1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: The scoring and the three-point shooting and the ability to split pick-and-rolls, all that is easy to see when it comes to Trae Young.
What I’m most impressed with, and what I think gives him a real shot to be a starting point guard on a playoff-caliber teams at the next level, is his ability to pass, the way that he can read the floor.
Here are just a few examples of what I mean.
In the first clip, Young reads where the help is coming from – Brady Manek’s defender – and he is able to make the crosscourt pass going against his momentum to find Manek for a three.
In the second, he recognizes that Manek’s defender isn’t leaving him and hits the roll-man for a dunk.
In the next two clips, you’ll see how he is able to creates shots for his teammates simply by drawing the attention of two or three defenders and making the simple pass for a bucket:
UPDATE: After I wrote this, Young went for 22 assists on Tuesday night.
2. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: Duke hasn’t played since their loss to Boston College last weekend, but it’s hard to ignore how dominant Bagley was down the stretch in wins over Texas, Florida and Indiana. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 11.3 boards.
3. TRA HOLDER, Arizona State: Holder is averaging 21.6 points, 5.5 boards and 4.9 assists for the No. 3 team in the AP Poll. He’s also shooting 45 percent from three while shooting six per game. He had 40 in the win over Xavier. He had 29 points and seven assists in the win at Kansas. I’m not totally convinced he can keep this pace up, but as long as he is he deserves where he is ranked on this list.
4. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: So who is Villanova’s Player of the Year this year? On the one hand, Mikal Bridges is Villanova’s second-leading scorer on the team, one of the keys to their switchable defense and shooting 46.6 percent from three, a major part of the reason they hard so hard to guard offensively.
Then on the other hand, Brunson is leading the team in scoring at 18.5 points a night while shooting 62.9 percent from the floor and 53.5 percent from three and posting an assist-to-turnover ratio 4-to-1. He also just so happens to be the engine that makes Villanova run and, frankly, embraces the “point guard ideal” more than any point guard I can ever remember watching at the college level.
Right now, I think Brunson is more deserving of a spot on this list, but I can already tell I’m going to spend the year flip-flopping on this.
5. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona: Like Villanova, I have some issues picking between Ayton and Allonzo Trier for this list. Right now I lean Ayton. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 11.8 boards and doing things like this every night:
6. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: I’m not sure how much there is to say about Bluiett and Xavier after their come-from-behind win over East Tennessee State on Saturday. He made some big shots. He shouldn’t have let the led get to that point. I’ll chalk that one up to finals, holidays and a lull in the college hoops calendar.
7. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: A lot of people wrote off the Mountaineers after that early season embarrassment at the hands of Texas A&M. Well, Texas A&M happens to be a top seven team in college basketball these days and the Mountaineers have not lost since then. And Carter? He’s a fantasy basketball player’s dream: 19.4 points, 6.0 assists, 5.4 boards and 3.8 steals while shooting 43.3 percent from three on more than six attempts per game.
8. LUKE MAYE, North Carolina: Maye has been college basketball’s most pleasant surprise, having developed into one of the best big men in the sport on a team that desperately needs it’s bigs to be great. He’s the biggest reason why the Tar Heels went from being a potential second-weekend team to a potential ACC title contender this year.
9. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: Colson had 29 points and 11 boards against Indiana. His counterpart, Juwan Morgan, had 34 points and 11 boards. Indiana won in large part because Colson missed a boxout on Zack McRoberts on a free throw with 11 seconds left. Colson is fantastic. He’s not, however, infallible.
10. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have come back to earth in the last five games after a scalding hot start to the season, but Murphy’s play has been phenomenal. He’s posted a double-double in all 12 of Minnesota’s games and is leading the Big Ten in scoring at 20.3 points and the nation in rebounding at 13.0 boards.
ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech; D.J. HOGG, Texas A&M; DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas; DAKOTA MATHIAS, Purdue; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; DESI RODRIGUEZ, Seton Hall; LANDRY SHAMET, Wichita State; KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona