Player of the Year Power Rankings: Is Payton Pritchard the favorite?

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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

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.

Nance scores 21 as North Carolina survives Syracuse, 72-68

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Pete Nance scored 21 points, capped by a dunk with 19 seconds left that put North Carolina in front for good as the Tar Heels pulled out a hard-fought, 72-68 battle with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Joe Girard hit from beyond the arc to put Syracuse up, 68-66 with 1:28 left, but after Nance hit the first of two free throws to get North Carolina within one, he missed the second free throw and in the scramble to gather in the rebound, the ball caromed toward the end line and Girard dove to save it. Instead, he flicked the ball right to Nance, who dunked for the lead.

Judah Mintz tried to drive the lane for a go-ahead layup but was called for an offensive foul that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. North Carolina took possession and Caleb Love converted three straight free throws to put the game away.

Armando Bacot scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists for North Carolina (15-6, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Love finished with 15 points and five assists.

Girard hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points to lead Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). Mintz scored 17 points and had three steals and Chris Bell hit 3 of 5 from deep and finished with 15 points.

North Carolina has a week off before playing host to Pitt on Feb. 1. Syracuse plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.