Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: On Wednesday night, Kaminsky and Okafor will square off as No. 4 Duke makes the trip up to Madison to take on the Badgers in what very well could be the best game of the entire regular season. There may not be an individual matchup all season long that is more tantalizing, either. Okafor commands as much attention as any low-post player that has come through the collegiate ranks in a long time, and while Kaminsky is just as big, he’s more of a face-up big man than he is a low-block work horse.
I shouldn’t have to explain this anymore than that. These are the two best big men in the country — and arguably the two best players. If you’re not watching, you’re a lost cause.
3. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: We may only be six games into the season, but that doesn’t mean that it is too early to talk about just how good Kevin Pangos has been this season. It’s off the charts. His offensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.com, is 166.0, a number that is unheard of. His effective field goal percentage is 75.7, which is extremely high for a guard, and he has an assist rate of 33.0 and a turnover rate of 8.7.
If those numbers don’t do it for you, how about this: He’s played 173 minutes this season, handing out 38 assists while turning the ball over just four times and missing, including free throws, just 17 shot attempts.
Perhaps what Pangos has done best this season is execute in the pick-and-roll. He and Kyle Wiltjer have become borderline-unstoppable on side pick-and-roll actions. Against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Friday, he showed a nice rapport with both Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski, hitting them both multiple times with lobs over the defense as they rolled to the rim.
Here is how Pangos’ numbers stack up to the rest of the guard on this list:
(PP(P+A) = points-per-possession plus points-per-assist; P’n’R PPP = PP(P+A) on pick-and-rolls)
4. Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez still has the most impressive individual performance of the season, scoring 20 points and hitting five threes in the final 6:47 in a win at Florida. The Hurricanes are still undefeated on the year, and at this point they look like they will very much be in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth.
5. LaDontae Henton, Providence: Henton was 1-for-8 from the floor for three points in a 58-38 loss to No. 1 Kentucky. He won’t be the only star to get swallowed up by Big Blue this season. He’s averaging 24.3 points in the other six games Providence has played.
6. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: You can see Grant’s numbers above. He’s also averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 assists. He’ll climb this list if Notre Dame starts beating some teams worth noting.
7. Jonathan Holmes, Texas: His numbers aren’t other-worldly, but in three games against potential tournament teams, Holmes is averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 boards while shooting 8-for-15 from three. Oh, and he did this:
8. Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert is averaging 17.5 points, 6.2 boards and 4.7 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from three. We knew that he was going to have a big year, but what’s been impressive is that he appears ready to takeover the alpha-dog role on this team. He made a number of big, big shots during Michigan’s two games in the Legends Classic.
9. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell was unbelievable against Minnesota on the opening night. He’s been solid since then, but those performances have come in games against teams that the Cardinals have beaten by 61 points.
10. D’angelo Russell, Ohio State: We were hardly the only people to pick Russell as one of the freshmen expected to have a massive season, but I’m not sure that I could have predicted this: 18.0 points, 5.4 assists, 4.0 boards and 48.3 percent shooting from three to go along with the numbers you see listed above. Here’s the thing: most of his damage has been done against patsies; he was 2-for-5 with seven turnovers in the win over Marquette. The Buckeyes play Louisville Tuesday night. We’ll see how he does then.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Quinn Cook (Duke), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Joseph Young (Oregon)