Thursday December 11th, 2014

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Year: Senior
Position: Forward
Stats: 16.6 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game, 2.1 blocks per game, .539 FG%, .424 3-pt%, .683 FT%

Let's all congratulate Frank Kaminsky on his biggest accomplishment of the season:

OK, I didn't mean that literally everyone had to congratulate him, Stanley.

2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Year: Freshman
Position: Center
Stats: 17.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.5 blocks per game, .646/NA/.520

The Blue Devils haven’t played since their win at Wisconsin on Dec. 3 and won’t until Monday when they host Elon. And for that reason only, I’ll allow one mention of the NBA draft in this space. Okafor debuted at No. 1 in Chris Mannix’s first Big Board of the year for SI. “It’s early,” Mannix writes, “but it’s going to take a lot to knock Okafor out of the top spot.” For now, Okafor will have to focus on getting to the top spot in Wooden Watch.

3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Year: Junior
Position: Forward
Stats: 16.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .641/.214/.574

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Last week we looked at a collection of Harrell’s dunks against Ohio State. On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, Harrell broke Louisville’s school record for dunks. After the game, I talked to him about his penchant for getting to the rim. “That’s just the kind of player I am,” he said. “I’m aggressive, and I want to finish with a dunk. It gets my teammates excited, it gets me excited. It’s what they want from me, and it’s what I want to do.” In celebration of his accomplishment, here’s a mashup of his seven-dunk performance against Indiana. Notice the variety of ways that he gets in position for a jam: being alert in transition, back-door cuts and put-backs off offensive rebounds.

4. Kevin Pangos, G, Gonzaga

Year: Senior
Position: Point guard
Stats: 10.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.4 apg, .484/.406/.864

Pangos struggled on Saturday against Arizona's stout defense, posting an offensive rating of 74 that was far below his average coming into the game of 168. And even worse, he committed a series of turnovers at the end of the game that hurt Gonzaga’s chances of pulling an overtime upset.

The first one was excusable. Teammate Domantas Sabonis set two half-hearted high-ball screens for Pangos, who tried to drive to the basket off the second one but found himself in traffic. With the shot clock dwindling, Pangos was forced to head to the paint, where Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell managed to strip the ball. The second turnover, in overtime, was a little stranger. Pangos cut into the paint and tried to pass the ball over Arizona's 6-foot-9 Brandon Ashley and 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski. With 14 seconds left on the shot clock, he had time to pull the ball back and reset, or to drop it back to a trailing Sabonis.

The question for Pangos now: Was he just beating up on inferior opponents and then exposed by a quality team, or is the Wildcats' defense so great that it slows down even one of the best point guards in the country? The first step toward answering that will come when the Bulldogs head to Westwood to take on UCLA on Saturday.

5. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

Year: Freshman
Position: Guard
Stats: 18.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, .482/.442/.750

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The margin between D’Angelo Russell’s offensive impact and Jahlil Okafor’s is becoming surprisingly slim. Among high usage (28 percent or more of their team’s possessions) players, Okafor leads the nation's freshmen with an offensive rating of 122. Russell’s is 118.9. At this point in the season, it’s become clear that Russell will be Ohio State’s main offensive weapon. And now the Buckeyes are wisely using their soft non-conference schedule to build around him, particularly with other players from his freshman class. Against High Point, Thad Matta experimented with a STARTING? lineup of four freshman -- guards Russell and Kam Williams and forwards Jae'sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop – alongside senior forward Anthony Lee. Will that lineup get more work in the next few weeks? It would be helpful for the Buckeyes to start developing depth before they begin Big Ten play.

6. Ryan Boatright, Connecticut

Year: Senior
Position: Guard
Stats: 18.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, .424/.200/.805

Before last Friday's game against Yale, UConn announced it would wear slick grey alternative uniforms and sneakers in a video set to “Allow me to reintroduce myself.” The Huskies lost 45-44, their third straight defeat. Boatright, who had sprained his ankle on the final shot of UConn's one-point loss to Texas on Nov. 30, was held to six points and committed four turnovers. We may never see those uniforms again. Boatright didn’t seem fully recovered during the game, and Huskies coach Kevin Ollie confirmed that after the game. “He was limping around," Ollie said. "I just didn't think he was effective, so we'll just give it a chance to heal.” The Huskies hope that he and fellow guards Rodney Purvis (high ankle sprain) and Omar Calhoun sprained knee) will have healed during their nine-day basketball break. They'll face Coppin State on Sunday before heading to Durham to test Duke on Dec. 18. 

7. Justin Anderson, Virginia

Year: Junior
Position: Guard
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, .570/.588/.800

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Virginia is rightfully known and respected for its vaunted pack-line defense, but Tony Bennett also deserves credit for building one of the country’s most efficient offensive attacks. In 2011, the Cavaliers finished 167th in the country in offensive efficiency at 101.6, but they have have improved that ranking every year since, and are now eighth at 111.5. Anderson, whose rating is 135.2, has help offensively -- Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins each have offensive ratings over 100 -- but here are the two numbers that make him not just Virginia’s go-to offensive threat but also one of the most dangerous players in the country: His effective field goal percentage is 68.6 (29th in the nation) and his true-shooting percentage is 70.8 (24th). Anderson wasn't even on this list a week ago, but if he continues his strong play, don't be surprised to see him rise even higher in the weeks to come. 

8. Wesley Saunders, Harvard

Year: Senior
Position: Guard
Stats: 20.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, .552/.467/.842

Saunders has been a prolific scorer for Harvard since his sophomore season, when he averaged 16.2 points per game while using 25.5 percent of his team's possessions. Last year, his scoring dropped to a still-very-respectable 14.2 points per game, but he did it on fewer possessions (24.5 percent). And then came this, his senior season. He’s only using 2.4 percent more of his team’s possession than last year, but is scoring average has risen to 20.1. Most impressively, his points are coming in a variety of ways. According to Synergy Sports data, Saunders is over 1.1 points per possession on spot ups, isolation plays, cuts, post-ups and in transition. 

9. Ron Baker, Wichita State

Year: Junior
Position: Guard
Stats: 18.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, .549/.538/.750

Since Wichita State’s overtime loss to Utah on Dec. 3, Baker has missed only three shots. He finished 6-of-7 (3-of-4 from beyond the arc) against Saint Louis last Saturday and then 9-of-11 (3-of-3 from three) against Seton Hall on Tuesday. He’s never had better back-to-back performances in his career. “It’s his confidence,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told Kansas.com. “Now he’s really searching shots.” There are two benefits to Baker’s searching for shots. The first is obvious: points. The second is less-so: The more shots Baker takes, the better Darius Carter gets. Carter started out the season taking a higher percentage of his team’s shots than any other player in the nation. Now he’s still taking too many shots (31.8 percent), but his percentage has improved, and Wichita State has a more balanced attack.

10. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

Year: Senior
Position: Guard
Stats: 19.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.1 apg, .581/.370/.791

How much Notre Dame missed Jerian Grant a year ago is becoming clearer by the game. Last year, the Irish’ top possession player on offense was senior Garrick Sherman, whose offensive rating was a measly 98.4. This season, Grant is using fewer possessions and shots and still averaging 5.5 points per game more than Sherman did. Even better for the Irish is that Grant actually seems to be improving as the season goes on. In Notre Dame’s games, his offensive rating average was 137.6; in its last five games, his offensive rating average has been 156.6.

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