1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
I feel like we’ve reached a point with Zion Williamson where the ridiculous things that he is doing on a nightly basis have become normalized.
Take last night for example. In Monday’s win over Notre Dame, Zion had three of the most ridiculous and impressive defensive plays that I have seen him make this season while also putting together a couple of moves on the offense end of the floor that make it quite clear that his future as an NBA player — where spacing will almost never be an issue — is incredibly bright.
And my twitter feed never blew up.
The highlight shows weren’t smothered with clips of the incredible athleticism that was on display.
Have we reached a point where the only way we can get excited by Zion Williamson is when he dribbles through four defenders and dunks on a 7-footer?
I hope not.
Check these clips out, they’re unreal:
2. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
Since the last time we checked in on Grant Williams, he had 19 points and four assists in a blowout win over West Virginia and put up a career-high 43 points on 10-for-15 shooting to go along with eight boards, four blocks and two assists as the Vols landed a come-from-behind win that will go down as the statement game from Williams in his Player of the Year campaign.
He’s going to need three or four more of those if he wants a real chance at beating out Williamson for the award, but it doesn’t make what he did any less impressive.
3. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
Howard is averaging 24.6 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 boards. He’s shooting 43.4 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game. He’s a 91 percent free throw shooter, and he’s done things like score 53 points in a road win, pop off for 45 points in wins over Kansas State and Buffalo and put up 31 points and four assists in a come-from-behind win at Xavier on Saturday.
Should I mention that Marquette is also a top ten team?
4. JA MORANT, Murray State
Playing against the second-best team in the Ohio Valley, a team that has already won at UCLA this season, Morant rolled his ankle in the first two minutes against Belmont and still managed to put up 20 points, nine assists and four boards despite a 13 point loss.
And then there’s this: Morant is averaging 24.1 points, 10.5 assists and 5.6 boards this season. In basketball reference’s database, which extends back to the 1992-93 season, no one has ever done that.
5. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State
As crazy as it sounds, I think that Winston’s performance in Michigan State’s loss at Purdue said more about what he has been doing this season than any other performance this year. In Michigan State’s worst performance of the season, on a day where the Spartans were playing their third game of the week and their second road game in four days, in a game where Purdue’s best defender — Nojel Eastern — spent the afternoon draped over Winston like the layer of snow currently enveloping the midwest, Winston still managed to churn out 23 points, eight assists and seven boards with just three turnovers while shooting 7-for-14 from the floor, 4-for-7 from three and leading Michigan State’s comeback.
6. DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas
Lawson finished with 20 points, 15 boards and a pair of assists, but Kansas lost in Rupp Arena on Saturday in large part due to the fact that Lawson was man-handled in the paint by the combination of Reid Travis and P.J. Washington.
7. ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin
On Saturday, in a game that seemingly got no attention nationally, Happ finished with 13 points, 12 boards, 11 assists, two blocks and two steals. Happ really is a consistent jumper away from being a terrific NBA player.
Here’s a wild Happ stat for you: He’s shooting 48.8 percent from the free throw line this season, which is a career-worst for him. He is a career 55.4 percent free throw shooter, but as a freshman he actually shot 64.3 percent. He made 27 of his first 32 free throws as a freshman. Since then, he’s shot just 53 percent from the charity stripe.
8. R.J. BARRETT, Duke
The knock on Barrett this season is that he’s been too inefficient. This came to a head against Syracuse when he shot 8-for-30 from the floor and 4-for-17 from three. It’s worth noting, then, that in the four games since that loss, Barrett is shooting 47.3 percent from the floor.
9. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
Culver’s efficiency has come back to earth in recent weeks. He’s not shooting the way he did earlier in the year, his turnovers are up and his assists are down. Part of the reason for this? He hasn’t been as demanding as he should be given the role he plays, and because the Red Raiders don’t have much of a supporting cast around him, defenses have been able to key on him more and more.
10. SOMEONE, Virginia or Gonzaga
These two teams play drastically different styles — Gonzaga is one of the fastest teams in the country while Virginia is the slowest team — but the one thing that they have in common is that there is no clear-cut “best” player on either roster. De’Andre Hunter is the best pro prospect for Virginia, but Ty Jerome might actually be their best player this year while Kyle Guy is the team’s leading scorer. We can say the same thing with the Zags, who are infinitely better thanks to the defense that gets played by Brandon Clarke but who run their offense through their Japanese star Rui Hachimura.
IN THE MIX: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Charles Matthews (Michigan), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)