The 25 Greatest College Basketball Players Since 2000

From multi-year stars like Steph Curry to one-year stars like Zion Williamson & Anthony Davis, we ranked the best men's college basketball players since 2000.

Zion Williamson at Duke during March Madness

Image via Getty/Kevin C. Cox

Zion Williamson at Duke during March Madness

Nothing compares to the spectacle of the NCAA Tournament. The passion of surviving and advancing, the Cinderella stories, and the unfortunate heartbreak of a long hard-fought season coming to an abrupt, early end is the recipe for the most thrilling event in American sports. It’s that time of year again: March Madness is here!

Looking back on some of the brightest-burning names in the men’s game, from one-and-done players like Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis to upperclassmen players like JJ Redick, Tyler Hansbrough, and Buddy Hield, March has given us a myriad of stars that have stepped up on the biggest stage in the sport.

Will Alabama’s Brandon Miller or Purdue’s Zach Edey follow the path of the aforementioned stars? Only time will tell but as the 2023 NCAA Tournament gets underway, we ranked the 25 greatest men’s players to have touched college hardwood this century.

25. Trae Young

Trae Young at the University of Oklahoma

Peak season (2017-2018): 27.4 PPG | 8.7 APG

While his team’s success peaked at a first-round exit in the NCAA tournament, Trae Young put on a show in his only year in college at Oklahoma. Young became the first player in NCAA history to lead the country in scoring and assists in a single season. To achieve that accomplishment as a undersized guard and freshman is a tremendous and something we may not see again. His season was highlighted by a 48-point performance on the road against Oklahoma State. 

Trae Young scoring a career high 48 points vs Oklahoma State


24. Sean May

Sean May at the University of North Carolina

23. Kevin Love

Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were teammates at UCLA.

Peak season (2007-2008): 17.5 PPG | 10.6 RPG 

A lot of people forget how good Kevin Love was in his one-and-done year at UCLA. In his freshman season, Love was the leader of a team that featured three other pros including Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, and Luc Mbah a Moute. While garnering first-team All-American honors, Love led the Bruins to a deep run to the Final Four before losing to Derrick Rose’s Memphis Tigers. 

4️⃣2️⃣ Days until College Basketball Throwback to when Kevin Love was a freshman and had 26 points & 18 boards in UCLA’s 80-75 win at Oregon


22. Adam Morrison

Adam Morrison at Gonzaga

21. Doug McDermott

Doug McDermott during the NCAA Tournament

20. Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade at Marquette

Peak Season (2002-2003): 21.5 PPG | 6.3 RPG

Dwyane Wade’s tournament run back in 2003 was remarkable. He led the Golden Eagles to a Final Four that season, with an impressive triple-double in the Elite 8 against the No.1 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. Although they fell short in the Final Four, Wade’s legacy is undeniable at Marquette, with consensus All-American honors and a 2003 Conference Player of the Year under his belt. If it weren’t for Carmelo’s run during that same tourney that ended in a championship, history would look even more fondly on Dwayne’s. 

Dwyane Wade had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Marquette's 83-69 win over Kentucky in the 2003 NCAA tournament.


19. Jameer Nelson

Jameer Nelson during the NCAA Tournament

18. Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield at Oklahoma University

Peak season (2015-2016): 25 PPG | 5.7 RPG

Buddy Hield was a marksman. His senior year is one of the best shooting and scoring seasons in college basketball history, where he averaged 25 PPG while shooting 45.7% from 3-point range. The long distance proficiency propelled Hield to national player of the year honors in 2016 and the Oklahoma Sooners to the Final Four. During the 2015-2016 season, he scored at least 30 points in 12 games.

Buddy Hield at Oklahoma is in my top 5 Just automatic.


17. Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor at the University of Connecticut

16. Juan Dixon

Juan Dixon at Maryland

Peak season (2001-2002): 20.4 PPG | 4.6 RPG

Don’t let his cameos on The Real Housewives of Potomac fool you, Juan Dixon was a star hooper. If you don’t know about Juan Dixon, do your research. Dixon was the driving force behind Maryland’s 2002 national championship run. In his senior season, he put 20.4 points per game including 39 percent from deep to go along with 2.6 steals per game to lead the Terrapins to the top of college basketball glory. 

March Madness legends... JUAN DIXON 🔥 @TerrapinHoops


15. Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin at Oklahoma University

Peak season (2008-2009): 22.7 PPG | 14.4 RPG

Blake Griffin’s two years at Oklahoma were filled with highlight reel dunks and jaw-dropping athleticism. His sophomore year he averaged 22.7 points per game and 14.4 rebounds per game leading Oklahoma to an Elite Eight appearance while winning Big 12 and National Player of the Year honors.

Happy March Madness .. Blake Griffin at Oklahoma was a MAN going up against BOYS 🤣💯‼️


14. John Wall

John Wall at the University of Kentucky

Peak Season (2009-2010): 16.6 PPG | 6.5 APG

John Wall’s impact on the college game goes beyond the stat line or the final score. Wall along with his running mate Demarcus Cousins ushered in the era of one-and-done players at Blue Blood schools. Recruiting shifted and schools like Kentucky and Duke started creating going after players that would only be there for a few months before declaring for the NBA. On the court, Wall was electric and one of the fastest players baseline to baseline that the college game has seen to a go along with his otherworldly athleticism.  You can make an argument that he deserved National Player of the Year honors over Evan Turner. 

John Wall was a MENACE at Kentucky! ⚪️🔵 @JohnWall


13. Jimmer Fredette

Jimmer Fredette at Brigham Young University

Peak Season (2010-2011): 28.9 PPG | 4.3 APG 

While Steph Curry was a show at Davidson, Jimmer Fredette took it next level in terms of entertainment. Jimmer had people running to the TV to watch BYU basketball even during the regular season. He was a certified bucket with unlimited range. He took home National Player of the Year honors but the one gripe with Jimmer was  hisinability to get his squad deeper in the tournament. His team maxed out at the Sweet 16 in his four NCAA Tournament appearances. 


Jimmer Fredette’s range was INSANE. Happy Birthday to one of the greatest shooters college basketball has ever seen. @jimmerfredette


12. Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker UConn 2011 2 Getty

Peak Season (2010-2011): 23.5 PPG | 4.5 APG

Kemba Walker’s run during the 2011 Big East Tournament and subsequent NCAA tournament will forever live in UCONN lore. That particular Huskies team was far from the most talented or dominant, but Walker’s performance in March helped the Huskies secure another championship. Only a month after winning that title, the UCONN Huskies made Walker only the 13th player in men’s basketball history to have their number retired, joining the likes of Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, and Emeka Okafor. 

12 YEARS AGO TODAY Kemba Walker had one of the greatest ankle-breaking game-winners of all time!


11. Steph Curry

Steph Curry Davidson 2008 Getty

Peak Season (2008-2009): 28.6 PPG | 5.6 APG 

Steph Curry was one of the most entertaining talents we’ve ever seen at the collegiate level. While that has translated to the NBA, it was a bit different when it was a random kid from a small school in North Carolina just single-handedly torching powerhouse programs en route to an Elite 8 in 2008. He sent home Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin, with the last matchup being a 17-point win. It’s a shame we didn’t get him again in the tournament the next season, where he took the next offensively. 

Where were you 14 years ago when Steph Curry put Davidson on notice as he willed them into the Elite 8? #MarchMadness


10. Jalen Brunson

Image of Jalen Brunson

9. Shane Battier

Shane Battier at Duke University

8. Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley at Kansas State

Peak Season (2007-2008): 26.2 PPG | 12.4 RPG

During the 2008 NBA Draft, plenty of people felt the safer option for the Chicago Bulls with the No. 1 overall pick was Michael Beasley; to be fair, that wasn’t too much of an outlandish thought. During his time in Manhattan, Beasley was a generational scorer and a double-double machine. He led the NCAA in rebounding average while leading the Big-12 in points. He finished as a Wooden Award Finalist and holds one of the best freshman seasons in college basketball history.  

Michael Beasley was so cold in college! B-Easy averaged 26.2 ppg 12.4 rpg at Kansas State as a freshman. (2008)


7. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant at Texas.

Peak Season (2006-2007): 25.8 PPG | 11.1 RPG

Kevin Durant’s lone season in Austin as a member of the Longhorns will go down in history as one of the greatest collegiate basketball seasons ever. Durant’s “35” will forever hang in the rafters of the Moody Center for that lone campaign. Durant became the first Freshman to win Naismith Player of the Year honors. While he’s recognized as one of the best scores the game of basketball has ever seen, his ability to play nearly every position on the floor in college made him a true force of nature. 

18 year old Kevin Durant putting up 37pts & 23reb vs Texas Tech!


6. JJ Redick

JJ Redick as a Duke Blue Devil

Peak season (2005-2006): 26.8 PPG | 42 3PT% 

Before he was the most-beloved NBA analyst and a likable NBA player, JJ Redick was the most hated man in America. He didn’t do anything wrong. He just was unstoppable at Duke for consecutive years and he let you know about it. He took any shot he wanted from anywhere on the floor and more often than not, he cashed it. The only thing missing from his illustrious resume was a national title. 


JJ Redick was an absolute savage at Duke


5. Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Syracuse Kansas 2003 NCAA Title Game Getty

Peak Season (2002-2003): 22.2 PPG | 10.0 RPG

Before the exclusion of high schoolers being able to enter the NBA back in 2007, the idea of “one-and-done” was a bit of a rarity in collegiate basketball. Still, when Carmelo Anthony led the Syracuse Orange to a national title in 2003, it was only proper for the transcendent forward to leap the league. His lone season in the collegiate ranks will forever be honored with Big East All-Freshman Honors, a Consensus All-American, and the NCAA Tourney’s Most Outstanding Player for 2003. 

Carmelo Anthony ran through the entire nation and won a championship with SYRACUSE


4. Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson

Peak season (2018-2019): 22.6 PPG | 8.9 RPG

The greatest show college basketball has EVER seen. There’s never been a player like Zion Williamson on the collegiate level and we were blessed to witness it. He was so good he had Barack Obama, Jay-Z, and LeBron courtside at his games. Zion is the most efficient college basketball player of all time as he tallied a PER of 40.8. The only thing keeping him from being No. 1 on this list is the fact he didn’t win a national championship or even reach the Final Four after losing in the Elite 8.



3. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis Kentucky 2012 Getty

2. Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough at the University of North Carolina

1. Jay Williams

Jason Williams of the Duke Blue Devils

Peak season (2000-2001): 21.6 PPG | 6.1 APG

Jay Williams’ freshman year won’t count for the list but it’s hard to say anyone had a better two-year window than his sophomore and junior year. Williams lost a total of eight games over the two-year span including anchoring the greatest Duke team of all time to national championship in 2001. Williams a National Player of the Year and the best college point guard of the past two decades. He had no weakness offensively to go along with being an elite athlete at that position. 

(2001) Jay Williams goes off for 34 points vs. UCLA. He scored 19 STRAIGHT at one point. In six tournament games, @RealJayWilliams had 22, 31, 34, 28, 23, 16. 🏆


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