We are right in the heart of college basketball season, a little less than two months out from Selection Sunday. With that comes a midseason look at some of the best players in the game. On this week’s episode of March Madness 365, Andy Katz does just that — ranking his midseason National Player of the Year candidates.
This episode also features exclusive interviews with CBS’s Clark Kellogg, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Virginia’s Tony Bennett.
Here are Katz’s National Player of the Year contenders entering the week of Jan. 18:
10. Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky — Junior, Center
If you are a Western Kentucky fan or have just tuned in to a couple of minutes of a Hilltoppers’ game this season then you are probably pretty aware of Charles Bassey. Bassey is the heart and soul of WKU’s team. The big man averages 17.6 points, 12.1 boards and 3.3 blocks per game and is an absolute force on the inside.
9. Cameron Thomas, LSU — Freshman, Guard
The 6’4″ freshman guard has made a name for himself. Thomas averages 22.1 points per game and shoots over 42 percent from the field. Thomas is a name to keep an eye on the rest of this season and is the main reason the Tigers are 5-1 in the SEC.
8. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana — Sophomore, Forward
Jackson-Davis is one of many talented big men in the Big Ten. The Indiana forward averages 20.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game so far this season and is the primary scorer for the Hoosiers.
7. Marcus Carr, Minnesota — Junior, Guard
Speaking of talented Big Ten players, Marcus Carr lands here at No. 7. The Minnesota guard averages 20.6 points per game and shoots over 41 percent from the field. He is the unmatched offensive leader for the Golden Gophers as Minnesota is looking like a fierce competitor in the Big Ten.
6. Jared Butler, Baylor — Junior, Guard
Baylor is loaded with guard talent but Butler stands out here as Baylor’s best player and leader on and off the court. He averages 16.7 points per game after his monster 30-point, eight assist performance against Kansas on Jan. 18. Butler has the ability to lead the Bears to a Final Four and compete for Big 12 Player of the Year.
5. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois — Junior, Guard
Dosunmu started the season as one of the top preseason candidates for Player of the Year. He has met expectations as the 6’5″ junior is currently averaging 22.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and nearly five assists per game. He began the season No. 2 on Katz’s preseason list, but because of Illinois’ struggles in the Big Ten Katz has him slated as No. 5 on this list.
College basketball rankings: Alabama, Houston and Iowa rise in this week’s Power 36
4. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State — Freshman, Guard
Cade Cunningham was also high up on Katz’s preseason Player of the Year list. The guard out of Oklahoma State was the highest touted freshman entering this season. Cunningham has lived up to those expectations — he averages 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
3. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga — Freshman, Guard
Jalen Suggs and Cade Cunningham will battle throughout the rest of the season to see who will emerge as the Freshman of the Year. Right now Katz has Suggs ahead of Cunningham because of his versatility as a player and his emergence as a leader on a stacked Gonzaga squad. Suggs has been a key contributor for Mark Few this season averaging 14.3 points, 4.8 boards, 4.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
2. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga — Senior, Forward
Kispert entered this season as Gonzaga’s veteran leader and glue guy. With the season halfway behind us, Kispert has emerged as the Zags’ best player. The 6’7″ forward averages 20.9 points per game and shoots over 59 percent from the field. Katz was blown away by Kispert’s performance against Virginia at the end of December — a game where he shredded UVA’s defense with 32 points and nine threes.
TURN IT AROUND: Petty leading Alabama on a remarkable run this season
1. Luka Garza, Iowa — Senior, Center
The preseason favorite to be National Player of the Year is doing it again this season. Luka Garza is putting up his best numbers of his college career — the 6’11” center averages 26.9 points, 8.7 boards and 1.8 blocks per game. He is the heart and soul of Iowa’s offense and will be the cornerstone for the Hawkeyes to make a deep tournament run come March.