Player of the Year Power Rankings: Two Dukies, stars from Auburn and Buffalo head list
We are now a week into the new season, which means it is time for us to do what we do every Tuesday: Player of the Year Power Rankings!
The season is just a week old, which means that this list is going to be comprised of players that were on the list during the preseason and players who have put together massive performances in the first couple of weeks of the season.
So without further ado, here are the Week 1 Player of the Year Power Rankings:
1. R.J. BARRETT, Duke
Barrett has been as good as advertised through the season’s first week. After putting up 33 points, six assists and four boards in a 34-point blowout win over Kentucky in the opener, the 6-foot-8 favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft made 23 points, six boards and a pair of assists look pedestrian in was what a disappointing, 94-72 win over Army. Hey, when you set standards as high as Duke did in their first game of the season, expectations follow.
2. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
The numbers that Zion has posted this season speak for themselves. He went for 28 points in the opener against Kentucky, following that up with an absolutely overwhelming performance against an Army did that simply did not have the athletes to compete with him -- 27 points, 16 boards, six blocks, four assists. Through two games, Zion is shooting 81.5 percent from the floor.
But where things get really interesting are with this move, and with Zion’s jumper in general:
This is a defensive lineman creating two-feet of space with an off-hand, in-and-out dribble into a step-back 18-footer. The second clip is a great, slow-motion look at his release. He’s on balance, which is more important for him than getting a ton of lift; he’s not going to be taking jumpers like Kobe did. He needs to be able to force defenders to guard him from the three-point guard and have the balance to be able to make shots like the step-back he hit earlier.
Put another way, the biggest concern with Zion Williamson as a basketball player doesn’t look like it is too much of a concern.
3. C.J. MASSINBURG, Buffalo
Massinburg put together the single-best performance of the first week of the college basketball season on Friday night, going for 43 points, 14 boards and three assists in an overtime win at West Virginia. 26 of his 43 points came in the second half. He scored nine points in an 11-3 run in the final three minutes of regulation, including hitting the three that forced overtime. He scored nine of Buffalo’s 15 points in the extra frame. He was awesome:
We’ll see just how long he can remain on this list. While Buffalo is 3-0 on the season, Massinburg has combined for 18 points on 2-for-11 shooting from three in the other two wins. For now, however, he deserves every bit of his place here.
4. CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn
Who had Okeke as the best player on Auburn this season? If you did, you might end up proving smart. The 6-foot-8 sophomore has been sensational for the Tigers through two wins this season, including a 22-point blowout win over then-No. 25 Washington. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 9.5 boards, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks while shooting 6-for-8 from three.
I discussed Okeke on the most recent podcast with Dalen Cuff and why he, and Anfernee McLemore, are so important to the way that Auburn wants to play:
5. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
Even without Killian Tillie eligible, the Gonzaga star is putting up impressive numbers. He had 33 points in Gonzaga’s opener and followed that up with 17 points in a win over a Texas Southern team that beat Baylor at Baylor. Gonzaga’s schedule kicks up a notch this week, as they play Texas A&M before heading to Maui for a tournament that includes Duke, Auburn and Arizona.
6. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
The preseason first-team all-american hasn’t been anything less than what we expected. In two Purdue wins, he’s averaging 26.5 points.
7. TY JEROME Virginia
We all thought that De’Andre Hunter or Kyle Guy would end up being the best player on Virginia this season, but it might end up being Ty Jerome. At least that has been the case through the first two games of the season. Through two blowout wins, he’s averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 boards, 3.0 steals and shooting 68 percent from the floor and 71 percent from three.
8. CAMERON JOHNSON, North Carolina
I’m not ready to call anyone other than Luke Maye the best player on North Carolina just yet, but to date, Johnson has played the best of anyone on the Tar Heels. Through three games, he looks like a different player than he was last season. He’s averaging 18.3 points and 6.7 boards while shooting 10-for-14 from three. He looks more mobile and athletic than he was last season, and gives the Tar Heels a third long, athletic wing that -- in theory -- should allow them to matchup with Duke.
t-9. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee and MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
It is tough to delineate between these two at this point. Both have been as good as advertised early on this season. In one game against Division I competition, Williams went for 31 points, 10 boards and three assists. Howard, through two games, is averaging 26 points, eight boards and six assists while shooting 9-for-22 from three.
10. SOMEONE ON KANSAS, Kansas
I’m not really sure who to pick here. At the end of the day, I think it will be Dedric Lawson. He’s the guy they run offense through, he’s the perfect four-man for Bill Self’s offense and he’s the player that went for 20 points, 14 boards and six assists in the win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic. But he also went scoreless in Monday night’s win over Vermont as LaGerald Vick, who had just two points in the opener, had 32 points on 8-for-8 shooting from three against the Catamounts.