College Basketball Nation: Naismith Award

Naismith Award nominees down to 30

February, 24, 2010
The Atlanta Tipoff Club, which awards the Naismith each year, has narrowed its preseason list of 50 "watch" players down to the much more manageable 30 -- what it calls its midseason candidates list, even if, on Feb. 24, the whole "midseason" thing is a bit of a misnomer. But that's beside the point. The point is that we have 30 players to mull over now. True, most of the list won't even crack consideration for the final player of the year award, which is almost certainly going to go to Ohio State's Evan Turner or Kentucky's John Wall. But the tally is fun to look at anyway.

One minor quibble: The list of 30 manages to include six ACC players -- just one behind the Big East's leading seven -- without including Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney, who happens to be leading the conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game for a 21-5 Tech team that's overcome its horrid nonconference schedule to (probably) play its way into the NCAA tournament. Nothing against Al-Farouq Aminu or Gani Lawal or Sylven Landesberg or Trevor Booker but it's hard to see how you could include those four and leave Delaney off the sheet.

Anyway, the full list is after the jump. Other quibbles? Let's hear 'em in the comments.

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Evan TurnerAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesOhio State's Evan Turner is averaging an impressive 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

The player of the year race is actually shaping up to be quite interesting. There's Evan Turner, who, when not limited by a brutal back injury, has been destroying all in his path with one triple-double after the next. There's Damion James, whose stats and leadership of Texas will earn him consideration. There's Wesley Johnson, whose surge into the elite has turned Syracuse from a rebuilding project into a possible Final Four team. And of course there's John Wall, who, well, you don't need me to tell you Wall is. My mom knows who Wall is, and my mom doesn't even read this blog.

John Wall
Kim Klement/US PresswireKentucky's John Wall is still the favorite to win player of the year awards.
But who will actually win? Michael Rothstein of polled 45 college basketball media types -- the same that also serve on the Wooden and Naismith Award panels, to be exact -- to reveal their player of the year votes if the voting ended today. Early returns favor -- who else -- Wall.

The freshman tops the list with 32 of a possible 45 first-place votes. James is second with Turner at third. That is all defensible -- Wall has been a revelation in his first and only season in Kentucky and James is a beast, the best player on a shockingly deep Texas team. But if I had a vote in this process, my vote would probably go to Turner. Perhaps you can penalize Turner for the injury, but that doesn't seem fair. The dude broke his back and is already back on the court. And when he gets on that court, look out. Turner is averaging 18.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game. He is a statistical monster, the kind of night-in-night-out sure thing that will have fantasy basketball owners licking their lips next fall.

If you want to look at the player of the year in an MVP-race type of thing, you have to consider which player is most important to their team's chances. Wall? James? Or Turner? Maybe that's an unfair question, since we've seen how badly OSU needs Turner on the floor and haven't had that chance with Wall and James, but don't you think Texas and Kentucky would still be elite teams without their best players? I'd lean toward yes in both cases.

Anyway, there's plenty of season left and no reason to get too worked up over player of the year honors quite yet. In the meantime, though, voters owe Turner a legitimate shot at what appears to be Wall's crown. Turner is that good.