- Jason King
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Will the race for the Wooden Award really be decided on the final day of the regular season? If you plan to vote for Victor Oladipo or Trey Burke, probably so. Oladipo's Indiana Hoosiers meet Burke's Michigan Wolverines Sunday in Ann Arbor in a game that could play a huge role in determining the Big Ten title. A victory by Indiana will give the Hoosiers the league crown outright. Michigan can claim a share of the title with a win. The stakes are high and the stage is huge. I'm looking forward to seeing how each player responds. In the meantime, here is my final Wooden Award ballot of the regular season.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan -- The Wolverines have suffered a few disheartening losses in recent weeks, but they certainly haven't occurred because of Burke, who is averaging 24 points and shooting 72 percent from the field in his past five games. His defense at the end of Sunday's win over Michigan State was huge.
2. Victor Oladipo, Indiana -- The junior guard has been at the top of this list for most of the past few months, but his past few performances have been underwhelming. Oladipo scored only seven points in Tuesday's stunning loss to Ohio State and only 10 in a victory against Iowa a few days earlier.
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton -- One of college basketball's best pure scorers had the best game of his career Saturday when he netted 41 points on 15-of-18 shooting in a victory over Wichita State, the Missouri Valley's top defensive team. The win gave the Bluejays their first MVC title since 2001.
4. Otto Porter, Georgetown -- Porter had 17 points in a loss at Villanova Wednesday that ended Georgetown's 11-game winning streak. Porter is averaging 16.6 points and 7.4 rebounds for a Hoyas team that can clinch a share of the Big East title by beating Syracuse in Saturday's regular-season finale.
5. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga -- The Bulldogs went 16-0 in the West Coast Conference thanks in part to Olynyk, the 7-footer who averages 17.7 points and seven rebounds. Olynyk shoots 66.8 percent from the field, a mark that ranks third in the country.
On the cusp (players listed alphabetically):
Allen Crabbe, Cal -- The top player in the Pac-12 scored 24 points in Wednesday's loss at Stanford and is now averaging 18.6 points on the season. Cal had won nine of its past 10 games before losing to the Cardinal. Crabbe has 14 games with 20 or more points.
Shane Larkin, Miami -- The Hurricanes are one win away from their first conference title since 2000. Larkin is one of the main reasons. The sophomore point guard averages 13.8 points and 4.4 assists and shoots 48.8 percent from the field. He needs to find a way to re-energize a team that has lost three of its past four games.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State -- The Wildcats senior hit a 3-pointer with one second remaining to give K-State a victory over Baylor Saturday in Waco. McGruder averages 14.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for a team that can win its first conference title since 1977 by beating Oklahoma State Saturday in Stillwater.
Ben McLemore, Kansas -- The freshman averages a team-high 16.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the field. He had a career-high 36 points in Saturday's win over West Virginia. This probably will be McLemore's only college season, as he's expected to be a top-three pick in this summer's NBA draft.
Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The senior forward is averaging 17 points and 10.2 rebounds on the season, but his numbers in Duke's past three games (12 points, 6.3 rebounds) aren't as attention-grabbing. Still, Plumlee's overall body of work is impressive, especially considering he didn't always have Ryan Kelly on the court to help distract opposing defenses.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State -- The freshman point guard scored 24 points in Wednesday's loss to Iowa State and is now averaging 14.9 points along with 5.7 rebounds (a phenomenal number for a guard). Smart's leadership, though, has been the most valuable thing for this Cowboys squad.
Russ Smith, Louisville -- The Cardinals guard is averaging 17.7 points in his past three games for a Louisville squad that can clinch at least a share of the Big East title by beating Notre Dame on Saturday. Smith averages 18.4 points along with 2.1 steals.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State -- Thomas had 18 points and eight rebounds in Tuesday's road win at Indiana on senior night. Considering the stakes and the situation, it may have been the best victory by any team this season. Thomas averages 19.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Jeff Withey, Kansas -- The nation's top defender is the national leader among active players in blocks with four per game. He had 22 points and nine rebounds in a senior night victory over Texas Tech on Monday and even hit his first career 3-pointer. Withey is averaging 13.8 points and 8.6 boards.
Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The preseason national player of the year has had a respectable season with averages of 16.5 points and eight rebounds per game. But he has averaged only 11.5 points and 5.5 boards in recent losses to physical teams (Minnesota and Ohio State). He needs to step up big time on Sunday at Michigan.
Will the race for the Wooden Award really be decided on the final day of the regular season? If you plan to vote for Victor Oladipo or Trey Burke, probably so.