The DPI Gradebook: Johnny Davis, Julian Champagnie rising in college basketball player rankings

Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and St. John’s Julian Champagnie are rising in our college basketball player rankings at The DPI Gradebook.

For the first time in over a month, we finally have a new No. 1 in town!

Johnny Davis has taken the world by storm with his ability to take over big games, and his latest performance catapulted him into the top spot in our rankings this week. (More on his herculean effort below.) Another Big Ten star, Keegan Murray of Iowa, nearly overtook Utah State’s Justin Bean with a huge game against Maryland, but the Aggie forward holds on by a thread at No. 2 overall.

Kofi Cockburn held firm in the top 5 after his own massive performance in Illinois’ 76-53 win over Minnesota, and Julian Champagnie rocketed into No. 5 spot after dropping 34 and 16 on DePaul in a big win for St. John’s.

It has been an exciting first week of 2022, so let’s catch up on some of the other highlights from around the country.

As a reminder, we will be providing regular updates on the Gold Star race in the form of regional coverage. Below are the top 10 players from each region, as well as the five best individual performances to date from each of the country’s four quadrants.

Ten mid-majors eyeing at-large March Madness bids
—Ranking most likely first-time NCAA Tournament teams
—DPI: Game Predictions | Team Grades | Player Rankings

For the uninitiated, the four 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

For more information on the Gold Star Guide, read up on our explainer here.

Seeing as our new No. 1 comes from the Midwest Region, it only makes sense to start in the Heartland.

Midwest Spotlight Player: Christian Braun

Christian Braun has been excellent for Kansas so far this year, and he’s doing it all over the court. Braun is shooting 66 percent on his 2-pointers, an insanely high rate for a player of his stature. He is also the only Jayhawk in the main rotation with an assist rate (17.1 percent) higher than his turnover rate (14.8 percent). After the win over Oklahoma State, Braun overtook Ochai Agbai as the top Kansas player in the Guide and now sits in the top 10. He’s a fringe All-American if he keeps this up.

Midwest Spotlight Game: Johnny Davis vs. Purdue

OK, this is the big one. Johnny Davis put himself on the map with another big performance against Houston where he had 30 points. That looked like child’s play compared to what he did in an upset of Purdue on Jan. 3. Davis went for an incredible 37 points and 14 rebounds, adding two steals and two blocks on defense. In doing so, he likely became the early frontrunner for National Player of the Year. His ability to create and make shots should make him a very rich man before long.

Northeast Spotlight Player: Nelly Junior Joseph

It has honestly been a bit surprising not to see Nelly in the Northeast Region Top 10 before now, but the Iona big man has finally arrived. Over his past four games, Joseph is averaging 14.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks while shooting better than 55 percent from the field. That outburst is likely a precursor to a MAAC Player of the Year season for Joseph, as Iona looks to be the clear class of the league. With the big man playing like he is, an undefeated MAAC run is not out of the question.

Northeast Spotlight Game: Julian Champagnie vs. DePaul

The Johnnies’ win over DePaul wasn’t the team’s greatest performance overall, but Champagnie reminded the country that he is one of the most dangerous individuals in college basketball. He has had a stranglehold on the Northeast Region for pretty much the whole season, but with 34 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks, Champagnie vaulted himself into the national top 5. He is talented enough to be the Big East Player of the Year, but the bigger focus will be on dragging St. John’s into the Dance.

Southeast Spotlight Player: Malachi Smith

We’ve been on the Chattanooga train for a while at Heat Check CBB, and we see no earthly reason to jump off now. Smith is one of the best guards in the country, not just in mid-major basketball. He can score from outside and at the hoop, he gets to the foul line at a healthy clip and he is a very capable distributor of the ball. Smith is a big reason why Chattanooga started 11-3 in each of the past two seasons. Thanks to Smith, the Mocs are looking like SoCon favorites after beating Wofford and ETSU.

Southeast Spotlight Game: Alondes Williams vs. Charlotte

We need someone in the Southeast Region to do something in 2022, because these top 5 games are all a little stale. Let’s take a moment, though, to talk abut what Alondes Williams is doing with Wake Forest. In consecutive games against VMI and Charlotte last month, Williams went off for a combined 70 points. He is averaging 16.7 points per game in ACC play, including dropping 20 on Florida State in a big win for the Deacs this past week. Williams has helped make Wake a bubble team.

West Spotlight Player: Isaiah Mobley

There might not be a more underappreciated team in the country than undefeated USC, and their star is equally under-loved by the national press. Mobley lived in the shadow of older brother Evan last year, but he was at USC first and he’s making his own way this year. Averaging nearly a double-double and showing improved range from outside, Mobley looks like a surefire future pro. He is also the major reason why the Trojans are going to be a big factor at the top of the Pac-12 standings this year.

West Spotlight Game: Drew Timme vs. Texas

Remember this game? It seems like forever ago that The Stache was dominating Texas and making everyone feel really smart for making Gonzaga their No. 1 team in the preseason. With the Zags taking on some losses, though, Timme and the rest of the bunch have somewhat faded from the national conversation. That could be a good thing, though. The ubiquitous national media coverage of the Zags’ run at perfection last year may have put some undue pressure on them down the stretch.

Header image courtesy of Brian Spurlock/Maui Jim Maui Invitational.