Latest Player of the Year Rankings for 2021-22 Men's College Basketball Season

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 19, 2022

Latest Player of the Year Rankings for 2021-22 Men's College Basketball Season

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    Wisconsin's Johnny Davis
    Wisconsin's Johnny DavisAndy Manis/Associated Press

    If you're a late arrival to the men's college basketball National Player of the Year debate, you could catch up in a hurry by just watching a lot of Big Ten hoops. Our current No. 1 player, six of our top 10 and eight of our top 20 all play in that conference.

    But after that, make sure to branch out a bit, because there are also players from the ACC, Big 12, Big East, SEC, Pac-12 and West Coast conferences with realistic hopes of winning the Wooden Award or Naismith Trophy.

    Nos. 25-21 on our list are reserved for mid-major stars. And, just to be clear, those aren't participation trophies.

    There's usually at least one mid-major player who makes it into the top 15 of the Wooden Watch in early March. It happened with Western Kentucky's Charles Bassey last year; Dayton's Obi Toppin and San Diego State's Malachi Flynn the year before that; Murray State's Ja Morant and South Dakota State's Mike Daum in 2018-19; etc.

    Beyond that, players are ranked based on a combination of individual stats/highlights and team success. The former is the larger piece of the puzzle, but the latter is an undeniable factor, as the NPOY and the top candidates for it just about always play for teams that earn a No. 4 seed or better in the Big Dance.  

Honorable Mentions

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    Duke's Wendell Moore Jr.
    Duke's Wendell Moore Jr.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Christian Koloko, Arizona
    13.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 1.1 APG, 1.0 SPG

    Koloko is to Bennedict Mathurin as Auburn's Walker Kessler is to Jabari Smith. The big man doesn't get as much attention as the soon-to-be lottery pick, but he's dominant on defense and efficient on offense when his number does get called. Koloko made all seven of his field-goal attempts and blocked four shots in a come-from-behind rout of Utah on Saturday.

             

    Wendell Moore Jr., Duke
    15.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG

    Through his first 12 games, Moore was shooting 19-of-46 (41.3 percent) from three-point range and averaging 1.8 turnovers per contest. In the next four, though, he shot 1-of-7 from distance and committed 3.3 turnovers per game. It has still been a great year for Duke's veteran leader, but the team-MVP torch clearly belongs to Paolo Banchero now.

             

    Tari Eason, LSU
    15.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 APG

    Eason exploded for 24 points and 12 rebounds in the big win over Tennessee but then played just seven minutes before fouling out in the subsequent game against Florida and couldn't help the Tigers avoid a disappointing home loss to Arkansas. LSU has road games against Alabama and Tennessee this week, though, so he could bounce back in a huge way.

           

    Kendric Davis, SMU
    21.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG

    Davis' run of eight consecutive KenPom.com Game MVPs ended in a blowout loss to Cincinnati, but he's still one of the most impactful players in the nation, scoring at least 16 points in all but one game. If the Mustangs had a discernible tournament pulse, he'd be a much stronger POY candidate. Thursday's road game against Memphis is a must-win.

            

    Julian Champagnie, St. John's
    21.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG, 39.8 3P%

    If we're going to include Davis as an honorable mention, we've got to throw Champagnie on the list. The do-it-all star of the 10-5 Red Storm had 34 points and 16 rebounds in a win over DePaul earlier this month, and he put up 27 points in an overtime loss at Connecticut. If St. John's was even on the at-large radar, Champagnie would be on the NPOY radar too.

             

    Isaiah Mobley, USC
    15.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 44.4 3P%

    USC has dropped two of its last three games and sure feels like a team that never deserved to be ranked fifth in the nation, but don't go writing off Mobley just because the Trojans have regressed a bit to the mean. Their do-it-all big man is still stroking it from three-point range and has had at least seven rebounds and four assists in three straight games. 

Nos. 25-21

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    Fresno State's Orlando Robinson
    Fresno State's Orlando RobinsonJohn Locher/Associated Press

    No. 25: Fardaws Aimaq, Utah Valley (Previous Rank: 22)
    19.9 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.6 APG

    UVU has sputtered to losses in five of its last nine games, but Aimaq is still producing at an incredible level. The big man has gotten a double-double in 14 of 17 games, including 27 points, 18 rebounds and four assists in Saturday's loss to Cal Baptist.

            

    No. 24: Malachi Smith, Chattanooga (Previous Rank: NR)
    21.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG

    Smith has scored at least 21 points in 10 of his last 12 games as Chattanooga has emerged as one of the top Cinderella candidates. He had 20 in the November win over VCU, as well as 27 and 36 in December losses to Belmont and Murray State, respectively. Whether the Mocs can pull off a stunner in March will largely depend on whether a teammateperhaps Kansas transfer Silvio De Sousahelps Smith shoulder the load.

               

    No. 23: Max Abmas, Oral Roberts (Previous Rank: 24)
    23.1 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG

    Abmas isn't quite leading the nation in scoring, but it won't be long before he is, given how hot he has been. He's averaging 27.3 points through seven Summit League games, drilling 30 triples during that time. And Oral Roberts has won six of those games, emerging as the top challenger to South Dakota State. With all due respect to the Jackrabbits, I hope we get to see this dynamite scorer in the Dance once again.

            

    No. 22: David Roddy, Colorado State (Previous Rank: 21)
    18.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG

    Even in Colorado State's 30-point loss to San Diego State, Roddy still showed up with 17 points. And in the subsequent game against Justin Bean and Utah State, he paced the Rams to victory with 24 points and six boards. Look for him to pad his stats in these next two weeks against New Mexico, Air Force, Nevada and UNLV.

            

    No. 21: Orlando Robinson, Fresno State (Previous Rank: 23)
    19.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.1 SPG

    After a two-week gap between Fresno State games, Robinson opened up the 2022 portion of his season with 31 points and 12 rebounds against San Jose State, followed by 24 points and 11 rebounds against UNLV. Big O is now leading the nation in KenPom Game MVPs (11) and has pretty well cemented himself as the most valuable mid-major player. In case you're wondering: Fresno State plays at Colorado State on Feb. 11.

Nos. 20-16

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    North Carolina's Armando Bacot
    North Carolina's Armando BacotMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    No. 20: Johnny Juzang, UCLA (Previous Rank: 20)
    17.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.9 APG

    After an eight-game streak of 18 points or fewer, Juzang was back with a vengeance with a combined 47 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in UCLA's homestand against Oregon and Oregon State. The Bruins did lose to the suddenly red-hot Ducks, but that was mostly due to poor play by Jaime Jaquez Jr. (four points and four turnovers) and early foul trouble for Cody Riley. Juzang darn near carried the Bruins to a win in spite of that. Let's see if he can stay hot.

           

    No. 19: Walker Kessler, Auburn (Previous Rank: 17)
    10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG

    After back-to-back games against Florida and Alabama in which he fouled out and didn't make much of an impact, I was prepared to drop Kessler out of the top 20. But then he went off for 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks and four steals as Auburn rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to come back and win at Ole Miss. Kessler has eight games with at least 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and has been a huge reason the Tigers are in great shape for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

                

    No. 18: Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga (Previous Rank: 18)
    13.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 2.1 APG

    The scoring average isn't anything special, but the fact that Holmgren is doing it on 73.2 percent shooting inside the arc and 38.6 percent shooting beyond it is. A lack of assertiveness on the offensive end will likely result in Holmgren finishing well behind teammate Drew Timme in these POY conversations, but what a phenomenal cog he has been in the Gonzaga machine. His shot-blocking presence in the paint may well be the difference from last season that results in this program's first national championship.

            

    No. 17: Trevion Williams, Purdue (Previous Rank: 9)
    13.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.1 APG

    After dominating off the bench for the first 10 games, Williams moved into the starting lineup and hasn't been the same. He's averaging 12.1 points and 7.3 rebounds over the last seven contests compared to 14.2 points and 9.3 rebounds when I had him at No. 2 on this list five weeks ago. Head coach Matt Painter even moved Williams back to a reserve role for the past three games, but he hasn't bounced back yet. There's a fun game and a big opportunity coming up Thursday against Indiana and Trayce Jackson-Davis.

             

    No. 16: Armando Bacot, North Carolina (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention)
    17.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 BPG

    Bacot has been on one heck of a double-double tear for more than a month, averaging 20.5 points and 13.1 rebounds over his last eight gamesall double-doubles. One of those was a 29-point, 21-rebound dismantling of Virginia's pack-line defense. We've all been caught up in trying to figure out who the ACC's second-best team is, but Bacot has stormed into the conversation for ACC POY.

Nos. 15-11

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    Villanova's Collin Gillespie
    Villanova's Collin GillespieLaurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    No. 15: Collin Gillespie, Villanova (Previous Rank: 19)
    17.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 41.0 3P%

    Justin Moore has been Villanova's brightest star over the past two weeks, but Gillespie is still the veteran leader who keeps the engine on this freight train running. He's averaging 19.6 points and shooting 44.7 percent from three-point range in five January games, all wins. And considering Villanova plays at a slower pace than just about every other team in the nation not named Virginia, those nearly 20 points per game feel more like 25 or 30. The longer Villanova imposes its will upon the rest of the Big East, the better Gillespie's NPOY odds become.

             

    No. 14: James Akinjo, Baylor (Previous Rank: 6)
    13.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG

    Akinjo had been Mr. Clutch for Baylor, scoring at least 15 points and doling out at least three assists in each of the games against Michigan State, Villanova, Oregon, Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech. But he was an absolute ghost in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State, finishing with three points (on eight shots) with no dimes. In fairness, he did suffer a tailbone injury in the previous loss to Texas Tech and perhaps shouldn't have even tried to play against the Cowboys. (He didn't play Tuesday against West Virginia.) That was an albatross on his season averages, though, and in a loss that brought Baylor back to the pack a bit.

              

    No. 13: Jaden Ivey, Purdue (Previous Rank: 7)
    16.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG

    Though Purdue has won three straight, it hasn't been a great two weeks for Ivey. He had 12 points, seven rebounds and one assist in the close call against Penn State, and then had exactly the same line at the end of regulation in Monday's game against Illinois. He's still in the running for NPOY, but his 7'4" teammate is clearly the better candidate.

            

    No. 12: Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona (Previous Rank: 12)
    18.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 APG

    Mathurin didn't do much this past week in home victories over Colorado and Utah, going for a combined 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists. But while Arizona comfortably won both of those games, losses by Baylor, UCLA and USC helped bolster Arizona's case as one of the best teams in the countrya key element of this whole NPOY debate. Circle Jan. 25 on your calendars, as that's when Arizona's previously postponed game against UCLA will be made up. That'll be a gigantic opportunity for Mathurin to shine.

             

    No. 11: Jabari Smith, Auburn (Previous Rank: 14)
    16.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG

    Smith picked a mighty fine time to have his best performance of the year, going for 25 points (on 14 field-goal attempts) with seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals in a road win over Alabama last Tuesday. That was one of Auburn's first chances to prove it belongs in the conversation for best team in the country, and its (presumed) one-and-done superstar made sure it didn't squander the opportunity. Auburn vs. Kentucky this Saturday should be awesome and is a big chance for Smith to vault into the top five.

Nos. 10-6

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    Iowa's Keegan Murray
    Iowa's Keegan MurrayCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    No. 10: Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (Previous Rank: 10)
    21.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG

    Two of Cockburn's worst performances of the season have come in the past 10 days. He had 16 points and 13 rebounds against Nebraska, but he shot 8-of-18 from the field and 0-of-5 from the free-throw line. And in the double-overtime loss to Purdue, Cockburn fouled out with just 10 points and five rebounds. I was prepared to vault him up to No. 2 if he had performed admirably in a win over the Boilermakers, but that dud leaves him in the same spot that he was in two weeks ago. He'll have plenty more opportunities to prove he belongs in the mix for No. 1, though, including the Feb. 10 rematch with Purdue.

            

    No. 9: Keegan Murray, Iowa (Previous Rank: 13)
    23.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.1 APG

    Save for an off night against Indiana fueled by foul trouble, Murray has been on fire for the past month, averaging 26.1 points and a combined 3.4 blocks and steals per game over his last seven. We're still waiting for a signature performance against a quality opponent, though. We're also waiting on Iowa to establish itself as a Top 25 team.

                

    No. 8: E.J. Liddell, Ohio State (Previous Rank: 3)
    19.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 2.5 APG

    Outside blasting Northwestern for 34 points and five blocks, Liddell has regressed in January—as has Ohio State. Between the 16-point loss to Indiana and 10-point loss to Wisconsin, he averaged 14.5 points and had a combined total of one assist and six turnovers. He also had that rough night in the overtime game against Nebraska. Liddell is still having an excellent season, but there are several better NPOY candidates.

           

    No. 7: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (Previous Rank: 15)
    19.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 1.8 APG

    How about a fourth consecutive frontcourt player from the Big Ten? TJD has been sensational since our last rankings update, reeling off four straight double-doubles, including five blocks in each of the games against Ohio State (Liddell) and Iowa (Murray). If Indiana were anywhere close to the AP Top 25, Jackson-Davis would have a more compelling argument for a spot in the top five, if not the top spot. But until the Hoosiers get into the running for a No. 5 seed or better, this is as high as we're willing to go on their star.

            

    No. 6: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas (Previous Rank: 11)
    20.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 47.7 3P%

    Agbaji has bounced back beautifully from subpar performances against Stephen F. Austin and George Mason that temporarily relegated him to just outside our top 10. He shot 28-of-57 (49.1 percent) in his next four games, averaging 20.5 points at the outset of what will be a grueling Big 12 slate. If he continues to score at anywhere near that level through the upcoming five-game gauntlet of Texas Tech, Kentucky, at Iowa State, Baylor and at Texas, he's going to become the NPOY favorite in a hurry.

5. Zach Edey, Purdue

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 15.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.2 APG, 70.7 FG%, 0.37 WS/40

    Previous Rank: 8

    Giving a spot in the top five to a guy averaging less than 18 minutes per game will likely be controversial.

    However, what Zach Edey accomplishes for the title-contending Boilermakers in those 18-ish minutes per game is more than what most players manage in twice as much time on the floor.

    His per-game numbers are impressive enough, but 35.0 points and 16.8 rebounds per 40 minutes is ridiculous. Even Shaquille O'Neal only averaged 28.3 points and 17.8 rebounds per 40 minutes during his three years of dominating college basketball. Recent Wooden Award winners Luka Garza (30.6 P/40, 11.1 R/40) and Obi Toppin (25.3 P/40, 9.5 R/40) logged more minutes, but came nowhere close to matching Edey's production.

    And he has been especially lethal as of late, scoring 93 points in 93 minutes played over his last five games. That includes 24 points and 10 rebounds against Wisconsin, as well as 20 points and eight rebounds against Illinois—well out-performing Kofi Cockburn while getting him into foul trouble.

    Per KenPom, Edey ranks top-10 in the nation in offensive rebounding, fouls drawn and percentage of possessions used, ranks top-25 in two-point percentage, defensive rebounding and percentage of shots taken and ranks top-50 in O-rating and block percentage.

    So what's the threshold of minutes played per game to be taken seriously for NPOY? And is it really fair to penalize Edey for Matt Painter's inability/unwillingness to play Edey and Trevion Williams at the same time?

    I kind of wish we could just break the NPOY trophy in two and give a half to each of Purdue's centers. Since I'm forced to choose one, though, Edey has left Williams in the dust, at least for now.

4. Paolo Banchero, Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 0.237 WS/40

    Previous Rank: 4

    Paolo Banchero is the patron saint of above-average performances.

    He has tallied at least 10 points and five rebounds in each of Duke's 16 games, and he has had just one off night14 points on 14 shots in the November loss to Ohio State. However, he only has three double-doubles and has only reached 25 points in a game once. (He scored 28 of Duke's 107 against The Citadel.)

    By no means am I trying to say he has been disappointing, because he hasn't been. He's still on the short list of viable options for the No. 1 pick in June. And it's all but certain he would've put up at least 25 points in the wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga had he not been dealing with leg cramps in the second half of each of those contests.

    When is he going to have one of those games where he just sets the world on fire, though?

    He has led Duke in scoring in six consecutive games, averaging 20.8 points during that stretch, but how about a 40 burger?

    With so much talent on the roster, the Blue Devils don't need him to be a one-man show the way Kentucky needs Oscar Tshiebwe to own the paint or the way Wisconsin needs Johnny Davis to do everything. But it sure would be nice if they would just let Banchero cook every now and again, if only to get him the signature performance or two that it takes to really make a push for National Player of the Year.

    With any luck, that big day will come in one of the games against North Carolina. Because if he puts up something like 32 points and 12 rebounds in a road win over Duke's loathed rival with the whole world watching, that would be mighty difficult to ignore.

3. Drew Timme, Gonzaga

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 18.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 BPG, 0.285 WS/40

    Previous Rank: 5

    Two weeks ago, I complained about Drew Timme not capitalizing on opportunities to stuff the stat sheet against Northern Arizona and North Alabama.

    He responded by absolutely blasting Pepperdine, BYU and Santa Clara.

    Between those three games, the preseason favorite for National Player of the Year logged 74 minutes, racking up 80 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists while leading a Gonzaga offense that scored at least 110 points in each of those contests.

    Timme was especially lethal in the latter two games, shooting a combined 26-of-29 from inside the arc.

    It was a vivid reminder of the mustachioed force of nature we all fell in love with last spring.

    In the four games leading up to the 2021 national championship, Timme shot 40-of-57 from two-point range, averaging 25.0 points. As such, we expected these types of 30-point performances to be somewhat commonplace for him, at least in conference play.

    Now that he has had two dominant performances in a row and now that Gonzaga is back up to No. 1 in the nation, Timme should start creeping back toward the top of everyone's NPOY rankings.

2. Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 16.5 PPG, 14.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.338 WS/40

    Previous Rank: 2

    How's this for ridiculous?

    In four games played since our last NPOY ranking, Oscar Tshiebwe had rebound totals of 13, 17, 13 and 12.

    And it decreased his per-game average from 15.2 to a still-preposterous 14.9.

    Kentucky's rebounding machine also scored a career-high 29 points in the Jan. 8 victory over Georgia, followed by a new career high of 30 points three nights later against Vanderbilt. The Wildcats had to play both of those games without injured point guard Sahvir Wheeler, but being able to feed the big man sure made things easier for TyTy Washington Jr. to run the offense.

    Basically, there's no good answer for Tshiebwe, who already has four games this season with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds. And now that Kentucky has blowout wins over both North Carolina and Tennessee and is starting to make an undeniable case as one of the 10 best teams in the country, his NPOY campaign is gaining serious momentum.

    The next three Saturdays will be massive for Tshiebwe, as Kentucky faces Auburn on Jan. 22, heads to Kansas on Jan. 29 and goes to Alabama on Feb. 5. If he averages a double-double while the Wildcats win two of those three games, he could just about run away with this race before we even reach the final month of the regular season.

1. Johnny Davis, Wisconsin

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 21.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.203 WS/40

    Previous Rank: 1

    Johnny Davis wasn't on his A-game in recent wins over Maryland and Ohio State. He shot 7-of-19 from the field in the former, 4-of-18 in the latter and had a combined seven turnovers. They were his two least efficient performances of the season.

    All the same, he still managed 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in those two key conference victories, and that rough patch came one week after he averaged 31.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in marquee wins over Purdue and Iowa.

    And he was back with a vengeance for 27 points, eight rebounds and three steals in Tuesday night's road win over Northwestern.

    In other words, there wasn't much more than a fleeting thought given to the idea of dropping Davis from the No. 1 spot.

    Davis has scored at least 19 points in 11 games that the Badgers won by 13 points or fewer, most of which came against NCAA tournament-caliber competition. The magnum opus was the 37 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals at Purdue. It's hard to imagine anyone topping that individual performance this season.

    It makes for great theater, and those crunch-time moments add to his allure as a Player of the Year candidate. But Wisconsin has a long way to go until the finish line. Let's see if Davis has enough gas left in the tank to hang on to this top spot for another eight weeks.

           

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are current through the start of play on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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