Andrew DeGeorge’s College Basketball Starting 5

Each of our podcast personalities are picking a  All-Star Starting 5 for college basketball; here is Andrew DeGeorge’s team:

This task is a tough one, but ultimately, I selected a low-turnover team with some dominant inside scoring to lead the way. Here is my full squad. 

Point Guard: Payton Pritchard – Oregon

  • I said it on last weekend’s takeaways, but I fully believe Pritchard is the best point guard in the country. He’s gritty, doesn’t turn the ball over, and shoots the ball at a 46% clip. He can also distribute the ball, racking up 5.5 assists per game and turning the ball over just 2.7 times. His efficiency and ability to both pass and shoot led me to selecting Pritchard as my point guard. 

Guard: Myles Powell – Seton Hall

  • This may be a slightly surprising pick, but I believe Powell is the driving force behind Seton Hall’s surprising season. The Pirates have not been higher than a 6-seed since 1993 and haven’t made it past the opening weekend of March Madness since 2000. With Powell leading the way, the Pirates look primed to break both of those streaks this year. Their point guard is averaging 21.3 points per game – the highest of my guards – and he will be a spectacular option off of Pritchard, whose shooting prowess will draw defenses away from the Seton Hall star. 

Guard: Elijah Hughes – Syracuse

  • I’ve gotten to see Hughes several times in person and I’ve been impressed. He grabs the most rebounds (5.1 per game) and turns the ball over the least (2.3) out of all my guards. He scores 18.8 points per game, the lowest of my three guards, but Hughes is a trustworthy guy with the ball in his hand, and he will play gutsy basketball and make the right decision most of the time. He probably will not be a primary scorer for this team, but he has the toolkit to impact the game in other ways. 

Forward: Luka Garza – Iowa              

  • Garza is one of the best paint players in the country, and he could start at either forward or center for my team. I’m putting him at forward for the relatively arbitrary decision that my other big man is slightly taller, but either way, I expect Garza to be a huge factor offensively for my team. He leads my squad on 23.6 points per game while also grabbing 9.6 rebounds. He has made a relatively mediocre Iowa team relevant through his spectacular play, and with a better supporting cast, I trust the Iowa big man to be even more potent in this lineup. 

Center: Udoka Azubuike – Kansas

  • While Azubuike does not boast the same numbers as some of the premier inside scorers in the country, it is partially because his role on the Jayhawks does not require him to do so. He averages 13.4 points per game on a stunning 74.4% shooting percentage, while grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game. He’s one of just a few players to average a double-double, and he constantly gets free in the paint. His biggest downside is occasionally being limited by foul trouble, but Azubuike is an elite talent, having a 7’0, 270-pound center with his skill is too good to pass up, so he cracks my starting lineup. 

Coach: Bill Self – Kansas

  • Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. Bill Self has never missed the NCAA tournament when coaching Kansas, and he has never lost more than 10 games in a season. He’s got plenty of NCAA tournament experience, he’s been to two Final Fours, and he’s won it all once. He’s got what it takes to win, and with a lineup this talented, I’ll take Self to guide them to the finish line. 

March Impact Player Profile: Elijah Hughes, Syracuse

In March Madness, lightning can strike at any moment. If, in 2018, UMBC played Virginia 50 times, they would probably lose 49 times. If Loyola Chicago replayed their tournament a million times, they probably rarely make it to the Final Four. Weird things happen. Shooters who rely on the 3 can carry you, but they can just as well shoot your team out of the tournament if they get cold for one game, and that’s why, when it comes time to dancing, the teams that most often make the most noise are those with experienced leaders, who usually can score consistently. And while Syracuse is still fighting for their NCAA tournament life, they’ve got just the player to do that with if they can crack the field. 

Junior forward Elijah Hughes has been the Orange’s most consistent player this year, and it’s not even close. While sophomore Buddy Boeheim can put up gaudy numbers due to the pure volume of shots he takes from beyond the arc, it’s Elijah Hughes that makes Syracuse tick. 

Hughes has scored at least ten points in every game, and he’s notched at least 15 in 19 of his 23 contests. Since December 7th, Hughes has been held under 17 points just one time, and it is his level of play that helped Syracuse rise from ACC afterthought to a potential contender for an at-large bid. 

Hughes helped Syracuse turn their season around in a pivotal game in January when the Orange, sitting at 1-3 in ACC play, visited #18 Virginia, who had beaten Syracuse by 14 in the season opener. The game went to overtime, and Hughes played every minute, knocking down four triples, grabbing nine rebounds, and gutted out 18 points on a day when his shot wasn’t falling as frequently as normal. Syracuse won in overtime and the statement victory sparked a five-game winning streak. Hughes scored 19, 17, and 26 points in the Orange’s next three wins – two on the road – as they skyrocketed up the ACC standings. Syracuse now sits at 7-5 in ACC play, good enough for a tie with Virginia for fourth and the rights to a coveted double-bye in the ACC tournament. Perhaps more impressive than his statistics is his durability. Since November 27, Hughes has come out of a game just three times, and on all three occasions, the Orange led by more than ten points. 

If Syracuse gets into the NCAA tournament, it will certainly be on the back of their junior star. And if the Orange, a team already used to making long underdog runs in the NCAA tournament, make it to March, be ready for Elijah Hughes to lift this team onto his shoulders and help Syracuse carve out a vicious warpath en route to a deep run.