Award Tour: Ben McLemore and Brad Stevens Reach No. 1 For the First Time

Posted by DCassilo on January 25th, 2013

awardtour

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

The two players I have the most trouble with every week are Russ Smith and Michael Carter-Williams. With Smith, it’s because his on-ball defense, arguably his biggest strength, doesn’t show up in box scores or highlights, so I need to watch his entire games to stay up to speed. And I have to be honest, his reputation sometimes gives him credit in games he doesn’t deserve it. Couple that with a streaky jump shot, and he falls short of the top-10. As for MCW, I have a real problem ranking him because he’s a terrible shooter and a turnover machine. People say he makes the big shots, but if he made them in the first half or didn’t keep giving the ball away, there wouldn’t be big shots to make. So like it or not, that’s why those two guys aren’t on the list at this juncture.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Since the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer, Greg Whittington, was ruled ineligible, Porter has raised his game to another level. Over his last four games, he’s averaging 19.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG and played a full 40 minutes in Georgetown’s upset win at Notre Dame. This week: January 26 vs. Louisville, January 30 vs. Seton Hall

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Indiana and Cody Zeller Also Finished Strong in the Big Ten (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller has a lot of work to do to get back up the rankings. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Zeller did not register a single field goal on Wednesday against Penn State, but prior to that, he had back-to-back games of at least 20/10. While people have made the case that Victor Oladipo is more valuable to the Hoosiers, I still think Zeller will dictate the big games. This week: January 27 vs. Michigan State, January 30 at Purdue

8. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Against Wyoming on Thursday, Bennett’s scoring finally returned, as he finished with 17 points. But the rebounding has disappeared. Bennett has just 13 boards over his last three games. Once a double-double machine, it will be interesting to see if he gets it back.  This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

7. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG

For those who didn’t see it late Thursday night, Olynyk had a night to remember against BYU. He went 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line en route to 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Make sure to catch him next time he’s on TV because he’s fun to watch. This week: January 26 vs. San Francisco, January 31 at Loyola Marymount

6. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Since breaking out against Iowa State to start Big 12 play, McLemore has been a steady contributor for the Jayhawks. Although teams are devoting more defensive attention to him, he finds a way to get his points. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia

5. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.3 BPG

One Kansas reader answered my plea last week for his assessment of who is more important between McLemore and Withey. Although it was close, the unique style of Withey’s game gave him the close edge, and I agree. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia

4. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG

While I have Thomas higher than most places, I believe he’ll settle into the top five everywhere by the end of the season. His supporting cast is hurting him right now, as he scored half of the Buckeyes’ 56 points in their loss to Michigan State last Saturday. This week: January 26 at Penn State, January 29 vs. Wisconsin

3. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 17.3 PPG, 11.4 RPG

It’s hard to knock Plumlee for Duke’s struggles. He’s registered a double-double in his last three games and has done so in 12 of 18 games this season. His shooting is down, though, since Ryan Kelly was injured. This week: January 26 vs. Maryland, January 30 at Wake Forest

2. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 7.2 APG

The Hoosiers and Wolverines Populate the Top of Our Power Rankings (AP Photo/T. Ding)

Burke is fighting for the top spot this season. (AP/T. Ding)

If you watched any Michigan game since Big Ten play started, I’m sure you know by now that Burke is trying to become the first player in the conference to average 17/7 APG since Magic Johnson. Beyond that, Burke has shown leadership qualities that would make Magic proud, as well. This week: January 27 at Illinois, January 30 vs. Northwestern

1. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 23.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG

As evidenced by Creighton’s loss to Drake on Wednesday, if McDermott doesn’t shoot well, his team is susceptible to an upset. Despite all of the defensive attention he gets to try to make that upset happen, he’s still shooting 55.9 percent from the field this season. This week: January 26 at Southern Illinois, January 30 vs. Missouri State

FIVE MID-MAJOR TEAMS TO KNOW FOR MARCH

5. Stephen F. Austin (16-1). The Lumberjacks have just one loss this season, an eight-point defeat to Texas A&M back in December. Although they haven’t played the most rigorous schedule, most games haven’t been too close either, which is a good sign. Senior Taylor Smith has been tough to handle in the paint.

4. Louisiana Tech (17-3). The class of the WAC this season has been the Bulldogs. Their signature win came against Southern Miss, meaning they will likely need to win the league to make the NCAA Tournament. Coincidentally, one of their three losses also came to Texas A&M.

3. Valparaiso (16-5). With Bryce Drew at the helm, the magic is back for the Crusaders. One of the most underrated players in the country is their forward Ryan Broekhoff, who is averaging 17.2 PPG and 8.5 RPG. This could be the #13 or #14seed that scores a big upset in March.

2. Lehigh (14-4). This team was pretty much written off once C.J. McCollum got hurt, but quietly, the Mountain Hawks have won their first four conference games, including a victory over Bucknell, their biggest competition for the automatic bid. The supporting cast is strong enough to win without McCollum, so if he comes back, this is a very dangerous squad.

1. Belmont (16-4). If there is any mid-major due for its signature NCAA Tournament upset, it’s Belmont. Despite NCAA bids in the last seven years, the Bruins have yet to grab a win. Games the last two seasons against Georgetown and Wisconsin were terrible match-ups for Belmont. The right opponent will give the Bruins a chance, as their three-point shooting usually keeps them in games.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

Butler’s win over Gonzaga had me reminiscing about buzzer-beaters, and I’ll never forget this one by Drew Nicholas for Maryland against UNC-Wilmington. One reason why is it sticks with me is that I was convinced from when the bracket came out that Maryland was ripe for the picking, and I was seconds away from looking pretty smart at school the next day. But the lasting memory for me is Nicholas just running towards the tunnel after he drains it. I just loved that.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Glenn Robinson III – Michigan (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG

Michigan’s freshmen have been so important to the team’s success this season that it’s almost mandatory to get one in here. Robinson has developed quicker than most imagined and seems like he was made for those hard-fought Big Ten games. This week: January 27 at Illinois, January 30 vs. Northwestern

9. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 4.9 APG

Since the conference season began, Christon has been on a scoring tear. He has at least 16 points in all five A-10 games. The problem, though, has been his turnovers. Christon has 20 miscues in his last four games. This week: January 26 at St. Joseph’s, January 30 vs. Dayton

8. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 3.3 APG

Goodwin is starting to really struggle, as he has cracked double-figures in scoring in just three of his last six games. If he doesn’t figure it out soon, the bizarre idea that Kentucky could miss the NCAA Tournament could become a reality. This week: January 26 vs. LSU, January 29 at Ole Miss

7. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.7 SPG

Once our leader, Smart falls to No. 6 due to a very uneven week. He scored three points against Texas Tech but followed that with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists against Baylor. He’s always been a box score filler, but the Cowboys, who have dropped four of six contests, really need him to start scoring. This week: January 26 vs. West Virginia, January 30 vs. Iowa State

6. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 14.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG

Austin is finally starting to block some shots for Baylor, as he has nine in his last three games. Already a pretty solid offensive player, if he can come around defensively, he’s a top-three pick. This week: January 26 at TCU, January 30 vs. Oklahoma

5. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG

With a quick seven points, Muhammad set the tone in UCLA’s upset over Arizona on Thursday night. He’s emerged as the best pure scorer among freshmen, and it looks like he could play in the NBA tomorrow. This week: January 26 at Arizona State, January 30 vs. USC

4. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.2 BPG, 2.5 SPG

Over his last four games, Noel has 27 blocked shots. And that’s still with a very raw understanding of the game. I watched him against Alabama, and he remains too susceptible to the pump fake. Can you imagine how many blocks he’d average if he stayed even one more season? This week: January 26 vs. LSU, January 29 at Ole Miss

3.  Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 17.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.3 APG

Jahii Carson Showed Maturity On Sunday In Resisting The Urge To Force Shots (USA Today)

Jahii Carson is on fire lately for Arizona State. (USA Today)

The hottest freshman in the country is Carson. He’s scored at least 20 points in the last four games and most importantly, he’s cut back on the turnovers that plagued him early in the season. The Sun Devils’ future looks bright with Carson at the helm. This week: January 26 vs. UCLA, January 31 at Washington State

2. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG

It’s been a few weeks since Bennett wasn’t sitting at No. 1, but conference play has done the UNLV freshman no favors. However, there’s still hope. His 17 points and five rebounds against Wyoming in Thursday is a good place to start his return to productivity. This week: January 29 vs. Nevada

1. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

We have a new No. 1, and he’s a very deserving candidate. McLemore has been an impact performer since November. Unlike other freshmen, he hasn’t fallen victim to many cold stretches. He’s just a solid overall player that any coach would want on his team. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia

COACH OF THE YEAR

5. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 1)
Record: 16-2

It’s been a tough stretch for Duke, and those wins over Kentucky, Minnesota and Ohio State are looking worse by the day. Once a clear-cut title contender, the Blue Devils now has a lot of question marks. This week: January 26 vs. Maryland, January 30 at Wake Forest

4. Jim Larranaga – Miami (FL) (Last week – NR)
Record: 14-3

Enough has been made about Miami’s win over Duke, but let’s not forget about the rest of its season. With Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott both missing portions of the season, Larranaga has kept this team afloat, and it is looking like an ACC title contender. This week: January 27 vs. Florida State, January 30 at Virginia Tech

3. Dana Altman – Oregon (Last week – 4)
Record: 17-2

The Ducks keep on winning and last week scored an upset on the road against UCLA. Oregon is looking like the class of the Pac-12, but Altman’s biggest test will be taking this young roster through March.This week: January 26 vs. Washington, January 30 at Stanford

2. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – 3)
Record: 17-1

The discussion is no longer about if Kansas is a title contender, but if they are the favorite to win it all. It’s never a shock that the Jayhawks are good, but I think this team has come along quicker than expected. This week: January 26 vs. Oklahoma, January 28 at West Virginia

1. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 2)
Record: 16-3

Yes, the Bulldogs lost to La Salle, but the bottom line is that Butler might have the two most impressive wins of the season. First, it knocked off Indiana and now it beat Gonzaga with its best player on the bench. If I had to pick a team I never wanted to bet against, it would be Stevens’ squad. This week: January 26 vs. Temple, January 31 at Saint Louis

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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