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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
National POY Straw Poll: As close as it gets

By Mike Rothstein

Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson
Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Kansas' Thomas Robinson are neck and neck in the POY race.
Editor’s Note: ESPN.com writer Jason King has wrestled with his POY pick all season on Wooden Watch. Click here to find out who's he picking as of this week.

It’s essentially a tie.

With some ballots for the varying National Player of the Year awards due as early as next week -- more on this later -- Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis and Kansas junior forward Thomas Robinson are within three points of each other in the latest ESPN.com Player of the Year poll, taken every two weeks over the last couple months of the college basketball season.

In my four seasons doing this poll, this is by far the closest ballot I’ve ever had -- and the closest it has ever been this late in the season. Of the 59 ballots received by actual award voters, Davis received 32 first-place votes. Robinson received 26. Overall, Davis leads Robinson by three points, 146-143, based on our voting system that allows three points for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.

It is for that reason that it would be unsurprising -- and at this point likely -- if Davis and Robinson either shared some honors or there was a split between the four major awards.

Here’s one reason: Each of the major awards has a different ballot due date. The USBWA ballot is due Sunday. The Naismith ballot is due March 9. The Associated Press ballot is due on Selection Sunday.

The Wooden Award, meanwhile, allows for postseason play to be taken into consideration with a later due date of March 19.

This means Davis, Robinson or even Michigan State senior Draymond Green, currently in third place, could make enough of a push to still change the race. A quick look at their numbers shows why:
Looking at tempo-free stats, courtesy of statsheet.com:
With those numbers in hand, here’s the balance of this week’s poll, which had 59 participants:


Poll analysis:

-- A note: Ballots were due at 5 p.m. Tuesday, meaning Green’s 29-point effort against Indiana on Tuesday evening was not reflected in this polling.

-- Robinson was the only player on all 59 ballots. Davis made all but one ballot. For the first time in the history of the poll, one voter was so torn about his third-place vote that he asked the poll to split his third-place vote between Green and Canaan. The poll obliged, so a half-vote is taken into account for the first time in the four-year history of the poll.

-- After three polls with 17 players mentioned, only 12 players made this ballot. Those 12 players are from nine conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, MAAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Ohio Valley and SEC).

-- This is the closest of any poll in its four-year history. As stated earlier, this screams either a shared or split award when it comes to the four major national awards.

-- Three players (Marquette’s Jae Crowder, Iona’s Scott Machado and Duke’s Austin Rivers) made their first poll appearances of the season. Eight players -- West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie, Virginia’s Mike Scott, Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe, North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, Weber State’s Damian Lillard, Siena’s O.D. Anosike and St. Mary’s Rob Jones -- dropped out of the poll.

-- Davis continued his rise. He moved from second to first -- and all the way up from fourth on the first two ballots -- and went from 112 points to 146 points. Green had the biggest move, however. While it didn’t show in overall points, Green moved from fifth to third and went from being on eight ballots in the third poll to 32 in this one.

-- Sullinger continued his fall. He dropped from third into a tie for fourth and from 26 points to 10. He and McDermott, at varying points this season, were as high as second in the poll behind Robinson.

So what comes next for the contenders?

-- Davis faces Georgia on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday and then is at Florida at noon Sunday.

-- Robinson faces Texas at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN on Saturday.

-- Green faces No. 11 Ohio State in his season finale at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.

This is also where it gets tricky when it comes to voting. The USBWA won’t count any conference tournaments for the Robertson Awards. The Naismith will see the beginnings of the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten tournaments. The AP will be able to take into account the entirety of the conference tournaments and the Wooden will go through the entire first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

It’ll all make the rest of the player of the year race very, very intriguing.