NCAA Basketball: Player of the Year power rankings (Edition Two)
Who tops our NCAA basketball Player of the Year rankings in Week two?
With only three weeks of the 2016-17 college basketball season completed, it may be a bit too early to project or predict who the best player in the nation will be at the end of the season.
So how do you build a Player of the Year candidacy? You must have strong overall numbers, your team must be successful and of course, you must have clutch season-defining moments.
Obviously, players’ numbers aren’t final, teams are going to have their fair share of inconsistencies and there are still months remaining for clutch plays and surprising performances. But for now, we will use the information that we have been provided with to look at the early favorites.
Every week until the end of the season, Busting Brackets will list the top five candidates (in order) for Player of the Year.
In our second edition, there are no major surprises, but there is some mix up at the top of the rankings. Who will take over for Frank Mason III at number one? It’s time to find out.
5. Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Johnathan Motley was not in the opening edition of our Player of the Year power rankings. However, with Baylor currently sporting an 8-0 record and the 4th overall ranking in the AP Poll, Motley has entered the picture with his surprisingly consistent play.
Through eight games, Motley is averaging 16.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.9 blocks per game. He is shooting a solid 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from downtown and 78 percent from the free throw line.
But most importantly Motley is averaging 31 minutes per game and has molded into the Bears’ best player. The lack of consistent minutes and production has bogged the 6’10” junior down in recent years, but this season, the least amount of minutes Motley has played in a single game is 26 and he has only scored in double figures once.
This past week, Motley dropped 17 points and ripped down eight boards in a home win over the Xavier Musketeers.
Sure, you could argue that Baylor is one of the more balanced teams in the country due to their depth and the play of Manu Lecomte. But Motley is also the best player on an elite team. If that doesn’t get you into the conversation at this point in the year, then what does?
4. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Yes, Kentucky lost to UCLA on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean De’Aaron Fox shouldn’t be included in our power rankings for the first time.
Between Fox’s triple-double (the second in the history of Kentucky basketball) and his 20-point, nine rebound performance on Saturday afternoon, it would be preposterous not to put him at least fourth in the latest power rankings.
Fox’s ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor gives Kentucky a new dimension in the backcourt. He has terrific instincts in pick-and-roll situations, can attack the rim, is a solid passer and is elite in transition.
De'Aaron Fox caught Lonzo Ball. ???????? pic.twitter.com/IFnsjjrTig
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) December 3, 2016
On the other end, Fox will pick up the opposing ball handler as soon as he crosses half court. He’s also averaging 1.9 steals per game and can guard either the one or two position.
Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk and Fox combine to form one of the most dangerous backcourt trios in the country. Briscoe is the leader and Monk is the athletic shooter, but Fox is the player that makes everything tick.
3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA
The main reason for UCLA’s rise to the number two ranking in the latest AP Poll: Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball is currently averaging 14.6 points, 9.3 assists (first in the nation), 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game for a Bruins team that is 9-0. The five-star freshman is also shooting a highly efficient 55 percent from the field overall, 44 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 73 percent from the free throw strike.
The lead guard has a gaudy stat line and makes exciting plays in transition, but what’s most impressive about Ball is his ability to make everyone around him better.
Steve Alford has given Ball the reigns to the team, opening up more space for Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and others. Ball’s terrific vision, incredible outlet passes, size and instincts make him the perfect point guard to lead the Bruins to a potential Pac-12 title and a trip to Phoenix.
2. Frank Mason III, Kansas
It seems almost criminal for Frank Mason III to drop to number two despite scoring 20 points and grabbing four rebounds in a win over Stanford. Mason is averaging 19.6 points, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and is shooting 56 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
However, the number one player in our power rankings has been even more impressive over the past week.
This is no knock on Mason though. Even in Kansas’ win over Long Beach State early last week when Mason scored just eight points, the senior point guard was able to dish out eight assists and grab six rebounds. He also shot 3-of-6 and played only 29 minutes in a blow out win.
Mason still has a game winning fallaway jumper to beat Duke at the Garden on his resume. Add in the fact that Kansas is the 3rd best team in the country (according to the AP Poll), and Mason has deserved the right to be at least number two in the power rankings.
1. Josh Hart, Villanova
The Villanova Wildcats are known for their unselfish play, depth and balance. But Josh Hart has been so impressive so far this season that it is impossible to ignore his play
He is the best player on the best team in the country, recorded Villanova’s first triple-double since 1986 against St. Joe’s and has drastically improved his consistency from beyond the 3-point arc.
Hart is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists (career high) and 1.5 steals per game, while also shooting 58 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the 3-point line. He is a versatile defender, a hard worker and a terrific rebounder for his size.
The senior wing can play numerous different positions on offense because of his ability to attack in pick-and-roll situations and make an impact on the game without having the ball in his hands.
Finally, he has taken over as one of the main leaders of the roster following the departures of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. If Villanova is going to be the first team to repeat as national champs since Florida in 2006-07, they need Hart to continue his production and continue to develop his leadership skills.
More from Busting Brackets
- NCAA Basketball: Can Florida give Duke a run for their money?3h ago
- Arizona State Basketball: Bobby Hurley to rescue the Sun Devils12h ago
- UConn Basketball: Will the Huskies’ upset jump start the rest of their season?15h ago
- USC Basketball: Trojans to enter Pac 12 play undefeated?18h ago
- Virginia Basketball: Five reasons why the Cavaliers will win it all19h ago