College Basketball Nation: Otto Porter

1. Character does count. Of course, it matters when it is put alongside talent. But the two players in the NBA draft lottery who continue to get high marks for character, performance and readiness are Indiana's Victor Oladipo and Georgetown's Otto Porter. In a draft that may lack franchise players, teams are searching for low-maintenance players who can help. And Oladipo and Porter are fitting that more than others, according to a number of a teams. Oladipo can come in and contribute in more than one way, offering up a high-energy second-unit player. Porter can be a scorer who may flourish more in an open game. Neither Oladipo nor Porter will likely last long on draft night.

2. NBA teams are like college coaches in that they will buy into the latest trend. And the search for the next Paul George is the latest example. The player who is creating a George-like buzz is Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The 6-foot-5 Georgia wing was a high-level scorer for the Bulldogs. Now, Georgia is obviously a higher-profile school than Fresno State where George played, but the Bulldogs, like their same mascot named team to the West, were hardly known nationally the past two seasons. Caldwell-Pope isn't someone who was featured much at all nationally. But there are already comparisons being drawn between the two players. Don't expect Caldwell-Pope to last late in the lottery.

3. Indiana's Cody Zeller is a perfect example of a player who won't be affected at all by one poor performance on a national stage. I was in Washington, D.C., in March when Zeller played small and short against Syracuse's zone. He had no lift against the zone and couldn't find his shot, let alone get out and be effective as a big man. That is now deemed much more of an aberration than the performances Zeller had during the season when he did run the floor and was effective. Zeller's athleticism on display in Chicago at the draft combine last month and his workout regimen is making him much more of a safer pick than other big men. Zeller didn't look like an NBA player during that Sweet 16 loss, and the media didn't hold back in referencing his in ability to stand out. But he'll be one of the first big men to hear his name called on June 27, making his decision to leave look like the right one.
1. The NCAA's random date of April 16 to declare for the NBA draft isn't pressuring a number of players into making quick decisions. Coaches are now savvy to the date as being meaningless. That's why Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk may wait to decide until the NBA's own early-entry deadline of April 28. Olynyk is probably going to be the same player in the NBA whether he declares next season or this. He is a Wooden All-America and, if he were to return, would be one of the contenders for player of the year. Missouri's Phil Pressey is also weighing a similar decision over the next few weeks. A number of players haven't outlined their intentions but have plenty of time, like Miami's Shane Larkin, Kansas' Ben McLemore, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Georgetown's Otto Porter, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams, Louisville's Russ Smith as well as Indiana's Cody Zeller. Cal's Allen Crabbe joined the list of draftees earlier Wednesday. I fully expect Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Michigan's Trey Burke to declare soon. No official word out of Connecticut, but the staff is anticipating -- at this point -- that guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will return (smart move if it happens, since they don't have an NBA home to go to next season).

2. The Big Ten suddenly got incredibly younger with this week's two coaching hires -- Northwestern announcing Chris Collins and Minnesota tabbing Richard Pitino. The under-40 club will give the league a new look. The two take over programs that are striving for consistency, but both desperately need an upgrade in facilities to hang with the big boys. Collins and Pitino will need to use their youthful enthusiasm to build momentum since the dollars aren't in place for facilities they were used to -- Collins was at Duke and Pitino at Louisville and Florida before his stop at Florida International. Northwestern had been looking at Collins for quite some time. But Pitino was clearly a new name for Minnesota in the past week as athletic director Norwood Teague looked for an off-the-grid-type hire like he made at Virginia Commonwealth. Pitino got off to an impressive start in his coaching career at FIU with the upset of Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt tournament and a chance to earn the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth. Now he'll face his toughest challenge of his career. He has a brand name in basketball, which carries weight, but will need to put together a strong staff to quickly earn the trust of his players this spring and summer. This can work at both places. Memphis, for example, has been a soaring success under Josh Pastner. Pastner led the Tigers to conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances as a young, vibrant assistant-turned-head-coach of a major program. Collins was a fit at Northwestern so there's no issue there. But give Pitino a chance to see if this could work.

3. Old Dominion looked like it was set to go to former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton before the Monarchs and athletic director Wood Selig tabbed American's Jeff Jones. This hire came out of left field, but might end up being one of the better fits. Jones played and coached at Virginia and should be able to recruit well in the fertile Tidewater area. Jones had made American a consistent Patriot League contender, which isn't easy to do in a conference where Bucknell and Lehigh are the anchors. ODU knows who it is and wanted to gravitate toward a coach that made sense. This hire does.

Wooden Watch: King's POY ballot

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
12:45
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This year’s race for the Wooden Award may come down to a missed free throw attempt and a layup that never found its way through the net. With the NCAA tournament less than a week away, those are the only things separating Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke in the battle to be named national player of the year.

At least in my opinion.

Burke and Oladipo faced off in the Big Ten regular-season finale Sunday. In a high-stakes game that decided the conference championship, Burke wilted when it mattered most. With his team leading 71-70 with 28 seconds remaining, Burke clanked the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, and Indiana capitalized on a layup by Cody Zeller that gave the Hoosiers a 72-71 lead with 14 ticks left.

Burke had a chance to win the game on the ensuing possession, but he missed a contested layup, and Jordan Morgan’s putback attempt in the final seconds was off target. Indiana celebrated the outright Big Ten title on Michigan’s court. The Wolverines finished in a tie for third place and will be the No. 5 seed in this week’s Big Ten tournament.

Burke has had a tremendous season, but in a race this close, winning and performing well in the clutch are the deciding factors. Here’s my latest ballot.

1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana -- The junior wing does everything for the Hoosiers. He averages 13.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.1 assists and sets the tone on the defensive end. He’s the key reason why Indiana emerged as the champion of the nation’s toughest conference.

2. Trey Burke, Michigan -- The sophomore averages 19.2 points and 6.8 assists -- and he also leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. Michigan, though, has lost five of its final 10 regular-season games. As a point guard, Burke needs to provide more leadership as the Wolverines prepare for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

3. Doug McDermott, Creighton -- As one of the top offensive players in the country, McDermott is the focal point of every opposing defense. Still, the junior forward is averaging 23.1 points on 56.1 percent shooting for the Bluejays, who won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship along with the league tournament.

4. Otto Porter, Georgetown -- NBA scouts love the versatility of the 6-foot-8 sophomore, who can bring the ball up the court like a point guard on one play and get down and dirty in the paint the next. Porter helped Georgetown win a share of the Big East title despite the loss of the top three scorers from last season.

5. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga -- What’s not to like about the 7-foot Canadian? In just 25.7 minutes per game, Olynyk averaged 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds for a Zags squad that finished 31-2 and won the West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament trophies. Gonzaga will likely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history thanks to Olynyk.

On the cusp:

Erick Green, Virginia Tech -- Despite being on the last-place team in the league standings, Green was named ACC Player of the Year this week following a regular season in which he averaged a nation-best 25.4 points while shooting 48.2 percent from the field.

Shane Larkin, Miami -- It’d be a crime not to include the leader of a team that won its first ACC title in more than a decade. A sophomore point guard, Larkin averages 13.7 points, 4.4 assists and 2 steals.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State -- The senior wing led K-State to its first conference title since 1977 by averaging a team-high 15.1 points and 5.2 rebounds. The first-team All-Big 12 selection had 22 points in Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State.

Ben McLemore, Kansas -- The freshman was one of the few players who performed well in Saturday’s 23-point loss to Baylor. He scored 23 points and is now averaging 16.7 points for the Big 12 co-champions.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA -- Projected as a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft, Muhammad led the Bruins to the outright Pac-12 title by averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 boards. He shot 45 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The 6-10 Plumlee was back in beast mode Saturday, when he scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a blowout win against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He’s a lot better with Ryan Kelly in the lineup.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State -- The freshman point guard is averaging 22.5 points in his past two games along with 7 rebounds. He was named Big 12 Player of the Year, a high honor considering he had strong competition from KU’s Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State -- The Buckeyes enter this week’s Big Ten tournament on a five-game winning streak thanks, in large part, to Thomas. He’s averaging 17.8 points during that span and 19.7 points on the season.

Jeff Withey, Kansas -- The 7-foot center ranks second in the nation among active players in blocks with 4.1 per game. The first-team all-league selection averages 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds and shoots 58.2 percent from the field.

Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The Hoosiers center was the best player on the court during Sunday's Big Ten title-clinching win at Michigan. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds and made the winning basket with 14 seconds remaining.

Why Oladipo should win Wooden Award

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
10:45
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Guard Victor Oladipo’s effectiveness on both ends of the court is one reason why the Indiana Hoosiers are one of the favorites to win the national championship.

Since last season, Oladipo’s offense has improved as much as any player in the country. He’s also known as one of the elite defenders in the country.

After shooting just 18 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers as a sophomore, Oladipo is shooting 45 percent on those shots this season.

He ranks fourth in the country in field-goal percentage (61.4), and is on pace to have the highest field-goal percentage by a guard since Oklahoma State’s Chianti Roberts in 1996-97 (62.5).

Oladipo ranks third in true shooting percentage, which measures shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws.

The 6-foot-5 junior can score in a variety of ways. Oladipo leads the Big Ten in offensive rebound put-back points per game. He averages 1.39 points per play and shoots 73.9 percent on offensive rebound put-backs, both of which rank among the top five in the country (minimum 50 plays) and leads all Wooden Award finalists.

Oladipo does more than just score. He and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are the only players from Power 6 conferences averaging at least 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals per game this season.

Among Wooden Award finalists, Oladipo has the best net rating -- which is the difference between points produced and points allowed per 100 possessions. Oladipo produces 42 more points than he allows per 100 possessions.

Oladipo's 13.7 points per game would be the lowest ever for a Wooden Award winner (current lowest is 14.2 by Anthony Davis last season). He would be the first Wooden Award winner to shoot at least 60 percent on field goals and 45 percent on 3-point attempts.

Oladipo would be the second Indiana player to win the Wooden Award, joining Calbert Cheaney in 1993.
Michigan point guard Trey Burke began the season on the fringe of the national player of the year conversation. He was expected to be the catalyst for the Wolverines, a preseason top-10 team, but this was not expected.

All season long, Burke has been the epitome of consistency on a top-10 team. He scored double figures in every game and 15 or more points in every Big Ten game. He scored less than 15 points in just two games.

He had five or more assists in 25 of 31 games and became the calm leader on a Michigan team littered with freshmen playing major minutes.

[+] EnlargeMichigan's Trey Burke
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsTrey Burke averaged 19.2 points and 6.8 assists for the Wolverines.
The performance made an impact, as Burke led the final college basketball player of the year straw poll of the season, a poll comprised of actual voters for the Robertson, Associated Press, Naismith and Wooden Awards. It was the fourth straight poll in which the sophomore finished first.

Burke was on 59 of the 67 ballots cast in the final poll.

“We lost six games in the most important part of our season,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He and Tim Hardaway and a bunch of guys just learning on the run. For him to carry us -- the courage that he’s had and the will and the fight he’s had in games with such tremendous poise.

“You don’t see much emotion from him ever, because he’s focused. Someone that does that without a supporting cast of seniors and juniors, like some of the really great players have, and that’s how we want to be. But it is what it is, and he’s played like a senior, veteran point guard.”

Here is the potential snag for Burke. With the stagger of votes and the continued ascent of Indiana junior Victor Oladipo, there is a chance for a split of the four major awards depending on how things go in the postseason.

Why the split? Consider this: Multiple voters changed their votes again this week, some after all the regular-season games had ended. Others indicated they voted for Burke for the Robertson Award -- the ballots were due Sunday at 8 p.m. -- but would vote differently today.

This volatility -- and this has been the case most of the season with five strong candidates over the final month of the season -- could lead to an awards split. A split appeared possible last season, when Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson were close in the voting.

But with six players still receiving at least one first-place vote, and three -- Burke, Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter -- receiving more than 10, there is still potential room for fluctuation depending on postseason play.

The poll has been correct the past four seasons, but there has never been a race quite like this one. In none of the other four years had more than two players received double-digit first-place votes in the final poll. Only once, last season, had two players received double-digit first-place votes in the final poll.

In no other year did more than four players receive first-place votes in the final poll.

It is possible Burke will sweep the awards, but as I said last year, there is enough room for fluctuation where a split could be possible.

That said, here’s a peek at the 67 ballots in the most wide-open POY race in a while.

Tracking the contenders


Burke: Preseason -- T-11th; first regular-season poll -- 2nd; second regular-season poll -- 2nd; third regular-season poll -- 1st; fourth regular-season poll -- 1st; fifth regular-season poll -- 1st; Final poll -- 1st.
Oladipo: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- 4th; fourth regular-season poll -- 2nd; fifth regular-season poll -- 3rd; Final poll -- 2nd.
Porter: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- NR; fourth regular-season poll -- T-10th; fifth regular-season poll -- 2nd; Final poll -- 3rd.
McDermott: Preseason -- 2nd, first regular-season poll -- 3rd, second regular-season poll -- 1st, third regular-season poll -- 2nd; fourth regular-season poll -- 3rd; fifth regular-season poll -- 4th; Final poll -- 4th.
Olynyk: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- T-10; fourth regular-season poll -- 5th; fifth regular-season poll -- 5th; Final poll -- 5th.

Poll analysis

  • Poll ballots are starting to be due. The Robertson was due this past Sunday. The AP is due this Sunday. The Wooden is due March 25 and the Naismith is due the Saturday of Final Four weekend. So as mentioned above, there is time for Porter or Oladipo to make a charge on Burke.
  • Burke took four of six regions, including a close race over Oladipo in their home region -- the Midwest. Oladipo won the South and Porter took the Far West.
  • Reminder as always: The poll is at the mercy of the voters. I send out emails seeking input from multiple voters in every region. It is up to them, then, to respond. Also, ballots were due at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Also, as a reminder, structure for the poll is three points for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.
  • The 10 players in the final poll all appeared in at least one other poll this season. They represent the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Missouri Valley, Summit and West Coast leagues and conferences.
  • Of the final 10, only three players appeared in every poll this season including the preseason: Burke, Doug McDermott and Cody Zeller. Nate Wolters and Mason Plumlee appeared in every regular season poll. Including the preseason, a total of 36 players showed up in at least one poll this season.

Why Otto Porter should win Wooden Award

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
9:49
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AP Photo/Jessica HillGeorgetown's Otto Porter has a chance to be the first sophomore to win the Wooden Award winner since Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin in 2008-09.

Editor's Note: Over the next three days, we’ll be making the case for each of the top five finalists for national player of the year. Coming Tuesday: Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Creighton’s Doug McDermott: Wednesday: Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke.

Otto Porter has carried the Georgetown Hoyas to a regular-season Big East title and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

It can be argued that Porter is as valuable to his team as any player is in college basketball, at least according to Win Shares (which estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense).

Porter is the only player in Division I averaging at least 16 points, seven rebounds and two steals per game and shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-point attempts. In fact, he's the only D-I player to put up those numbers since New Mexico's Danny Granger in 2004-05.

Porter improved dramatically as a scorer after Greg Whittington was ruled academically ineligible following Georgetown's loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 8. Porter averaged 12.8 points per game with Whittington in the lineup, but is averaging 19 per game without him.

In one of the Hoyas’ biggest games of the season -- Feb. 23 at Syracuse -- Porter put together arguably the best game of his career. He scored 33 of Georgetown’s 57 points on 12 of 19 shooting, including 5-of-10 on 3-point attempts. He set career highs in points, field goals, field goal attempts, 3-pointers and 3-point attempts.

A lot of the talk has been about Porter’s offense, but his defense might be even more valuable to the Hoyas. When Porter grabs at least seven rebounds, Georgetown is 17-0 this season. Porter has the second-best defensive rating among Wooden Award finalists, behind only Kansas center Jeff Withey.

So why is Porter so effective?

He averages 1.54 points per play in transition, the second most in Division I (minimum 50 plays), and 1.23 points per play on catch-and-shoot jumpers, the fifth most in the Big East (minimum 75 plays).

Porter allows 0.67 points per play in man defense as an on-ball defender, seventh best in the Big East (minimum 115 plays).

Porter has a chance to be the first Georgetown player to win the Wooden Award, and would be the third Big East player to win it (Walter Berry in 1985-86 and Chris Mullin in 1984-85, both from St. John's).
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A quick look at Georgetown’s 61-39 win over Syracuse on Saturday.

Overview: The rivalry is officially closed. Syracuse will head into the record books with the overall series lead. But Georgetown took the last two, and trust me, the Hoyas won’t forget.

The first was the Otto Porter show. The second: simply a show. Georgetown all but mopped the floor with its archrival, leading by as many points as it wanted and proving it is more than just Otto Porter Jr. The national player of the year candidate was good, but he had help. The Hoyas' backcourt helped carve up Syracuse’s zone, with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera combining for 34 points.

The win secures at least a share of the Big East regular-season crown for Georgetown and assures the Hoyas of the top seed in next week’s conference tournament.

As good as Georgetown looked, Syracuse looked that bad, and that has been a problem for the Orange of late. Yes, they got off the losing wagon by beating DePaul, but really that doesn’t count. Truth is, Syracuse has looked terrible for the past two weeks, as has its senior leader, Brandon Triche. Triche was 1-for-9 in this game, and he is 7-for-29 over the past three games. He has to get out of his own head for the Orange to win.

Turning point: The Hoyas controlled this from the tip, but they really took over at the start of the second half. Already up seven, Georgetown scored nine unanswered points, finishing the run with a Nate Lubick bucket in transition off a sweet pass from Starks. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout. It didn’t help. The game was all but over.

Key player: Split the difference between Starks and Smith-Rivera, who started the game with all of Georgetown’s 16 points and finished with 19 and 15, respectively.

Key stat: Pick one from the Syracuse box score -- 1-of-11 from 3-point range, 14 turnovers. It just wasn’t pretty for the Orange.

Miscellaneous: The last Big East regular-season game between these two rivals brought out the cleverness in the fans and the Hoya glitterati. Patrick Ewing, Michael Graham and Alonzo Mourning were among the players on hand for the game. Like most folks, Ewing said he was "disappointed" to see the Big East and this rivalry end. “I’m sad to see it go," he said. … A big banner during player introductions read, "Our hatred will never end." One student lofted a "Porter for Pope" suggestion, and another suggested the Hoyas’ Otto (Porter) was > than Syracuse’s (the Orange). Then there was the definitive: "Officially closed: Manley, Dome." … The Verizon Center was packed with 20,972, the largest college basketball crowd in D.C. metro history. To which Syracuse (35,012 for its game against Georgetown) says, "eh."

Next game: It’s on to the Big East tournament for both teams.
This conversation seemed improbable, at best, two months ago when conference play started.

Did the player of the year race look wide open? Sure -- and at the time, it was. The candidates, though, have gone through an almost complete overhaul.

Faded away are Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Duke’s Mason Plumlee, the preseason player of the year and the leader of the first player of the year straw poll, respectively. Inserted in their place is a group which has risen from almost unknown to part of a five-player free-for-all in the final weeks of the regular season to nab at least one of the four major player of the year awards.

Such is the way of Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, none of whom entered the conversation until the beginning of February.

Over the past month, they have joined Michigan guard Trey Burke, the leader for the third consecutive poll, and Creighton’s Doug McDermott in this five-spot of talented and diverse players.

Oladipo made a strong entry into the race in the third poll of the season after three straight standout performances -- including one against Burke and Michigan on Feb. 2 -- from the end of January to early February. Olynyk also received votes for the first time in that poll.

Two weeks later, Olynyk made a move to fifth place; Porter started receiving votes for the first time in the Feb. 21 edition. The past two weeks, though, have seen a surge of attention for Porter, who received two third-place votes in the previous poll.

Two days later, he scored 33 points on national television against Syracuse and followed that up four days later with 22 points and a game-winner in double overtime against Connecticut. Porter now sits in second place in the latest poll, behind Burke.

How will this shake out?

Tough to say, in part due to the way this season has gone -- with insanity taking over more often than not. Add in the component of staggered deadlines for the various award votes, and it is anyone’s for the taking.

The Robertson Award, given out by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, requires its ballots be submitted by Sunday evening. The Associated Press wants its ballots on Selection Sunday. The Wooden Award wants ballots by March 25, after the first weekend of NCAA tournament games, and the Naismith Award has the latest deadline -- April 6, the Saturday of Final Four weekend.

What can happen between now and then? A lot. Just look at Porter.

Tracking the contenders

Burke: Preseason -- T-11th; first regular-season poll -- 2nd; second regular-season poll -- 2nd; third regular-season poll -- 1st; fourth regular-season poll -- 1st; fifth regular-season poll -- 1st.
Porter: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- NR; fourth regular-season poll -- T-10th; fifth regular-season poll -- 2nd.
Oladipo: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- 4th; fourth regular-season poll -- 2nd; fifth regular-season poll -- 3rd.
McDermott: Preseason -- 2nd, first regular-season poll -- 3rd, second regular-season poll -- 1st, third regular-season poll -- 2nd; fourth regular-season poll -- 3rd; fifth regular-season poll -- 4th.
Olynyk: Preseason -- NR; first regular-season poll -- NR; second regular-season poll -- NR; third regular-season poll -- T-10; fourth regular-season poll -- 5th; fifth regular-season poll -- 5th.

Poll analysis
  • Last-chance saloon for a lot of the candidates in terms of the Robertson: Porter and Georgetown play Syracuse on national television Saturday. Oladipo and Burke face off against each other Sunday. McDermott and Olynyk have their conference tournaments. Something could shake loose out of these games.
  • Shane Larkin and Erick Green depart the poll after making their debuts two weeks ago. Anthony Bennett and Jeff Withey both made a return in this poll.
  • How wide open is this race? The leader, Burke, was left off of 15 ballots. Burke, though, led every region but the Far West, where he had one vote, and Porter led. Also, other than Burke in the Midwest, no player led his “home” region. Porter was second in the Mid-Atlantic. Oladipo was second in the Midwest. McDermott was third in the Southwest, and Olynyk was second in the Far West.
  • Reminders: The poll is at the mercy of the voters. I send out emails seeking input from multiple voters in every region; it is up to them to respond. Ballots were due at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, before Michigan’s game at Purdue and Georgetown’s game at Villanova. The structure for the poll is three points for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.

Video: Georgetown 64, Rutgers 51

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
12:02
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Otto Porter scored 28 points as No. 7 Georgetown pulled away from visiting Rutgers down the stretch in a 64-51 victory, the Hoyas' 11th in a row.

Wooden Watch: Jason King's POY ballot

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
11:00
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With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is still considered the leading candidate to win the Wooden Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. The race, however, is far from over.

Players such as Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart will all garner heavy consideration. And so will Georgetown’s Otto Porter, who might be the biggest threat of all to Oladipo.

Or at least that’s how it seems this week.

A 6-foot-8 forward, Porter is averaging 15.9 points on the season, but that number rises to 19.2 points in his past 13 games. As a result, Georgetown sits alone atop the Big East standings with a 12-3 conference record. Porter has been particularly impressive during the past week. You can read about that -- and more -- in the ballot below.
  1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana: I’m just not sure there’s a player out there that does more for his team than Oladipo. The one possibility could be Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, who could be an even better leader. But right now I think Oladipo is more polished as a player. And it helps that he plays for the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
  2. Otto Porter, Georgetown: Porter sparked the Hoyas to their 10th consecutive victory by scoring 21 of his 22 points after intermission in Georgetown’s 79-78 double-overtime win at Connecticut. Porter’s layup with 9.5 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner. Five days earlier he scored 33 points in a win at then-No. 8 Syracuse.
  3. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: A victory at BYU on Thursday could well give the Zags the first No. 1 ranking in school history. Olynyk is one of the main reasons. The 7-foot junior averages 17.7 points and 7 rebounds -- and he’s playing just 25.4 minutes per game for a squad that has blown out most of its West Coast Conference opponents.
  4. Trey Burke, Michigan: The sophomore point guard has been phenomenal for the Wolverines, averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 assists and only 1.8 turnovers. But Michigan, which was ranked No. 1 less than a month ago, has lost four of its past seven games, including a 23-point setback to Michigan State and an embarrassing defeat Wednesday at Penn State, previously winless in the Big Ten. It’s hard to keep a player -- particularly a point guard -- at the top of this list when his team is struggling so mightily.
  5. Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott had 32 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Bradley. Saturday’s game against Wichita State in Omaha will be for the regular-season title of the Missouri Valley Conference.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically):

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: The preseason All-American is averaging 21.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 43.2 percent from the field. Canaan hasn’t been surrounded by the same kind of hype he received as a junior, mainly because this Racers squad isn’t as good as the one that lost only a single regular-season game a season ago.

Shane Larkin, Miami: The point guard helped the Hurricanes get back on track Wednesday by scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists in a victory over Virginia Tech. A bigger test will come Saturday when Miami travels to Durham to face a Duke squad it embarrassed 90-63 on Jan. 23.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State: If they win the rest of their games, the Wildcats can claim a share of the Big 12 title for the first time since 1977. McGruder (14.8 points, 5.4 rebounds) is the main reason K-State is in this position. His senior leadership has been invaluable during coach Bruce Weber’s first season.

Mason Plumlee, Duke: The senior is averaging 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds for a Duke squad that has a huge game this weekend against Miami. Plumlee has proven himself over and over against some of the top competition in the country.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: The freshman guard is one of the best leaders in the country and has completely revitalized the Cowboys’ struggling program. Unfortunately he’s made just nine of his past 32 attempts from the field.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: The scoring machine finally dipped below the 20-point barrier and is averaging 19.9 points on the season. His 14 points in Sunday’s victory over Michigan State marked his second-lowest output of the season. Thomas had made just 24 of his past 66 field-goal attempts (36.3 percent).

Kendall Williams, New Mexico: Williams’ 46-point effort in Saturday’s victory over Colorado State has landed him a spot on this list. It was arguably the most impressive showing by a player all season. Williams averages a team-high 14.4 points for a Lobos squad that’s on pace to win its fourth Mountain West Conference title in the past five seasons.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: If the Jayhawks win the league title, Withey will get my vote for Big 12 Player of the Year. He averaging 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on a very balanced team and ranks third in the country in blocks with 3.8 per game.

Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: The senior guard ranks third in the country in scoring with 22.9 points per game. He also contributes 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Wolters had a 53-point game against IPFW on Feb. 7. He shoots 49.9 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range.

Cody Zeller, Indiana: The sophomore averages team highs in points (16.3) and rebounds (8.1) for the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers. But he had a poor showing in a nine-point, seven-rebound effort in Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota. Zeller is having a solid season, but I’ll be surprised if he is named first-team All-America.

Video: Georgetown 79, UConn 78, 2OT

February, 27, 2013
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Otto Porter scored 22 points and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists as No. 7 Georgetown pulled out a double-overtime victory at Connecticut, 79-78.

Numbers to Know: Weekend Recap

February, 25, 2013
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Co-Player of the Weekend – Kendall Williams, New Mexico
Williams exploded for 46 points in New Mexico’s road win over Colorado State. That’s the third most in a Division I game this season and tied for the third most in school history. His 10 3-pointers also set a school record. Williams is the first player with 46 points, five rebounds and four assists on the road against a ranked team since Jodie Meeks at Tennessee in 2009.

Along with Air Force’s Michael Lyons, Williams was the second player in eight days to score at least 45 against Colorado State. Consider that it had only happened to a ranked team three times in the previous 15 years.

Co-Player of the Weekend – Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter went off for a career-high 33 points (11 more than his previous best), as Georgetown beat Syracuse 57-46 in front of 35,012 at the Carrier Dome. That’s the most points in a win at Syracuse in at least 15 years. Porter and Kemba Walker are the only players with at least 33 points, eight rebounds and five steals against a Top-25 team in the past 10 years. Both came against the Orange.

Freshman of the Weekend – Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Paige had arguably the best game of his young career, finishing with 14 points, eight assists and no turnovers in the Tar Heels' win over NC State. Over the past 10 years, only two other ACC players have done that in a conference game. Both were Tar Heels: Kendall Marshall and Ty Lawson.

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Chavaughn Lewis, Marist
With 112 points against VMI, Marist had its highest scoring game in 19 years. Lewis’ stat line was the biggest beneficiary; he went off for 30 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals, becoming the only player in at least 15 years to record that line. In that span, it’s only happened once in the NBA. Vince Carter did it in 2001 against the Nuggets (albeit in 51 minutes of action).

Ugly Stat of the Weekend – Mississippi State Bulldogs
Vanderbilt destroyed Mississippi State 72-31, holding the Bulldogs to 7-of-40 from the field (17.5 percent). It was Mississippi State’s second-worst loss at the 37-year-old Humphrey Coliseum and its lowest scoring output of the shot-clock era. It’s also the fewest points the Commodores have allowed in SEC play in 64 years.

Why Georgetown should be a No. 1 seed

February, 24, 2013
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After ending Syracuse's 38-game home win streak on Saturday, it's clear that Georgetown is one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Here's why the Hoyas should be a No. 1 seed if the season ended today:

Three of the Hoyas' losses could have easily been wins. They lost by one point at Marquette, by three points at South Florida, and in overtime against Indiana. Their only regulation loss by more than three points was a 28-point loss against Pittsburgh.

The Hoyas' loss to Pitt on January 8 was their last game with Greg Whittington, who was declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season.

The NCAA selection committee is known to evaluate teams based on their roster entering the NCAA tournament. Therefore, Georgetown will be evaluated without Whittington. Without him, the Hoyas are 11-1, including wins over Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and Syracuse.

Since Whittington was declared ineligible, the Hoyas have the highest BPI in the country.

Georgetown has won nine straight games, the longest active win streak among Power 6 teams. No other Power 6 team has an active win streak of more than five games.

The Hoyas are 5-0 against BPI top-50 teams since Whittington has been out and they have the highest BPI against top-50 teams during that span. Their 5-0 record against the top 50 is tied with Miami for the best record during that span. They're 8-0 against the BPI top 100 since January 12, also the best such record during that span.

MORE DESERVING THAN FLORIDA?

Joe Lunardi currently has Florida as his final No. 1 seed. Upon further investigation, the Hoyas might have a better overall résumé than Florida. Georgetown has more wins and a better win percentage against the RPI top 25 and top 50. Georgetown has five road/neutral wins better than Florida's best win away from home (at RPI No. 69 Florida State).

Florida and Georgetown both defeated Marquette at home. The difference? That's Florida's best win. The Hoyas have two wins better than that (vs RPI No. 7 Louisville, at RPI No. 12 Syracuse).

WHY THE DIFFERENCE WITHOUT WHITTINGTON?

With Whittington, the Hoyas started four players who were at least 6-foot-8. Without Whittington, they inserted the smaller, quicker 6-foot-5 Jabril Trawick into the lineup.

Since then, Trawick has averaged seven more minutes per game, fellow guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera has averaged 12 more minutes per game (he went from 17.9 to 29.5 MPG), and starting point guard Markel Starks has averaged six more minutes per game.

With a more guard-oriented lineup, perhaps Hoyas star forward Otto Porter has benefited from better spacing on the floor.

Without Whittington, Porter is averaging six more points per game while shooting significantly better from the field and the 3-point line. During that span, Porter is averaging 19 points per game while shooting 52 percent on field goals and 49 percent on 3-point attempts.

As a team, the Hoyas have been better offensively since the change to a smaller lineup relying more on guard play. They've scored three more points per game while shooting better from the field and 3-point line during that span. They've also outrebounded their opponents by nearly three boards per game with the smaller lineup after being slightly outrebounded with Whittington.

Video: Players of the week

February, 24, 2013
2/24/13
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Andy Katz discusses Georgetown's Otto Porter and New Mexico's Kendall Williams, who combined to score 79 points Saturday and earn joint Player of the Week honors.

Porter puts himself in elite company

February, 23, 2013
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- He's impossible to hate. That's the thing about Otto Porter. The latest, and perhaps last, would-be villain in the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry is unfailingly polite and, from an Orange fan perspective, frustratingly likeable.

He is not of the Hoya Paranoia generation, all sneer and anger. His big reaction after dropping 33 points to lead Georgetown to a 57-46 win in what might be the final Carrier Dome installment of this decades long war? A fist pump to the small pocket of Georgetown fans and a smile.

He's not a prima donna or diva who celebrates a free throw as if he's sunk a halfcourt buzzer-beater in the national title game. Asked if he should be considered in the national player of the year conversation, Porter hemmed and hawed forever, clearly wishing he'd been asked his stance on something far less controversial like, say, gun control.

He finally stumbled out an, "I don't know," as Georgetown sports information director Mex Carey rushed to his rescue, with a "We'll let you guys decide that."

OK, we will.

Otto Porter should be in the national player of the year conversation. Right now.

Because even on the laundry list of impressive things Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott and Cody Zeller have accomplished this season, none have done what Porter did on Saturday.

Namely, he convinced 35,012 people who desperately wanted to despise him to instead shuffle quietly out the doors with a deferential tip of the cap.

For Dana O'Neil's full column, click here.

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