Every season, there has usually been one. Whether the player has ended up winning the award or comes close, at least one player from a mid-major league usually enters the player-of-the-year conversation by the middle of the season.
Some, such as BYU’s Jimmer Fredette two years ago, have ended up leading the poll at the end of the year and sweeping the four big player-of-the-year awards. Others, such as Stephen Curry from Davidson in 2008-09, come close.
Creighton junior Doug McDermott was in the conversation for player of the year last season, finishing fourth behind Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson and Draymond Green. Now, in the second in-season poll of the 2012-13 basketball season, McDermott has ascended to the top spot of our Player of the Year poll, just ahead of Michigan sophomore Trey Burke.
In the five-year history of the poll, the only season in which a non-BCS candidate did not garner serious consideration was in 2009-10, when Fredette made a late charge and showed up way down on the list during the final poll.
McDermott, who was third two weeks ago in the initial in-season POY poll, leapt over Burke and the leader of the first poll, Duke senior Mason Plumlee, to take the lead.
There is a long way to go, though, between now and when awards ballots start to come due in March. McDermott and Burke, as you’ll see below, are not separated by much. Plumlee is still hanging around, and the players below them could all make a charge in this balanced race.
A common thread among the non-BCS candidates is usually making some noise the year before -- either in the NCAA tournament, in the case of Curry, or through a high-scoring regular season the year before, in the cases of Fredette and now McDermott.
For those who don’t remember, the poll consists of actual voters from the four major player-of-the-year awards -- the Wooden, Naismith, Associated Press and Robertson -- and each voter is asked to give his top three vote-getters, anonymously. A first-place vote garners three points, a second-place vote two points and a third-place vote one point.
A note on the polling: I poll voters from every region, but the poll is unfortunately at the mercy of those pollsters who respond, hence the lack of response from the Far West region. The majority of potential pollsters from the Far West -- and even Southwest -- regions have not responded at the same clip as those in other regions. Understand, too, that national writers and broadcasters are listed in the states in which they live, not as national writers, which could help explain some of the regions being more populated than others. That said, the poll is going to make a concerted effort for more West Coast pollsters in two weeks when the third poll is released.
The nine players are an all-time low for the poll, but that is actually not so surprising considering the way the race has been shaping up. There is no one true breakaway candidate, but rather a logjam of three candidates hanging out at the top. This probably means fewer players will get one or two votes since those top candidates -- with guys such as Carter-Williams, McLemore and Zeller hanging around, too -- are starting to separate themselves.
The nine players are from seven different conferences -- the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Missouri Valley, Mountain West and Summit.
McDermott and Burke essentially split regions, with the Creighton forward winning the northeastern part of the country, Burke taking the South and the middle of the nation and McDermott seeing an advantage out west. In the first poll, Plumlee led every region but the Far West (McDermott) and Midwest (Burke).
A host of players -- Kansas senior Jeff Withey, Santa Clara senior Kevin Foster, Notre Dame senior Jack Cooley, UNC sophomore James Michael McAdoo, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad and Bucknell senior Mike Muscala all departed from the last poll. The only new addition to the poll was Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.
Votes were due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.