RTC Top 25: NPOY EditionPosted by zhayes9 on December 28th, 2010
Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.
Every week here at Rush the Court, the powers-that-be provide our RTC Top 25, unanimously labeled as the most accurate college basketball poll in the nation by a team of Harvard scientists. Rather than focusing on the teams, here’s my take on the top 25 players in the nation as it stands now. Don’t think of it as 25 candidates to win national player of the year. There are only a handful of players that have a realistic shot to take home that award barring some unforeseen breakthrough. Instead, consider it a power ranking of the cream of the crop in college hoops. Exceptional efficiency, consistent production and value relative to their team are just a few of the traits these 25 players have brought to the hardwood thus far in 2010-11.
1. Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Change the wording from “national player of the year” to “most valuable player” and Walker’s stock only rises. The Bronx native made an early mark in Maui, notching 31 against Wichita State, 30 against Michigan State and finishing off the superhuman performance with 29 in the championship game vs. Kentucky. Walker is averaging nearly 27 PPG and shooting 50% with opposing defenses centering their game plan on his offensive capabilities. He’s a jet in the full court, a crafty scorer in the lane and has improved his outside jump shot tremendously.
2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- When Evan Turner suggested over the summer than Sullinger was going to win Big Ten POY, many didn’t take his prediction seriously. Sullinger’s play this year has silenced even the most fervent doubters. The local hero is averaging a double-double at 17.5 PPG and 10.2 RPG while shooting 59% and already posted a 26/10 at Florida, a 40/13 against IUPUI and 30/19 vs. South Carolina. Sullinger is also the fifth best defensive rebounder in the nation while playing for a team that appears destined for a Final Four.
3. Derrick Williams, Arizona- This sensational sophomore truly does it all for Sean Miller and is one of the most versatile forwards the nation has to offer. The proof is in the pudding: Williams is shooting 13 for 19 from deep and hauling down seven rebounds per contest. Williams is also averaging 19.3 PPG on an incredible 63% from the floor and ranks 15th nationally in offensive rating, 11th in efficient FG% and seventh in true shooting percentage. His ability to step away from the basket at 6’8 makes Williams nearly impossible to lock up.
4. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer has been the prototypical player under Bo Ryan that improves substantially each season until he’s one of the top players in the Big Ten come senior season. Leuer can operate in the paint at 6’10, but like most Wisconsin forwards, is comfortable around the perimeter with a dependable mid-range game that extends out beyond the arc. Leuer is averaging almost 20 PPG and 7.3 RPG while making 79% of his free throws and 50% of his treys. Leuer’s numbers have increased every season in Madison.
5. Kyrie Irving, Duke- When Irving was directing the Duke offense, the Blue Devils operated like a well-oiled machine. The New Jersey native possesses incredible court vision, a smooth jump shot and maturity beyond his years. An ankle injury has temporarily derailed his season, but Irving’s impact is still worth mentioning. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG and 5.1 APG while making 53% of his twos, 90% of his free throws and 45% of his threes as a true freshman in the pressure cooker position that is Duke point guard.
6. Austin Freeman, Georgetown- Freeman has been a darling of the efficiency geeks for a few years now and his senior campaign is changing none of that. The DeMatha graduate is top 25 in the nation in offensive rating, efficient FG% and true shooting percentage, a surprise to nobody that’s watched Freeman pour in the points this season for the Hoyas. He’s a sneaky capable athlete with a quick release that can nail any shot past the halfcourt stripe. Freeman is pouring in 18.9 PPG and draining 49% of his threes.
7. Marcus Morris, Kansas- Morris is another ultra-versatile forward who is comfortable utilizing drop steps in the paint or facing up to hit a three in a defender’s grill. Morris takes less than ten shots per game and is averaging 15.5 PPG. Along with a 60% mark from the field and 46% from three, Morris is an elite rebounder. There’s a reason why Bill Self reminded the masses that the Kansas offense would still revolve around Morris when Josh Selby put on a Jayhawk uniform.
8. Demetri McCamey, Illinois- The fact McCamey led the nation in assist rate as a junior and currently ranks 12th as a senior with a 2.5 A/T ratio would be enough to justify consideration for this list. But McCamey is also one of the best scorers in the country, using his strong frame and unlimited range to spark the Illini offensive attack. He’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.1 APG on 50% shooting and 49% from deep. McCamey may be the best passing point guard in the nation.
9. Klay Thompson, Washington State- Thompson has overcome a late-season shooting slump last season to emerge as one of the top pure gunners in the nation. He’s vitally important to the Cougars, averaging 22.3 PPG, grabbing over four boards and dishing out over four assists all while shooting an efficient 50% from the floor and 42% from three. Thompson has already scored 35 against Portland, 24 in the win over Gonzaga, 28 against Mississippi State and 31 vs. Butler and is even an asset for Ken Bone on the defensive end.
10. Jimmer Fredette, BYU- Here’s a dire warning for upcoming Mountain West foes: The Jimmer is fifth in the nation in scoring (24.2 PPG) even while shooting 7% lower from three this season than last. When Fredette reclaims his stroke from downtown, watch out. He’s simply the most gifted scorer the college game has to offer. Fredette is confident from long range, but also has an uncanny way of penetrating the lane for floaters, short jumpers or scoop shots. His array of offensive moves is second to none.
11. John Shurna, Northwestern- Shurna may be higher on this list if not for the cupcake ompetition that Northwestern has faced thus far in 2010-11. The 6’8 junior with a funky stroke is averaging 23.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 3.4 APG while making 61% of his shots and, this is not a typo, an otherworldly 62% of his threes to lead the nation (33 for 53). Respect the outside jumper too much and Shurna isn’t afraid to attack the rim.
12. Terrence Jones, Kentucky- Jones is a couple of rebounds away from averaging 18/10 as a freshman. The lanky and athletic wing has already posted 29/13 vs. Oklahoma, 16/17 vs. Washington and 27/17 vs. Notre Dame. Once Jones starts knocking down his threes and free throws on a more consistent basis, Jones has the skill set to take home SEC POY. He can take any defender off the dribble and is comfortable operating at any spot on the floor.
13. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra- Jenkins would start, and play an integral role, on any major conference team in the country. The Queens native has played 35+ MPG in every season at Hofstra, but his senior campaign is shaping up to be the most impressive yet: 23.8 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 60% FG, 82% FT, 49% 3PT%. When you consider every defense keys on him and Jenkins isn’t blessed with an accomplished supporting cast, those numbers are even more mind-blowing.
14. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue- Johnson posted one of the best single half performances of the early season ten days ago against Indiana State, scoring Purdue’s first 17 points and 25 overall in the opening stanza. He followed it with a 24/13 the next time out for JJ’s fifth double-double of the campaign. Johnson is the centerpiece of a Purdue defense that ranks third in the nation in efficiency, posing a constant shot-blocking threat in the middle.
15. Gary Flowers, Southern Mississippi- Flowers does it all for a Southern Mississippi team that may threaten Memphis, UCF, UAB and others for Conference USA supremacy. The Oklahoma State transfer is averaging 20/7 on 52% shooting and 49% from three and has been one of the most consistent performers in the nation, a godsend for USM head coach Larry Eustachy. He’s brought it on the defensive end with 1.6 BPG, as well.
16. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State- Faried is hands down the best rebounder in college basketball. In the last three seasons, Faried has hauled in 13.0, 13.0 and 14.3 rebounds per contest and already has four games of 17+ boards this year. No player crashes the backboards with as much tenacity and ferocity as Faried. He can also score, averaging 18.3 PPG and shooting 61% from the floor. Against elite level competition in Florida on November 21, Faried produced a ho-hum 20/18.
17. Nolan Smith, Duke- Can Duke’s second-leading scorer and a starter for a reigning national champion possibly be underrated? Smith doesn’t receive as much recognition as his backcourt mate Irving or fellow senior Kyle Singler, but he continues to play the role of Mr. Reliable for Coach K’s squad. Smith is averaging 17.1 PPG, 5.4 APG and shooting 52% from the field. He’s an exceptional all-around talent with a consistent pull-up jumper, but needs to trim the turnovers down a bit going into ACC play.
18. Justin Hurtt, Tulsa- Only Kemba Walker has a higher offensive rating than Hurtt. The Tulsa star has been hurting plenty of opponents with his outstanding play as of late, posting three straight games of 30+ points while shooting a tad under 50% from the floor and 20-22 from the charity stripe. Hurtt is a solid three-point shooter, but also more than capable of putting the ball on the deck and attacking the teeth of the defense.
19. Jordan Hamilton, Texas- Hamilton has taken enormous strides from his freshman campaign when limited minutes prompted the talented wing to throw up as many shots as possible to stay on the floor. Utilizing greater discretion, Hamilton has upped his PPG to 19.5 while grabbing 7.3 RPG and making 46% of his shots. In Texas’ recent two-game stretch at North Carolina and Michigan State, Hamilton posted 24/10 and 21/8 in winning efforts.
20. Rick Jackson, Syracuse- Jackson has molded himself into the best low-post threat in the Big East. The lanky forward can put points on the board and ranks in the top 100 in offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding and block percentage. The Philly native is averaging a double-double at 13.9 PPG and 11.8 RPG. Continued weight loss and hard work has paid off tremendously for Jackson, who always seems to have a nose for the basketball.
21. Marshon Brooks, Providence- Brooks has been an absolute revelation for Keno Davis. The versatile wing was supposed to be one of the more prolific scorers in the Big East this season, but 23.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG on 51% shooting? Brooks is on an incredible scoring run, posting 25+ points in every game since November 24. Brooks is the biggest reason why Davis’ team is a surprising 11-2 in the early going. Whether he can sustain even close to this production into conference play is the pressing question.
22. Jordan Williams, Maryland- Good things tend to happen for the Terrapins when they feed Williams on the low block. The wide-bodied Williams has posted a double-double in every game this season with the exception of two (one coming against the physical and deep Pitt frontcourt and he still managed 14/8). Williams is putting up these totals- 18.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 57% FG- even without consistent guard play to get him the rock in favorable spots in the post.
23. Matt Howard, Butler- When Howard stays on the floor, the physical 6’8 forward and former Horizon League POY produces. Howard averages 18.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG and just brought back to the mainland the MVP of the Diamond Head Classic. Howard, along with Butler as a whole, appears to be hitting their stride. He’s a persistent rebounder that plays with an extremely high motor.
24. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State- Leonard is almost impossible to defend. The frontcourt trio of Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas is the primary reason why the Aztecs have reached the top ten. He’s extremely active, one of the top offensive rebounders in the country and can step out to hit the mid-range jumper. The former California Mr. Basketball is averaging 15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG and 1.6 SPG on 47% shooting.
25. Adrian Oliver, San Jose State- The Spartans are making some inroads in the WAC behind the scoring prowess of Oliver. While the competition has been lacking, Oliver’s 25.8 PPG average is nothing to overlook. Oliver still ranks 13th in the nation in offensive rating despite using 1/3 of his team’s possessions. The 6’4 senior is one of the best players in the nation at getting to the charity stripe where he knocks down 80% of his attempts.