The DPI Gradebook: Kofi Cockburn, Armando Bacot rising in college basketball player rankings

Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and North Carolina’s Armando Bacot are two big men making big moves in our college basketball player rankings at The DPI Gradebook.

Big men, your time is nigh! There are currently 13 players in our national Top 500 averaging a double-double, including Cockburn, Bacot and Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe, who are all in the top five.

The teams lucky enough to have one of these double-double machines are a combined 126-52 on the season, or a winning percentage of .708, and all 13 are .500 or better. Only James Butler and Drexel sit on that .500 fence; the rest of the group has at least four more wins than losses. Most have 10-plus wins already.

Sure, massive scoring threats like Johnny Davis and Keegan Murray are sitting at the very top of the Gold Star Guide; however, this crop of big men are making an impressive mark thus far.

With that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s regional Gold Star update.

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.

We’ll start in the Southeast Region this week.

Southeast Spotlight Player: Armando Bacot

The ACC is definitely down this year, but one of its premier programs might be on the upswing thanks to Bacot. The Tar Heels are now 3-1 in league play, and Bacot’s 29-point, 22-rebound performance against Virginia was the team’s latest win. Of the 13 bigs in our Top 500 averaging double-doubles, the UNC star ranks fifth with 1.5 blocks per game (5.1 block percentage). There are questions about the Heels’ defense, to be sure, but Bacot is doing what he can to keep the team from wearing Carolina Blue in the NCAA Tournament. He will be in the ACC POY conversation.

Southeast Spotlight Game: Matthew Murrell vs. Miss State

There’s something about rivalry games that can bring out the best in someone. That certainly applies to Murrell, who went for a career-high 31 points in Ole Miss’ 82-72 win over Mississippi State. It’s not just rivalries where Murrell has shined, though. His next two highest-scoring games this year came against Memphis (19 points) and Tennessee (17). With plenty of top-tier opposition coming down the pipeline in SEC play, look out for the Rebels’ sophomore to continue making strides. After shooting just 31 percent from deep as a freshman, Murrell is up to 42 percent this year.

Northeast Spotlight Player: Cam Spencer

Spencer hardly showed up in the stat sheet last year, missing the Greyhounds’ first 12 games and only appearing in five contests thereafter. He also missed nine games as a freshman. He’s been on the court for every game this year, though, and the results have been very encouraging thus far. Spencer’s assist rate is well over 20 and his turnover rate sits at just 7.2 percent, making him one of the most careful and reliable point guards in the country. He scores well from inside the arc (57.1 percent on 2-pointers), but he has struggled a bit from deep (32.5 percent on 3-pointers).

Northeast Spotlight Game: Adama Sanogo vs. St. John’s

Welcome back, Adama! After missing four games and only playing 12 minutes in his return against Marquette, Sanogo has put up an incredible 22 points, 17 rebounds and 4.5 blocks over the last two games — a pair of Big East contests that went to overtime. The UConn big put in a full 40 minutes in the Huskies’ win over St. John’s, and if he continues this run of form, the team should be right in the running for a Big East crown. Sanogo has been at his best in the biggest games, scoring 30 points against an Auburn in the Tigers’ only loss at this juncture of the season.

Midwest Spotlight Player: Kofi Cockburn

Speaking of big men with big games, there’s no better post player in the country than Kofi Cockburn. Since his first game of the year against Cincinnati, the Illini are 10-1 with their only loss coming against Arizona. Cockburn is one of the best rebounders in the country, draws fouls like it’s his job and he is incredibly efficient. Only three players in the country have an offensive rating over 120 and a usage rate over 30: Cockuburn and Purdue’s duo of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. There’s a very good chance that all three are named All-Americans later this year.

Midwest Spotlight Game: Trayce Jackson-Davis vs. Marshall

This one happened a while ago, but TJD’s massive game against Marshall still sticks out six weeks later. Jackson-Davis knocked down 18 field goals in that game, which stands as the highest mark of any player in the country this season. A strange wrinkle comes with this kind of green light, though. Through Jan. 4 of last year, Indiana was 7-1 in games where TJD took at least 15 shots. Since then, though, the Hoosiers are just 2-7 when the offense flows so heavily through their post. While his numbers are eye-popping, they don’t appear to be a foolproof formula for victory.

West Spotlight Player: Orlando Robinson

Let’s hear it for the O-Dog! Thanks to its versatile big man, Fresno State is in the KenPom top 60 for the first time since the 2018-19 season when the Bulldogs won 23 games. If they finish the year this high, it would be the team’s best finish since the 2001 team coached by Jerry Tarkanian. While guys like David Roddy and Justin Bean may be more well known, Robinson has been a clear All-MWC first-teamer through the first two months of the season. Most recently, he went off for a season-high 31 points and added 12 rebounds in 20-point win over San Jose State.

West Spotlight Game: Justin Bean vs. Pennsylvania

For better or worse, Justin Bean’s crazy three-game stretch continues to rest at the top of the pile in the West. In the second of those games, Bean set a career-high in made field goals (11) and tied his career-best in rebounds (16). He also played all 50 minutes in the double-overtime win over the Quakers, one of two times this year that Bean has eclipsed the 40-minute mark in a single game. He has cooled off a bit as conference play gets underway, but Justin Bean has been the main reason that the Aggies can still dream about an at-large bid in Ryan Odom’s first season.

Header image courtesy of Illinois Athletics.



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