Ranking the Top 10 Performances of the Men's College Basketball Season So Far

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2021

Ranking the Top 10 Performances of the Men's College Basketball Season So Far

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    We are still waiting on our first 50-point performance of the 2020-21 men's college basketball season, but there have been some noteworthy individual showings nonetheless.

    Ahead we've highlighted the 10 best performances of the season thus far.

    There's still plenty of time for others to add their name to this list, especially once March Madness rolls around and the intensity ramps up.

    For now, it's a mix of major-conference stars who have filled up the stat sheet and a few small-conference players that have forced their way into the picture with epic performances.

    Overall production and level of competition were the two biggest factors in determining the rankings.

10. Eral Penn, LIU vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Stat Line: 38 MIN, 33 PTS, 12/21 FG, 20 REB, 6 STL, 2 BLK, 35.5 Game Score

    Let's kick things off with some love for a dominant small-school performance.

    Eral Penn is averaging a double-double for LIU-Brooklyn this year, tallying 16.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for a Sharks team that played in the 2018 NCAA tournament when he was a freshman.

    With a long 6'7", 210-pound frame, he has been a force in the paint both scoring the basketball and rebounding this season.

    He is one of just 12 players to record a 20-rebound game this season, and one of just three to do it alongside a 30-point performance offensively, turning in the highest Game Score of the bunch.

    The end result was a 78-70 loss, but it's still an individual performance worth highlighting.

9. Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky vs. Memphis

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 31 MIN, 21 PTS, 8/13 FG, 1/2 3PT, 14 REB, 7 BLK, 19.1 Game Score

    It has taken some time, but Charles Bassey is finally looking like the 5-star recruit many expected to be a one-and-done at Western Kentucky when he was one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 recruiting class.

    The 6'10" center is averaging 18.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for a Hilltoppers team that is 15-4 overall and 8-2 in Conference USA to sit atop the standings.

    The tone was set for a successful season with a 75-69 victory over Memphis on Nov. 26, and it was Bassey who led the way with a stat-sheet-stuffing performance.

    His 21-14-7 stat line showed the dominance he's capable of on both ends of the floor, and the seven blocks are a season high for a player who ranks second in the nation in blocks per game.

    If you're looking for a potential breakout star on the national level this March, Bassey has that kind of potential.

8. Luka Garza, Iowa vs. Southern

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 29 MIN, 41 PTS, 14/15 FG, 3/3 3PT, 9 REB, 3 BLK, 36.9 Game Score

    The term "man among boys" gets thrown around all too often in sports these days, to the point that it's a bit watered down even when it actually applies.

    That said, Luka Garza was truly a man among boys when he dropped 41 points on the Southern Jaguars in Iowa's second game of the season.

    He had 36 points at halftime as the Hawkeyes built an insurmountable 58-35 lead, and then he spent much of the second half watching from the bench as he played just 29 total minutes on his way to his season-high point total.

    The quality of opponent keeps this one from ranking any higher, but it was as dominant an individual performance as we've seen this year.

7. Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga at Portland

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 28 MIN, 12 PTS, 5/7 FG, 0/1 3PT, 13 REB, 14 AST, 23.2 Game Score

    Playing in the shadow of All-American candidates Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, junior Joel Ayayi is quietly having a solid season, averaging 11.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs.

    He authored one of 13 triple-doubles this year and one of just three on the road on Jan. 9 against Portland, and it was the efficiency with which he did it that earned him a spot on this list.

    The 6'5" guard took just seven shots in a game that saw seven different Gonzaga players score in double figures, dishing out 14 assists without a single turnover.

    That's tied with Mike DePersia (IUPUI) and Jordan Bohannon (Iowa) for the highest assist total of the year in a turnover-free game.

6. Justin Champagnie, Pittsburgh vs. Duke

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 39 MIN, 31 PTS, 12/15 FG, 4/7 3PT, 14 REB, 5 BLK, 2 STL, 32.9 Game Score

    A 3-star recruit with limited high-major interest out of high school, Justin Champagnie ended up leading the Pitt Panthers in scoring as a freshman with 12.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

    The 6'5" forward has continued his unexpected rise this season, emerging as one of the best all-around players in the ACC while averaging 18.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals for a Pitt team starting to show signs of life.

    His best game of the season and one of the best performances of the year came in a 79-73 victory over Duke when he went off for 31 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

    It was the first 30-10-5 game against Duke since Virginia legend Ralph Sampson did it in 1983, and while this is clearly not the Duke team we're used to seeing, that's still an impressive feat.

5. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois vs. Wisconsin

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    Holly Hart/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 35 MIN, 21 PTS, 6/12 FG, 12 REB, 12 AST, 2 STL, 21.6 Game Score

    Of the 13 triple-doubles turned in this year, Wisconsin is far and away the best defensive team on the receiving end, and that helps vault this performance from Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu up the list.

    With center Kofi Cockburn turning in one of his best games of the season down low with 23 points and 14 rebounds, Dosunmu assumed the role of secondary scorer and facilitator.

    His 12 assists were good for a season high and his 12 rebounds tied his previous best from Illinois' victory over Duke, and he added 21 points thanks in large part to a 9-of-11 day from the free-throw line.

    It was just the third triple-double in the long history of Illinois basketball.

4. James Bouknight, UConn vs. Creighton

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 40 MIN, 40 PTS, 13/24 FG, 5/12 3PT, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 28.2 Game Score

    There have been just two 40-point games from major-conference players this season.

    One belongs to reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and All-American Luka Garza. The other came from UConn sophomore James Bouknight in December, albeit in a 76-74 loss to Creighton.

    A 4-star recruit and the No. 66 player in the 2019 class, Bouknight averaged 13.0 points per game as a freshman.

    He took on a higher volume offensively early in the season before an elbow injury cost him over a month, but he returned to action with an 18-point performance on Tuesday.

    With UConn squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, Bouknight will be a major X-factor down the stretch.

3. D'Moi Hodge, Cleveland State at Purdue-Fort Wayne

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 32 MIN, 46 PTS, 15/23 FG, 10/15 3PT, 7 REB, 4 STL, 3 AST, 42.8 Game Score

    The highest-scoring game of the year belongs to a player who is not even the highest-scoring player on his own team.

    JUCO transfer D'Moi Hodge is averaging 10.5 points per game for a Cleveland State team that currently sits atop the Horizon League standings with a 15-3 record in conference play, good for second on the team behind Torrey Patton (13.7).

    The 6'4" junior is shooting 29.4 percent from beyond the arc on the year and he's only reached the 20-point mark twice all season. For one game against Purdue-Fort Wayne back in December, everything clicked.

    He poured in 10 three-pointers on his way to 46 points, the highest single-game total of the year at the D-l level, and his 42.8 Game Score is also the highest mark of the year.

    Despite the level of competition, it's still a performance worth celebrating, and Hodge will be one to watch if Cleveland State runs the table in the Horizon League tournament and earns the automatic berth.

2. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga vs. Virginia

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 30 MIN, 32 PTS, 11/15 FG, 9/13 3PT, 3 AST, 1 REB, 25.7 Game Score

    After surviving tough tests against Kansas and Iowa to begin the season, Gonzaga faced another tall order the day after Christmas and Corey Kispert came to play.

    Squaring off against defending champion and No. 16-ranked Virginia, the Bulldogs flexed their muscles with a convincing 98-75 victory.

    Kispert led the way with a career-high 32 points, tying a school record along the way with nine three-pointers as the usually stout Virginia defense that has allowed more than 70 points just twice all year simply didn't have an answer.

    Drew Timme added 29 points in the win, and that duo could carry the Bulldogs to a national championship.

1. Luka Garza, Iowa vs. Iowa State

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Stat Line: 17 MIN, 34 PTS, 13/14 FG, 6/7 3PT, 3 REB, 29.2 Game Score

    After playing just seven minutes during the first half of the annual Iowa vs. Iowa State clash, Luka Garza took control of the game in a way that few others are capable of during the second half.

    The 6'11" senior poured in 25 points in just 10 minutes of action after the break, shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from the field and accounting for 21 straight Iowa points during one stretch to bury the Cyclones.

    He hit a career-high six three-pointers on the night and finished with 34 points in just 17 minutes of action.

    A 41-point outburst against Southern early in the year is his highest-scoring game of the season, but there is little question his performance against Iowa State was the most impressive.

    According to ESPN Stats and Info, it was the highest-scoring game by a D-l player who played fewer than 20 minutes in the last 25 years.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference, while recruiting information comes from 247Sports' composite rankings.