- Jason King
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Conference play for most schools opens within the next week. That means competition will heat up -- and so will the race for the Wooden Award. Here’s a look at this week’s ballot:
Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The senior had 21 points and 15 rebounds in last week’s victory over Elon. Santa Clara and Davidson are up next. Plumlee averages 19.3 points and ranks fifth in the country with an average of 11.5 rebounds.
Doug McDermott, Creighton -- The junior forward, who earned first-team All-American honors last season, averages 23.1 points and shoots 51 percent from 3-point range. Creighton opens MVC play Saturday against Evansville.
Trey Burke, Michigan -- The point guard is averaging 18.6 points and 7 assists in his past five games for one of the country’s five remaining undefeated teams. The Wolverines open Big Ten play against Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska.
Russ Smith, Louisville -- Playing alongside Cousy Award candidate Peyton Siva, Smith averaged 20.1 points and just fewer than 4 assists and 3 steals in the month of December. He’s one of the main reasons the Cardinals will contend for an NCAA title.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV -- No true freshman in the country is having as strong of a season as Bennett, who is averaging 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Runnin’ Rebels while shooting 56 percent from the field.
On the cusp:
Laurence Bowers, Missouri -- The surging senior forward had 23 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and only 1 turnover in Saturday’s victory over Illinois in St. Louis.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State -- The Cousy Award finalist averaged 19 points in his past two contests but made just nine of his 29 field goal attempts in those games.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse -- The Orange point guard played the worst game of his career in Saturday’s loss to Temple, when he was just 3-of-17 from the field.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech -- Some would argue that the Hokies’ home loss to Georgia Southern and recent 36-point setback to Colorado State should keep Green off this list. But it’s tough to ignore a guard who averages 25.4 points and shoots 51.6 percent from the field.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati -- The leading scorer (19.2 points) on one of the nation’s five remaining undefeated teams faces a huge test at home Thursday night against New Mexico.
Ben McLemore, Kansas -- The freshman is averaging 19.6 points in his past five games while shooting 59.1 percent from 3-point range. He had 22 points in Saturday’s win at Ohio State.
Brandon Paul, Illinois -- The Illini suffered their first loss of the season Saturday, but it wasn’t because of Paul, who had 23 points and 8 boards in a setback against Missouri.
Jeff Withey, Kansas -- The Jayhawks’ 7-foot center is averaging 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his past two contests. He ranks second in the nation with five blocks per game.
Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The sophomore post had a season-high 24 points on 6-of-9 shooting in Friday’s win over Florida Atlantic. He made all but one of his 13 foul shots.