We’ve still got a little more than a month and-a-half to go before the NCAA tournament bracket is released on March 17 and men’s college basketball takes center stage in the world of American sports. New names will emerge as stars during that glorious three-week stretch, but some names have already solidified themselves as stars through the season’s first three months.
As we prepare to hit the home stretch of conference play, here are the 15 (plus 10) players who have been the best of the best in the sport so far this season.
NCAA men’s 2024 First-Team All-Americans midseason
Zach Edey, SR, C, Purdue
Men’s college basketball hasn’t had a repeat national Player of the Year — or at least someone who has won at least two of the six major national POY awards in back-to-back seasons — since the 1980s. That seems extremely likely to change in about six weeks.
Edey is, without question, the sport’s most dominant force once again this season. He’s currently on a historical tear in Big Ten play, and enters the weekend posting season averages of 23.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 63.5 percent from the field. Edey’s 2.3 blocks per game are also a career-best.
R.J. Davis, SR, G, North Carolina
The front-runner for ACC Player of the Year, Davis is the primary reason North Carolina has bounced back in a major way from last season’s monster disappointment. He currently leads the ACC in scoring at 21.5 ppg, and his 36 points against Wake Forest last month were the most of any Tar Heel in a home game since Tyler Hansbrough.
Dalton Knecht, SR, G, Tennessee
Statistically, the 2022-23 Tennessee Volunteers were one of the best defensive teams that men’s college basketball has seen over the last two decades. Despite that, the Volunteers were just a 4-seed in the NCAA tournament that was eliminated by a 9-seed in the Sweet 16. The issue for Rick Barnes’ team — in addition to losing point guard Zakai Zeigler to an ACL tear — was the complete lack of a dynamic offensive player.
The Northern Colorado transfer has been spectacular for UT since the first day of the season, and it’s not hard to argue right now that he’s the best pure scorer in the sport. Knecht is averaging 20.1 ppg for the season, but has been at his best recently, pouring in 31.8 ppg over Tennessee’s last six contests.
Tristen Newton, Sr, G, UConn
Connecticut might wind up being the first repeat men’s national champion since Florida pulled off the feat in 2006-07. If it happens, Newton will undoubtedly deserve a solid chunk of the credit.
Newton, who played three years at East Carolina before transferring into Storrs last season, is the only active player in Division-I with 1,700 career points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds. He currently leads UConn in all three categories at 15.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 5.8 assists per game.
Kevin McCullar Jr., SR, G, Kansas
Already firmly established as one of the best defensive players in the country, McCullar’s offensive numbers have exploded in his second season at Kansas. The former Texas Tech standout is averaging career-bests in scoring (19.8 ppg), assists (4.7 apg), three-point field goal percentage (36.8 percent), and virtually every other major offensive category.
2024 Second-Team All-Americans midseason, men’s
Tyler Kolek, SR, G, Marquette
If these honors were limited to the last couple of weeks, then Kolek is probably a first-teamer. The reigning Big East Player of the Year has looked like the best point guard in the country since mid-January. He dropped 32 points in a win over Villanova on Tuesday night, and has dished out 11 assists in three of the Golden Eagles’ last five games.
DaRon Holmes, JR, F, Dayton
It turns out having a guy in the national Player of the Year race might not be a one very few decades type of deal for Dayton. Four years after Obi Toppin brought home almost every major individual honor for the ill-fated 2019-20 season, DaRon Holmes has the Flyers back in the “Final Four good” discussion and himself in the national spotlight.
The 6’10 junior is a three level scorer who almost single-handedly makes the UD offense go. He enters February averaging 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per contest.
Jaedon LeDee, SR, F, San Diego State
After serving as a key role player on last season’s national runner-up squad, LeDee has emerged as a full-fledged star for San Diego State this season. His scoring average has jumped from 7.9 points per game last season to 20.5 this year, and with still (at least) a month and-a-half to go in the season, he’s already scored more points in this campaign than he did a year ago.
Kyle Filipowski, SO, F, Duke
Filipowski’s decision to return to college for one more season may have been the most surprising of last spring. While he hasn’t been quite as dominant for Duke as many were predicting, he’s still posting 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and also stretching opposing defenses with his much-improved outside shot.
Mark Sears, SR, G, Alabama
Sears became a March hero playing for Cinderella Ohio a couple of seasons ago. Now he finds himself putting up even better numbers (20.1 points, 4.0 assists per game) and hoping to make a more Goliath-ish run with Alabama next month. The 6’1 guard has scored 21 or more points in seven of the Tide’s last eight games. The only time he failed to hit that mark was also the only time Bama lost during that stretch.
Johni Broome, JR, F, Auburn
The 6’10 big man, who played two years at Morehead State before transferring in to play for Bruce Pearl in 2022-23, has been making a strong SEC Player of the Year case in recent weeks. Broome has scored in double figures in 12 straight games, a stretch of time during which he is averaging 16.2 points on 57.7 percent shooting from the floor and 8.9 rebounds.
Boo Buie, SR, G, Northwestern
Buie seems destined to finish his career as Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer. He enters the final full month of the regular season averaging 18.8 points and 5.4 assists per game, both career bests. Buie has notably been at his best when the lights have been the brightest this season, averaging 25.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game in five games against ranked opponents.
Hunter Dickinson, SR, C, Kansas
While he’s not the national Player of the Year front-runner many predicted he’d be before the start of the season, Dickinson is still putting up career-highs in points (18.7 ppg) and rebounds (11.2 rpg). The Michigan transfer has also embraced the assigned role of college basketball villain, and will almost certainly play it up as much as he can on the sport’s biggest stage next month.
Terrence Shannon Jr., SR, G, Illinois
Off the court, Shannon’s season has been marred by a rape charge in Kansas that resulted in him being suspended from late December through late January. On the court, he’s played the best basketball of his five-year college career, averaging a career-high 20.1 ppg while also shooting a career-best 47.6 percent from the field.
Johnell Davis, JR, G, Florida Atlantic
Fresh off its surprise run to the Final Four a year ago, Florida Atlantic has been one of the most difficult to figure out teams in college basketball this season. One thing that has been consistently stellar for the Owls has been the play of Davis, who leads the team in scoring at 18.6 ppg while shooting a scorching 48.3 percent from three.
Jamal Shead, SR, G, Houston
Isaiah Stevens, SR, G, Colorado State
Caleb Love, SR, G, Arizona
Devin Carter, JR, G, Providence
Antonio Reeves, SR, G, Kentucky
David Jones, SR, F, Memphis
L.J. Cryer, SR, G, Houston
Tommy Bruner, SR, G, Denver
Wade Taylor IV, JR, G, Texas A&M
PJ Hall, SR, F, Clemson