Commentary

Top midseason candidates for awards

Updated: January 4, 2012, 1:05 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The first two months of the season are in the books and it is time to look back. I have been asked by fans all over the country about which players are the top candidates for Player of the Year.

Well, my friends, it is time to break it down. Here are my super six midseason leaders for Player of the Year, Diaper Dandy of the Year and Coach of the Year. These guys are the crème de la crème of the sport, and I am sure there will be a lot of debating over my lists. It was not as clear cut in the Player of the Year thinking, and conference play will influence the final analysis for this season.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

[+] EnlargeThomas Robinson
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireThomas Robinson of Kansas is the leading candidate for Player of the Year honors.

1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas Jayhawks
When the Morris Twins declared for the NBA draft, coach Bill Self knew he would need Robinson as a dominant force and he has not disappointed. He has been a double-double man despite opponents knowing he would get the ball down low. His 30-point, 21-rebound game vs. North Dakota made him the third player in the illustrious history of Jayhawk basketball to put up a 30-20 performance.

2. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut Huskies
He has been the star of stars for the defending national champions. Even in Tuesday's defeat at Seton Hall, he put up 19 points and showed his talent. I believe he is capable of leading the Big East in scoring this season. Lamb is putting up 19 points per game, with West Virginia's Kevin Jones ahead in the conference scoring race.

3. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Buckeyes
Missing a little time due to injury has him third on my list. He is a class act and a major factor inside for Thad Matta's highly-regarded team. It also helps to have William Buford scoring and Aaron Craft distributing the rock. Sullinger is a legit contender to take the prize at season's end.

4. Marcus Denmon, Missouri Tigers
The Tigers are unbeaten and Denmon is a key reason why. Missouri has the best group of guards in America in my opinion and Denmon has been the top threat. He had another 20-point effort in a blowout city showing against Oklahoma Tuesday. He has put up great numbers scoring, shooting the trifecta and from the foul line.

5. Anthony Davis, Kentucky Wildcats
His shot-blocking ability makes him the total package for John Calipari's Wildcats. He can score inside, rebound and changes games in the lane with his defensive prowess. Just look at what he did on Tuesday in a win over Arkansas-Little Rock: 22 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks. He has double-doubles in four straight games.

6. Doug McDermott, Creighton Blue Jays
He just celebrated his 20th birthday with a nine-of-12 shooting performance in a win over Drake. McDermott has been pretty consistent, scoring in double figures in every game so far this season. He has put up 20 or more in 14 of his last 20 games dating back to last season. Averaging almost 24 points per game puts him on this list.

DIAPER DANDY OF THE YEAR

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
AP Photo/James CrispAnthony Davis is one of two Kentucky Wildcats who could win Freshman of the Year.

1. Davis, Kentucky Wildcats
His length makes him a real factor as a game-changer blocking shots. He already has eight double-doubles this season. Davis has 67 blocked shots in just 15 games; when you block more than four per game, plus you adjust opponents' shots, you are a force in the middle.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky Wildcats
Simply look at the line against Louisville in the rivalry game: 24 points, 19 rebounds. I love watching this young man play basketball. I saw him in the City of Palms tournament down in Florida last year and loved his game. Calipari loves him too.

3. Cody Zeller, Indiana Hoosiers
Tom Crean hit a home run when he was able to keep Zeller at home and in that Hoosier uniform. He gives Indiana a major presence up front and he is shooting over 64 percent from the floor while leading the team in scoring and rebounding.

4. Austin Rivers, Duke Blue Devils
The leading scorer on the Blue Devils, he will get better and better with more experience. In some years, his performance would put him higher on the midseason list. He can put up even bigger numbers as his shooting (45.5 percent from the field) improves further. He is a PTP'er for Coach K.

5. Tony Wroten, Washington Huskies
I love his penetration skills as he is fearless taking the rock to the basket. Wroten has put up several huge games for Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies are 2-0 in Pac-12 play already.

6. Bradley Beal, Florida Gators
The Gators have outstanding backcourt depth and the youngster from St. Louis has made an impact. While he struggled Tuesday against UAB (two-of-15 from the field), his overall body of work has been very good. Look at his team-high 21 points against in-state rival Florida State.

COACH OF THE YEAR

[+] EnlargeFrank Haith
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelThe unbeaten Missouri Tigers have Frank Haith positioned to win Coach of the Year.

1. Frank Haith, Missouri Tigers
To the victor go the spoils. The Tigers are one of four unbeatens left and Haith has done a stellar job in his first season in Columbia. He doesn't have great depth up front but his team has made things work with speed and ability to convert in transition.

2. Tom Crean, Indiana Hoosiers
After three hard seasons in Bloomington, the hard work and effort is paying big-time dividends. This Hoosier team should finish in the upper echelon of the competitive Big Ten. Beating Kentucky and Ohio State said a lot about Hoosier Hysteria.

3. John Thompson III, Georgetown Hoyas
The Hoyas were picked 10th in the Big East preseason poll and the tandem of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman completed their eligibility. Georgetown has been a big surprise and guys like Markel Starks and Otto Porter have been important for the team's success. Give JT III a lot of credit.

4. Frank Martin, Kansas State Wildcats
I love his intensity and the Wildcats have been shocking some people this season. The post-Jacob Pullen days have been very good so far in Manhattan and Martin is a tenacious leader.

5. Dave Rice, UNLV Runnin' Rebels
The Runnin' Rebels made some noise by stunning then-numero uno North Carolina. Add on a win over lllinois at the United Center and fans in Vegas have to be thrilled. This is year one for Rice and he has done an outstanding job.

6. Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers
His teams find a way to get to the winner's circle. In a season where North Carolina and Duke were expected to dominate the ACC, the Cavaliers look like the third-best team in the conference.

There you have it, my super six in key award categories at the midseason mark. A lot can change during the second half of the season and the year-end awards are the ones that really count.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.