusts field goal percentage to account for the fact that three-point field goals count for three points while field goals only count for two points.

Win Shares (WS):  an attempt to divide up team success to individual players.

Let's attack this list with the ferocity of the Manimal snatching an offensive rebound (more on Kenneth Faried below).

            1.        Trae Young, 2017-2018, Oklahoma

Young's one and only season with the Sooners featured one of the most unprecedented stretches in college basketball history.  In five-straight games from the middle of December to the beginning of January, Young collected five double-doubles, all with points and assists.  Digging deeper, he averaged 30.4 points and 13.6 assists per contest.  He dished out a staggering 22 dimes against Northwestern State on December 19.  At the time, it tied the NCAA record.  Since the year 2000, it was only the third 20-plus assist outing in college basketball.

Let's not forget about Young's scoring acumen, as well as his three-point shooting.  Young had nine games with at least 30 points, and four games with at least 40 points.  His collegiate high came against Oklahoma State on January 20, when he poured in 48 points.  Young hit at least five treys in eight contests, including 10 three-pointers against TCU on January 13 when he tallied 43 points, 11 rebounds and seven dimes.  Lastly, let's not forget about his stellar free-throw shooting.  Young hit 86.1-percent from the foul line.  He hit at least 10 foul shots in eight contests.

Young had the most Points Produced per Game (29.2) of the decade.  

Young is the only player ever to lead the NCAA in both scoring and assists in the same season.  If that isn't historic, I don't know what is.

           2.      Zion Williamson, 2018-2019, Duke

Perhaps no college basketball player had more hype than Zion.  And boy, did he deliver.  Zion had been dunking on YouTube as a younger teenager, a freakish athlete who could jump through the roof.  It turned out his skill set was far more polished than anyone anticipated, though.  Using some more of our newfangled stats, Williamson led the nation in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 40.8.  The next closest player, Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga, had a 37.2 by way of comparison. Williamson's PER was the best of the decade for an individual season by a wide margin.  Williamson also led the NCAA in Effective Field Goal Percentage at 70.8 percent.  He finished fourth in True Shooting Percentage.  He also led the country in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and Box Plus/Minus (20.0).  He led the vaunted ACC in Win Shares, and was third in the country overall in that category.  His "standard" numbers weren't too shabby either.  He tied for the ACC lead in scoring (22.6) and steals (2.1), and finished third in the conference in rebounding (8.9).  Williamson shot 68 percent from the floor, which was second in the nation.  By any metric, Williamson was dominant.

         3.       Anthony Davis, 2011-2012, Kentucky

Davis averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest, but his impact was felt far more than those numbers tell.  In fact, it would be difficult to have a more impressive two-way season than Davis as a freshman in his only season at Kentucky.  He led the NCAA in both offensive rating (139.0) as well as defensive rating (80.7).  He led the nation in PER (35.1).  He swatted 4.7 shots per contest and had 186 blocks on the year, both highs for the decade.  His 9.9 Win Shares also was tops for the decade.  He led the country with 4.1 defensive win shares, as well as Box Plus/Minus (18.7).  He also tied for third in the nation in field goal percentage (62.3 percent from the floor).  In the NCAA Tournament, he finished with five-straight double-digit rebounding games, as he was named Most Outstanding Player for the victorious Wildcats.  He was the SEC's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.  As many on this list, he won the Wooden Award and Naismith Award as the best player in the country.

          4.        Jimmer Fredette, 2010-2011, BYU

No list from this decade would be complete without The Jimmer.  This was arguably the most dominant scoring season of the decade.  Every game was must-watch theater.  During his senior year at Brigham Young, Fredette led the NCAA in scoring.  He led the NCAA in points, points per game, field goals and attempts.  He beat the No. 2 scorer in the country, Marshon Brooks, by an average of four points per contest.  He took the nation by storm, shooting three-pointers from barely inside half court a la Steph Curry.  He scored a staggering 52 points in a Mountain West Conference Tournament win over New Mexico.  He averaged almost 33 points in three NCAA Tournament contests.  Jimmer had the most total Points Produced (986) of the decade.  And for having such as a knock as a cruddy defender as well as a shot-hoisting ball-hog, he still finished in the top-10 in PER (30.9) in the country.  He finished second in Win Shares behind Kemba Walker.

         5.       Doug McDermott, 2013-2014, Creighton

Dougie Buckets took home plenty of hardware during his senior season at Creighton.  A move to the Big East for the Bluejays did little to stop his dominance.  McDermott averaged 26.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per tilt.  He shot over 52 percent from the field, nearly 45 percent from three-point range, and hit over 86 percent of his foul shots.  He also averaged the fewest turnovers in a season for his entire collegiate career.  He scored at least 30 points in 13 different occasions.  He punished Providence with 45 points on March 8.  He hit at least 10 free-throws in six contests.  McDermott also collected seven double-doubles.  He led the country in Offensive Win Shares (6.3) and Offensive Box Plus/Minus (9.8) and was second in overall Win Shares (7.7) behind Shabaaz Napier.  He was also second in total Points Produced (788) and fourth in Points Produced Per Game.

          6.         Ja Morant, 2018-2019, Murray State

Morant's sophomore season was historical; he became the first player in NCAA history to average over 20 points and 10 assists per contest.  It was the first season since 1994-1995 in which a player averaged double-figures in dishing.  He became just the second sophomore to lead the country in assists (Jason Kidd is the other one, not too shabby).  Morant led the country in Points Produced (913) and Points Produced Per Game (27.7).  He was seventh in the nation in scoring (24.5 points per game).  Morant collected three triple-doubles, and 18 additional double-doubles.  Morant's off the charts athleticism and superior court vision vaulted him into the national consciousness.  If not for the monstrous star power of Zion, as well as the fact Morant played at Murray State, this season would have gotten even more notoriety and publicity.

         7.         Frank Kaminsky, 2014-2015, Wisconsin

Kaminsky's season compares decently with the year for Anthony Davis above, with Kaminsky being a far more polished offensive player as a senior than Davis was as a freshman.  While the defensive impact for Kaminsky was far less, Frank the Tank still had a 34.4 PER for the year.  Not only did that lead the country, but it was three points higher than another Kentucky freshman sensation, Karl-Anthony Towns.  Wisconsin also stopped Kentucky's chance at an undefeated season in the Final Four.  Kaminsky led the nation in Win Shares (9.8) and Offensive Box Plus/Minus.  The Consensus National Player of the Year averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest.

        8.     Kenneth Faried, 2010-2011, Morehead State

The Manimal led the NCAA in rebounding during his senior campaign, grabbing 14.5 rebounds per contest.  But that puts his dominance much too simply.  He led the NCAA in offensive rebounds percentage, defensive rebound percentage, total rebound percentage.  He had the most total rebounds, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds.

Faried's impact on the game extended much farther than just on the glass, though.  He shot 62.4 percent from the floor, which was third in the country.  He led the nation in PER (34.7) as well as Defensive Win Shares (3.6).  He tied for first in defensive rating.  And I know we weren't supposed to talk about team, but he had 12 points and 17 rebounds in a 62-61 victory over Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, just the 23rd No. 13 seed to beat a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament up to that point.

If Jimmer Fredette was the offensive story of that season, the Manimal was just as ferocious on the defensive side of the floor, and perhaps just as much as any defensive player in the decade.

          9.   Thomas Walkup, 2015-2016, Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks already had a nice basketball resume prior to this season's stunning win at Duke.  However, if I gave you 100 guesses, I bet you would not have come up with Walkup for this list.  When researching the statistics, his senior season for the Lumberjacks jumped off the page.  His standard numbers are excellent, as he averaged 18.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest.  The 6-foot-4 guard shot an impressive 58.8 percent from the field.  He had six games with 30 or more points, including 33 in the first round stunner over West Virginia.  He had a triple-double during the regular season, and five additional double-doubles.

The advanced metrics are even better. Walkup led the nation in Win Shares (8.7) as well as offensive rating (137.9).  He finished third in the country in PER at 34.8, ahead of North Carolina's Bryce Johnson and some guy named Pascal Siakam from New Mexico State.  Walkup finished second behind Player of the Year Denzel Valentine in Box Plus/Minus.  Walkup quietly, silently, had one of the more superb seasons in college hoops of the decade without anyone even noticing.

     10.    Kris Dunn, 2014-2015, Providence

Another hot take.  Even though he received more fanfare the following season, including being named Second-Team All-American, an argument can be made that Dunn's redshirt sophomore year with the Friars was just as good, if not better.  He won Big East Player of the Year as well as Big East Defensive Player of the Year.  Dunn led the Big East in assists and steals.  In fact, he finished third in the entire NCAA in assists, and fifth in steals.  He shot better from the field, averaged more rebounds and played more minutes as a redshirt sophomore than the next season.  He had a triple double versus DePaul, plus four additional double-doubles.

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Jesse Siegel
Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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