Award Tour: Mason Plumlee, Anthony Bennett and Coach K Are Our Frontrunners

Posted by DCassilo on December 21st, 2012


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

The holidays are always a good time to take a breath and reassess the entire country in college basketball. What is out there is a lot of uncertainty, especially in terms of title contenders. Is there really much that separates No. 1 Duke from No. 9 Kansas or even No. 24 Oklahoma State? But in terms of our races, it’s pretty clear that the field is chasing Mason Plumlee for Player of the Year, Anthony Bennett for Freshman of the Year and Mike Krzyzewski for Coach of the Year. All three have been nothing short of stellar from the opening tip. While parity is fun, there’s nothing better than watching the field try to hunt down the favorite.

And now, a look at those fields.


10. Brandon Paul – Illinois (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.5 APG

Paul showed his versatility for a guard by grabbing a season-high nine rebounds against Eastern Kentucky last Sunday. The craziest thing about the Illinois senior is that while he would be a frontrunner for the top player in any other conference, it’ll be a fight to even make the All-Big Ten team. This week: December 22 vs. Missouri

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

Not much to write as McCollum missed his only game this week with an ankle inury. He’s day-to-day, so he shouldn’t miss much time. This week: None

8. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 10.7 APG, 3.4 SPG

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

It was a typical two games this week for Carter-Williams. The assists were there but so were the missed shots and turnovers. The fact that Jim Boeheim is tolerating the latter two is a good indication of how special this kid is. This week: December 22 vs. Temple

7. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.4 BPG

Despite all the defensive accolades he receives, Withey’s offense cannot be overlooked. Make no mistake, he is a focal point of what the Jayhawks want to do, as he’s attempted at least eight shots in all but two games this season. The senior had 17 points and 13 rebounds against Richmond on Tuesday. This week: December 22 at Ohio State

6. Cody Zeller – (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.3 PPG

The loss against Butler is the type of game Zeller is supposed to take over and will his team to victory. Instead, he made just four shots from he floor and grabbed five rebounds. It’s safe to say that he has not taken a leap forward in his sophomore season. This week: December 21 vs. Florida Atlantic

5. Deshaun Thomas – (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 20.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG

While Thomas has proven to be a streaky shooter, he seems to always find a way to get his points. The latest example was Tuesday’s game against Winthrop when he scored 21 points despite 7-for-21 shooting. This week: December 22 vs. Kansas

4. Erick Green – Virginia Tech (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 24.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.9 APG

Green has scored at least 21 points in every game this season. Without doing too much research, I’m almost certain he is the only player in the country to do that. If Virginia Tech can start winning again, he could climb higher. This week: December 22 vs. Bradley

3. Trey Burke – (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 17.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 7.1 APG

Point Guard Trey Burke Has Been Tremendous This Season (AP)

Point Guard Trey Burke Has Been Tremendous This Season (AP)

To get this high on this list, you need to be able to take over a game. Burke did exactly that last Saturday against West Virginia, as he tallied 27 points, five rebounds and eight assists on 12-for-16 shooting. That’s a winner. This week: None

2. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 23.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Against California last Saturday, McDermott put up a season-high 34 points. It’s already the third time this season he’s cracked the 30-point mark. He’s done enough in non-conference play to quiet eventual critics of his Missouri Valley schedule. This week: None

1. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG

Were it not for his nine rebounds against Cornell on Wednesday, Plumlee would have five straight double-doubles. He’s off this week, and that means when the calendar turns to 2013, he’ll still be at No. 1. This week: None


5. Arizona – (9-0). With the Wildcats’ win over Florida last Saturday, they let it be known that they are a serious contender for a national title. And while the Pac-12 is not what it once was, there are still plenty of tough venues to play in a conference that is deeper than you think. Projected loss: January 10 at Oregon

4. Duke – (11-0). The Blue Devils have probably already gotten through their toughest portion of the schedule, and a down year for the ACC means that Duke has a minor chance of running the table in the regular season. Chances are, though, they’ll trip up a few times in conference play. Projected loss: January 12 at North Carolina State

3. Wyoming – (11-0). The Cowboys are the most surprising team that is still undefeated this season, and there is no discounting what they have accomplished so far. Still, it’s hard to fully believe they can win conference road games until they prove otherwise. Projected loss: January 12 at Nevada

2. Michigan – (12-0). With such a tough conference this season, it would be a shock to see any Big Ten team with less than two league losses. While Michigan is a special team, they’ll face some bumps in the road over the next few months. Projected loss: January 13 at Ohio State

1. Syracuse – (11-0). Once again, the Orange enter conference play undefeated but there haven’t been many tough tests over the season’s first two months. But a relatively east start to the Big East schedule could have us on undefeated watch for a while. Projected loss: January 19 at Louisville


In case anyone missed it (or if you want to watch it again), here are the thrilling highlights of Butler’s win over Indiana. It’s easily the best early candidate for game of the year and is one of the most exciting December games you’ll ever see.


10. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 14.7 PPG, 5.2 APG

Leg cramps limited Christon to just six points and 23 minutes in his first game as a part of the Xavier- Cincinnati rivalry. Without him, the Musketeers looked lost on offense. It’s a credit to how vital he has become in just two months. This week: December 22 vs. Wofford

9. Alex Poythress – Kentucky (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 6.4 RPG

Since posting at least 20 points in four straight games, Poythress has averaged 11.6 PPG over his last five. He also hasn’t grabbed double-digit rebounds all season. To put it simply, we’re not seeing the best that he has to offer right now. This week: December 22 vs. Marshall

8. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG

Muhammad picked up his scoring this past week, posting 25 points against Prairie View A&M followed by 21 points against Long Beach State. Those numbers could have been a lot bigger, as he played less than 30 minutes in both of those games. This week: December 22 vs. Fresno State

7. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 17.5 PPG, 4 RPG

There might not be a bigger boom-or-bust player in the country than Adams. The freshman has averaged 17.5 PPG despite scoring in single digits three times this season. And that hasn’t been from a lack of shooting. Adams has attempted at least 10 shots in nine of his 11 games. This week: December 22 vs. Fresno State

6. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 5.3 APG

As talented as he is offensively, Carson’s defense hasn’t been as impressive. He changed that this past week with four steals against Dartmouth. It’s the second time this season he’s had that many, and the performance is a preview as to what he might be able to do every night when he is more seasoned. This week: December 22 at Texas Tech

5. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 15.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG

The Buffaloes were no match for Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse (Photo credit:

Ben McLemore is leading the charge for Kansas.

The game on Saturday against Ohio State is a huge test for McLemore. He’s proved that he can dominate against lesser competition, but how will he do against a good team that won’t be caught by surprise by the freshman? A strong performance could shoot him to the top of this list. This week: December 22 at Ohio State

4. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 4)
Goodwin essentially played half a game against Lipscomb, recording 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 22 minutes. It’s hard to be impressed by anything he or his fellow Kentucky freshmen do until they get out of this soft part of the schedule. This week: December 22 vs. Marshall

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 10.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.9 BPG, 2.8 SPG

In his last two games, Noel has a total of 14 points, but he also has a total of 14 blocks and 18 rebounds too. He clearly gets it defensively, and if he can show anything on the offensive end, he will almost certainly be the No. 1 pick next June. This week: December 22 vs. Marshall

2. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 12.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.6 SPG

Smart’s scoring has really fallen off a cliff lately. He’s failed to score more than 10 points in any of his last three games. He also hasn’t taken a lot of shots, which makes you wonder if his poor shooting percentage has hurt his confidence. Regardless, he does enough elsewhere on the floor to stay this high on the list. This week: December 22 vs. Tennessee Tech

1. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 14.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.6 SPG

Against UTEP on Monday, Bennett has had his first clunker of the season, as he finished with 10 points and three rebounds. But just two days later we saw his ability to bounce back, as he posted 20 points and 12 rebounds against Northern Iowa. It’s another sign of greatness from the freshman. This week: December 22 vs. Canisius


5. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – 5)
Record: 9-1

While it’s not a huge shock Kansas is a top-10 team, the fashion it has done it in has been impressive. Outside of their loss to Michigan State, the Jayhawks have demolished nearly everyone in non-conference play. The real test comes against Ohio State this week, though.This week: December 22 at Ohio State

4. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – 3)
Record: 9-1

Although wins over UCLA, Tennessee and Texas look worse by the day, the fact is this team has evolved into a Final Four contender due to players that bought in defensively. With conference play around the corner, the test will be if the offense can do enough to win. This week: December 22 vs. American

3. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – NR)
Record: 8-2

Never to be counted out, Butler has defied expectations again this season. In their first 10 games, the Bulldogs have already knocked off North Carolina and Indiana. Credit Stevens for always being able to put together a winning team, even when it is much harder to recruit than the schools he’s beating. This week: December 22 vs. Evansville

2. John Groce – Illinois (Last week – 2)
Record: 12-0

The Illini defense has been outstanding under Groce. His team has allowed more than 64 points just twice all season. The two exceptions were an overtime win over Hawaii and the team’s game against Gonzaga. This week: December 22 at Missouri

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 1)
Record: 11-0

While it has not affect on this season, score a huge victory for Coach K after getting Jabari Parker to commit to Duke. Prior to the last few months it looked all but certain Parker would head to Michigan State, but he decided to become a Blue Devil on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Duke won twice again this week. This week: None

DCassilo (19 Posts)

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