1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: I went in-depth on this topic last week, but Frank Kaminsky is statistically having one of the greatest seasons in recent history. Wisconsin is on pace to finish the season as the most efficient offense in the KenPom era, which dates back to 2002. And Kaminsky is the biggest factor in that offense, notching an obscene 126.7 player rating while using 27.8 percent of Wisconsin’s possessions. The only player to have a rating that high while using that many possessions since 2004 was Utah State’s Spencer Nelson back in 2005. That same season, Travis Diener posted a 126.6 offensive rating while using 30.5 percent of Marquette’s possessions. For comparison’s sake, in 2008, Kevin Love finished the season with an offensive rating of 126.6 while using 27.7 percent of UCLA’s possessions.
That’s a lot of numbers to throw at you, but where Okafor was a clear front-runner for the Player of the Year award for much of the first three months of the season, at this point, I think Kaminsky has overtaken him at this point. That’s less of a knock on Okafor than it is recognition for the season that Kaminsky is having.
So while you chew on that, let’s watch Frank Kaminsky pass out when he hears that he’s the No. 2 pick in Gameday’s college basketball draft:
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor’s limitations on the defensive end of the floor were on full display on Monday night, as the seven-footer was on the receiving end of a brutal Mozgoving at the hands of Florida State’s Phil Cofer. Despite his size and his wingspan, Okafor couldn’t get up high enough to do anything other than foul Cofer on his way to the rim.
That said, I’ve watched a lot of tape on Duke defensively over the last two days, and I actually think Okafor is getting better on that end of the floor. He’s never going to be a defensive menace the likes of Anthony Davis or, say, Tyson Chandler, but I think that his issues this season have had just as much to do with, A) Inexperience when it comes to his ability to defend outside of the paint, specifically in ball-screen actions, and B) An effort by the Duke coaching to keep him out of foul trouble and on the floor. He’s been much better on that end in the wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, but he also missed extended minutes in both first halves with two fouls.
Anyway, Okafor had some funny words about the poster last night:
😂😂😭😭 happens to the best of us right @QCook323 I survived though. So stop it with the RIP tweets to me. Hahaha
— Jahlil Okafor (@BigJah15) February 10, 2015
If you’ve never been dunked on, you’ve never played basketball at a high level.
3. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: I’m running out of things to say about Russell this season, so instead of be bombarding you with stats and number proving how good he is, why don’t you just watch every highlight from his 23-point, 11-assist, 11-rebound triple double against Rutgers. The passes he throws are on another level:
4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Jerian Grant struggled mightily in Notre Dame’s ugly loss at Duke on Saturday, finishing with just seven points and four assists. It wasn’t the kind of sterling performance we’ve come to expect from the All-American, but credit needs to be given to Quinn Cook, who face-guarded Grant from the tip and forced Notre Dame to essentially play four-on-four.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Karl Towns has been Kentucky’s best player over the course of the last week, but after watching the Wildcats move past both Georgia and Florida this week, I was reminded why Cauley-Stein ranked so high on this list earlier in the season. He’s arguably the most important piece in Kentucky’s historically good defense. He doesn’t log as many blocked shots as Towns, but that’s because Cauley-Stein is typically guarding the more perimeter-oriented big man, the just most likely to be used in ball-screen actions. And it’s his ability to switch onto ball-handlers that has made the Wildcats so good in that area. According to Synergy, Kentucky allows just 0.652 points-per-possession against pick-and-rolls, which is second nationally to Rhode Island. Oh, and this:
6. Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn doesn’t get the hype that guys like D’Angelo Russell and Delon Wright do, but he’s having just as good of a season running the show for a Providence team that may very well be the second-best in the Big East. He’s averaging 15.1 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 boards and 2.6 steals, and while the knock on him his entire career has been his ability to shoot from the perimeter, but he’s 10-for-20 from three in the last six games. He’d be higher on this list if it wasn’t for the 4.3 turnovers he averages.
7. Delon Wright, Utah: Wright has been terrific this season, but it’s hard not to notice just how much he as struggled in Utah’s losses to Arizona and UCLA. Against the Wildcats, he started hot but finished with just 10 points. Against UCLA, his final stat line was decent enough — 15 points, six boards, two assists on 6-for-9 shooting — but the Bruins took him away from 36 minutes in a game that Utah trailed by a large margin for the entire second half.
9. Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson went down with a broken finger on his left (shooting) hand that will require surgery and keep him out until the postseason. Anderson wasn’t necessarily a go-to guy for Virginia, but he is their best perimeter defender and was shooting just under 50.0 percent from three.
9. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: I’m going to give the man they call Rak some love here because it seems like it’s the only place where anyone will give him the respect that he’s due. Christmas is one of the greatest stories in college basketball this season, going from a three-year bit player for the Orange to a center averaging 18.5 points, 9.6 boards and 2.3 blocks, the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal Syracuse season. Christmas won’t be playing in the postseason this year thanks to the utterly shameful, self-imposed ban that the university put into place, but that shouldn’t take any of the luster off of what has been a phenomenal year for him.
10. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: Stanley Johnson may actually be a more deserving Player of the Year candidate, but McConnell deserves some love as well. Outside of Delon Wright, there may not be a more important player in the Pac-12 this year. McConnell is the quintessential point guard for Sean Miller, a guy who has no issue distributing the ball but has proven he can take over a game when his team needs him to.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)