Mason Plumlee is the best player on a Duke squad that owns victories over Ohio State, Louisville, Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU and Temple. You’d think ranking him No. 1 on this week’s Wooden Award ballot would seem like a no-brainer.
As the season wears on, Creighton forward Doug McDermott is making a strong push to overtake Plumlee for the No. 1 slot. I’m not ready to catapult McDermott past the Blue Devils' forward just yet. Plumlee, after all, has excelled against far superior competition and might even be a better NBA prospect.
Still, there may not be a better all-around player in the country than McDermott -- and I’m darn near certain no one means as much to his team as the Creighton junior, who earned first-team All-America honors last season. It should be a fun race to follow.
Here’s this week’s ballot:
Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The Blue Devils played only once last week, but the 6-foot-10 Plumlee made the most of it by scoring 16 points and snaring 14 boards in a 23-point win over Temple. Plumlee has scored at least 16 points in every game this season.
Doug McDermott, Creighton -- The son of Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott scored 30 points in Sunday’s victory over Akron and has averaged 26 points in his past five games. McDermott is also grabbing 6.7 rebounds per contest. He averaged 8.2 rebounds last season.
Russ Smith, Louisville -- The junior guard makes his debut on this list following a 31-point performance against UMKC. Smith leads the No. 6 Cardinals in scoring at 20.3 points per game. His 3.3 steals rank fifth in the country.
Brandon Paul, Illinois -- The Illini pulled off one of the more impressive feats of the season by whipping Gonzaga at The Kennel on Saturday. Paul’s 35 points keyed the victory. He’s averaging a team-high 19 points and 3.5 assists under new coach John Groce.
Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The sophomore averages 15.4 points for a squad that leads the country in scoring. Zeller is also grabbing 8.9 boards per game. He had 19 points and 19 rebounds against Central Connecticut State on Saturday.
On the cusp:
Trey Burke, Michigan -- The Wolverines are still undefeated thanks to Burke, who is shooting 61.1 percent (22-of-36) in his past three games.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State -- The Cousy Award finalist had 21 points in Saturday’s victory over Evansville. The most impressive thing about the senior is that he’s making just a hair under 50 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse -- The sophomore point guard leads the nation in assists (10.4) and ranks second in steals (3.8).
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State -- Not many players in America are as well-rounded as the 6-5 Franklin, who averaging 19 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech -- Even though he missed a potential game-winning jumper in a loss at West Virginia, Green deserves to be on this list. He ranks second in America in scoring with 24.4 points per contest.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati -- The junior guard is averaging 20 points for the nation’s fourth-ranked offense. He shoots 50.4 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point range.
Alex Len, Maryland -- One of college basketball’s top pro prospects in the paint had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks against Monmouth on Wednesday.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh -- The nation’s scoring leader at 24.9 points, McCollum had a huge game against St. Francis on Saturday, tallying 29 points and hitting all 11 of his foul shots. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State -- One of the top pure scorers in the country averages 20.6 points per contest while shooting 48.6 percent from the field.
Jeff Withey, Kansas -- The nation’s top shot-blocker and overall defensive presence was rather quiet with 8 points, 7 rebounds -- and, oh yeah, 5 blocks -- in Saturday’s blowout of Colorado.