Who is your favorite player in college basketball?
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 12: Justin Jackson #5 of the Cincinnati Bearcats defends against Desmond Lee #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the game at Fifth Third Arena on November 12, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati won 68-57. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
My two favorite college basketball players this year:
Justin Jackson, Cincinnati Bearcats
Justin Jackson is one of the most improved players in the country.
He's always been about energy and emotion. Jackson runs, jumps, swats, smiles and then drops in his trademark mean face. But this years he's also been about scoring.
He averaged 3.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists as a junior.
This season those numbers are up to 11.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.
His nearly 13 points a game in conference play have been a huge addition to team that has had offensive challenges.
How much has he improved? Jackson has 105 more points, 22 more blocks and 4 more steals than all of last season, in 60 less minutes. After shooting just 42% from the field a year ago, Jackson is at 54% this year.
He scored 204 points in 1,016 minutes during his freshman and sophomore years combined. This year he has 220 points in 504 minutes.
He is averaging career highs in minutes, points, rebounds and steals.
His six double-doubles are 2nd most in the American.
He ranks 7th in the NCAA with 57 blocks.
He's now 4th in career blocks at UC with 182, trailing only Kenyon Martin (292), Erick Hicks (256), and Jason Maxiell (252).
Semaj Christon, Xavier Musketeers
Semaj Christon was the A-10 Rookie Of The Year a year ago.
This year he's entered the conversation for Big East Player Of The Year.
The sophomore is averaging 16.9 points while shooting .507 from the field.
He's ramped up his play in Big East action, averaging 21.7 and shooting .640 from the field.
He scored 27 vs DePaul Monday and is scoring 24.0 his last five games.
His aggressiveness getting to the basket is fun to watch. He's getting better at finding a gear other than head down/out of control. He's getting to the free-throw line nearly seven times a game (87 of 135 .644), and getting better at shooting them. After starting the season 23 of 49 (.469) he's hit 64 of 86 (.744).
He's also a different shooter from long distance compared to a year ago. Last year, Christon hit 7 of 28 (.250) three pointers in 30 games, this year he's hit 12 of 26 (.462) in 19 games.
He's dished 76 assists with only 41 turnovers and added 28 steals.
OMAHA, NE - JANUARY12: Semaj Christon #0 of the Xavier Musketeers shoots over Jahenns Manigat #12 and Ethan Wragge #34 of the Creighton Bluejays during their game at the CenturyLink Center on January 12, 2014 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)