It has been a weird year for college basketball and college basketball Player of the Year.
Not only is there no clear-cut best team in the country, but there is anything-but a favorite for National Player of the Year at this point. That is unusual. Recent seasons have seen one player emerge in November as the favorite to win the award. Zion Williamson stepped into that role after a monstrous performance in a blowout win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The year before, Trae Young’s ridiculous November made him the obvious favorite. Frank Mason led the charge in 2017 starting from, quite literally, the first game of the season. The year before that, it was Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine in a two-horse race all season. The year before that, Jahlil Okafor emerged as the early favorite.
Sometimes, those early favorites end up winning all the Player of the Year awards. Sometimes, they get chased down. That’s what Frank Kaminsky did to Okafor and what Jalen Brunson did to Young.
But either way, there always was a guy to chase.
This year, there is not.
Here is the definitive college basketball Player of the Year rankings:
1. PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon
STATS: 18.5 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.3 RPG, 39.7 3PT%
At this point, I think that Pritchard has to be considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award. He’s putting up numbers that are on par with what Jalen Brunson posted the year he won Player of the Year. He’s doing so on a team that is the favorite to win the Pac-12 and currently sitting in the top five of the AP poll and the top ten at KenPom.
And he’s had College Basketball Player of the Year moments. Like roasting Zavier Simpson down the stretch in an overtime win at Michigan. Or the big shots that he hit late in a win over Memphis when they still had James Wiseman. There are a lot of really good point guards around America this season, but Pritchard, to date, has been the best.
2. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton
STATS: 19.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 spg, 35.1 3PT%
Toppin has been this year’s breakout star. He entered the season as the best player in the Atlantic 10 and a potential first round pick, but he’s gone on to become a candidate to go in the top ten while being the anchor for one of the most surprising teams in the sport. Dayton is a ton of fun to watch, and so much of that is because of the way that they have built around Toppin, both offensively and defensively. There is a very strong case for him as the National Player of the Year right now. Who saw that coming?
3. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
STATS: 18.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 spg
I still think that Udoka Azubuike is the single-most dominant force in college basketball this season, but what Dotson has done this year has helped mitigate the fact that some teams are going to sell out to stop the big fella. His ability to beat teams down the floor in transition is a game-changer for a Kansas program that has had some lulls offensively, and he is the guy that can create in the halfcourt when Bill Self isn’t able to scheme up a way to get shots. He’s far from a perfect player right now, but what he’s provided Kansas this season has been close to that.
4. TRE JONES, Duke
STATS: 14.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 spg
5. VERNON CAREY, Duke
STATS: 17.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 61.3 FG%, 57.1 3PT%
I’m lumping these two together because I can already tell the debate about who the best player is on Duke is going to rage all season long.
I think there is a valid argument for both. Tre Jones is Duke’s leader. He is the guy that sets the tone defensively by smothering opponents at the point of attack. He is the leader is the locker room. He is their second-leading scorer, third nationally in assists among high-major players and an improved three-point shooter.
Carey, on the other hand, has been better than anyone thought. He’s hardly a great defender, but he’s been good. He’s made threes. He’s been able to play away from the rim. And, most importantly, he’s been just a dominant force on the block. He’s as much of a reason for Duke sitting at No. 1 on KenPom as anyone.
So you tell me.
Who is the best player on the Duke roster?
6. FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
STATS: 17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 55.1 FG%
I’m honestly not even sure if Petrusev is the best player on Gonzaga, but I think that he needs to be on this list. He’s the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker on the No. 1 team in the country, but more importantly, he is the best post scorer on a team that survives off of post touches as much as any high major team in the country.
7. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
STATS: 14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 bpg, 44.2 3PT%
Wesson’s counting stats don’t really show it, but he has been one of the most improved players in college basketball this season. Not only has he developed into one of the best frontcourt shooters in college hoops, he’s also worked to improve his body and his athleticism to make himself really good on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not only the fulcrum of the Ohio State offense, but he’s become the piece that allows them to be as good defensively as they have been.
8. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
STATS: 25.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 47.1 3PT%
I’m not convinced yet that Marquette is going to end up being good enough for Howard to truly get considered for a spot as a first-team All-American, but he’s averaging 25.6 points and shooting 47.1 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game. That should never stop being wildly impressive.
9. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
STATS: 21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 37.0 3PT%
It’s tough to know where to slot Powell on this list. On the one hand, he has had some of the most impressive individual performances of the season and is arguably the most dangerous player in college basketball. He put 37 points on Michigan State, 32 points on Oregon, 24 points on Iowa State, 27 points on DePaul. But his two best games of the year came in losses, he has missed time with an ankle injury and a concussion, and he did not play in Seton Hall’s best win of the year.
10. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
STATS: 20.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 39.5 3PT%
Nwora is another player that is tough to slot. He’s averaging 20.2 points and 7.2 boards for a top five team in the country. He was a Preseason All-American that is putting up the numbers you would expect from a player of that caliber. But he has also been invisible in Louisville’s two losses, shooting 6-for-26 from the floor and 2-for-13 from three against Texas Tech and Kentucky. He was a decoy in the second half against Kentucky, and that was certainly not something the Louisville staff planned.
ALSO CONSIDERED FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JARED BUTLER, Baylor; ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland; MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia; SAMIR DOUGHTY, Auburn; LUKA GARZA, Iowa; COLLIN GILLESPIE, Villanova; TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State; MASON JONES, Arkansas; NICO MANNION, Arizona; TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky; MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown; JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech; PAUL REED, DePaul; LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State; ISAIAH STEWART, Washington; TRES TINKLE, Oregon State; CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State; MARCUS ZEGAROWSKI, Creighton