Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Liberty’s Darius McGhee are among the biggest recent risers in our college basketball player rankings at The DPI Gradebook.
There’s still a month left in the regular season, and while some teams are cruising right through their conference schedules, others are still trying to right the ship.
Liberty is a good example of the former. The Flames have mostly run roughshod over their ASUN competition, riding a small superstar to small-conference domination. Darius McGhee only stands 5-9, but he leads a pack of shooters that are looking like the easy favorites to win their league.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have 7-1 Hunter Dickinson trying to drag his Michigan squad through the difficult Big Ten after a slow start. The Wolverines took a major step in the right direction thanks to Thursday’s win over Purdue, and Dickinson’s recent run of play has been the difference.
As conference races play out across the country in all their varied wonder, let’s catch up with our regional Gold Star races.
For the uninitiated, the Heat Check CBB regions are:
Heat Check CBB Northeast
- 82 total schools
- States represented: N.Y., Pa., Md., Mass., N.J., Conn., D.C., R.I., Del., N.H., Maine, Vt.
- Conferences represented: AEC, AAC, A10, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, CAA, Horizon, Ivy, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, NEC, Patriot
Heat Check CBB Southeast
- 118 total schools
- States represented: N.C., Va., Fla., La., S.C., Tenn., Ala., Ky., Ga., Miss., Ark., W.Va.
- Conferences represented: AAC, A10, ACC, ASUN, Big South, CAA, CUSA, Horizon, MEAC, OVC, SEC, SoCon, Southland, Sun Belt, SWAC
Heat Check CBB Midwest
- 72 total schools
- States represented: Ill., Ohio, Ind., Mich., Mo., Iowa, Wis., Okla., Kan., Neb., Minn., N.D., S.D.
- Conferences represented: AAC, A10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Horizon, MAC, MVC, OVC, Summit, WAC
Heat Check CBB West
- 86 total schools
- States represented: Calif., Texas, Utah, Colo., Wash., Ariz., Ore., Idaho, Mont., N.M., Nev., Hawaii, Wyo.
- Conferences represented: AAC, B12, BSKY, BW, CUSA, MWC, P12, SEC, SL, SUM, SB, SWAC, WAC, WCC
With Michigan stealing the spotlight Thursday night, it only seems right to shine our own first spotlight on the Midwest Region.
Midwest Spotlight Player: Hunter Dickinson
After scoring 19 or more points in eight of his past nine appearances, Hunter Dickinson has skyrocketed into the Midwest Top 10 for the first time this year. Things slowed down for Dickinson after a monstrous 27-point performance in the season opener against Buffalo, but they’re picking up steam in league play. It’s not just the offense that is coming around, either. The Wolverine big man has recorded multiple blocks in each of the past four games, and he added three steals in Michigan’s upset win over Purdue. Now at 13-9 overall with a 7-5 mark in Big Ten play and very favorable predictive metrics, the maize-and-blue are trending in a very healthy direction. The uptick in Dickinson’s game is a big factor here.
Ryan Rollins and the Rockets — an incredible band name, if you’re into that sort of thing — have completely taken the MAC by storm. Coming into the season, fools such as myself thought that the league would be a two-team race featuring Buffalo and Ohio. Go ahead and replace the Bulls with Toledo, though. Those two may be tied atop the standings, but Rollins helped the Rockets pull off the season sweep on Tuesday. In two wins over Ohio, Rollins averaged 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 75 percent on his 2-pointers. As a result, he’s a frontrunner for MAC POY.
Southeast Spotlight Player: Darius McGhee
Darius McGhee is one of the most electrifying guards in the country, though he has fallen under the radar a bit since the start of ASUN play. While he is not a 40-percent shooter like some of his teammates, McGhee runs one of the nation’s most successful volume operations. Consider this: the Liberty flamethrower is one of just eight players in the past 10 seasons to record multiple games with 40-plus points on at least 25 field goal attempts and eight free throw attempts — a list that includes guys like Markus Howard, Tyler Haws and Mike Daum. This is some Keyshawn Johnson “give me the damn ball” territory. If Ritchie McKay knows what’s good for him, he’ll keep doing just that.
Southeast Spotlight Game: Jordan Walker vs. MTSU
Jordan Walker has turned out to be the perfect transfer addition for Andy Kennedy’s UAB club. The former Tulane and Seton Hall guard creates offense out of thin air — something the Blazers struggled with mightily last season. That offensive wizardry took center stage this past Saturday, as UAB came out hungry following a loss to Marshall. Walker went off for 42 points and four assists, and while he did turn the ball over five times, he also recorded four steals to even that out a bit. Walker tied a career high against MTSU, hitting the same mark he reached on Dec. 18 in a home loss to West Virginia.
West Spotlight Player: Teddy Allen
If we’re going to highlight Darius McGhee and his high-volume approach to offense, it only stands to reason that Teddy Allen should get some shine, too. Allen has been on a massive tear lately, scoring 20 or more points in each of the past five games — all wins for the Aggies. In the last four, he has also taken at least 10 free throws. Chris Jans took a chance on a player who has had trouble finding his home in college hoops, but it looks like this pairing is working out perfectly for both sides. With Teddy Allen in full microwave mode right now, the Aggies have jumped back into their normal spot atop the WAC — a fate that didn’t seem a certainty after a down year in 2021 and the addition of the former Southland teams.
West Spotlight Game: Chet Holmgren vs. BYU
Chet Holmgren just continues to impress out west. Whether or not you think the WCC is the “real deal” — it is — the numbers that Holmgren is producing should stop you in your tracks. In a 90-57 (!) win over BYU, the star freshman put up 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and a steal. That’s just absurd. Nobody — and I mean nobody — has put together a game like that in the past 10 seasons of D-1 hoops. To do it on the road against the Zags’ chief conference rival is even more absurd. I am not the person to determine whether Holmgren should go No. 1 in the NBA Draft, but I’ll say this: the guy is just special.
Northeast Spotlight Player: Charles Pride
Coming into the season, I had high hopes for Bryant based on its strong season in 2020-21 and its returning players like Charles Pride and Peter Kiss. The Bulldogs have now won nine straight, and Pride has been a major piece of that run — especially lately. In the past three games, the Syracuse native has averaged a ridiculous 36.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. He joins Isiaih Mosley of Missouri State as the only other player in the country to score 32-plus points three games in a row. Now that Pride has hit another gear offensively — and with NEC leader Wagner losing a key player to injury — the window is still wide open for Bryant to make its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Northeast Spotlight Game: Marcus Hammond vs. Iona
It was always going to take a herculean effort for someone in the MAAC to knock off Iona. Last weekend, Marcus Hammond took on the role of Hercules, scoring 26 points and recording six assists in Niagara’s shock upset of the Gaels. While the Purple Eagles’ win may have been surprising, Hammond’s offensive explosions have become commonplace. He also steps his game up at just the right time. Niagara also pulled off a surprise victory over Monmouth during its current three-game win streak, and Hammond went for 27 in that one. He also had 22 against Xavier and 25 against Ohio State in the team’s first two contests of the season. Look for Marcus Hammond’s name on the All-MAAC First Team next month.
Header image courtesy of Liberty Athletics.