With a week of college basketball action in the books, it’s time to take a look at the sport’s top performers in our first round of weekly awards.
Ah, can you hear it? All around the country, gyms are filling with the dulcet tones of sneakers on hardwood, pep bands reeling off fight songs, and student sections losing their collective minds. Indeed, college basketball is back.
And with the return of our beloved sport comes the return of our weekly rundown of the game’s top players. Each week, we will look at 15 of the most notable players in the country. To find those players, we use two tools.
First, we will call out three players from the Gold Star Guide, our in-house fantasy sports-style scoring system: the top overall scorer for the week; the top single-game performance; and the top-scoring freshman. Additionally, we will use Bart Torvik’s T-Rank Player Stats page to find players who meet various statistical thresholds based on 12 different on-court roles, which we collectively refer to as our Arthur awards.
Here are the first honorees of the 2023-24 season, starting with our Gold Star award winners.
More Heat Check CBB:
- HC+: Santa Clara more than a regular-season test for Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga
- Heat Check CBB Top 25: Arizona rises in new rankings
- Arizona looks like national contender in win over Duke
Gold Star Player of the Week: Kevin Cross, Tulane
Total Gold Star points this week: 83.45 (41.73 avg.)
While the Green Wave may not have played the toughest competition, Cross sure looked like a star in Tulane’s first two games. In wins over Nicholls State and Northwestern State, the 6-8, 225-pound forward averaged 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals on 60.8 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc. After winning the AAC’s Most Improved Player award in 2022, it seems Cross may be ready to hit another gear in his fifth and final college season.
Gold Star Freshman of the Week: Carlton Carrington, Pitt
Total Gold Star points this week: 70.02 (35.01 avg.)
There are certainly worse ways to debut than by dropping a triple-double in front of the home crowd. ‘Bub’ put up 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in Monday’s season opener against North Carolina A&T, making himself an instant star in the process. The follow-up wasn’t quite so extravagant, but Carrington was still instrumental in the 29-point beatdown of Binghamton: 18 points (6/11 FGA), four assists, three rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes.
Gold Star Performance of the Week: Joseph Octave, Holy Cross
Nov. 11 vs. Georgetown: 33 points (12/21 FG), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers
Holy moly, Holy Cross! After losing the season opener to Siena in a two-point defeat, the Crusaders rebounded by dropping Georgetown on the road in a one-point nailbiter. Octave was the key to Holy Cross’ victory on Saturday, guiding the way with 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting and 11 rebounds — including six on the offensive end from the 6-4 guard. He also didn’t commit any turnovers in 36 minutes of play, despite a 36 percent usage rate. All those efforts culminated in the Crusaders’ first high-major win since 2012 and its first win against a Big East squad since 2003. (As it happens, both of those came against Boston College, which joined the ACC in 2005. It’s nice to see Holy Cross branching out a bit with its once-every-decade upset routine.)
Main Attraction: Xander Rice, Monmouth
Thresholds: 90.0 MIN%, 30.0 USG%, 120 ORtg (min. 2 games)
Nepotism, schnepotism — Xander Rice proved he can play in four years at Bucknell. Now, he just happens to be doing it for his dad at Monmouth. Just ask West Virginia, which lost to the Hawks after taking it on the chin from Xander. In that win, the younger Rice had 30 points, six assists and four rebounds on 50 percent shooting. Before that, he had 21 points and four assists in a respectable loss to George Mason. The family business is alive and well in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
Floor General: Reece Beekman, Virginia
Thresholds: 75.0 MIN%, 40.0 AST%, < 5.0 TO%
In the early days of Virginia’s post-Kihei Clark existence, Tony Bennett’s team has remained a disciplined and well-oiled machine. Beekman is a big reason for that. In wins over Florida and Tarleton State, the 6-3 guard racked up a total of 12 assists against just one turnover. He’ll need to keep up this level of play for a Virginia team with a lot of new and/or young pieces learning the ropes.
Surgeon: Cade Tyson, Belmont
Thresholds: 35.0 3P%, 50.0 far 2P%, 65.0 close 2P%, 80.0 FT% (min. 10 2PA, 10 3PA, 5 FTA)
When playing the second-fastest pace in America, it’s important to have a player who can hit a shot from anywhere on the court. Belmont has exactly that in Tyson. The sophomore started the year off with 29 points in an 89-87 win over Georgia State, knocking down five 3-pointers and shooting 9-of-12 on the day. He was off the mark on Saturday against Furman, though, going 4-of-13 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep, but make no mistake: Tyson is a worthy Surgeon. Last year, he shot 41.7 percent on 3-pointers (113 3PA), 53.4 percent on 2s (174 2PA), and 85.5 percent from the stripe (83 FTA).
Highlight Reel: Keshad Johnson, Arizona
Thresholds: 5 dunks, 5 3PA, 2.5 BLK%, 2.5 STL%
Johnson made a name for himself as a high flyer with serious defensive chops during his time at San Diego State. Now, he brings those talents to the Pac-12 as a vital piece of an Arizona team that put itself squarely in the national title conversation with a statement win over Duke. Johnson opened the year with 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals in a laugher against Morgan State. Johnson had another 14 points against Duke, including two dunks, a 3-pointer, and a clutch and-one that put Arizona up with under a minute to play:
Junkyard Dog: Jonathon Mogbo, San Francisco
Thresholds: 50.0 MIN%, 25.0 ORB%, 25.0 DRB%
After posting some of the best rebounding rates in the Missouri Valley last season, Mogbo looks poised to bring those glass-cleaning skills to the WCC. In the Don’s opener against Saint Francis, the 6-9 big man grabbed an even quarter of USF’s misses when he was on the court, as well as a third of the rebounds from the Red Flash’s misfires. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but it’s an encouraging start for Mogbo in his new digs.
Cutpurse: Angelo Brizzi, Davidson
Thresholds: 60.0 MIN%, 10.0 STL%, < 4.0 FC/40
Speaking of transfers, Brizzi is wasting no time spreading his wings at Davidson after transferring from Villanova last January and sitting out the remainder of the season. The Wildcats opened with a walkover win against a non-D1 opponent, but Brizzi really made his mark on Saturday against Maryland. The sophomore guard registered six steals in 27 minutes as Davidson upset the Terps, and he only fouled twice in the process. In nine games last year, Brizzi posted a steal rate of 6.3 percent, and he’s picking up where he left off as a pickpocket extraordinaire.
Artilleryman: Brendan Hausen, Villanova
Thresholds: 50.0 3P%, 15.0 3PA/100, 100.0 3P rate (min. 10 3PA)
Continuing with our convenient segues, we move to another member of the 2022-23 Villanova Wildcats. Hausen came back for Kyle Neptune, and the coach ought to be thankful. The sophomore established a clear role for himself last year as a reliable 3-point threat, but that’s been taken to the extreme through two games. Hausen exclusively shot 3-pointers against American and Le Moyne, knocking down eight in 13 attempts. That red-hot accuracy will likely taper off a bit, but Hausen is fast becoming one of the nation’s most fearsome shooters.
Infantryman: Greg Tribble, Akron
Thresholds: 100.0 FT%, 100.0 FT rate (min. 10 FTA)
Indeed, this fifth-year Zip has always made a mark at the free-throw line. Two years ago, Tribble posted a top-30 free-throw rate nationally, and his free-throw percentage has increased each season. Through his first two games in 2023-24, Tribble is showing no signs of stopping. So far, he has attempted 10 shots from the field and 10 from the stripe, and he has converted all of his freebies. Those contributions have helped Akron to a 2-0 start with solid wins over Southern Miss and South Dakota State.
Unicorn: PJ Hall, Clemson
Thresholds: 40.0 3P%, 10.0 3PA/100 (min. 10 3PA), 5.0 BLK%, 20.0 AST%, < 10.0 TO%
In the Tigers’ early wins over Winthrop and UAB, Hall is already showing off why he was an All-ACC performer last year. The 6-10 senior topped the 20-point mark with a pair of assists in both games, knocking down four of his 10 total 3-point attempts. On the defensive end, he recorded four blocks and three steals in the victories. Hall pulled his name out of the NBA Draft this past spring, and performances like these should help increase his stock.
Brick Wall: Vladislav Goldin, Florida Atlantic
Thresholds: 50.0 MIN%, 25.0 BLK%
Remember the Owls? Well, most of FAU’s Final Four team is back, including Goldin. The Russian big man was up to old tricks in the opener. Defensively, he swatted five shots in a 75-62 win over Loyola Chicago and had four steals. He also poured in 19 points, 10 rebounds and two assists — all in just 22 minutes. That versatile performance is why Goldin is, as of this writing, ranked No. 1 in the KenPom.com Player of the Year standings.
Glue Guy: Kylan Boswell, Arizona
Thresholds: 60.0 MIN%, < 15.0 USG%, 100 ORtg, 5.0 ORB%, 15.0 DRB%, 15.0 AST%, 1.0 BLK%, 1.0 STL%
Keshad Johnson wasn’t the only Wildcat to have a big first week. A popular breakout candidate, Boswell got off to a good start in wins over Duke and Morgan State. Despite using under 15 percent of the team’s possessions, the sophomore has ended up as KenPom MVP in both games. In the opener, he had 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Against Duke, he had 12 points on just seven shots, adding eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. That breakout seems to be in full effect.
Secret Weapon: Delang Muon, Southern
Thresholds: < 40.0 MIN% (min. 2 games, 20 minutes), 20.0 USG%, 150 ORtg, 100.0 eFG%
Muon hardly played in the Jaguars’ opener against TCU, but the Aussie freshman had a nice enough debut. In just nine minutes, the 6-8 forward put up six points on 3-of-3 shooting, grabbing two offensive boards in the process. But his big arrival came in Southern’s upset of UNLV. Muon had 16 points in 18 minutes against the Rebels, again making all of his shots. This time, he went 6-of-6 inside the arc and also knocked down his first collegiate 3-pointer. While Muon didn’t start either game, his role should continue to increase if he performs like this.