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July 16, 2007Cast your vote: Who do you want taking the big shot for your team?
It takes a certain makeup to be the player who wants the ball in crunch time.
You have to have a burning desire to win, yet the fortitude to handle a loss that could fall on your shoulders. You have to have the ability to block out the distractions, yet the awareness to grasp all that's going on around you.
So here's the situation: Down two, 5 seconds to play, who in college basketball right now is taking the shot for you? Pick anybody in the country. Who are you confident can at least put you into overtime, if not win the game outright?
We asked our experts, Basketball Editor Bob McClellan and staff writer Andrew Skwara, to pick the guy they'd want. Here's who they chose and why.
Skwara's pick: Chris Lofton, Tennessee
If Chris Lofton had left school early for the NBA this summer, there might be a good debate here. But, with the shooting guard returning for his senior season, this is a no-brainer.
Lofton is the best shooter in the college game right now, and is probably one of the best ever. He's on track to finish his career with more than 400 3-pointers, something only five other players have done.
There are certainly other guys with more size and a better ability to create their own shot, but there should be no doubt about Lofton's ability to get open and hit shots in the clutch.
Against Texas in the final minute of regulation last season, Lofton drilled a 28-footer with 6-foot-10 Kevin Durant in his face (the Vols went on to win in overtime). A couple weeks later, Lofton hit a 30-footer (not exaggerating) right before halftime at Vanderbilt.
Two seasons ago, with Tennessee and Winthrop tied in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Lofton hit an 18-foot jumper in the final second with the defense all over him.
It doesn't matter who you are playing or whether you choose to shoot a 2- or a 3-pointer. You want Lofton shooting the ball.
McClellan's pick: Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
Andrew's choice is a good one, and it's hard to argue with it. However, I'd take Drew Neitzel because he's more the type who can create his own shot. He has better handle than Lofton, and I like his chances better of getting past someone if he has to.
I believe, too, that he might shoot it better when people are draped all over him than he does when he's wide open. Let's face it, if a team is playing Tennessee or Michigan State, the defense in this situation is going to be all over Lofton and Neitzel. If it's not, the opposing coach should be canned on the spot.
Neitzel relishes being the man for the Spartans. He had to bide his time his first two seasons, but he got as many shots as he could handle last season. He took nearly double the shots (467) than he did as a sophomore (240), yet still shot better from the floor (42.6 percent to 40.8).
And lest you think Lofton is more likely to hit a 3, let me point out to you that Neitzel hit more 3-pointers than the Tennessee guard did last season. Neitzel also shot very nearly as well as Lofton from beyond the arc (41.2 percent to 41.9 percent).
Finally, Neitzel also is the better free-throw shooter (88 percent last season to Lofton's 81).
Cast your vote: Who do you want taking the big shot for your team?