There have been some exceptionally dynamic duos in college basketball in recent years and in the sport’s rich past. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky come to mind from last year’s Final Four, and it’s possible to go all the way back to the Clyde Drexler/Hakeem Olajuwon days and find gems in between.
Here are seven of the best college basketball duos of 2015-16.
Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Kentucky arguably has the top backcourt in the nation, and it’s the Ulis/Murray show in Lexington these days.At just 5-9, Ulis makes a monumental impact for the Wildcats every time he takes the floor. He’s an extension of John Calipari on the court and is putting up some eye-popping numbers.
Ulis is not shooting the ball from the outside as well as he did last season, but he’s been so effective in every other part of the game that it’s hard to nitpick. Here’s a Ulis comparison to a former great Kentucky point guard, John Wall:
|2009-10 John Wall||16.6||4.3||6.5||1.8||4.0|
|2015-16 Tyler Ulis||16.7||3.2||7.1||1.5||2.0|
That’s awfully good company to be in. As for Murray, after an up-and-down start, he’s become the perfect complement to Ulis. The talented freshman is averaging 19.9 points per game, and if the season ended today, he’d break Brandon Knight’s mark for the highest scoring average during Calipari’s time at Kentucky.
There are several reasons why foes are reluctant to face Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, but the Ulis/Murray combination tops the list.
Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Wichita State
Speaking of incredible backcourts, VanVleet and Baker have been doing this for four years.
The Wichita State pair has tallied 119 wins and just 22 losses in its four seasons, and has a good shot to make some noise in March.
Baker is a defensive stalwart, hounding the opponent’s best player on a nightly basis and knocking down clutch shot after clutch shot on the other end. VanVleet, meanwhile, is as smooth as any point guard in the nation. Gregg Marshall and the Shockers are going to miss this duo after this season, as VanVleet and Baker combine to average 26.1 points and 8.9 assists per game for Wichita.
Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, Providence
You can’t help but feel happy for a guy like Bentil, who went from being considered an afterthought as a freshman to averaging 21.1 points per game as a sophomore. And he’s not even the most talented player on his team – some, in fact, would argue that distinction isn’t even close.
That’s what happens when you’re teammates with Kris Dunn, an athletic specimen of a point guard who puts up 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game. There might not be a team in America that relies on its two best players as much as the Friars do. While some may view that as a negative, it’s still awfully impressive that Ed Cooley’s squad is 21-9 in early March. It’s nice to have an option 1A and 1B.
Georges Niang and Monte Morris, Iowa State
Simply put, Morris and Niang are both outstanding college basketball players. Niang is as polished of a scorer as you’ll see – a skilled power forward who can knock down 3s, post up or take his man off the dribble.
Morris, meanwhile, is as smart of a point guard as he is talented. His 4.24 assist-to-turnover ratio is among the best in the nation, and he and Niang combine to average 33.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. These two do it all.
Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, Duke
Duke had a thin rotation to begin the season -- and then Amile Jefferson went down. Mike Krzyzewski moved Brandon Ingram to the four, and the rest was history. Ingram and Allen have carried the Blue Devils all season long, often logging in excess of 35 minutes per game.
They’ve still managed to be extremely efficient in doing so -- Allen averages 21.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting; Ingram is approaching 17 points per game on 45 percent shooting. Ingram has made his presence known on the defensive end of the floor, too, spearheading Duke’s 1-3-1 zone looks while getting accustomed to jostling with big men in the trenches each game.
We’ll see if the Duke duo can propel the Blue Devils to glory in March.
Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
As two big men in what’s turning into a small man’s game, Wiltjer and Sabonis have proved that size paired with skill is still a favorable combination.
Wiltjer and Sabonis are Gonzaga’s two leading scorers by a mile, as they’re the only two Bulldogs that average more than 10 points per game. At 6-10, Wiltjer is one of the best marksmen in America, sporting a shooting slash line of .486/.408/.876 en route to 20.8 points per game.
Sabonis, meanwhile, takes after his father. He’s an absolute load in the low post, and he’s mastered his footwork and ability to exploit angles. Sabonis scores 17.2 points and rips down 11.9 rebounds per game, and the Zags’ frontcourt will be crucial in the WCC Tournament.
Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, Virginia
Outside of Bryn Forbes, nobody in college basketball knows how to use a screen quite like Brogdon. He’s almost surgical in doing so, constantly positioning himself in a favorable spot with the ball and creating more separation than someone with his athleticism should. The guy setting those screens is often Gill, and the two have developed outstanding chemistry together on the floor.
Virginia plays at the slowest adjusted pace in the nation, so logic would suggest that its star players shouldn’t be putting up big numbers. Brogdon and Gill don’t subscribe to that theory -- the seniors combine to average 32 points per game on impeccable efficiency. And their defense might be the strongest aspect of their game, as the Hoos have a top-10 unit under defensive genius Tony Bennett.
These two are going to want to go out with a bang in their last college season.