- Jason King
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Northwestern toppled Minnesota. Miami embarrassed Duke, Villanova upset Louisville and Wake Forest shocked NC State.
All in the last few days.
The college basketball world is becoming more and more unpredictable -- and as a result, so is the race for the Wooden Award. It was only a few weeks ago when Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Creighton’s Doug McDermott seemed like the obvious front-runners. But a handful of recent losses by the Blue Devils and Bluejays have catapulted another contender to the top of the list. At least for now.
Here’s my latest ballot:
Trey Burke, Michigan - Why not go with the nation’s top point guard? It certainly doesn’t hurt that he plays for what may be the nation’s best team. Burke averages 18 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. Michigan has a tough road game at Illinois on Sunday.
Doug McDermott, Creighton - McDermott was ill during Wednesday’s loss at Drake, but he still managed to score 17 points before intermission. Still, that setback coupled with the one Creighton suffered at Wichita State on Saturday knocked McDermott down a notch.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse - The Orange’s sophomore point guard accounted for his team’s final 13 points in Saturday’s win at Louisville, when he came up with two huge steals in the final 29 seconds. The nation’s assists leader (9.2) had 16 points against Cincinnati two nights later.
Jeff Withey, Kansas - Withey’s defensive presence in the paint continues to fuel the No. 3 Jayhawks, who haven’t lost in more than two months. Withey’s 4.3 blocks rank third in the country. Kansas State almost stayed out of the paint completely in Tuesday’s loss to KU because it knew it couldn’t score over Withey.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga - The 7-foot forward's numbers are impossible to ignore. Olynyk is averaging 18 points and 6.8 rebounds on the season. In his last seven games those numbers rise to 22.4 and 7.1. Olynyk runs the court well, has a nice touch on his shot, hits his free throws and is a physical presence inside.
On the cusp
Treveon Graham, VCU - The Rams are legitimate Final Four contenders thanks to Graham, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who leads the team in scoring (16.2 points) while ranking second in rebounds (5.5). Graham shoots 50 percent from the field.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech - The Hokies guard continues to lead the nation in scoring with 24.6 points per game. He averaging 25 points in his last two contests (both wins) and has a big one coming up Thursday against Virginia.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State - Not many players in the Big 12 are having as good a season as McGruder, who is averaging 19.8 points in conference play. McGruder struggled to get good looks in a 13-point effort to KU on Tuesday but can bounce back Saturday at Iowa State.
Ben McLemore, Kansas - The future lottery pick leads No. 3 Kansas with 16.1 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 44.6 percent from 3-point range. He made some huge shots in the second half of Tuesday’s win over K-State to give KU some separation.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana - The do-everything junior ranks second on the Hoosiers in scoring with 13.5 points per game and is shooting 66 percent from the field. He also averages 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals.
Mason Plumlee, Duke - The Blue Devils’ recent slide isn’t exactly Plumlee’s fault. The senior forward scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Duke’s losses to North Carolina State and Miami.
Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown - The versatile forward scored 19 points and snared 9 rebounds in Monday’s road upset of Notre Dame. He’s averaging 19.9 points in his last four games for the Hoyas, who could make the NCAA tournament with a strong second half.
Russ Smith, Louisville - The guard had just eight points on 2-of-13 shooting in Tuesday’s loss at Villanova and also committed four turnovers, but before that he was averaging 24 points in his previous two games.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State - Thomas had scored 20 or more points in five straight games before being limited to 16 in Tuesday’s win over Iowa. He’s averaging 20.5 points on the season
Cody Zeller, Indiana - The 7-footer had a career-low two points in Wednesday’s lopsided win over Penn State. Before that he’d averaged 22 points in his previous two games. Zeller is averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds on the season.