Jeremiah Rivers, Indiana
– Coming off a transfer year from Georgetown, Rivers will see more playing time at Indiana and will immediately become one of the leagues premier defenders. Through his two years at Georgetown his play against the likes of; Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn and Scottie Reynolds did not go unnoticed. He saw the floor because of what he brought defensively. Offensively, if he hit the rim, it could be considered a success. Perhaps with a year off his offensive game is more refined, but Tom Crean should be rest assured that he has an asset on one side of the floor. Kalin Lucas, Talor Battle, E’Twaun Moore and others should not be thrilled about Rivers stepping onto the floor this year.
Chris Kramer, Purdue – Kramer has earned a rep over the past couple years of one of the toughest players in college basketball. And while at times he may be physically and athletically overmatched, he finds a way to get the job done. His strength is not ever in question rather his stature, at only 6’3 at the 2 spot. But he is a pest, as Manny Harris would certainly attest. Kramer ranked 11th nationally in steal percentage. The highest returning mark for a BCS player.
J.T. Tiller, Missouri – Tiller would certainly be on an ‘all glue’ team. Last year teammates credited him as being a driving force, particularly on defense. This year he must assume more of a leadership role. The third guard on this list, Tiller also checks in at 6’3. He logged the third most minutes on Missouri’s team in Mike Anderson new age ’40 minutes of hell’. Tiller himself ranked 56th nationally in steal percentage.
Damian Johnson, Minnesota– Johnson’s size and length provide flexibility for Tubby Smith and the Gophers. Able to guard multiple positions, Johnson on most nights will take on the biggest challenge the opposition can throw out there. Evan Turner was quoted in this blog saying that Johnson is his toughest match up all season long. Johnson’s versatility is seen in his ability to block shots and collect steals. Ranking 29th nationally in each category last season.
Jarvis Varnado, Misissippi State – Thabeet received all the attention recently for blocking shots. Fact is, Varnado was better at doing so. Varnado had a block percentage of 15.35, Thabeet 11.94. Varnado’s number last season was actually down a tiny bit from 16.06 in 2007-2008. Varnado is also good on the glass collecting 8.8 boards last season.