Thursday, January 10, 2013
Wooden Watch: Jason King's POY ballot
By Jason King
Editor’s note: The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 will be revealed tonight in an ESPNU special at 7:30 p.m. ET. After the show, check with the Nation blog for our reaction to the list.
Mason Plumlee has led my Wooden Award ballot since the beginning of the season, but the Duke forward is close to losing his spot at the top. Plumlee is averaging just 10.3 points in his past three games and has gone just 7-for-16 from the foul stripe during that span.
If the season ended today, Plumlee (17.7 points, 11.4 rebounds) would still likely win national player of the year honors, and rightfully so. No player has had as much success against high-level competition as the 6-foot-10 senior, who has led the Blue Devils to an undefeated record thus far.
Still, players such as Doug McDermott of Creighton and Trey Burke of Michigan are getting stronger as the season progresses. Plumlee needs to do the same to maintain his No. 1 billing.
Here's a look at this week's ballot:
1. Mason Plumlee, Duke - Along with the subpar scoring stats, Plumlee has also been uncharacteristically careless with the ball, finishing with six turnovers in two of his past three games. With Ryan Kelly out with an injured foot, Plumlee needs to come up huge in Saturday's road tilt with NC State.
2. Doug McDermott, Creighton - The junior forward earned first-team All-America honors by averaging 22.9 points last season. This year he's at 22.6, and considering his recent play, no one would be surprised if that figure increased in the coming months. McDermott does an extremely good job of moving without the ball and is a threat to score from anywhere on the court.
3. Trey Burke, Michigan - With averages of 18.2 points and 7.3 assists, Burke has been the country's best point guard. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain such a high level of production in the Big Ten. Michigan played a relatively weak nonconference schedule and opened conference play against Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska. I'm guessing he will.
4. Ben McLemore, Kansas - The best player to wear a KU uniform since Paul Pierce, McLemore scored 33 points in Wednesday's victory over Iowa State and hit a 3-pointer with one second remaining to force overtime. McLemore went 10-of-12 from the field in the victory and made all six of his 3-point attempts. Not bad for a redshirt freshman who has played only 14 college games. McLemore is averaging a team-high 16.9 points.
5. Russ Smith, Louisville - Smith scored just 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting in Wednesday's road win at Seton Hall, but that shouldn't diminish what has otherwise been a phenomenal season for the hiccup-quick guard, who is averaging a team-high 19.4 points along with 2.6 steals. Smith will face a tough test Monday when Louisville travels to Hartford to play Connecticut, which features one of the Big East's top backcourts in Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.
On the cusp:
Anthony Bennett, UNLV - Bennett has been one of the nation's top freshmen with averages of 19.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. But much like his teammates, he has been so-so on the road. Bennett is averaging just 13.5 points in UNLV's last two losses, both of which occurred away from home. Bennett faces another pair of tough road tests next week at San Diego State (Jan. 16) and at Colorado State (Jan. 19).
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse - The sophomore point guard is averaging 9.6 assists, but his production has dwindled a bit since the start of Big East play. He went 1-of-13 from the field and had just five assists at South Florida last weekend, and while his six assists in Wednesday's win at Providence were fine, it wasn't the type of gaudy stat total that fans -- and Wooden voters -- have come to expect.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor - The Bears had some maddening losses in nonconference play, but they appear to be back on the right track thanks to Jackson, who leads the Big 12 in scoring with 19.8 points per game while also averaging 6.3 assists. One of the biggest games of Jackson's season will come Monday when he and Baylor visit Allen Fieldhouse.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA - The Bruins have won their past seven games and turned around their season thanks to Muhammad, who has increased his scoring average to 19.6 points. He is shooting 49 percent from the field and from 3-point range. Muhammad appears to be about 15 pounds lighter than he was in early December, and his game is better because of it.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana - The junior guard does it all for the No. 5 Hoosiers. Oladipo averages 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals. He has scored in double figures in 13 straight games. Oladipo will face arguably his toughest test of the season when Indiana hosts No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday in Bloomington. Whatever happens, no one can deny that Oladipo is one of the country's most improved players.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga - The 7-foot Canadian leads the Bulldogs in scoring (17.1 ppg) and ranks second in rebounding with 6.6 boards per contest. Olynyk made the best decision of his young career by opting to redshirt last season. The time off allowed him to reshape his body in the weight room (now a sturdy 238 pounds) while enhancing his basketball IQ under the tutelage of coach Mark Few.
Phil Pressey, Missouri - There isn't a player in the country who can top Pressey when it comes to making his teammates better. Pressey is averaging 12 assists in his past four games and 7.6 assists on the season. At times he tries to do too much, especially from a scoring standpoint, but when Pressey is under control and in a pass-first mode, there's no team in the country that Missouri can't beat.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State - The Buckeyes have struggled a bit in recent weeks by dropping two of their past five games, but Thomas has been as consistent as ever, averaging 20.2 points during that span and 20.3 points on the season. He is shooting 47 percent from the field, which is impressive for a guy who hoists up 15.5 shots per contest. Ohio State hosts Michigan on Sunday.
Jeff Withey, Kansas - The Jayhawks 7-footer has taken a back seat to McLemore in recent weeks in terms of publicity, but Withey's importance to his team certainly hasn't diminished. He had 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Wednesday's win over Iowa State. Even more impressive is that he is averaging just 1.7 fouls per 40 minutes, an alarmingly low rate for someone who attempts to block as many shots as Withey does.
Cody Zeller, Indiana - The preseason favorite to win the Wooden Award has stepped up his game in recent weeks. Zeller is averaging 16.5 points on the season, but in his past seven games, that number increases to 18.1 points. Zeller will face a tough test Saturday when the Hoosiers host No. 8 Minnesota, which features one of the nation's top frontcourts in Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.