Michigan coach talks about Iowa and what he's seen from the Hawkeyes heading into Friday's game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
What do Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis have in common?
They’re not just point guards and key cogs to their respective teams’ success this season. They’re also among the top 25 college basketball players in the nation.
At least, that’s according to ESPN’s John Gasaway, who unveiled his list Thursday (pay site) that had Winston ranked No. 6, Simpson at No. 19 and Davis at No. 25.
Winston, who is among the frontrunners for Big Ten player of the year, has done it all for the No. 6 Spartans. He leads the conference in assists (7.3) and ranks second in 3-point shooting (45.5 percent), third in assist turnover ratio (2.9) and fourth in scoring (18.5 points).
“When Winston was hitting shots from both sides of the arc and spraying assists all over the place last season, the resulting impression was that here was a really promising sophomore who was flourishing alongside the likes of Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges,” Gasaway writes. “Now that the junior is doing the exact same things with a significantly larger role in the offense and without not only those guys but also the injured Josh Langford, the resulting impression is that Winston is one of the best players in the country.”
While Winston’s ranking comes as no surprise, Simpson’s might. One could make a case that other members in No. 5 Michigan’s starting five would be just as deserving as Simpson, who leads the Big Ten in assist turnover ratio (3.5) and is second in assists (5.9).
Yet Simpson’s greatest impact lies on the other end of the floor, where he’s one of the best defensive players on one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
“Simpson is the most Michigan player on the Michigan roster, and when a team is 20-1 a year after a run to the national title game, that's quite a compliment,” Gasaway writes. “He's going to make your 40 minutes miserable if you happen to be an opposing player with the effrontery to try to run an offense.
“The junior has been named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year midseason watch list, but let's do that honor one better. Simpson is one of the best 25 players in the nation – period. Ask Ohio State: 12 assists and 10 rebounds to go with 11 points gave the sky-hooking, 6-foot point guard just the sixth triple-double in UM history.”
Davis might not garner the same amount of attention as Winston and Simpson in the state, but he has established himself as one of the nation’s most prolific scorers and 3-point threats.
Through 20 games, Davis leads the nation in made 3-pointers with 96 and has Division I single-season record of 162 set by Davidson’s Steph Curry in 2007-08 in his sights.
“That means the 6-foot-1 freshman has to average a little more than seven made 3s for the rest of the regular season and this record's in the bag,” Gasaway writes. “Fine, that's a bit of a stretch. At his current rate of production, Davis would need the Titans to get to some form of postseason after the Horizon tournament if Curry is to be dethroned. Here's hoping UDM makes a miracle run and Mike Davis continues to give the young sharpshooter a very green light.”
In addition to Winston and Simpson, the Big Ten was represented by Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ at No. 3 and Purdue guard Carsen Edwards at No. 12.
Duke’s Zion Williamson topped the list at No. 1, followed by Murray State’s Ja Morant, Happ, Tennessee’s Grant Williams and Marquette’s Markus Howard.