EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, college basketball columnist Kyle Tucker will name a Starting Five — his favorite five players from across the country at that particular moment in time. As guys heat up and cool off, this list will change plenty over the course of the season.
Don’t let anyone tell you college basketball doesn’t matter until March. Unless, of course, you just don’t like fun. Because the 2017-18 season has gotten off to an amazing start, thanks largely to Nike’s PK80 tournament — which needs to become the PK81, PK82, PK83 … and on and on, long after Phil Knight is done having extravagant birthdays.
In the last week, we’ve seen two freshmen score 40 points and another one drop 30 and 15 twice. Too bad one-and-dones are killing college basketball. But there is something to be said for experience, and two dominant upperclassmen also made our list. Let’s get to it, shall we?
G Trae Young, 6-2, Fr., Oklahoma
He ranks second in the country in points per game (28.2) and third in assists per game (8.6) to go with 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals. He’s shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, where he’s made 17 in just 5 games.
Young is the closest thing to Steph Curry in college basketball and he’s going to be really fun to watch, in part because the Sooners don’t have much around him and he knows it. He dropped 43 points in a win over Oregon at the PK80 — after scoring 33 against Portland State and 28 in a loss to Arkansas.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) November 27, 2017
G Collin Sexton, 6-3, Fr., Alabama
He’s fourth in the nation at 25.2 points per game, plus 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals. He scored 25 in his first college game, 29 in his second and 40 in his fourth — when he was playing 3-on-5 for the final 11 minutes against No. 12 Minnesota.
Let’s just run that one back real quick: Thanks to the Crimson Tide’s entire bench getting ejected, Sexton and two teammates played 3-on-5 for the final 11 minutes against the Golden Gophers. And in that stretch, Sexton scored 17 points and cut an 11-point deficit to 3 with 1:39 to go.
Alabama lost, but he certified himself as a bad, bad man (who is shooting 47.8 percent from three).
Collin Sexton just moved to #1 on my draft board lol pic.twitter.com/Itu1zf8ZQ6
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 26, 2017
F Bonzie Colson, 6-6, Sr., Notre Dame
He’s better than last year, when he averaged a double-double, because he’s doing it even bigger now: 20 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.8 steals per game.
He had 17 points, 6 rebounds, a block and a steal in the second half against No. 8 Wichita State as the Irish erased a 16-point deficit to win the Maui Invitational. Colson finished with 25 and 11.
He and No. 5 Notre Dame have a monster matchup Thursday night against No. 3 Michigan State and Miles Bridges. That is absolute must-see TV (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 25, 2017
F Jordan Murphy, 6-6, Jr., Minnesota
Wait, who? The best player you’ve probably never heard of is who. Murphy caught fire late last season — seven double-doubles in the last 11 games — and has turned up the heat to start his junior year.
He’s averaging 22 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals. Murphy leads the nation in double-doubles: eight in eight games. He went for 17 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks against No. 10 Miami on Wednesday night and 19, 14 and 3 against No. 24 Alabama last week.
No Big Ten player has produced more consecutive double-doubles to start a season in the last 17 years, so that that seems pretty good. Get to know this guy.
Think this Miami defense respects Jordan Murphy? Doubled, three weak side guys with two feet in the paint, 10 eyes directly on him. He still drew a foul, too. pic.twitter.com/aqOgu6lUb7
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) November 30, 2017
F Marvin Bagley III, 6-10, Fr., Duke
Unlike Murphy, this gentleman needs no introduction. The No. 1 recruit in the country a few months ago is the No. 1 player in college basketball now. It really isn’t close.
Bagley is averaging 22.3 points and 11.3 rebounds — and the 6-foot-11 forward has even made four 3-pointers this season. He dropped 34 and 15 on Texas and fellow star Mohamed Bamba, then hung 30 and 15 on No. 6 Florida in the PK80.
The top-ranked Blue Devils flew back from Portland, headed to Indiana and watched Bagley give the Hoosiers 23 and 10. He’s had at least that many points and rebounds five times in nine college games.
Marvin Bagley's skill level improves game by game. He's such an effortless scorer as it is, will be a near impossible cover if he can continue to make shots and facilitate. Also showed flashes defensively even if his focus/intensity can improve on that end https://t.co/2qFaf8Bs7v pic.twitter.com/BWvufBPtD2
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) November 27, 2017
Monster games of note
* Arizona State’s Tra Holder had 40 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in a win over then-No. 15 Xavier.
* North Carolina’s Luke Maye, hero of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, had 28 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists against Arkansas at the PK80.
* Bucknell’s Zach Thomas had 38 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in a win over Stony Brook.
* Marshall’s Jon Elmore had 32 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds against William & Mary and lost, because …
* William & Mary’s Connor Burchfield scored 30 points on 10-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. Not to be outdone, however …
* Marquette’s Markus Howard broke his own school record by making 11 threes (in 15 tries) against Chicago State. He shot 54.7 percent from three last season.
* Florida’s Jalen Hudson, the Virginia Tech transfer who averaged fewer than 8 points per game in two seasons there, had 59 points, 15 rebounds and 10 made 3-pointers against Gonzaga and Duke at the PK80.