The Arizona Wildcats did something that no other Pac-12 team can claim—land two of their own in Sports Illustrated’s list of Top 50 players in college basketball.
Freshman point guard Nico Mannion squeaked in at No. 48 while fellow freshman Zeke Nnaji is ranked No. 30.
Mannion averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, but shot 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3. Here is what SI’s Jeremy Woo wrote about him:
Although Mannion’s year wasn’t all that strong statistically, he finished second in the Pac-12 in assists and piloted Arizona to a solid season, passing the eye test as a leader and decision-maker. He didn’t entirely live up to the degree of hype that followed him to Tucson, but there were few players as entertaining to watch on a good night.
The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Nnaji averaged 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on 57 percent shooting. Here are Woo’s thoughts on him:
Although Nnaji was underhyped coming into the season, his productivity speaks for itself as one of the country’s top rebounders and most efficient scorers. While at times he struggled on the defensive end, his energy on the glass and reliable production proved essential for Arizona.
Only four other Pac-12 players made SI’s Top 50: Stanford guard Tyrell Terry (40), Colorado forward Tyler Bey (35), USC post Onyeka Okongwu (15) and Oregon guard Payton Pritchard (4).
Woo’s rankings were determined “with a number of things in mind—stats, of course, were a primary factor, but talent level, importance to team, supporting cast, team success and any other unique circumstances were also given consideration.”
Pritchard is the only senior in the aforementioned group, but Bey, Okongwu, Nnaji and Mannion are possible/likely NBA Draft declarees, meaning the Pac-12 will either lack star power next season or need some new faces to claim the mantle.