Award Tour: Anthony Bennett is the New No. 1 Freshman, the Five Worst D-I Teams, and an Ode to the Big East Conference…

Posted by DCassilo on December 14th, 2012

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

Farewell, Big East. As a Villanova grad who grew up in New Jersey, you were always close to my heart. I’ll miss the prime time Saturday night final. I’ll miss the coaching legends. I’ll miss the physical play that would be called for a foul in any other league. I’ll miss the afternoon games of the Big East Tournament. I’ll miss being sponsored by Aeropostale. I’ll miss record crowds at the Carrier Dome. I’ll miss seeing Carnesecca and his sweater sitting behind the St. John’s bench. I’ll miss Mick Cronin being displeased with his team. I’ll miss West Virginia fans throwing stuff. I’ll miss looking at the newspaper and saying, “Wow, DePaul won.” I’ll miss Madison Square Garden. I’ll miss the weird dimensions of the RAC. I’ll miss Seton Hall thinking its good. I’ll miss Providence’s mascot. I’ll miss UConn breaking the rules. I’ll miss Pitt’s illegal screens and 30-year old point guards. I’ll miss Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami. I’ll miss Pitino’s press conferences. I’ll miss people saying Villanova is Guard U when it rarely sends a guard to the NBA. I’ll miss Georgetown running the Princeton offense. I’ll miss the overachievers at Notre Dame and Marquette. I’ll miss that time South Florida was good. I’ll even miss the double bye, Burr and Higgins. Now let’s end this league in style.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Brandon Paul – Illinois (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.5 APG

Illinois is going to need a big effort out of Brandon Paul at Indiana. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Brandon Paul tore apart Gonzaga. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

With 35 points at Gonzaga last Saturday, Paul officially declared his candidacy in the Player of the Year race. The major improvement in his game this year comes down to his shooting. He never cracked 40 percent from the field in his first three years but is up to 46.8 percent this season.This week: December 16 vs. Eastern Kentucky

9. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 10.4 APG, 3.8 SPG

There’s no doubt that Carter-Williams does more to fill up the stat sheet than any player in the country, but it’s his passing that has been second to none. He leads the nation in APG and has 37 dimes in his last three games. A high turnover rate (3.8 per game) and poor three-point shooting (22.2 percent) hold him back from challenging for the top spot. This week: December 15 vs. Canisius, December 17 vs. Temple

8. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.6 BPG

After blocking five shots against Colorado last Saturday, Withey has swatted the ball at least that many times in six of his team’s eight games. His defensive dominance coupled with the rise of freshman Ben McLemore has the Jayhawks thinking of a return to the title game. This week: December 15 vs. Belmont, December 18 vs. Richmond

7. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG

Thomas has cooled off since his torrid start to the season. This is likely a result of poor competition, as Ohio State has won by at least 34 points in its last three games. His overall numbers still look strong, though, despite the recent dip. This week: December 15 vs. UNC-Asheville, December 18 vs. Winthrop

6. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 24.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG

With 29 points last Saturday, McCollum regained the national scoring lead. It’s quite the feat for a player who might receive more defensive attention than anyone in the country. You might say Lehigh doesn’t play anyone, but that argument doesn’t really apply until conference play begins. This week: December 20 at North Texas

5. Trey Burke – (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.9 RPG

The reason I take Burke over Carter-Williams boils down to three things. First, Burke is more capable of taking and making a big shot. Second, with a higher assist-to-turnover ratio, he makes plays and limits mistakes. And finally, Michigan needs him more to be successful than Syracuse needs Carter-Williams. This week: December 15 vs. West Virginia, December 20 vs. Eastern Michigan

4. Erick Green – Virginia Tech (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 24.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.0 APG

Virginia Tech fell for the first time this season last Saturday, but it was no fault of Green’s, who has now scored at least 21 points in all nine games this season. In that loss, Green showed he’s not just a scorer by dishing out 10 assists. This week: December 15 vs. Georgia Southern

3. Cody Zeller – (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 15.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG

All the Hoosiers need to do is sneak by Georgia to do battle with a promising UCLA squad in the Legends Classic Final (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

Zeller finally produced like we expected before the season. (Photo credit: Sandra Dukes/US Presswire)

After I called Zeller out last week, he responded with 19 points and 19 rebounds last Saturday. It’s the type of performance that was expected to be routine for him this season. The week ahead will show us whether that was a sign of things to come or just an aberration. This week: December 15 vs. Butler, December 19 vs. Mount St. Mary’s

2. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 22.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG

McDermott’s recent hot streak is due to his three-point shooting. Over his last five games, he is shooting 18-for-27 from long range. It’s a far cry from his 5-for-17 start of the season from deep. Watching him face off against fellow scoring machine Allen Crabbe on Saturday will be fun. This week: December 15 at California, December 19 vs. Tulsa

1. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG

It was another game and another double-double last week for Plumlee, who now has six in nine games. Lost in his scoring and rebounding has been his ability to get to the line. Plumlee has already attempted at least 10 free throw five times this season. This week: December 19 vs. Cornell, December 20 vs. Elon

FIVE WORST TEAMS IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL

5. Northern Kentucky — (0-6). The Norse are not very good at making three-pointers. Only one player on their team has made more than five. That’s not in a game, but in the entire season. Northern Kentucky almost beat Siena, but blew a lead in the final minute.

4. Maryland-Eastern Shore – (0-9). The Hawks have a lot to be proud as the highest non-SWAC team on this list. They actually held a halftime lead against Loyola (IL) back on November 18 but were outscored 43-25 in the second half. They’ve lost each of their last two games by 32 points and have a trip to UConn on the horizon.

3. Jackson State – (0-7). First things first, the Tigers gave up 120 points to St. Mary’s on Tuesday. That’s pretty bad. The bright side was that they scored 67 points of their own, which is their second highest total of the season. The lack of scoring shouldn’t be a surprise though. The team is shooting just 35.6 percent from the field.

2. Mississippi Valley State – (0-6). If you thought Jackson State couldn’t shoot, meet the Delta Devils. This squad is hitting just 30.7 percent of their shots from the field. Props to Davon Usher, though, as he is the only player on the team averaging more than 7.8 PPG.

1. Grambling State – (0-7). Most of the teams on this list have at least sniffed a victory. Not true for Grambling State. The Tigers have lost every game by at least 26 points. This includes a 50-point loss to Auburn in Grambling State’s most recent game. Yes, the same Auburn team that is 3-5 this season. By the way, Grambling State’s home opener is not until January 6.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

Of all the things I’ll miss about the Big East, the tournament at Madison Square Garden is atop that list. There was nothing better than going to four games on on a Thursday and seeing Sweet Sixteen caliber games. No conference tournament was full of magical moments and upsets like this one. And what better way to celebrate the conference than the clip below, which features a magical moment and upset wrapped into one Kemba Walker jumper.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.4 APG

Christon is currently dealing with two things that plague most freshmen: turnovers (3.5 per game) and poor three-point shooting (22.2 percent). Still he continues to score, which is something that a lot of freshmen can’t do yet. A Cincinnati native, he’ll get his first shot at the Bearcats this week. This week: December 19 vs. Cincinnati

9. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 5 RPG

There are no more excuses for Muhammad, who has just been flat-out average for UCLA this season. The highly touted recruit has topped 20 points just once in six games and is doing little else but scoring lately. Unthinkable a few months ago, Muhammad could slide out of the top 10 soon. This week: December 15 vs. Prairie View A&M, December 18 vs. Long Beach State

8. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 5.2 APG

Carson looked like a freshman against DePaul on Wednesday. He shot 5-of-16 from the field and turned the ball over six times in the loss. The latter is holding back his development, as he has nearly as many turnovers (43) this season as assists (52). This week: December 15 vs. Dartmouth

7. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG

If anything positive has come from UCLA’s season, it’s the emergence of Adams. An afterthought in a talented Bruins recruiting class, Adams has been the team’s best player. What makes his numbers most impressive is that he is still playing just 25.6 minutes per game. This week: December 15 vs. Prairie View A&M, December 18 vs. Long Beach State

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 5.6 RPG

One has to wonder whether the Jayhawks would have won the title last season if McLemore were eligible to play. He’s needed little adjustment time in his first year and poured in 24 points against Colorado last Saturday. Bill Self knows how to coach them. This week: December 15 vs. Belmont, December 18 vs. Richmond

5. Alex Poythress – Kentucky (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 15.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG

As has been mentioned here before, Poythress suffers most from taking just nine shots per game. While he’s no higher than the second option on Kentucky, he’d be No. 1 on a lot of teams. He’s shooting 69.1 percent from the field, and the Wildcats need to just keep feeding him. This week: December 15 vs. Lipscomb

4. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.4 APG

Like his fellow Kentucky freshmen, we have little to evaluate Goodwin on this last week after he played just one game against Portland. He’s still adjusting to point guard, as he had four assists and four turnovers in the win. This week: December 15 vs. Lipscomb

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 11.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 2.7 SPG

Kentucky's frontcourt was superb against LIU-Brooklyn, but questions about their rebounding linger. (Centre Daily Times)

Noel doesn’t need to score to impact games. (Centre Daily Times)

Despite taking just three shots against Portland, Noel might have had a greater impact that any Wildcat. His seven blocks were part of the reason why the Pilots made 16 shots all game. He’s not Anthony Davis yet, but that was a performance that mirrored the Brow. This week: December 15 vs. Lipscomb

2. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.6 SPG

Smart’s poor shooting is finally starting to catch up with him. He went 2-of-8 from the field and finished with seven points last Saturday against Missouri State. While he does a little of everything, he’ll need to score more to lead the Cowboys to big things this season. This week: December 16 vs. Central Arkansas, December 19 vs. Texas-Arlington

1. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 20.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG

In a game against California that teammate in which Mike Moser was injured, Bennett had his best performance of the season to fuel UNLV to a 76-75 victory. The Ontario native posted 25 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. There are not many players, let alone freshmen, who can rise to the occasion like that. Don’t be surprised if he makes our Player of the Year list soon. This week: December 17 at UTEP, December 19 vs. Northern Iowa

COACH OF THE YEAR

5. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – NR)
Record: 7-1

Despite losing their two best players from last season, the Jayhawks are once again looking like a title contender. It’s just par for the course for Self, who seems to always find players to step up for him. Turning Jeff Withey into a Player of the Year candidate is not something every coach can do. This week: December 15 vs. Belmont, December 18 vs. Richmond

4. Larry Shyatt – Wyoming (Last week – 5)
Record: 10-0

Although wins over Colorado and Illinois State look decent right now for Wyoming, the team won’t have many believers until conference play begins. Can the Cowboys hang with New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV? They will have six chances to show that they can. This week: December 18 vs. Denver

3. John Thomson III – Georgetown (Last week – 3)
Record: 8-1

The Hoyas finally scored some points this past week by hanging 89 on Longwood. Still, this team wins with defense and did it again on Monday. Georgetown forced 30 turnovers in the victory for JTIII. This week: December15 vs. Western Carolina

2. John Groce – Illinois (Last week – 2)
Record: 11-0

Not many coaches take their team to Gonzaga and come back with a victory, but that’s exactly what Groce did last Saturday night. The Big Ten was thought to be a three-team race, but the Illini are quickly adding a fourth to the mix. Without a doubt, he’s the first-year coach making the biggest impact. This week: December 16 vs. Eastern Kentucky

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 1)
Record: 9-0

The Blue Devils made a solid Temple team look like a mid-major last Saturday with a 90-67 thrashing. It shows how far Duke has come, as that was a game that some people gave Temple a chance of winning entering the season. It didn’t take long to transform the Blue Devils into an elite team. This week: December 19 vs. Cornell, December 20 vs. Elon

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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