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The (final) Card Chronicle Fab 50

This is the final installment of a four-part series in which we count down the 50 best players in college basketball. Part I was released before the season, Part II on Jan. 7 and Part III on Feb. 15.

I'm refusing to let this season go.

The player's previous ranking in the Fab 50 is the number in parentheses.  

50. Anthony Randolph, FR, F, LSU (NR)

The slight rookie may have made himself a lottery pick by averaging 20 points and 8.3 rebounds in the final month of the season.

49. Drew Neitzel, SR, G, Michigan State (42)

The preseason All-American's topsy-turvy career in East Lansing was summed up well by his final two performances. He hit big shot after big shot and scored 21 points in an upset victory over Pitt, and then completely disappeared in a blowout loss to Memphis in the Sweet 16.

48. Devan Downey, SO, G, South Carolina (47)

The saddle Downey had been wearing since the beginning of the season finally appeared to be taking its toll on the exhausted point guard down the stretch, but he still ended his sophomore campaign with a masterful 26-point performance in a near upset of top-seeded Tennessee in the SEC quarters.

47. DeMarcus Nelson. SR, G, Duke (36)

An otherwise stellar senior season for Nelson was spoiled by a two-game NCAA tournament in which he scored only eight total points.

46. George Hill, JR, G, IUPUI (NR)

The Summit League Player of the Year is the biggest reason why Oooey-Pooey will be one of the top mid-major teams to look out for in '09.

45. Arizona "AZ" Reid, SR, F, High Point (NR)

Reid capped a brilliant college career by averaging 28 points and 10.6 rebounds over High Point's final five games. The two-time Big South Player of the Year averaged 23.9 and 11 for the season.

44. James Gist, SR, F, Maryland (34)

Gist's big senior season may not have been enough to get the Terps back into the big dance, but it may very well have been enough to get his name called on June 26.

43. Marcelus Kemp, SR, G, Nevada (30)

Nevada's lack of success meant Kemp's senior season went largely unnoticed, but the first-team All-WAC performer actually averaged just .4 points less than the heralded Nick Fazekas did in his final collegiate season.

42. Demetric Bennett, SR, G, South Alabama (35)

The sharpshooter's final season in Mobile ended with a disappointing six-point performance in an equally disappointing 20-point loss to Butler in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

41. Jaycee Carroll, SR, G, Utah State (39)

Utah State's all-time leading scorer and the WAC Player of the Year scored 20 or more points in 24 of the Aggies' 35 games.

40. Damion James, SO, F, Texas (NR)

The blossoming James was the most pleasant surprise on a Longhorn team that was a a game away from the Final Four. He averaged 13.2 points and 10.3 rebounds, impressive numbers which will likely be bettered if James continues to realize his potential as a junior.

39. Sam Young, JR, F, Pittsburgh (NR)

Young missed double figures just once (a nine-point performance against Georgetown) in a season that saw him improve his scoring average by 11 points and earn Big East Tournament MVP honors.

38. Robert McKiver, SR, G, Houston (NR)

Highlighted by a record-breaking 52-point performance on Feb. 27 against Southern Miss, McKiver averaged 29.3 points over his final ten collegiate games.

37. Tyler Smith, SO, F, Tennessee (NR)

The Iowa transfer did it all for the most accomplished Tennessee basketball team of all-time. Smith finished the season averaging 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals per contest.

36. Gary Forbes, SR, F, Massachusetts (41)

The Atlantic 10 Player of the Year recorded nine double-doubles, led the league in scoring (20.3 ppg) and ranked fourth in rebounding (7.9 rpg).

35. James Harden, FR, G, Arizona State (NR)

After a sensational debut season in Tempe, Harden has made the wise decision to return to school for another year. He figures to be a lottery pick in a much weaker NBA Draft class of '09.

34. Tyrese Rice, JR, G, Boston College (40)

The most impressive individual half of the season came from Rice, who drilled nine three-pointers and scored 34 points in the first 20 minutes against top-ranked North Carolina on March 1.

33. Eric Maynor, JR, G, Virginia Commonwealth (28)

A shocking loss to fifth-seeded Bill & Mary in the CAA semifinals kept Maynor and the dangerous Rams from making March magic for the second year in a row.

32. David Padgett, SR, C, Louisville (NR)

Padgett's miraculous recovery from a broken kneecap in November was the difference between bubble team and regional finalist for Louisville.

31. Wayne Ellington, SO, G, North Carolina (32)

I guess the biggest compliment I can pay Ellington is that I don't blink when he makes shots that would cause me to immediately hit rewind (I love you Tivo) if executed by other players. If he takes to the new three-point line and commits himself to playing better defense, then he'll be an All-American in 2009.

30. Richard Hendrix, JR, F, Alabama (20)

A tireless worker and highly skilled post player, Hendrix had an amazingly productive season that went largely overlooked because of his team's struggles. Because of the hoard of comparably talented post players in this year's draft, he may have been better served returning to Tuscaloosa for his senior season.

29. Chase Budinger, SO, F, Arizona (19)

A less-than-stellar last month of the season has Budinger's NBA Draft stock at an all-time low. This makes a decision that seemed like a foregone conclusion in January highly interesting.

28. Joe Alexander, JR, F, West Virginia (NR)

No player made more money for himself in the month of March than Alexander, whose ridiculous skill set was on full display for NBA scouts in WVU's three NCAA tournament games. If he chooses to come back for his senior year, then he might be the Big East's preseason Player of the Year, even with current title holder Luke Harangody returning to Notre Dame.

27. Courtney Lee, SR, F, Western Kentucky (21)

Lee finally made it to the NCAA tournament, and it's safe to say that he took advantage of his one shot on the big stage. He'll be taken by an NBA team, but his status as a potential first-rounder has been hurt by the high number of early-entries.

26. O.J. Mayo, FR, G, USC (25)

I'm sure he's relieved that's over with.

25. Jason Thompson, SR, F, Rider (18)

Thompson's brilliant career at Rider came to a close with a pair of disappointing losses in the MAAC tournament finals and the first round of the NIT, but a hefty NBA contract should be a suitable pick-me-up.

24. Sean Singletary, SR, G, Virginia (22)

I've never really bought the "I could get hurt" excuse for bolting to the NBA (I'll give you Chris Marcus, but name another college player who saw his pro career ruined because he didn't declare early and ended up getting injured), but there is something to be said for leaving when your stock is moderately high and the team you would be returning to is going to be awful. Selfishly, I love it when great players stay in school for four years, but Singletary should have bounced after '07.

23. Darrell Arthur, SO, F, Kansas (26)

People - myself included - have spoken all season about Arthur's "high ceiling" or him "realizing his potential," but for those who hadn't seen, the national championship game was Exhibit A of just how good this kid can be.

22. Roy Hibbert, SR, C, Georgetown (15)

Georgetown's NCAA tournament run was every bit as disappointing as its star's senior season. None of Hibbert's numbers drastically improved from his breakout junior year (his rebounding average actually went down), and he again failed to assert himself in big games, taking just 18 combined shots in losses to Memphis, Pittsburgh and Davidson.

21. Chris Lofton, SR, G, Tennessee (16)

One of the deadliest college shooters in recent memory, Lofton's career at Tennessee came to an unseemly end as he connected on just five of his final 23 three-point attempts.

20. Ryan Anderson, SO, F, California (9)

Anderson led the Pac-10 in scoring as a sophomore, but a perceived lack of athleticism by NBA scouts may forced him to return to school for at least one more season.

19. Jamont Gordon, JR, G, Mississippi State (6)

Perhaps the best playmaker in college basketball, Gordon was sensational as a junior. But if he opts to forgo his senior season, then his college career will have ended on a missed three-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the Bulldogs' second round game with eventual national runner-up Memphis into overtime.

18. Brandon Rush, JR, G, Kansas (31)

It's funny how one step by one person can change so much. If Brandon Rush doesn't hurt his knee in a pickup game last May, then he probably bolts to the NBA, and Kansas probably doesn't win its first national title in 20 years.

17. Mario Chalmers, JR, G, Kansas (29)

Chalmers will forever be remembered in the world of college basketball because of one shot, but it was him sacrificing his offensive numbers for the good of the team, and his dedication to being a lockdown defender all season that made that moment possible. Chalmers' case is that of a tremendous team player being handsomely rewarded.

16. Jerryd Bayless, FR, G, Arizona (23)

Bayless heads to the NBA after emerging as the go-to player at the tail end of another frustrating season for Wildcat fans.

15. Lester Hudson, JR, G, Tennessee-Martin (37)

Hudson's first and only season of Division I basketball saw him lead the nation in points scored, rank third in steals, drop 35 and 36 on Memphis and Vanderbilt, respectively, win the Ohio Valley Conference's Player of the Year award, and become the first player in D-1 history to record a quadruple-double.

If I had an All-America vote (and Lord knows all of us should), Hudson would have been on my third-team. Sure I've made some outrageous claims about fictional third-team All-American selections in years past, but this isn't just talk. Hudson's that good, and he will have a career in the NBA.

14. D.J. White, SR, C, Indiana (12)

White deserved much, much better in his senior season. Honestly, in the last ten years, has there been a worse hire in sports than Kelvin Sampson by Indiana?

13. Shan Foster, SR, F, Vanderbilt (24)

The SEC's Player of the Year, Foster leaves Vanderbilt as the school's all-time leading scorer.

12. Luke Harangody, SO, F, Notre Dame (10)

Gody's ability outwork opponents and finish around the bucket made the Big East Player of the Year award race boring by mid-February. He'll headline what should be a preseason top ten team in 2009.

11. Eric Gordon, FR, G, Indiana (7)

A late-season collapse from a team in the midst of extreme adversity sent Gordon's college career from special to forgettable in a hurry.

10. Ty Lawson, SO, G, North Carolina (11)

Has anybody talked about how fast he is with the ball in his hands yet? Because I feel like that's something an announcer could get some solid mileage out of.

9. Brook Lopez, SO, F, Stanford (17)

Lopez carried Stanford past Marquette in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but his 26 points weren't enough to prevent a blowout loss at the hands of Texas in the Sweet 16. He and his twin brother of an equally feminine name are taking their 7-foot games to the NBA.

8. Darren Collison, JR, G, UCLA (13)

Collison was phenomenal for the Bruins throughout March, until a disastrous two-point, five-turnover performance in a Final Four loss to Derrick Rose and Memphis.

7. Derrick Rose, FR, G, Memphis (14)

One made free-throw away from having his name forever mentioned in the same breath as Pervis Ellison and Carmelo Anthony.

6. Stephen Curry, SO, G, Davidson (8)

All that, AND he comes off as funny and intelligent on talk shows.

I really don't think I could like a non-Louisville player more.

It will be interesting to see how he adapts to his new role as point guard next season. He's certainly got the head and the handles to get the job done, but it's going to be much more difficult for him to get his shot off (even with that gloriously quick release) without a guy like Jason Richards running the show and putting the ball in his hands at the right moment.

5. Kevin Love, FR, C, UCLA (3)

Love certainly lived up to the hype in his freshman season, but his limitations as far as the next level is concerned were on full display in UCLA's Final Four loss to Memphis.

Still, having freakishly strong wrists is cool.

4. Chris Douglas-Roberts, JR, G, Memphis (5)

What Douglas-Roberts was able to do in big games throughout the course of the season was remarkable. Depending on what some of his fellow underclassmen All-Americans decide to do, CDR could very well be the national preseason Player of the Year if he chooses to return to Memphis for his senior season.

3. D.J. Augustin, SO, G, Texas (4)

One more year of Augustin in Austin could mean a preseason ranking of No. 1 for Rick Barnes and the Longhorns.

2. Michael Beasley, FR, F, Kansas State (2)

As I write this, Beasley is about six hours from announcing whether or not he'll forgo his final three years of college eligibility at a late-afternoon press conference in Manhattan. I think there was more ambiguity in Louisville's '06 mayoral race.

1. Tyler Hansbrough, JR, F, North Carolina (1)

A wire-to-wire winner in my eyes. Sadly, he officially crossed the finish line against my favorite team, during a game I attended.

Next 10:

  1. Jon Brockman, Washington
  2. Kyle Hines, UNCGB
  3. Terrence Williams, Louisville
  4. AJ Price, Connecticut
  5. Trent Plaisted, BYU
  6. Mike Green, Butler
  7. Brian Roberts, Dayton
  8. Kyle Weaver, Washington State
  9. Bo McCalebb, New Orleans
  10. Joey Dorsey, Memphis
Fell Out:

Raymar Morgan (27)
Jon Brockman (33)
Kyle Hines (38)
Brian Roberts (43)
Donte Greene (44)
Bo McCalebb (45)
Will Daniels (46)
Josh Shipp (48)
Joey Dorsey (49)
Kyle Weaver (50)