Updated Player of the Year Rankings for College Basketball in 2016-17
Now that we're less than a month from the end of the regular season, we're getting into crunch time, with college basketball teams getting their ducks in a row for a deep NCAA tournament run. For that to happen it requires having their top players playing their best.
After a week in which more than half of the nation's top-10 schools lost, you'd think there would be more movement in the latest rankings for National Player of the Year. But with so many notable teams falling, it more or less resulted in the status quo, with only minor changes.
Here's a rundown of how our rankings look through Tuesday night's games.
10. Luke Kennard, Duke
Previous rank: 10th
2016-17 stats: 19.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 53.1% FT, 45.8% 3-pt FG, 85.0% FT
Amid all the chaos that's occurred involving Duke this season, Luke Kennard has remained the one positive constant that hasn't seemed to be affected by everything around him. So it had to be a good feeling for the Blue Devils to see they could still win despite their best player struggling the past week.
The 6'5" sophomore guard averaged 13 points on 9-of-23 shooting in wins last week over Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, making only three of nine three-pointers. He fouled out of the win at Notre Dame but rebounded to play all 40 minutes against Pitt, a game that marked coach Mike Krzyzewski return from back surgery.
Kennard's 55 three-pointers are tops on the team, and he continues to lead Duke in scoring while having the second-best shooting percentage among regular players.
9. Jock Landale, Saint Mary's
Previous rank: 9th
2016-17 stats: 16.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 BPG, 60.3% FG, 71.9% FT
Saint Mary's has its big chance to make a splash on Saturday when it hosts top-ranked and unbeaten Gonzaga in a battle for first place in the West Coast Conference. To win it will require Jock Landale to have the game of his life, something he could have put together the last time the Gaels faced the Bulldogs had foul trouble not been an issue.
The 6'11" junior forward had only 10 points in 19 minutes on Jan. 14, picking up two early fouls and then eventually fouling out during the 79-56 loss. He was 5-of-11 from the field, one of only five games this season in which Landale has failed to shoot at least 50 percent.
Since then Landale has resumed his high-efficiency play, averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds during a just-completed three-game road trip in which Saint Mary's won by an average of 20.3 points, including a 71-27 destruction of San Diego on Saturday.
For the season Landale is third nationally in player efficiency rating.
8. Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Previous rank: 7th
2016-17 stats: 16.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 BPG, 50.8% FG, 35.0% 3-pt FG, 71.1% FT
It was a rough week for Baylor, narrowly losing at Big 12 leader Kansas and then falling at home to Kansas State. Johnathan Motley fell in line with those team performances, posting double-doubles in each game but struggling from the line in the home loss to the Wildcats.
The 6'9" junior forward averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds last week while making 13 of 28 shots, going 7-of-11 at Kansas but then slipping to 6-of-17 against K-State. That was Motley's second-worst shooting rate in conference play, trailing only his 3-of-10 effort in a January loss at West Virginia.
Baylor is 1.5 games behind Kansas for first in the Big 12, but it has a favorable schedule down the stretch, getting both the Jayhawks and West Virginia at home. Motley will need to step up big in those for the Bears to have a shot at dethroning Kansas.
7. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Previous rank: 8th
2016-17 stats: 14.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 61.8% FG, 50.5% FT
If Ethan Happ developed a three-point shot like everyone else on Wisconsin, he might be unstoppable. Instead he remains nearly invincible, yet still incredibly efficient when the clock is running.
The 6'10" redshirt sophomore forward averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks during a pair of wins last week, helping the Badgers extend their win streak to seven games and remain a game ahead of the pack in the Big Ten. He made 15 of 21 shots, including eight of 10 in a five-point home win over Indiana on Super Bowl Sunday.
All that's keeping Happ from being higher on this list is his continued issues at the foul line. Happ was 4-of-10 on free throws last week, and his struggles have contributed to Wisconsin shooting 66.3 percent as a team, which ranks 13th in the conference. He's taken the second-most free throws on the Badgers, and their remaining opponents might think to employ a Hack-a-Happ strategy in close games.
6. Malik Monk, Kentucky
Previous rank: 6th
2016-17 stats: 21.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48.5% FG, 41.6% 3-pt FG, 82.5% FT
Malik Monk picked arguably the worst game of his career for the absolute wrong time on Saturday, going 4-of-14 from the field for just 11 points in Kentucky's loss at Florida. That helped forge a three-way tie with the Gators and South Carolina for first place in the SEC after Tuesday's action, during which Monk rebounded for 23 points against LSU.
That performance against Florida came after the 6'3" guard went off for 37 and hit seven three-pointers in an overtime win over Georgia, the fifth time this season he's had at least five threes in a game.
Monk has found playing outside of Supp Arena an issue, with the Florida game the latest instance in which he struggled with his shot on the road. SEC games at Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt (as well as the late December showdown with Louisville) are among his worst shooting games.
Kentucky still has four road games left, starting with Saturday's visit to an Alabama team that just held South Carolina to 26.1 percent shooting.
5. Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Previous rank: 4th
2016-17 stats: 15.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, 1.9 SPG, 54.1% FG, 43.0% 3-pt FG, 67.1% FT
He's only UCLA's third-leading scorer, but in the scope of the Bruins offense that's just where Lonzo Ball should be. Capable of scoring in bunches when needed and possessing an ugly-yet-effective shooting stroke, the 6'6" freshman guard has been more than willing to take a back seat to his many explosive teammates.
This past week was a typical one for Ball, averaging 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in wins at Washington State and Washington. He also had nine steals after managing just two in UCLA's previous three games, a stretch that included consecutive losses to Arizona and USC.
The Bruins don't show much effort on defense, allowing more than 76 points per game (including 79.5 in Pac-12 contests), but Ball is often the exception. If he remains committed to working just as hard on the defensive end as he does with the ball in his hands then UCLA will be tough to beat.
4. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
Previous rank: 5th
2016-17 stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 50.6% FG, 36.4% 3-pt FG, 87.7% FT
Gonzaga won its 24th consecutive game on Saturday by 35 points, a feat made more impressive by the fact Nigel Williams-Goss sat out because of a sprained ankle. He got hurt during the previous game, at BYU, but not before scoring 33 points with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in the Bulldogs' first game decided by 10 or fewer points since mid-December.
That was the 6'3" junior guard's second 30-point game of the season, following the 36 he had Jan. 5 at San Francisco. Williams-Goss is the leading scorer on a team that has seven players averaging at least eight points per game, but normally he's more focused on finding open teammates than seeking out his own shots.
But when Gonzaga needs him to score big, particularly on the road, he's come through. That should bode well with Saturday's trip to Saint Mary's looming as possibly the only remaining regular-season game in which the unbeaten Bulldogs could lose.
3. Josh Hart, Villanova
Previous rank: 2nd
2016-17 stats: 19.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 51.4% FG, 40.6% 3-pt FG, 79.2% FT
The defending national champion's best player continues to be its most clutch, even in a game when he went from red hot to ice cold in little time.
After scoring 17 of his 25 points in the first half of Tuesday's 75-64 home win over Georgetown, the 6'5" senior guard missed his first five shots in the second half. But after the Hoyas got close late, Hart again caught fire, scoring seven points in less than 50 seconds to hold off an upset.
Hart averaged 22.7 points and eight rebounds during the past week in a trio of victories as Villanova moved back to No. 2 in the nation. He's reached 25 points on seven occasions.
2. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Previous rank: 3rd
2016-17 stats: 19.1 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 54.7% FG, 50.0% 3-pt FG, 79.6% FT
His official nickname is "Biggie," but we could also get away with calling Caleb Swanigan Mr. Double-Double since it's a rare occasion when he doesn't manage at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in a game. And while it will take more than his efforts for Purdue to challenge Maryland and Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, it wouldn't have a shot without him.
The 6'9" sophomore forward is now up to 20 double-doubles in 24 games—three more than anyone else in Division I—after averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds in wins over Northwestern and Maryland. He's risen to second nationally in rebounding, just behind Seton Hall's Angel Delgado (13.1), while his 306 boards are 18 more than Delgado.
Despite being a load to deal with inside at 260 pounds, Swanigan remains intent on being someone who stretches the defense. Last year that resulted in him shooting 29.2 percent from three-point range with 21 makes, six fewer than he's already converted in 2016-17. He's shooting 48.5 percent from three in Big Ten play, making 15 of 24 over the last eight games.
1. Frank Mason III, Kansas
Previous rank: 1st
2016-17 stats: 20.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 50.6% FG, 51.9% 3-pt FG, 75.8% FT
Even when he looks worn out to the point of exhaustion, Frank Mason still has more energy than nearly anyone on the court. If you don't believe us, just click on this link to see how far he went to steal a pass late in Monday's win at Kansas State.
That play came late in a 74-71 win in which the 5'11" senior guard had 21 points (his 13th 20-point game of the season) but was 7-of-17 from the field and struggled early. He was visibly fatigued, possibly still dealing with the emotional roller coaster of edging Baylor a week ago and then losing at home Saturday to Iowa State despite scoring 32 points on 9-of-11 shooting with four of five made threes and a 10-of-12 performance at the free-throw line.
That was his fourth game in 2016-17 with at least 10 made foul shots, tied for 12th-most in the country and tied for most among power-conference players.
Mason remains on pace to have arguably the best season in Big 12 history, as if his numbers hold up he'd be in first place in the league's 14-year existence to average 20 points and five assists per game. He's had at least that many points and assists in nine contests.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.