The college basketball season has been a whirlwind so far, as Kentucky is still undefeated and conferences like the Big East are outperforming their preseason expectations, while the Big Ten is underperforming.
One of many debates in college basketball that is constant is the argument for who is the top player in the land. I will break down the top eight competitors for the Wooden Award, which awards the best college basketball player of the year.
Here is the list of the 25 players who made the midseason cut: Justin Anderson, Virginia, Ron Baker, Wichita State, Ryan Boatright, UConn, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, Yogi Ferrell, Indiana, Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s, Tyler Haws, BYU, Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, Stanley Johnson, Arizona, Tyus Jones, Duke, Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, Jordan Mickey, LSU, Georges Niang, Iowa State, Jahlil Okafor, Duke, Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga, Bobby Portis, Arkansas, Chasson Randle, Stanford, Terry Rozier, Louisville, D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, Juwan Staten, West Virginia, Melo Trimble, Maryland, Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga, Delon Wright, Utah
8. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Harrell uses his long 7’4 wingspan to his advantage and has been a defensive stalwart under Rick Pitino at Louisville. He is also a force to be reckoned with on the offensive side, as he is averaging 15.4 points a night and has a decent mid-range jump shot. He uses his physicality and athleticism to outboard the other great big men, averaging 9.2 boards a game. All in all, Harrell is a very efficient player on both sides of the ball, and with his Louisville team in the upper echelon of the college basketball hierarchy, hie deserves to be on this exclusive list.
7. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein plays for the most unstoppable squad in the country, as he serves as the veteran backbone to the John Callipari-led Wildcats. He isn’t stacking the stat line like Harrell and other studs who occupy this list, but that is due to Callipari’s crazy rotation switches. He is averaging 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Those averages do not serve #15 for Kentucky justice, as he makes his presence known as a leader and incredible defender for the unanimous number one team in the country.
6.Justin Anderson, Virginia
Justin Anderson is the prototypical Virginia Cavalier in Tony Bennett’s offensive and defensive schemes. He is a 6-6 combo wing who thrives on the defensive end, especially guarding the perimeter, a valued trait for athletes of his size and caliber. While players like Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon get most of the offensive load for the Cavs, its Anderson’s offensive development and improvement that makes him not only one of the most versatile players in the country, but one of the most valued. H averages a surprising 13.9 points per game. I was thinking about pushing him further up this list, but as you read on, you will see how he was edged slightly for the top five spots.
5. Delon Wright, Utah
Delon Wright is one of my favorite players in the country, but his advantage comes from his size and experience. His Utah Utes plays in the always tough Pac-12 conference, and he being a senior really helps, as he understands what it means to be in the spotlight against incredible competitors like those who play at UCLA and Arizona. He is a 6-5 point guard who uses his scoring versatility to hits shots from all around the court and in transition, evidence by his average of 14.4 points a night. He also is a bruiser as a defensive rebounder, averaging 4.4 boards a night, and shows a lot of effort when pulling down 50/50 balls. Finally, his unbelievable finesse as a facilitator. He averages 5.6 dimes a game and has a special talent for putting the ball in places in which his teammate can score rather easily.
4. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
D’Angelo Russell went from being a potential impact player this season to becoming a sure-fire top ten draft selection and the star guard for Thad Matta’s Buckeyes. Although his team’s record doesn’t reflect the star freshman guard’s production, his stats speak for themselves. He is averaging 19.4 points a ball game and shooting 44.6 percent from behind the arc. That is incredible, and that doesn’t even tell the whole story. His multi-talented, athletic body also allows him to grab 5.7 boards a game while dishing out 5.2 assists every night he plays. D’Angelo Russell is carrying the Buckeyes on his back, and Ohio State will only go as far as their stud combo guard can take them.
3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
OK, did anyone see what Grant did against Duke last week????!! I mean he was incredible. Knocking down shots, dishing out picture perfect passes in transition and defending the perimeter like his life depended on it. Truth is, Jerian Grant is a stud, plain and simple. He is averaging 17.3 points a game and is hitting on over half of his shot attempts. He also is hauling in 3 boards a game facilitating buckets to his teammates at 6.4 a clip. He is taking Notre Dame to new heights, as the Fighting Irish are locked in a top-15 spot and is considered one of, if not the most dangerous offensive teams in the nation.
2.Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Jahlil Okafor is all but a lock to be a top pick in next year’s NBA Draft, but he is also tearing it up in the college basketball setting. The 6’11, 270 pound prospect from Chicago is the most important player for Coach K and Duke and he has shown that after posting 18.2 points and 9.2 boards on average through the first half of the season. His body control and fluidity while posting up and in the paint is astonishing to watch, as a basketball fan in general. He definitely needs to work on his defense before reaching the professional level, but with his unimaginable upside and youth, i have not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that he will become a stalwart on the defensive side of the ball.
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Frank Kaminsky is one of the most unique, all-around talents I have ever seen. He has the speed of a scrappy power forward, the size of a lengthy center, the shot of a talented sharpshooting wing, and the defense of a strong combo big man. There may only be one, simple flaw to his versatile game, and that is his offensive work in the post. Other than that, however, he is undeniably the best basketball player in the nation. He uses his inside-out combination and experience to beat opponents in all facets of the game. Its hard to believe that he was a two star out of high school and his first few years on campus was spent warming the bench. It was a close call between the magnificent big men of Duke and Wisconsin, but it was Kaminsky’s experience, defense, and offensive versatility that pushed the goofy senior over the hump.
Featured images via Draft Express (Grant), Duke Photography (Okafor), and www.sportsworldnews.com (Kaminsky)
I am currently a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sports writing has become a passion for me and I hope to pursue it as a career down the road.