College Basketball Nation: Arizona State Wildcats

Wooden Watch: King's POY ballot

January, 17, 2013

A new leader has emerged in the race for the Wooden Award. Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who has been No. 2 on my ballot for most the season, has catapulted ahead of Duke forward Mason Plumlee for the top spot.

McDermott ranks second in the nation with 24 points per game. In his past two contests, McDermott is averaging 35 points for No. 12 Creighton, which will take a 17-1 record into Saturday’s game at Wichita State.

Here is this week’s ballot.
  1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Along with his gaudy scoring totals, McDermott leads the Bluejays with 7.2 rebounds a game. McDermott earned first-team All-America honors last season and seems well on his way to repeating that feat in 2013.
  2. Mason Plumlee, Duke: The senior ranks fifth in the nation in rebounds (11.4) for a Blue Devils squad that boasts as strong of a resume as any team in the country. Plumlee scored 15 points in Saturday’s loss at NC State, Duke’s first setback of the season.
  3. Trey Burke, Michigan: The Wolverines also recently lost for the first time this season, falling at Ohio State on Sunday. Burke was certainly part of the reason. He scored 15 points but made only four of his 13 shots from the field. He also had four turnovers.
  4. Jeff Withey, Kansas: The Jayhawks' 7-foot center continues to be the top defensive player in the country. He blocked three shots in Monday’s win against Baylor and altered a slew of others. He’s the reason the Jayhawks lead the country in defensive 2-point field goal percentage.
  5. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: The Buckeyes' wing is one of the top pure scorers in the country. He’s averaging 20.3 points on the season and 22 points in his last four games, including Sunday’s victory over then-unbeaten Michigan.
On the cusp:

Anthony Bennett, UNLV: The freshman entered Wednesday’s game at San Diego State averaging 19.6 points and 9.3 rebounds. No freshman in the country has been as productive as Bennett.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State: It’s time to admit the 14-3 Sun Devils are for real -- and so is Carson. The freshman point guard averages 17.1 points and 5.2 assists. Arizona State hosts No. 7 Arizona on Saturday.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse: The nation’s assists leader with 9.4 per game also ranks fourth in the country in steals (3.2). Carter-Williams faces the biggest test of his young career Saturday at No. 1 Louisville.

Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Even though his team is struggling, it’s hard to keep Green off this list. He leads the nation in scoring with 24.8 points per game and is shooting just below 50 percent from the field. That’s a high number for a guard who takes 16.3 shots per game.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: Scouts are buzzing that the Jayhawks wing could be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. McLemore has cooled off a bit since last week’s 33-point effort against Iowa State. He’s averaging 13.5 points in his past two games.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: The Bruins freshman leads the team in scoring with 18.2 points per game but is averaging only 10 in his past two contests. He’ll need to come up big against Pac-12 co-league leader Oregon this weekend.

Victor Oladipo, Indiana: Oladipo scored only 10 points in Tuesday’s home loss to Wisconsin. On the season, though, he has been the most important player on a team that has legitimate NCAA title hopes.

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: The 7-foot-1 Olynk has blossomed into one of the top post players in the country. He’ll take an 18.1 scoring average into Saturday’s road tilt with Butler, with the "College GameDay" crew on hand.

Russ Smith, Louisville: The hiccup-quick guard has keyed the Cardinals’ climb to the top of the Associated Press poll. Smith’s 18.9 points per game are a team high. Saturday’s home tilt against Syracuse could be one of the top games of the season thus far.

Cody Zeller, Indiana: Tuesday’s home loss to Wisconsin certainly didn’t occur because of Zeller, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds. He’s averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 boards on the season.
Saddle Up is our preview of the basketball your TV wants you to watch tonight.

This is the great thing about college hoops season: The solid games really never stop. Sure, there are lulls in the action. Some nights are quieter than others. But take this week, for instance. We just finished the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which was capped off by a fantastic Duke-Michigan State game and a hard-fought Purdue win at Virginia Tech, and a day later, we immediately transition to the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series.

Granted, the games between these two conferences are not exactly barnburners. We have a lagging Pac-10 to thank for that. Still, there are a couple of intriguing matchups in the Hardwood Series tonight, games you should probably be watching even if the quality of one side doesn't quite live up to tradition. (Yes, we're looking at you, UCLA.)

UCLA at No. 4 Kansas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: While Duke has been drawing most of the national title talk, Bill Self's team has been rather quietly destroying everything in its path. The Jayhawks are scoring an average of 92 points per game. They're allowing 56.7. They're as impressive in tempo-free land as any team in the country, which is what happens when you win every game by 40 points. The only reasonably challenging tilt Marcus Morris and company have played thus far happened Saturday vs. Arizona, and while Derrick Williams bolstered his player of the year potential in the Las Vegas meeting, Kansas eventually pulled away down the stretch.

In other words, this is the Jayhawks' second-best test of the season. UCLA may or may not be a tournament team, but it's surely better than the likes of Longwood, Valpo, North Texas, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Ohio, the Jayhawks' five non-Zona opponents thus far. Kansas should win. The only question is, how easily? Is Kansas the best non-Duke team in the country? Or is a slightly rebuilt UCLA team going to give them problems at Phog Allen? Those of you who haven't seen this Kansas team play yet should take a gander, because you can't track national contenders without keeping an eye on KU. The Jayhawks are worth the watch.

Arizona State at No. 10 Baylor, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Another Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series game, and another likely home win for a dominant Big 12 team against a solid-but-not-great Pac-10 foe. LaceDarius Dunn is already the Bears' leading scorer again, despite having played only two games because of suspension. Perry Jones is developing and producing nicely; he had his second straight double-double of the season Monday night against Prairie View. Quincy Acy is dunking the ball all the time, which is pretty much what Quincy Acy does. Arizona State looks overmatched and should be overwhelmed by all this talent, especially on the road.

Of course, it's not quite that simple: Herb Sendek's teams are always well-prepared, and in ASU Baylor will face its first power-six foe of the non-conference season. Frankly, Baylor, owner of one of the worst non-con schedules in the country, is facing the first team that might actually give it a legitimate test. How will the Bears respond?

Everywhere else: If Oregon wasn't quite so bad this season, this would feel a little like a trap game for Missouri. Actually, following the heartbreaking loss to Georgetown on Tuesday night, it still does. Look for a slow start from Mizzou, followed by a second-half push to get a win against the Ducks in Eugene ... Davidson is still rebuilding in the post-Stephen Curry era, and tonight they'll get a chance to see where they are against a Charleston team that gave both Maryland and UNC fits on the road ... Murray State, everyone's mid-major preseason darling, has been somewhat disappointing out of the gate; count this game as a chance for the Racers to get back on track before the challenges (Morehead State, Western Kentucky) that lie ahead ... and, in tonight's fun scoreline game of the night, allow me to present St. Francis (PA) vs. St. Francis (NY)! Who's winning? St. Francis! Who's losing? St. Francis! If this was 1921, I'm fairly confident we could turn this into a Vaudeville act.