Jason King's Wooden Watch
November, 21, 2012
By Jason King | ESPN.com
The assumption entering the 2012-13 season was that the race for the Wooden Award would be a two-man affair between Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
Not so fast.
McDermott (16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Zeller (15.2 and 7.6) are performing admirably for their undefeated teams. But it’s not as if they’re running away from the field. As each day passes, it’s becoming more and more obvious that a handful other standouts could work their way into the Wooden Award conversation. Here are some players who may end up in the mix.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Forget Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel. Smart is the best freshman basketball player in the country. Or at least he has been so far. The Cowboys guard knows how to fill up a stat sheet. He’s averaging 14.8 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals for a squad that walloped then-No. 6 North Carolina State last week in Puerto Rico.
Otto Porter, Georgetown: The Hoyas forward returned from a concussion this week in grand fashion. He had 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in Monday’s victory over UCLA in New York. One night later, he nearly led his team to an upset of No. 1 Indiana. Porter had 15 points, four assists and two blocks in the overtime loss. Porter -- who made three 3-pointers against the Hoosiers -- is one of the most versatile, well-rounded players in college basketball.
Jeff Withey, Kansas: Things could change as other players emerge, but right now Withey is the game’s top defensive player. No team has a weapon quite like the Jayhawks’ 7-foot-1 center. Withey blocked seven shots against Saint Louis Tuesday and is averaging five swats on the season along with 13.8 points. Withey has developed an offensive game to complement his defensive prowess, making him that much more valuable to KU.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas can score points in a hurry. He’s averaging 25 points a game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 90 percent from the foul stripe. Thomas, who also contributes seven rebounds per contest, hasn’t really been tested in the Buckeyes’ first three games. He and his teammates are certainly looking forward to a Nov. 28 showdown against Duke in Durham.
Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, Duke: Speaking of the Blue Devils, Plumlee (21.7 points) and Curry (16) are combining to average 37.7 points for the nation’s fifth-ranked squad. Both players will be on display beginning Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis, which also features ranked teams such as Louisville, Memphis and Missouri. Duke’s first-round game is against Minnesota.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: The Bearcats are the best-kept secret in college basketball right now -- mainly because they haven’t played anybody. Mick Cronin’s squad won its first four games by an average of 34.5 points. That’s limited the hype surrounding Kilpatrick, who is shooting 45 percent from 3-point range while averaging a team-high 19.5 points. The Bearcats will play a good Iowa State team Friday in Las Vegas.
Tony Snell, New Mexico: The Lobos, whose first four victories have come by an average of 4.3 points, have benefited from the clutch play of Snell. He scored 25 points in a win over Davidson and had 27 against George Mason. His field goal percentage (37.7) could certainly improve, but there’s no question that Snell is New Mexico’s most important player.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor: The more I watch him, the more I’m beginning to think that Jackson is the nation’s best point guard. He’s averaging 20.2 points, seven assists and 2.4 steals. Jackson has also improved his shot selection, as he’s shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. There are a lot of good point guards in college basketball this season (Peyton Siva, Phil Pressey, Trey Burke, Matthew Dellavedova, etc.) but none have been better than Jackson thus far.