This year's national player of the year awards race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and closely contested in recent memory. By this time last year, we'd all pretty much settled on Evan Turner as the player of the year. There wasn't much disputing the superiority of Kevin Durant, Tyler Hansbrough, and Blake Griffin in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. Not since 2006 -- when J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison waged dual opposite-coast campaigns for the nation's top individual honors -- have we had a player of the year race as likely to go down to the wire as this one.
What makes 2011's contest even more intriguing is how truly wide open it is. There are at least three candidates -- Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, J.J. Sullinger -- that are near-equals at the top of the perception heap, as well as a host of players (Nolan Smith, JaJuan Johnson, Terrence Jones, Jon Leuer, Jordan Hamilton, Derrick Williams) who could all rightly make a case for consideration.
For now, it appears Walker and the Fredette are in control. How do I know? AnnArbor.com's latest straw poll -- wherein Michigan beat reporter Mike Rothstein polls 55 journalists who also serve as voters for the various POY awards -- has Walker ahead of Fredette by 34 points.
There is good news for members of the Fredette bandwagon, however. For one, Fredette was the biggest mover in this poll, and Walker's lead shrunk from 40 points to 34. Also, Walker showed up on 51 out of 55 ballots, and Fredette showed up on 50 out of 55.
As Rothstein writes, it's a big week for the player of the year competition, especially for Fredette. You've probably been informed of this, but tonight's BYU-San Diego State game in Provo could very well be Fredette's moment in the sun. Given the singular hugeness of this contest, journalists who may have missed what Fredette has been doing these last few weeks -- which shouldn't ever happen, especially to those who have a POY vote, but I guarantee it does -- might finally be unable to resist the Fredette's high-flying charms.
As if tonight's game wasn't already big enough. No pressure, Mr. Fredette.