Before we break down six underrated college basketball players, a quick note: the talent level on this list varies. Some guys are supporting players who ace their roles. Others are more well-known, but still don’t get enough credit.
Let’s do this.
Eric Paschall, Villanova
Paschall has missed Villanova’s last two games with a concussion, and his absence has been noticeable. More noticeable than you’d expect, in fact — before Phil Booth’s injury, Paschall was probably Villanova’s least-heralded starter.His numbers don’t jump out at you. Paschall is averaging 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds. But watch him play, and Paschall’s value is obvious — he does everything at a B-level or higher. Paschall, listed at 6-9, 255, can bang with centers in the post and switch out onto guards and wings thanks to his nimble feet. He’s skilled enough to abuse a mismatch on the offensive end, and has sneaky playmaking skills (2.1 assists per game). And while he’s only shooting 32 percent from 3, he’s at least enough of a perimeter threat that opponents guard him out there. Paschall isn’t as good of a shooter as Omari Spellman, but he doesn’t cramp Villanova’s spacing.
When Booth is healthy, Paschall is Villanova’s fifth starter — he’s probably the best fifth starter in the nation, considering all of the boxes he checks. We don’t talk about him as much as Jalen Brunson or Mikal Bridges, and rightfully so.
But Paschall is so solid. The Wildcats may have lost to St. John’s, but that game may have gone differently had Paschall been on the floor. Every team needs a player like him.
Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Hachimura is still learning the game — he’s raw, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a per-40 monster. Hachimura’s per-40 minute numbers: 23.2 points and 8.8 rebounds on 61 percent shooting.
Mark Few has utilized Hachimura brilliantly. He’s a 6-8, bouncy combo forward with plenty of upper-body strength. In two matchups against Gonzaga this season, St. Mary’s — small on the perimeter — has gotten torched by Hachimura, who has a budding post arsenal to go with his freakish explosion toward the rim. He’s averaging 22 points per game against the Gaels this season; he averages about half of that on the year.
Hachimura’s jumper is still a work in progress. He can step out, but he’s become more of an attacker this season — a positive sign. Gonzaga has big men who can shoot in Killian Tillie and Johnathan Williams, so his inconsistent stroke isn’t a crutch. Hachimura almost always has a size advantage over the wings who guard him, so Few can play four-out, one-in around his sophomore. That’s when Hachimura goes to work.
Not many teams have such a high-caliber weapon off of the bench. If Gonzaga returns to its second straight Final Four, Hachimura will be an X-factor.
Sagaba Konate, West Virginia
West Virginia’s guards are pests, but there’s a reason they can play as aggressively as they do: Konate.
Konate is averaging 10.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Outside of Trae Young, he’s the most entertaining player to watch in the Big 12. Konate doesn’t just block shots; he swats them volleyball style, and celebrates them as if he just spiked the match point home.
There are a lot of long, skinny rim-protectors in college basketball. Konate has absurd vertical explosiveness, but he’s more physically stout than he is athletic. That’s saying something. You certainly can’t bully Konate in the post; have the gall to try and do so and he’ll flip the script on you. The Mountaineers’ defensive rating is 95. With Konate on the floor, that figure dips to 89.4. He’s the only guy on the team with a sub-90 number.
Konate’s defensive chops are obvious, but he’s underrated because he’s also an effective offensive player. Of course, he catches lobs and dunks on people. But Konate is also an offensive rebounding monster — West Virginia ranks fourth in that department, and he’s their most useful weapon. Konate collects 10 percent of the Mountaineers’ misses when he’s on the floor, and he’s developing a mid-range game to pair with his brute force.
Watch this guy if you haven’t already.
Kelan Martin, Butler
An anonymous player exercise: check out Martin’s numbers next to Mystery Player X:
Now, a look at their conference numbers:
That’s Martin vs. Xavier star Trevon Bluiett. Sure, Bluiett is on the better team. But if Bluiett is a top-15 player in college basketball, what does that make Martin?
He’s not thought of in that light, which is understandable. Martin was good in his first three years at Butler, but inconsistent; Chris Holtmann would bench him from time to time as recently as last year due to poor shot selection and uninspired defense.
But Martin has made a sizable leap as a senior. He’s been particularly lethal lately — Martin is averaging 30 points over his last three games and has made 16 3s in that stretch. Two of the opponents were Xavier and Villanova, 1-seeds if Selection Sunday was today. Earlier in his career, Martin was bothered by length and athleticism. These days, he’s a more willing driver and post player — that’s opened up his pull-up 3 game, which has always been a strength. Martin is a better 3-point shooter than the percentage indicates — the degree of difficulty on his attempts is insanely high.
Part of the reason for Martin’s improvement? He’s playing power forward instead of small forward, so he has more room to operate. He’s not an impact defender, but you don’t notice him on that end — like an offensive tackle in football who’s not pancaking guys but also isn’t getting the quarterback hit. Martin carries the Bulldogs’ offense while consistently jostling with bigger guys in the post.
Martin won’t win it, but he deserves Big East Player of the Year consideration.
Andrew Dakich, Ohio State
Simply put, Ohio State is a better team with Dakich on the floor. He barely shoots — the former Michigan Wolverine is averaging 3.3 points in 18 minutes per night. Dakich may feel out of place on this list following Konate and Martin, but so what? He’s a valuable contributor on the No. 8 team in the country.Dakich is a solid playmaker who knows his limits. The Buckeyes score 118 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, which is third on the team after Keita Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson. He’s turned into a plus perimeter defender as we saw against Purdue; Dakich was crucial in the game’s closing minutes and guarded Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson without flinching.
He can do just enough on offense where you can’t completely ignore him. Limited number of attempts, sure – but he’s shooting 48 percent from 3. Dakich doesn’t kill Ohio State’s spacing and almost always makes the right pass. Combine that with tough defense, and you have a valuable guard.
Dakich was headed for Quinnipiac before Ohio State hired Holtmann. The Buckeyes are a remarkable story, and Dakich is emblematic of their success.
Devon Hall, Virginia
When you think about Virginia, Tony Bennett, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Isaiah Wilkins probably come to mind before Hall, but he’s one of the most valuable players on the team. Hall is an ace defender — of course — but he’s also the most efficient member of Virginia’s backcourt trio.
Hall is the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer (12.5 points per game) and is shooting 47 percent form the field and 46 percent from 3. Guy may be Virginia’s best offensive player, but Hall is its most reliable. Jerome is the primary point guard, but Hall nearly leads the team in assists. He doesn’t need much volume in order to do his damage and can run the offense in a pinch.Hall might get taken for granted because he’s been at Virginia for so long, yet has never been a star player. Whatever. He’s a key cog for the No. 1 team in the nation and perfectly fits what the Hoos are trying to do. The Cavaliers don’t rely too much on any player — that’s part of the beauty of Virginia basketball. That said, UVA would miss Hall dearly if he ever missed time.
If Virginia makes its first Final Four under Bennett, don’t overlook Hall’s contributions.