Welcome to a late January tradition, my rankings of the top 25 players in college hoops. Even a team that gets all the way to the national title game in April has played half its games by now. So, yes, it's high time we came to some consensus on the best players in this here sport.
Just a reminder that NBA-agnostic player evaluation is the name of this game. We'll leave the mock drafts and fretting about the future to highly qualified others. This is how players are ranked on present-tense college impact only.
Williamson obliterates long-standing and rather cherished fault lines between casual fans and the most dedicated students of the game. Both groups are equally transfixed, and more specifically, the Duke freshman gives the latter community zero opportunity to say, "Well, actually ..." Williamson really is as good as his dunks, and that is saying quite a lot.
Mike Krzyzewski's freshman is doing something we've never seen before. Put simply, there's a reason Williamson is shooting 75 percent on his 2s. Fully 86 percent of his 2-point attempts are recorded at the rim. Williamson gets all the way to the basket with a frequency unmatched in recent years among volume 2-point scorers.
Granted, there are featured scorers who make more 2s per game than Williamson (e.g., Ethan Happ), and certainly there are supporting players devoting an exceedingly high proportion of their shot attempts to dunks (for instance, Tacko Fall or Udoka Azubuike last season). But in the past decade, we haven't seen someone at Williamson's level of scoring get to the rim for such a large share of his attempts.
Naturally, some of these attempts at the rim are putbacks, and some are finishing touches on alley-oops. Then again, offensive boards and lobs to the rim weren't discovered just this season. It nevertheless fell to Williamson to be the first major conference player this decade to score north of 20 points per outing while carrying out very nearly his entire interior game at point-blank range.
The Blue Devils' star does other things, of course. In his past 110 defensive possessions, he has blocked seven shots and recorded three steals. Plus, Williamson hits the occasional 3.
In highlights, in numbers, in potential future earnings and in present-tense bottom-line impact, Zion stands alone.