Jordan and Pippen. Shaq and Kobe. Batman and Robin. Every great dynamic duo has undeniable chemistry. They accelerate their partner’s strengths and cover for their weaknesses. Nowhere is a dynamic partnership more evident than on a basketball floor where there’s only 5 on a side and 2 guys can change the whole game. Sure, there’s been fantastic teams like the back-to-back Florida Gators. There’s been singular forces who have carried their whole squad like Juan Dixon for the Maryland Terps, and Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier for the UCONN Huskies.
Those guys got the job done through a variety of ways including great supporting casts and role players and a very easy path to the title (Shabazz’s Huskies). The dynamic duo though is a whole different animal. There’s an unspoken telepathic bond. The guard throws up the alley-oop before the big man has even made his cut. The big man knows exactly where to dish out his pass to the guard’s favorite spot on the floor. It’s the epitome of teamwork, a beautiful piece of poetry in motion. A true duo has garnered understanding through years of playing together, therefore only players who played a minimum of two years together qualify. No 1-and-done Kentucky’s on this list. The Elite 8 of dynamic duos have been broken down into 4 distinguished categories:
1) Cumulative Stats – Clear cut. Chicks dig numbers.
2) Impact – This gets a little trickier. But essentially, how much did these 2 MATTER to their school. Were they absolute legends who will be remembered for the rest of time? Did they alter the existence of college basketball at their university?
3) Outside Help – Some “duos” were quickly nixed from this list because of this singular category. If the duo had tremendous players around them their whole careers, they are getting less points. If they carried the load on their own, in the words of Billy Bob…
4) Success – Self-explanatory. Need deep March Madness runs, and in multiple years. The more years the better.
8. DEE BROWN 2003-05 DERON WILLIAMS 2003-05
Year 1 – 2ND RD (Fr) – 12 pts, 5 ast, 3.7 reb, 1.8 stl……..(Fr) – 6.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 3 reb
Year 2 – SWEET 16 (So) – 13.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 3.7 reb,……..(So) – 14 pts, 6.2 ast, 3.2 reb
Year 3 – RUNNER-UPS (Jr) – 13.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 1.8 stl ….(Jr) – 12.5 pts, 6.8 ast, 3.6 reb
Growing up I was a huge Arizona fan, and to this day Dee Brown and Deron Williams still haunt my dreams. Up 14 with under 4 minutes left. Up 9 with under a minute left. I blinked again and next thing I knew we’re in overtime. The comeback these 2 pulled off against the Wildcats in the 2005 Elite 8 was nothing short of miraculous. For me, it was the stuff of nightmares.
Dee Brown was the speedster who created offense all over the floor with his scoring and dishing while defensively he took opposing guards’ lunch money. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year but he wasn’t even the most talented player on his own team. That honor belonged to backcourt mate Deron Williams who fit the bill as a more traditional point guard averaging almost 7 assists per game. He’d go on to be the #3 pick in the draft en route to a successful NBA career.
There’s a couple of things knocking these boys down a few pegs on the list. They had some quality stats but nothing that blows you away. The Fighting Illini won through a team effort, especially the play of the 3rd guard of the 3 headed monster Luther Head. Brown and Williams were the clear leaders but many people fondly remember these boys because of the aforementioned 3 headed monster (Head was the leading scorer on the 2005 team).
But let’s give credit where credit is due, aside from Head this team was devoid of any real talent. We’re not going to be gushing to our grand-kids about James Augustine and Roger Powell, the other Illini starters. These two truly left a mark on NCAA history especially in their climatic Elite 8 win and their subsequent run that fell just short of a National Title.
TOTAL = 29 Stats – 5 Impact – 8 Outside Help – 9 Success – 7
7. SALIM STOUDAMIRE 2002-05 CHANNING FRYE 2002-05
Year 1 – SWEET 16 (Fr) – 12.8 pts, 45% 3p………………..(Fr) – 9.5 ppg, 6.3 reb, 1.5 blk
Year 2 – ELITE 8 (So) – 13 pts, 44.5% 3p…………………(So) – 12.6 pts, 8.5 reb, 1.9 blk
Year 3 – 1ST RD (Jr) – 16.3 pts, 3.0 ast, 2.7 reb…………..(Jr) – 15.9 pts, 7.4 reb, 2.1 blk
Year 4 – ELITE 8 (Sr) – 18.4 pts, 50 3p%, 50 fg%…………(Sr) – 15.8 pts, 7.6 reb, 2.3 blk
I don’t think I’ll be showing that infamous Arizona collapse again any time soon, seeing it once was plenty. Instead I’m going to focus on the fantastic collegiate careers of Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye, a dynamic duo who succeeded together for 4 years, a true rarity in today’s college landscape. While they may have fell short in that heart-breaker to Illinois in 2005, I’m giving them the slight nod here. They without a doubt had some help in their freshman and sophomore years in the form of leading scorer Jason Gardner and do-it-all forward Luke Walton. But Frye and Stoudamire were huge pieces of those Sweet 16 and Elite 8 teams and proceeded to lead the Wildcats as a tandem during their 2005 Elite 8 run. Let’s not forget the step-back game winner Stoudamire hit in that Sweet 16 and the remarkable career he had as a Wildcat.
This dynamic duo provided the inside-outside punch that resembles the more traditional duo complimenting each other extremely well. Stoudamire had the beautiful lefty stroke hitting over 50% from 3 in his senior year while Frye was a beast in the paint with the added skillset to step out and hit the jumper. Call me a homer but those Arizona teams were entertaining as hell to watch and the ability these two showed to play at such a high level for 4 years was remarkable. Bear Down Zona.
TOTAL = 29 Stats – 8 Impact – 7 Outside Help – 8 Success – 6
6. J.J. REDICK 2003-06 SHELDEN WILLIAMS 2003-06
Year 1 – SWEET 16 (Fr) – 15 pts…………………………..(Fr) – 8.2 pts, 5.6 reb, 1.6 blk
Year 2 – FINAL 4 (So) -15.9 pts, 3.1 reb…………………(So) – 12.6 pts, 8.5 reb, 3 blk
Year 3 – SWEET 16 (Jr) -21.8 pts, 3.3 reb, 2.6 ast……..(Jr) – 15.5 pts, 11.2 reb, 3.7 blk
Year 4 – SWEET 16 (Sr) – 26.8 pts, 2.6 ast, 52 fg%…..(Sr) – 18.8 pts, 10.7 reb, 3.8 blk
This duo may be the hardest to judge. Offensively they were so gifted and in terms of impact and status it doesn’t get much better. They also had the longevity with a 4 year reign of terror in the ACC putting up huge stats across the board. Redick is not only a Duke legend but a legend of college basketball proven by his 2005 ACC Player of the Year award and 2006 National Player of the Year award. He was the most despised Dukie since Christian Laettner and nobody relished in the hate quite like Redick. His range was other-worldly and his scoring prowess was unmatched (scored 26.8 ppg!! his senior year). Below is an example of a casual evisceration he’d pull on opponents nightly.
Nobody captured your attention like young J.J. He couldn’t do it alone though. Duke’s continued success during these years was established by the way Shelden Williams implemented his will in the paint and owned the other team’s soul simultaneously. He averaged over 10 rebounds and almost 4 blocks! per game his junior and senior seasons, some truly astounding numbers. Like a good housemaid if J.J. ever missed a shot Shelden was there to clean it up.
These two seemingly had it all, cruising through the regular season year in and year out like they were playing a bunch of D III cream puffs. Their fatal flaw was their constant March letdowns. Their junior season as a #1 seed they stumbled against a half-decent #5 seeded Michigan State squad that contained half the talent. In their senior year swan song, they again fell short as a favorite to the upstart #4 seeded LSU Tigers. In addition to these epic fails, Redick and Williams boasted plenty of talent alongside them, especially in their Final 4 run with Luol Deng and upperclassmen Chris Duhon and Daniel Ewing. True, little help was given their final two seasons in Durham, but that’s no excuse to fall flat on your face year after year in the Big Dance.
TOTAL = 34 Stats – 10 Impact – 10 Outside Help – 7 Success – 7
5. KIRK HINRICH 2001-03 NICK COLLISON 2001-03
Year 1 – SWEET 16 (So) – 11.5 pts, 6.9 ast, 4.1 reb, 1.3 stl..(So) – 14 pts, 6.7 reb, 1.6 blk
Year 2 – FINAL 4 (Jr) – 14.8 pts, 5 ast, 4.8 reb, 1.6 stl……..(Jr) – 15.6, 8.3 reb, 2.2 blk
Year 3 – RUNNER-UPS (Sr) – 17.3 ppg, 3.5 ast, 1.9 stl……(Sr) – 18.5 pts, 10 reb, 1.9 blk
You’d be hard pressed to find a dynamic duo that’s more fondly remembered than these two for being attached at the hip in their legacy. Hinrich adapted during his KU career from a traditional point guard averaging almost 7 assists per game to a combo/scoring guard who’d end his career averaging over 17 ppg. That’s a testament to the young guard changing amid his environment and the players around him and playing to his teams’ strengths (and weaknesses). Collison was his running mate, a surprisingly athletic power forward who had all the low-block tools in the post up game toolbox that a college big man could ever ask for.
Hinrich was a joy to watch at point guard, he was super fast and encompassed the ability to both finish against contact inside and wet the 3 from beyond the arc (48% and 50% from 3 his sophomore and junior years). He also hounded opposing guards with his thievery and defense, something Collison took pride in as well with his propensity for blocks.
Unfortunately for Hinrich and Collison a major blemish on their resume is the tremendous support they received during their time in Lawrence. Drew Gooden was a major catalyst for the 2001 and 2002 teams when he was the leading scorer and rebounder. The stellar play of secondary players Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles, and Keith Langford also enabled KU to come within inches of the mountaintop, but there was no doubt Hinrich and Collison had led them there in 2003. If only they had toppled Carmelo and the Orange, they’d surely be higher on this list.
TOTAL = 34 Stats – 9 Impact – 9 Outside Help – 7 Success – 9
4. KYLE SINGLER 2008-10 JON SCHEYER 2008-10
Year 1 – 2ND RD (Fr) – 13.3 pts, 5.8 reb………….(S0) – 11.7 pts, 3.9 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.5 stl
Year 2 – SWEET 16 (So) – 16.5 pts, 7.7 reb……….(Jr) – 14.9 pts, 3.6 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.6 stl
Year 3 – CHAMPS (Jr) – 17.7 pts, 7 reb, 2.4 ast…(Sr) – 18.2 pts, 3.6 reb, 4.9 ast, 1.6 stl
A pair of forgotten Duke legends, you heard me LEGENDS, brought Durham their first championship in almost a decade. They did it without a lot of the hype and talent of Blue Devil squads of years past, but Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer could flat out score the rock. They didn’t have the flashy athleticism and there were no false aspirations of NBA stardom, but for the college level they were phenomenal. They led an offense that progressed from the 14th best in the nation their first year together to 7th best and eventually #1 overall (via Kenpom).
All three years they were together, Singler and Scheyer were huge parts of the Blue Devils’ offensive production. They also received less help and had less talent than any other three year run in modern Duke history. Gerald Henderson was a pretty good player, and Nolan Smith only came into his own their final year when they won the title. With what these two had around them I’d say they more than made due.
TOTAL = 34 Stats – 8 Impact – 8 Outside Help – 9 Success – 9
3. SAM DEKKER 2014-15 FRANK KAMINSKY 2014-15
Year 1 – FINAL 4 (So) – 12.4 pts, 6.1 reb……………………(Jr) – 13.9 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.7 blk
Year 2 – RUNNER-UPS (Jr) – 13.9 pts, 5.5 reb…………….(Sr) – 18.8 pts, 8.2 reb, 1.5 blk
What a wild ride these two years were for Wisconsin fans. Their Badgers had reached a grand total of 1 Final 4 over the previous 73 seasons. While Bo Ryan captained a very steady ship throughout his tenure he wasn’t exactly landing 5 star, blue chip recruits year in and year out. That narrative began to change with the arrival of Sam Dekker, the homegrown blue chip recruit (#12 overall) who brought along massive expectations. Through his first season and a half however, Badger fans were getting impatient waiting for their chosen one to finally break out and become a STAR.
That all changed when little known 7 footer Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky started draining 20+ footers and became one of the most unguardable matchups in the country.
The pressure slowly eased from Dekker’s shoulders and enabled the duo to become an unstoppable force. They cruised through their bracket in 2014 before having their heart ripped out on an Aaron Harrison 3 with 5 seconds left in the Final 4. Mere seconds from a chance at a National Title.
When both Kaminsky and Dekker decided to forego the draft and come back to school the following year they returned with a vengeance. They pulled off the greatest win in school history and knocked off the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats while exacting revenge for what had been stolen from them a year prior. In the title game they lost to Duke in a game where “questionable officiating” is the understatement of the century. (I may have had a few stacks on the Badgers to win it all, don’t worry I’m totally over it).
The refs may have stolen that one but I’ll always remember how close they were to winning back-to-back national titles. This isn’t a powerhouse basketball school like Duke, Kentucky or Kansas we’re talking about, this was middle of the road Wisconsin. That is, until Sam Dekker and Frank “The Tank” showed up.
TOTAL = 35 Stats – 7 Impact – 10 Outside Help – 9 Success – 9
2. PEYTON SIVA 2012-13 RUSS SMITH 2012-13
Year 2 – FINAL 4 (Jr) – 9 pts, 5.6 ast, 3.2 reb, 1.7 stl…(So) – 11.5 pts, 2.2 stl
Year 3 – CHAMPS (Sr) – 10 pts, 5.7 ast, 2.3 stl………..(Jr) – 18.7, 3.3 reb, 2.9 ast, 2.1 stl
For a team that brought home a championship for the first time since 1986, the 2013 Louisville Cardinals seem like a forgotten footnote in the annals of NCAA history. I’m not quite sure why because this backcourt has to go down as one of the greatest in the modern era. Gorgui Dieng and his 9.4 reb, 2.5 blk per game was the defensive stalwart in the middle, but Siva and Smith created absolute havoc on both ends of the floor. While Siva could flat out get buckets he took pride in his ability to be the team captain from the point guard position and set everyone up on both ends of the floor. And damn could the kid FLY.
On the other side of the coin, Russ Smith never saw a shot he didn’t like. He attempted almost 3 times the amount of shots as Siva their last year together, but that was his role. He was the pure scorer who also got AFTER it defensively. The duo combined for almost 4.5 steals per game, deflating other teams with their relentless pressure. According to Kenpom they were the #1 defense in the nation in BOTH 2012 and 2013. During their Final 4 and Championship runs there wasn’t a more feared defense than that of the Louisville Cardinals.
TOTAL = 36 Stats – 7 Impact – 10 Outside Help – 9 Success – 10
1. BEN GORDON 2002-04 EMEKA OKAFOR 2002-04
Year 1 – ELITE 8 (Fr) – 12.6 pts, 3.1 ast, 2.7 reb…….. (Fr) – 7.9 pts, 9.0 reb, 4.1 blk
Year 2 – SWEET 16 (So) – 19.5 pts, 4.7 ast, 4.2 reb….(So) – 15.9 pts, 11.2 reb, 4.7 blk
Year 3 – CHAMPS (Jr) – 18.5 pts, 4.7 reb, 4.5 ast…….(Jr) – 17.6 pts, 11.5 reb, 4.1 blk
The gold standard. When you think about it, it’s not even close. Two of the best players in all of college ball enrolled at Storrs in the same class and I think it’s safe to say they made their mark. They ran through an absolute buzzsaw to win the championship in ’04, and let’s just say “supporting talent” wasn’t a commonly used phrase for the Huskies’ duo. What’s that Emeka, you agree?
Thought so. Hard to disagree when Rashad Anderson was the next best player on this team their sophomore and junior seasons.
It’s hard to think of a more perfect blend of talents meshing together. Gordon the all-everything scorer, distributor and perimeter defender pairing up with Okafor, the beast inside who averaged 10.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks for his CAREER. Don’t forget he forwent his senior season.
The two of them went on to be drafted #2 and #3 overall in the NBA draft that summer. As we’re now firmly entrenched in the 1 and done era, the likes of these two to ever be paired together again is equivalent to the chances of aliens existing. Sure I guess it’s hypothetically possible, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
TOTAL = 39 Stats – 10 Impact – 10 Outside Help – 10 Success – 9