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Power Ranking Early College Basketball POY Candidates

Kris Dunn, Providence
A fresh new year has begun, and for college basketball that means one important thing: the start of conference play, the bulk of the year. Thrilling games over the past couple nights that included LSU-Kentucky, Oklahoma-Kansas and Oklahoma-Iowa State have only indicated that this college basketball season should continue to be crazy. Early in January, we weed out the top National Player of the Year candidates for the 2015-2016 campaign.

Ben Simmons, F, LSU Tigers
You should probably have heard of Ben Simmons by now. But in case you haven't here is just a few things to know: he has been hailed as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, is 6'10", 225 pounds with insane athleticism and is putting up a gaudy stat-line that includes 20.5 points per game, 13.1 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game. He was pivotal in a huge upset victory for LSU over Kentucky, which not only helped his POY candidacy but was also huge for the Tigers' program. Considered a rising program entering the year, LSU had started the year slow but now have a couple legit wins on their resume (Vanderbilt, Kentucky). If Simmons continues to put up crazy stats and make highlight reel dunks it is hard not for him to earn serious Player of the Year consideration, before he almost certainly is the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft this summer.
Verdict: 2nd

Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma Sooners
Although Oklahoma, ranked No. 2 in the nation, was unable to get a massive victory on the road against top-ranked Kansas, it was a huge day for Buddy Hield. Already an established stud as a senior, Hield has been on absolute fire all year long, with 26.3 points per game. Just as impressive as the actual number is how efficient he is doing it: shooting over 50 percent from both the field and three-point line, as well as nearly 90 percent at free throw. His 46 points against Kansas the past night absolutely showed to the world just how deadly the vet can be. If the Sooners continue to play at a very high level, Hield should continue to be a frontunner for the nation's top player.
Verdict: 1st

Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State Spartans
Give all the credit to Denzel Valentine for Michigan State's great start on the year. Valentine has improved every year since arriving in East Lansing, and is at the peak of his game at the moment. The senior is averaging 18.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, and has recorded numerous double-doubles. Plus, it just so happens that the one game that the guard missed happened to be MSU's only loss on the season, to Iowa. Health has been a concern on the year for Valentine, who has missed a couple games. But, when he has been healthy he has been absolutely terrific, even against great competition. If he continues his wonderful play, he very well could ascend past Simmons and Hield on this list.
Verdict: 3rd

Kris Dunn, PG, Providence Friars
Providence is not your typical destination for Player of the Year candidates. But, head coach Ed Cooley has completely rebuilt the program, who stands at No. 8 in the nation (although they just suffered a rough loss to Marquette). The main reason for the Friars turnaround over the past few seasons has been Dunn, who much like Valentine and Hield, is a senior. Dunn, much like his company on this list, is putting up great numbers across the board, he truly does it all. He is posting 17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game. But, even more than that, Dunn has been the heart and soul of a team that has been on absolute fire lately and has been a complete surprise. His play not only has him shooting up to the top of draft boards, but has him firmly entrenched in Player of the Year talk.
Verdict: 4th

Kyle Collinsworth, G, BYU Cougars
Talking about players that can fill a stat-line let me introduce Kyle Collinsworth. Collinsworth showed just how good he could be last year, with 13.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG and six assists per game, while recording triple-double after triple-double. This year, Collinsworth just keeps on chugging away, with 14.7 PPG, 7.3 APG and 8 RPG, while adding 2.1 steals per game on top of it. The senior doesn't get a lot of press because he plays for BYU, who is in the little known West Coast Conference and doesn't play insanely tough competition. But, Collinsworth just keeps on putting up crazy numbers, and seems to have improved as a shooter this season. If he keeps it up, the Cougars (10-5) could very well be a sneaky team down the stretch.
Verdict: 5th

Others in the Mix:
Kay Felder, G, Oakland
Georges Niang, F, Iowa State
Frank Mason, G, Kansas
Perry Ellis, F, Kansas
Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
Anthony Barber, G, NC State
Kyle Wiltjer, F, Gonzaga
Stefan Moody, G, Ole Miss
Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina
Grayson Allen, G, Duke
Shawn Long, F, Louisiana-Lafayette

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