1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Stats: 17.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 65.2 FG%
Okafor moves up to No. 1 in Wooden Watch largely because of his 25-point, 20-rebound performance against Elon on Monday, but his 12-and-8 performance against UConn on Thursday is just as an equally valid demonstration of how he can and will help Duke win. Okafor was double-teamed by the Huskies almost the entire night, and he finished with an offensive rating that was only seven points lower (115 to 108) than against in his previous game. And although he had only two assists on the game, that was largely because the Blue Devils didn’t finish plays off of his passes -- they primarily ended in misses (Duke shot 37.5 percent from the floor) and fouls (they shot 34 free throws in the game).
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that his team wouldn’t miss opportunities like that as often in the future. “Our guys need to be ready to shoot the ball, or if [a defender has] a fast close out, to shoot fake and drive,” he said. “The dive by [forward] Amile [Jefferson], [shooters] being ready by the [three-point line] at the perimeter and the shot-fake and drive -- those are going to be staples of us trying to take advantage of double teams, when Jah is double-teamed. And our guys can do that. We just have to keep working at it."
Stats: 16 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 54.5 FG%
Don’t be fooled by Kaminsky’s 10-point performance against Nicholls State last Saturday. Wisconsin’s lowest win probability of that game came with 19:09 in the first half when the game was tied 2-2. At that point, the Badgers had a 99.1 percent chance of winning. Kaminsky only played 23 minutes that day, and he only played 23 minutes -- scoring 18 points -- in the Badgers’ 93-54 over Milwaukee on Dec. 10. His tempo-free stats are still almost identical to Okafor’s, and this 1-2 race will only heat up as conference play begins.
Stats: 17 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 62.1 FG%
Luke Winn beat me to gif-ing perhaps the best play of the season in Power Rankings yesterday. But this play is so good that it bears repeating.
Harrell is taking 52.6 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com, and his field-goal percentage there is a staggering 90 percent. Louisville’s biggest issue offensively continues to be that it isn’t using Harrell enough. Guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones are each using a higher percentage of possessions (23.7% and 26.2%, respectively) and a higher percentage of shots (25.1% and 27.8%, respectively) than Harrell (23.2 %Poss, 21.6 %shots) -- and using them less effectively.
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 56.7 FG%
Anderson is one of two potential player of the year candidates that Virginia boasts. The other is Anthony Gill, and their numbers are almost uncannily similar. Anderson is using 24.5 percent of possessions with an offensive rating of 135.3, while Gill is using 24.4 percent of possessions with a rating of 132.5. Together with Malcolm Brogdon and Mike Tobey, Gill and Anderson are making this year’s Virginia team the most balanced of the Tony Bennett era. More importantly, there seems to be no power struggle for possessions or shots. The top seven players in the Cavaliers' rotation use at least 19 percent of available possessions. And look at how a hustle play and a humble pay combine for a highlight for Virginia's offense. After helping the Cavs break through VCU’s Havoc defense, Anderson paused at the wing before cutting baseline through a screen. At the top of the key, he paused again, and his defender let up for just a moment, allowing Gill to slide in and set a screen and create just enough space for this alley-oop.
Stats: 10.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 62.3 FG%
Before Kentucky’s 5/5 platoon system came to an end because of Alex Poythress’ ACL injury, it was already in jeopardy because of two players that head coach John Calipari was having trouble keeping off the court. Early in the season, some speculated that Calipari would at some point in the season ditch the systems out of desperation, but he’s actually loosened the structure because of Cauley-Stein’s strengths on offense and defense. The 7-1 junior is using up 61.1 percent of minutes, the highest percentage on the roster. He’s actually playing slightly more minutes than last season when he was a full-time starter, and both his raw stats and his tempo-free stats have improved in almost every category -- from points scored to fouls committed.
6. Wesley Saunders, Harvard
Stats: 20.1 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 55.2 FG%
Saunders’ spot on this list -- and Harvard’s national perception -- will depend largely on the next two games. The Crimson travel to Virginia on Dec. 21, then take a week off before playing Arizona State, also on the road. These are the best two teams Harvard has faced -- and they’re the best teams Harvard will face -- this season. The Vavaliers' defense No. 4 in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom.com, but it is probably the second-most difficult for guards behind Louisville. The pack-line prevents deep dribble penetration, and Saunders will have to rely on smart passing and shot selection. KenPom gives Harvard an 11 percent chance against Virginia and a 50-50 shot against the Sun Devils. Wooden Award winners need signature moments, and a big performance in either of these games could fit the bill for Saunders.
Stats: 18 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.2 apg, 47.8 FG%
It’s time for Russell to prove that he’s good enough to take down elite competition. Ohio State has only played two teams in KenPom’s top 150, and his average offensive rating in those games was 73. In the Buckeyes’ six other games -- against teams that average 228th overall on KenPom -- his average rating was 158.3. Russell has a chance to make his name on a national stage this weekend against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic. UNC’s defense is tough, ranking 16th in the adjusted efficiency; and Russell will have his hands full on the other end of the court as well, defending Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige, a struggling preseason All-America who is also eager for a breakout performance.
8. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Stats: 10.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.4 apg, 47.7 FG%
After a rough three-game stretch in which Pangos posted offensive ratings of 74 (against Arizona), 22 (Washington State) and 37 (UCLA), he returned to form in a win over Texas Southern. His O-rating in that game was an astounding 208, and he finished with 11 points and six assists against zero turnovers. Interestingly, Pangos didn’t attempt a two-point shot during the game; his points came from a trio of three-pointers and a pair of free throws. Now it’ll be time to sit back, relax and watch Pangos and the ‘Zags stroll through the West Coast Conference.
9. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Stats: 18.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6 apg, 57.8 FG%
Grant’s offensive stock continues to rise. Among players using at least 24 percent of possessions, he is second in the country with an O-rating of 142.6. He’s in the early lead to win the ACC scoring crown with 18.9 points a game, a full 1.5 points ahead of Okafor, the man in second place. Now the question becomes: Can Grant outperform his uncle Horace, who led the ACC in scoring at Clemson with 21 points a game in 1987? We may check in with #HoraceWatch throughout the season in Wooden Watch.
10. Ryan Boatright, UConn
Stats: 19.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.9 apg, 44.2 FG%
After Thursday's game against Duke, a reporter asked Kevin Ollie if he was concerned about the amount of time Boatright takes “to feel comfortable” in games. This was after his 22-point performance against the 12th best defense in the country. Ollie’s response? "At the end of the day, he is going to make plays for us. We have [center] Amida [Brimah], a guy who just had 40 points, in foul trouble. You need other guys to step up. Ryan played very hard. He played aggressive. You live with that. We have to have other guys step up. We need another playmaker besides Ryan. Ryan is double-teamed, he passes it to somebody else and somebody else has to make a play." But just in case you’re concerned, here’s a little reminder than Boatright is more than capable of doing it by himself:
(Vine h/t: The Big Lead)