Player of the Year Power Rankings: Zion reigns, De’Andre Hunter moves into top five

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1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Dating back to the 2009-2010 season, there had never been a player in college basketball that had played more than 20 games in a season and finished with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 37 or higher. As of today, Zion Williamson’s PER this season is a mind-altering ridiculous 42.1. To put that into perspective, only two players from a high-major league had posted a PER better than 35 prior to this year: Wake Forest’s John Collins in 2016-17 had a PER of 35.9 and Anthony Davis, in his one year at Kentucky, had a PER of 35.1.

Coincidentally enough, Davis is the last college basketball player that many scouts believe was a better NBA prospect than Zion Williamson.

2. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

Markus Howard is currently averaging 25.4 points, 4.2 boards and 4.0 assists this season. Since 1992, there have been 11 Division I players that have averaged 25-4-4 in a season (two did it twice, Keydren Clark of Saint Peter’s did it three times), but Howard is the only player at the high-major level that has put up those numbers.

3. JA MORANT, Murray State

Morant is going to be a top three pick and is averaging 24.4 points, 10.3 assists, 5.3 boards and 2.0 steals. Here’s to hoping that he and the Racers get to the NCAA tournament so we can watch him try to hang 50 on some unsuspecting No. 2 seed.

4. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

Barrett did his best on Saturday to remind the world that Zion Wiliamson is not the only guy on Duke that is awesome.

5. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

I’ve mentioned this before, but the most impressive part of De’Andre Hunter’s skill-set is, to me, his ability to be so versatile on the defensive end of the floor in addition to being a guy that can do things like score 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting to lead Virginia to a come-from-behind win at Louisville. In this clip below, you’ll see him guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Coby White, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye. How many players in the country can do that?

6. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Just because I was curious, I went back and logged all 62 of Michigan State’s possessions in their win over Michigan on Sunday. Removing the final five possessions, where Michigan was fouling Sparty to try and extend the game, 36 of Michigan State’ 57 possessions involved Cassius Winston getting put into a ball-screen to initiate the offense, resulting in 1.22 points-per-possession — a number that, frankly, could have been much higher based on a few open looks that the Spartans missed.

Of the 21 possessions that did not involve Winston in a ball-screen, he was the initiator of the action that ended the possession — be it in transition, in isolation or a turnover — nine more times.

In total, 45 of the 57 full possessions that Michigan State had on the road against their arch rival went through Winston, and he delivered, finishing with 27 points and eight assists in the win.

With Nick Ward out for a while and Josh Langford done for the year, Winston is going to have to carry a load like this for the foreseeable future for Michigan State.

7. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech

There was a point in time where it looked like Jarrett Culver had forgotten how to shoot the basketball. Starting at the turn of the calendar and extending through Texas Tech’s 79-63 loss to Kansas on Feb. 2nd, Culver had a stretch in Big 12 play where he shot 3-for-33 from three. In this recent five-game winning streak, however, Culver has found his rhythm again, hitting 10-for-25 from beyond the arc during that stretch. He’s the engine that runs a Texas Tech offense that, over the course of the last three weeks, has finally looked good enough to carry this team in March.

8. P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky

Washington has reached the point for me where I now consider him to be the SEC Player of the Year over Grant Williams. In the last ten games, he is averaging 21.0 points, 7.9 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks. He’s shooting 54.8 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 52.8 percent (19-for-36) from three during that stretch. Where I struggle is with what to do with the first half of the season, where Washington scored in single digits in nine of the first 15 games of the year.

9. BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga

Zion Williamson has the best PER in the last decade. The second-best PER since 2009-2010? That belongs to Brandon Clarke, whose 36.9 rating has only been matched by former High Point star John Brown in high senior season in 2015-16. There are limitations to what Clarke can do on the offensive end of the floor, but there is an argument to be made that he has been one of the five most impactful players in college basketball this season.

10. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

Williams has been absolutely terrific this season and nothing should take away from that. That said, in the last two weeks, as the Vols have come back down to earth, we’ve seem what some of his limitations are. Listing his as, essentially, a second-team all-american should hardly be seen as an insult.

IN THE MIX: Phil Booth (Villanova), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Ty Jerome (Virginia), Dedric Lawson (Kansas), Charles Matthews (Michigan), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s)