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Late February Player of the Year Rankings for College Basketball in 2015-16

Jason FranchukCollege Basketball Featured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2016

Late February Player of the Year Rankings for College Basketball in 2015-16

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    We were ready to make the move. It looked like there was a new Player of the Year about to happen.

    Then Buddy Hield went to West Virginia. The Sooners had lost three of four games before the senior did what he does best last weekend—shoot the ball at a ferocious clip—and won at a Top 10 team. Hield made nine of 21 shots (five three-pointers) and scored 29 points.

    The road win doesn't make Hield's team the favorite again to win the Big 12. But it does keep him in the front of our POY standings, even as Michigan State's Denzel Valentine has played some dazzling ball lately.
    Check out the updated rankings.

    The nine other candidates on this list are having fine seasons in their own right. See where some shifts have taken place within the rest of the field.

    Also considered: Perry Ellis, Kansas; Damion Lee, Louisville; Dillon Brooks, Oregon; Jakob Poeltl, Utah

10. Kris Dunn, Providence

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous rank: 8

    2015-16 stats: 17.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.6 APG, 2.9 SPG, 44.1 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 68.4 FT%

    Providence is looking more "done" than Dunn right now. Big East play has not been kind to the Friars in February, as they've lost four of the five games in the month.

    Scarier still is how his turnover numbers are creeping up, including seven in a Feb. 17 loss at Xavier (compared to six assists). Dunn's team has been in a swoon since the start of the new year, really. But we'll cut him a little slack in these POY rankings.

    He's still in the top 10 nationally in assist and steals rates, per KenPom.com. And a 7-7 record in Big East play really isn't that bad considering over the summer we all basically questioned why Dunn would bother returning when the Friars lost so much from last year (about 40 percent of the scoring).

    These rankings aren't based on NBA projections. But Dunn has still elevated the game of his teammates and hasn't gotten selfish trying to improve his stock. Providence is still an NCAA tournament team, and we weren't quite inclined to believe that three months ago, so for now there's a little more benefit of the doubt given to the ongoing slump of Dunn and his team.

9. Josh Hart, Villanova

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 9

    2015-16 stats: 15.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 50.5 FG%, 33.9 3P%, 74.1 FT%

    There might always be a little skepticism about Villanova until it proves everyone wrong and makes it to a Final Four.

    But we're not about to doubt Josh Hart right now. The Wildcats have risen to No. 1 in the Week 15 Associated Press poll and are also No. 1 in the KenPom standings. So, yeah, they're doing some things right.

    Jay Wright has a team that isn't particularly good from three-point range but tends to understand that flaw. It's wildly good inside the arc, however, and Hart is the best player on the country's best team who is shooting 61 percent in that territory (that's nearly a top-100 ranking in the country).

    For all of the Wildcats' good work, though, a little bit of it has to go punished. So Hart hasn't moved up in our rankings lately. He hit an eye-opening slump since our last rankings, hitting just three of 15 shots against Temple and St. John's.

8. Grayson Allen, Duke

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    Associated Press

    Previous rank: 10

    2015-16 stats: 21.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 49.0 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 84.5 FT%

    In an Olympics year, Grayson Allen is having a season more worthy of the winter version—where there are a lot more events involving "degree of difficulty."

    The injury-ravaged Blue Devils have asked a lot of the sophomore slasher, and it's hard to think of many players around the country who could still thrive in his shoes.

    As Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore pointed out in our last rankings, "Grayson Allen is the hardest guard to check in the country outside of Hield."

    The Blue Devils have a steady presence who has posted at least 15 points in all of the ACC games. But perhaps nothing will be more noteworthy than putting up 23 on Feb. 17 in a marvelous road win against North Carolina.

    Allen was constantly taunted for his possible travel against Virginia four days earlier. He still went 8-of-10 from the foul line and has found a way to avoid the dreaded sophomore wall, even as he's only sat out a total of six game minutes over the last five games.

7. Georges Niang, Iowa State

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    Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous rank: 7

    2015-16 stats: 19.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 53.8 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 82.6 FT%

    Steve Prohm has had an interesting first year at Iowa State. He took over for a legendary, homegrown coach and had to figure out how to get the most out of his best player.

    Georges Niang has become an absolute force that Prohm has had the privilege of using in a variety of ways all over the floor.

    Niang's already-solid field-goal percentage spiked since our last rankings, thanks to five consecutive games in which he's shot better than 50 percent. That includes making a total of 21 shots (only missing 10) in a split against Baylor (losing on the road in overtime) and TCU.

    Niang is shooting 59.4 percent inside the arc (about 11 points better than last year), as he's often honed in on his ability to dribble hard and make tough shots.

    It seemed obvious there would be some bumps in the road in Ames as Prohm and Niang (plus his teammates) figured each other out. But Niang has been stellar at keeping the ship moving in the right direction as this team still seems poised for a solid NCAA tournament run.

6. Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 4

    2015-16 stats: 18.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.8 BPG, 45.7 FG%, 41.6 3P%, 81.7 FT%

    It's hard not to like Jarrod Uthoff, his game and the level he's helping Iowa reach. But even the most diehard Hawkeyes fans have to admit Uthoff has hit a little bit of a wall.

    His three-point shooting percentage dipped about three points since our last rankings a couple of weeks ago. That's because he's made just 25 percent (7-of-28) over the past five games. Iowa has lost two of three, including a head-scratching defeat at Penn State on Feb. 17 in which the 6'9" Uthoff made just five of 14 shot attempts and missed five three-pointers in seven tries.

    Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register pointed out after the Penn State loss that it's clear (and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery agrees) that Uthoff and Peter Jok—two of the Big Ten's best scorers—need help producing points.

    It shouldn't be too hard, considering how Uthoff forces so much strain on defenses. He can shoot over most perimeter defenders or use his quickness to get by big men. He can also score at a lot of angles.

    Uthoff isn't just a scorer, though. He ranks in the top 40 nationally in blocked shots, often doing his work outside of the paint because of his terrific feet, basketball IQ and reflexes.

5. Ben Simmons, LSU

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    BILL FEIG/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 3

    2015-16 stats: 19.4 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 56.1 FG%, 67.2 FT%

    Well, maybe this bodes well for NIT viewership. It looks like the LSU Tigers and their fabulous freshman may be stuck in the second tier of postseason play after a brutal two-week stretch of losing three games (in four tries) including a Feb. 20 loss at Tennessee in which the Volunteers were without one of their best scorers (Kevin Punter Jr.).

    Simmons had 21 points and nine rebounds but also eight turnovers in that game.

    His national POY consideration is out the window. And right now it's possible next summer's obvious No. 1 NBA draft pick won't even be a first-team All-American.

    Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News opined Monday that Simmons is a terrific player (with terrific potential) but that doesn't automatically make him a top-five player in the country this season.

    He noted that four times in the past five seasons the No. 1 pick was not a first-team choice.

    Simmons' top-line numbers (points, rebounds and assists) are fantastic. But the underlying issues (turnovers and foul-shot percentage, especially) show it's not just his teammates and coaches who are responsible for LSU's underachieving.

4. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous rank: 6

    2015-16 stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.8 SPG, 47.5 FG%, 40.8 3P%, 87.6 FT%

    Malcolm Brogdon's senior year has become an incredible display of two-way basketball. He can score on you at one end of the floor and shut you down at the other.

    Right now Virginia is in position for a share of its third consecutive ACC title (one game behind North Carolina) with Brogdon leading the way.

    Over the last five games, he's made 33 of his 60 shots and all 20 free throws.

    No ACC team (and hardly any in America) plays more deliberately (read: slow, low-scoring) than the Cavaliers. So Brogdon's scoring really stands out.

    He's amazing defensively because he can guard a quick ball-handler like North Carolina State's Cat Barber or a versatile wing like Duke's Brandon Ingram.

    It's no stretch to say Brogdon is the most complete player in the country.

3. Brice Johnson, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 5

    2015-16 stats: 16.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 62.3 FG%, 76.5 FT%

    Brice Johnson took just two shots in the final 13 minutes of the loss to Duke. Twitter-ites and hoops pundits seemed to take that out on North Carolina's coaches and Johnson's teammates.

    Johnson was especially dominant in that game, only missing four of his 17 shots. He's always had a tense, back-and-forth relationship with coach Roy Williams on the court, as noted by Andrew Carter of the Raleigh News & Observer late last season. But the two seem to be clicking for the most part these days, especially since Johnson is matching challenges put forth by his team to rebound and play to his potential.

    And posting two double-doubles last week alone, against stellar competition in Duke and Miami, has vaulted Johnson from our last rankings.

    His defensive rebounding rate, gobbling up 31 percent of available rebounds, ranks eighth nationally, according to KenPom.com.

    The best post player in America has us thinking North Carolina could make a Final Four, even if there are still questions about the team as a whole.

2. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 2

    2015-16 stats: 19.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 7.3 APG, 47.3 FG%, 44.6 3P%, 85.5 FT%

    If Oklahoma's Buddy Hield had slipped at West Virginia last weekend, we were fully ready to move the Michigan State star back to No. 1.

    Denzel Valentine is controlling games, coming reasonably close to triple-doubles in each of the past five games (four wins, with the one defeat coming in overtime by one point at ranked Purdue). He can become whatever his team needs him to be on a given night.

    The Spartans are right in the thick of being national-title contenders as they regain some health, including that of Valentine. His midseason knee injury seems to be a worry of the distant past.

    Consider Valentine back in the fold of passing Hield as we approach the stretch run.

1. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Previous rank: 1

    2015-16 stats: 25.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, 50.1 FG%, 48.7 3P%, 88.8 FT%

    Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners were slumping together before going to West Virginia last weekend.

    The ongoing No. 1 POY candidate was in a position where he could drop, especially considering how well Michigan State's Denzel Valentine was playing. But then Hield rebounded by scoring 29 points and sinking five of 11 three-point shots to win at a Top 10 team.

    Two weeks ago, Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore wrote about how rare that is, and it's unprecedented for someone who shoots as often as Hield does.

    Even after a slump—in which OU went 1-3 to take itself out of the Big 12 race—Hield is still shooting a mind-blowing 48.7 percent from three-point range. That's eighth nationally and only trails Virginia's London Perrantes among power-conference nominees.

    But Perrantes has only taken 96 attempts, while Hield has fired 224 times from beyond the arc.

    Just as Hield is OU's forever go-to guy, he remains ours.

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