- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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One began the season without much consideration as a player of the year candidate. Another started off the year as a top point guard, but not high on the national radar. The third guy came back as someone to watch and was one of the more discussed names in the preseason.
Plumlee leads the poll of 63 voters with 126 points and 30 first-place votes, followed by Burke with 99 points and 13 first-place votes and McDermott with 97 points and 16 first-place votes.
The gap between first and second place is similar to last season’s first poll, when Kansas’ Thomas Robinson led Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger by 25 points and Sullinger led third-place McDermott by four points.
A three-person grouping at the top of the first poll of the season shouldn’t be surprising, especially in a season where there have been a lot of good players, but no true dominant one to this point.
And for those sitting behind Plumlee, there shouldn’t be much concern either. The past three seasons have seen tight races with at least one lead shift, including last season when Robinson led the initial poll and was eventually overtaken by Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.
Davis was a distant fourth in the first poll. Cody Zeller, who topped our preseason poll, is a distant fourth this season.
For those who don’t remember, a quick primer on how the poll works: Voters for the Associated Press, Naismith, Robertson and Wooden awards are asked every two weeks for their top three players, in order, and we promise them anonymity in the process. The votes are then tabulated, with a first-place vote earning three points, a second-place vote given two points and a third-place vote getting one point.
This is the fifth season of the poll and it has been correct every season. We added a preseason poll this year and also a regional breakdown, which should be even more interesting this season with a potentially tight race until the end.
Here is the full poll, regional breakdown and analysis. It's important to note that ballots were due Wednesday afternoon, so that night's games (hello, Ben McLemore) were not taken into consideration:
Not surprisingly, no player appeared on all 63 ballots. The closest was Plumlee, who ended up on 54.
Of the 18 players who appeared in our preseason Player of the Year poll, only four remain on the first regular-season ballot -- the preseason leader Zeller (now in fourth), the preseason No. 2 McDermott (now third), Shabazz Muhammad (four points in preseason, one now) and Burke, who received two votes and three points in the preseason and is now second behind Plumlee. Plumlee, of course, was not on any preseason ballots. Part of the reasoning for the massive shift is, in many cases, preseason expectations compared with actual performance, and in others, such as UNLV junior Mike Moser and now Lehigh senior C.J. McCollum, injuries. McCollum actually received a vote prior to his injury last weekend, but the pollster changed the selection after he was hurt.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing is how it breaks down by region. Burke owned the Midwest, where he grew up and now plays. Plumlee did quite well on the East Coast and McDermott did well in his region, the Southwest.
Only 14 players appeared on this ballot, down from the 17 players who received votes on the first ballot from last season. Those players represented the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Pac-12, Patriot, Summit and West Coast conferences.