Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Outduels Deshaun Thomas for Top NPOY Spot, COY Top Five Debuts…

Posted by DCassilo on November 30th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Up until Wednesday, nobody deserved to be atop the player of the year list. There had been some strong performances by great players, but no one had grabbed the reins of this year’s race. But when Duke and Ohio State took the court on Wednesday, it became obvious that the two best players in the country were on the floor: Deshaun Thomas and Mason Plumlee. A deep three-pointer from Thomas would be followed by a monster dunk from Plumlee. It was fun theater to watch in what might go down as the most memorable non-conference game of the season. In the end, Plumlee took those reins with 21 points and 17 rebounds, while Thomas was limited to 16 points by early foul trouble. And now, we have our front-runner. Even a bad week won’t necessarily knock him off the top spot. Plumlee made his move. It’s time for the rest of the country to respond.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Sean Kilpatrick – Cincinnati (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 6.7 RPG

Perhaps the nation’s most underrated player on the nation’s most underrated team, Kilpatrick came up big in the rather anonymous Global Sports Classic. Against Iowa State and Oregon, Kilpatrick averaged 24 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He can beat you in a number of ways, as he has already hit eight three-pointers and 16 free throws in separate games. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Alabama, Dec. 6 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock

9. Le’Bryan Nash – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 19.2 PGG, 6.4 RPG

Nash or Smart? The battle rages for who is the better Cowboy. (AP)

Deciding who is better between Nash and Marcus Smart can be a difficult task, but the sophomore has proven to be a tad more consistent this season. In all five games he’s played, Nash has tallied at least 16 points and five rebounds. This week: Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech, Dec. 5 vs. South Florida

8. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.2 BPG

Notching a triple-double will surely get our attention at Rush the Court, and that’s exactly what Withey did against San Jose State. The senior had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks in the victory. A defensive stalwart, it was the second time this season he had at least 10 blocks in a game. This week: Nov. 30 vs. Oregon State

7. Isaiah Canaan – Murray State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

As noted last week, Canaan was bound to have some monster scoring games once he could get his three-point shot to fall, and that’s what happened this past week. With the help of 55 percent shooting from deep, Canaan scored 30 points against Old Dominion and 32 points against Lipscomb. Expect much more of this to come. This week: Dec. 4 vs. Bethel

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 7.3 RPG

McDermott finally got his scoring going with 80 points in his last three games. Still, he needs to shoot more, as he has attempted 11 shots or less in four of seven games despite being Creighton’s only real scoring threat. If he does so, he could really start putting up some big numbers. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Saint Joseph’s, Dec 6 at Nebraska

5. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.7 PPG, 7.5 APG

Burke showed why he’s the nation’s best point guard, as he tallied 18 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers against North Carolina State on Tuesday. There is no player in complete control of his team like Burke, and Michigan is looking like a very special squad with him in charge. This week: Dec. 1 at Bradley, Dec. 4 vs. Western Michigan

4. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 15.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG

If we’re talking consistency, no one compares to Zeller, who seems to notch 16 points and eight rebounds every night. They aren’t bad numbers by all means, but they aren’t especially noteworthy. We’re still waiting for the game where Zeller breaks out and shows why he started at No. 1 on this list. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Coppin State

3. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 26.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.1 APG

For McCollum to win this he likely needs to lead the nation in scoring and dominate major conference teams. So far he’s off to a good start, as he has a D-I best 26.3 PPG and actually is a tad better (26.5 PPG) in his games against Baylor and Pittsburgh. If his scoring average creeps closer to 30 PPG, he might be atop the rankings. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, Dec. 4 vs. Fordham

2. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 22.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Two quick fouls likely stunted what could have been a huge night for Thomas against Duke. Still, he put up 16 points and showed that if he isn’t guarded tightly, he will almost certainly score. His improved long-distance shooting is what has made him so dangerous this season. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Northern Kentucky

1. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19.9 PPG, 11 RPG

Mason Plumlee is the top player in the country. (AP Photo)

We knew that the best player this season would be from Indiana and have two brothers that play basketball, but we just chose the wrong one to start. By dominating the inside against a Final Four caliber team, Plumlee showed there is nobody else in his class right now for the player of the year race. He’s also done it all against a grueling schedule, which makes his early season numbers even more impressive. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Delaware

TOP FIVE TEAMS YOU DIDN’T KNOW WERE UNDEFEATED

5. Ole Miss (5-0) Not only have the Rebels yet to lose, but they are third in the country with 88.4 PPG. They’ve only beaten one winning team (Arkansas-Little Rock), but the Rebels have won every game by at least 18 points. Something might be brewing in Oxford.

4. Eastern Kentucky (6-0) Forget Kentucky and Louisville and even Western Kentucky, the only undefeated team left in the Bluegrass State are the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. Included in their six victories is a win over last year’s NCAA tournament darling, Norfolk State. Pretty good for a team that lost five times in November last year.

3. Wyoming (7-0) The Mountain West Conference has three ranked teams, but the undefeated Cowboys aren’t one of them. However, this one is undoubtedly a product of schedule, as Wyoming hasn’t faced a team with a winning record this season. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. East Carolina (5-0) Who said the Big East was in trouble? Their future conference member is off to a hot start, albeit with only those of those wins coming against D-I programs. But for a school that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1993, a 5-0 start is worth celebrating regardless of whom it’s against.

1. Texas Tech (4-0) I honestly believe that if we polled Lubbock, less than 50 percent of its residents would know the Red Raiders are without a loss. If you were impressed by Ole Miss’ scoring, Texas Tech does you one better, as their 88.8 PPG is second best in the country. But defeating winless Jackson State by just nine points in its last game does not bode well for staying on this list too long.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

So there I was watching the Maui Invitational, and who shows up on my television screen? Tim Higgins. The supposedly retired referee apparently only works now when he gets free trips to Hawaii. Not shockingly, his old buddy Jim Burr was calling the game with him. It never ceases to amaze me that there appears to be a minimum age of 50 needed to referee a college basketball game. Just so we don’t forget the trouble these two have caused over the years, here’s a clip from the St. John’s vs. Rutgers game in the 2011 Big East Tournament.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 17 PPG, 3.4 RPG

Adams has just not been the same since Shabazz Muhammad entered the rotation. No longer the top option on offense, he has struggled to get as many shot attempts, which has resulted in single-digit scoring in two of his last three games. This week: Dec. 1 vs. San Diego State

9. T.J. Warren – North Carolina State (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG

While his team has faltered in big games, it’s been no fault of Warren’s, as the freshman has shot 70.2 percent from the field this season. Once he gets more assertive on offense, he could take his game and his team to another level. This week: Dec. 4 vs. Connecticut

8. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 6 RPG

Muhammad has yet to find his groove since entering the UCLA lineup, but he is still putting up solid numbers. Rather than try to take over games, he’s playing within himself, but that might change with the Bruins in turmoil and in need of a change. This week: Dec. 1 vs. San Diego State

7. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG

After debuting with 22 points in 17 minutes, Austin has performed about as he was expected to. He’s a solid post presence for Baylor, who can grab rebounds in bunches. He might not ever reach the top of this list, but he’ll help the Bears win several games. This week: Dec. 1 at Kentucky, Dec. 4 vs. Northwestern

6. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.5 APG

With 30 points and seven assists against Creighton, Carson introduced himself to the rest of college basketball. A 5’10” point guard, Carson has gained control of his team in just six games. His 4.3 turnovers per game are troubling, however. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Sacramento State, Dec. 5 vs. Hartford

5. Alex Poythress – Kentucky (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 15.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG

Before foul trouble ruined his game against Notre Dame, Poythress had at least 20 points in four straight games. He’s yet to do much but score and rebound, though. The freshman only has two assists, two blocks and one steal this season. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Baylor, Dec. 4 vs. Samford

4. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Welcome to the race, Mr. Bennett.

Remarkably, from his very first game Bennett became the best player on a UNLV team loaded with talent. The Canadian’s numbers could be even more impressive when you consider he is playing just 25.6 minutes per game. He also seems to raise his game against better teams, as Bennett had 22 points against Iowa State and Oregon. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Hawaii, Dec. 4 at Portland

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 12 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.2 BPG

Noel is still raw in every element of his game, but he continues to get by with his athleticism. He’s making 58 percent of his shots, but his range is very limited and might not ever extend too far out of the paint. He’s one player that should benefit once Kentucky hits a softer part of its schedule. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Baylor, Dec. 4 vs. Samford

2. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG

Like many of his teammates, Goodwin saw his scoring dip against Notre Dame, but he still chipped in seven rebounds and five assists in the loss. He got close to a triple-double with a 22/9/9 line against LIU-Brooklyn, and it’s highly possible he’ll wind up with one before the season is over. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Baylor, Dec. 4 vs. Samford

1. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 7 RPG, 5.8 APG

Playing just once this past week, Smart tallied eight points and nine assists against Portland State. He’s shown that he can be “the man” when he needs to but is very comfortable deferring to Nash and Markel Brown. He keeps playing like his last name, and that makes him look more like a senior than a freshman. This week: Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech, Dec. 5 vs. South Florida

COACH OF THE YEAR

5. Kevin Ollie – Connecticut
Record: 6-1

Faced with an almost impossible situation, Ollie has gotten his Huskies to play hard and well this season. Although Urban Meyer and Bill O’Brien have made it look easy, it’s extremely difficult to motivate a team that can’t make the postseason. It’s time to take the interim tag off his title. This week: Dec. 4 vs. North Carolina State

4. John Thompson III – Georgetown
Record: 4-1

The fact that the Hoyas are good isn’t much of a surprise, but almost beating Indiana this early in the season is a real shocker. Like usual, JTIII is getting the most out of every single player on his roster. Their sixth place projection in the Big East is looking silly right now. This week: Nov. 20 vs. Tennessee, Dec. 4 vs. Texas

3. Tad Boyle – Colorado
Record: 6-0

The Buffaloes surprised a lot of people by making the NCAA Tournament last season. They’ve taken that a step further this year by already knocking off Baylor (who they lost to in their tourney game) and Murray State. Boyle might just have the best team in the Pac-12. This week: Dec. 1 at Wyoming, Dec. 5 vs. Colorado State

2. Travis Ford – Oklahoma State
Record: 5-0

With Oklahoma State’s undefeated start, the nation is finally seeing what a great coach and recruiter Ford is. A duo like Nash and Smart should be at Kentucky or Duke right now, but they play in Stillwater instead. And when you dominate Tennessee and North Carolina State the way the Cowboys have, it all goes back to coaching. This week: Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech, Dec. 5 vs. South Florida

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke
Record: 7-0

Duke already has a season’s worth of big wins by knocking off Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State. It’s shocking for a Duke team that lost to a 15-seed in the NCAA tournament last season and saw three of its best players, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee, leave school. It’s yet another reason why Coach K is the best to ever do it. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Delaware

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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