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10 best players to watch this college basketball season

For the second consecutive year, there could be an international player taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft with French prospects Alex Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher projected at the top. The NBA game is becoming more global, but there are still a ton of talented players in college basketball who are making this season very entertaining, regardless of their individual draft stock.

Seniors Zach Edey (Purdue) and R.J. Davis (North Carolina) are making strong cases for Player of the Year, leading their respective conferences in scoring.

There are always a couple freshmen that burst onto the scene and look like veteran upperclassmen. This year they happen to be on the same team. Kentucky had the No. 1 recruiting class coming in this year, led by five-star prospects Justin Edwards and D.J. Wagner, but it's Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard who have been the best freshmen for the Wildcats this season.

UConn, currently the No. 1 team in the country, is looking to make another run in the NCAA tournament and possibly repeat with another national title. This year UConn is led by senior transfer Cam Spencer, who has become the glue guy alongside Tristen Newton, Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle.

Who else will be helping their teams come March and which players are NBA scouts monitoring to close out the season? Yahoo Sports takes a look at 10 players to watch the rest of the college hoops season.

Zach Edey, Purdue

No other player has been more dominant in college basketball this season than Edey.

The 7-foot-4 senior elected to return for his senior season after testing the NBA waters last spring and getting feedback from teams. He entered the season in much better shape, beating opponents up and down the court in transition and establishing position, and has improved his footwork.

Edey is averaging 23.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and has put up 30 or more points six times this season. Last weekend, Edey hit his first career 3-pointer (banking it in) against Indiana. Purdue is the No. 2 team in the country and a serious title contender because of how productive Edey is in the lane, even when he's double-teamed (and sometimes triple-teamed) the majority of the game.

R.J. Davis, North Carolina

Davis has emerged as one of the best lead guards in college basketball this season, thanks to his quick decision-making (particularly in the pick-and-roll option with Armando Bacot) and his ability to score at all three levels. His body control around the rim has improved, he's able to finish consistently with both his right and left hand and his 3-point shooting percentage has improved from last season (40.2% from behind the arc).

North Carolina just lost to unranked Syracuse on the road, but its defense has been consistently tough all season and it's typically Davis leading the break with his speed. Davis had one of his most complete games in a win over Miami on Feb. 10, finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Dalton Knecht, Tennessee

Knecht was one of the hottest names in the transfer portal after spending his first year at a JUCO and two seasons at Northern Colorado before transferring to Tennessee for his senior season. He chose the Vols over Kansas and North Carolina and has been one of the main reasons Tennessee has been a top-10 team almost the entire season.

Knecht is a tough guard who is one of the best scorers in the country. He's the No. 1 option for the Vols and reads the defense well, not forcing anything and letting the game come to him. If a defender goes under on the screen and there isn't a hedge, he's letting it fly. He's been very creative in the lane, distributing the ball and getting to his spots, and is averaging 20.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Tennessee logoTennessee logo
Dalton Knecht
G - TENN - #3
2023 - 2024 season
21.4
Pts
4.8
Reb
1.8
Ast
0.7
Stl
30
Min

Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, Kentucky

No freshman duo has been more fun to watch this season than Dillingham and Sheppard.

Coming into the season, NBA scouts questioned Dillingham's ability to create space off the dribble with his size, and he's shown no problems there. He's a terrific passer and loves to get downhill. His 3-point shot has been the biggest surprise this season with how consistently he's shooting in both catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble. Dillingham doesn't shy away from big moments and wants the ball in his hands when the shot clock is winding down or the game is on the line.

Sheppard is a Kentucky legacy kid with both of his parents playing basketball for the Wildcats in the '90s. The 6-foot-3 freshman can slide into any position on the perimeter and impact the game in a positive way. He can knock down 3s from long range, sneak behind the defense on the weak side for easy buckets and is an elite defender, forcing 2.6 steals per game. His complete all-around game has gotten the attention of NBA scouts, and both Sheppard and Dillingham are projected lottery picks in the upcoming draft.

Devin Carter, Providence

Providence is fifth in the Big East with a 16-9 record and might be a bubble team this year, but if any player can help the Friars string together some more wins to close out the season, it's Carter. The 6-3 junior guard is a scoring machine and one of the best rebounding guards in the country. He's dynamic in transition and one of the best guards at getting a shot off with defensive pressure.

This is Carter's second season at Providence after spending his freshman year at South Carolina and he has shown improvement in every aspect of his game from last year to now. Carter flirted with a triple-double in an overtime win over Creighton on Feb. 7, finishing with 28 points (5-of-8 from 3-point range), 11 rebounds and six assists.

Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Filipowski elected to return for his sophomore season to help his draft stock and develop a little more after a disappointing freshman season, and he's been one of the most consistent bigs all season. Duke runs the majority of its offense through the 7-foot center, and it's always trying to isolate him in mismatches. He's so versatile in the pick-and-pop and loves his two dribbles to the left, spinning to the right and finishing at the rim, sometimes even splitting two defenders.

Filipowski is not afraid to shoot the 3 and has improved in that area, now shooting 34.5% from deep after only connecting on 28% of his attempts as a freshman. His lateral movement defensively still remains an area of development, but he has been a consistent force for the Blue Devils and will be the player to watch as Duke enters postseason play and tries to make a deep run in March.

Duke logoDuke logo
Kyle Filipowski
C - DUKE - #30
2023 - 2024 season
16.7
Pts
8
Reb
1.1
Stl
1.6
Blk
30
Min

Cam Spencer, UConn

Spencer has really come alive in the second half of the season and does a little bit of everything for the top-ranked Huskies. The 6-4 senior guard is so versatile and does different things each game to help UConn win. Some days it's his passing and facilitating and the way he can draw the defense in to find an open teammate. Other games it's his 3-point shooting, knocking down nine 3s in a two-game stretch earlier this month.

Spencer plays hard, wins 50-50 balls and is tough to guard off the dribble. He's a fifth-year senior after transferring from Rutgers and is averaging 15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Johni Broome, Auburn

No player has been more fun to watch in transition than Broome this season. He loves to attack the rim, is a deadly 3-point shooter and has been instrumental down the stretch for Auburn. The Tigers just beat South Carolina by 40 points Wednesday night, and Broome finished with 21 points and two blocks in 22 minutes. Broome and Jaylin Williams combined for nine 3-pointers in the win and called themselves the "Splash Bros." in the postgame news conference.

Broome is averaging 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds this season, shooting 36.4% from 3-point range. He made fast friends with Morgan Freeman after batting his hand away before realizing it was Freeman grabbing him while he was falling out of bounds.

Hunter Sallis, Wake Forest

Sallis transferred from Gonzaga for his junior year and has been one of the best two-way guards in the ACC. He's combined for 55 points in the last two games while shooting 60% from the field and 53.4% from 3-point range. Wake Forest is fourth in the ACC with a 16-8 overall record and if Sallis continues to put up numbers like he has recently, the Demon Deacons could go from bubble watch to a team that could upset some top programs come tournament time.

Draft watch

Colorado freshman Cody Williams is the younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams and is a projected top-five pick in the upcoming draft. The 6-8 wing reminds a lot of scouts of Jaden McDaniels defensively, and he has a ton of upside to grow his game.

NBA scouts have done their due diligence in scouting Bronny James at USC. His stats each game aren't anything too impressive (5.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game), but he is a great perimeter defender and has a high IQ. It's still too early to tell if he'll declare this year and try to play with his dad, LeBron, at the NBA level, but knowing the duo might be a package deal could be too tempting for a team picking in the second round.

Senior guard Tyler Kolek is another Player of the Year candidate after a strong season for No. 4 Marquette. He's first in the Big East and fifth in all of college basketball in assists, averaging 7.2 per game. The way he sees the court and facilitates for his teammates has really impressed scouts, and Kolek is a potential first round pick in the upcoming draft.

Kevin McCullar Jr. has been out the last two games with a nagging knee injury. The senior guard has been one of the most productive offensive players in the Big 12 and a four-year player who could hear his name called in the first round.

Baylor freshman Yves Missi is one of the best rim-running centers in college basketball and he's getting more comfortable in the pick-and-roll as the season continues. Baylor has a ton of talent along the perimeter (including projected lottery pick Ja'Kobe Walter), and that has opened up the spacing in the lane for Missi to be effective late in the season.

Jaylon Tyson has played consistently well all season long and is putting up big numbers at Cal after transferring from Texas Tech for his junior year. The 6-7 guard is averaging 20.3 points and 7.1 rebounds and shooting 37.2% from 3-point range on four attempts per game.