Award Tour: Trey Burke Is The Best Player In The Country

Posted by DCassilo on February 8th, 2013

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

After weeks and weeks of coming close, Trey Burke has finally broken through and grabbed the #1 spot. It’s a long time coming, as Burke embodies everything you want in a player. He’s a scorer that can take over the game. He’s an unselfish player that likes to get his teammates involved. He’s a leader, who steps up in big moments and keeps his team focused. Look no further than his block of Aaron Craft’s potential game-tying shot on Tuesday as to why there’s nobody like him in the country. Michigan is in good hands come March.


10. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day, if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

I’ll reluctantly include Oladipo, partly because there’s no one better and partly because you almost have to at this point. I don’t blame him, but the hype surrounding him has really surprised me. I just don’t see why people say he’s better than some one like Otto Porter Jr., who puts up equal if not better stats, when Oladipo has Zeller down low and Porter Jr. lost his second-best player to suspension. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

9. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

I don’t care what conference he’s in and how good his team is, Wolters is without question one of the 10 best players in the country. In case you missed it, he scored 53 points against IPFW on Thursday night. And as his numbers above show, he’s well-rounded too. This week: February 9 at Oakland, February 14 vs. IUPUI

8. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Porter Jr. played just once this week and had 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over St. John’s. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in five of his last six games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

It was a rough week for Kansas, but McLemore was only partially to blame. He had 23 points, his second-most in Big 12 play, in the loss to Oklahoma State, so he can be absolved for the game. Against TCU, though, his 0-for-6 3-point shooting was part of a dreadful night for the Jayhawks. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 13 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.2 BPG

A non-factor in both of Kansas’ losses this past week, Withey showed that in order for the Jayhawks to succeed, he must play well. Most surprising in those games were the seven fouls he accumulated. He’s averaged just 1.6 per game this season. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG

Zeller had a mixed bag this week, as he was great against Michigan, and then just average against Illinois. He’ll need a lot more of the former to make a late push up this list. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

4. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 19.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG

Never getting the love he should elsewhere, Thomas checks in at #4 this week. The Buckeye junior could be a lot higher, if his teammates actually gave him the ball in crunch time against Michigan on Tuesday. Aaron Craft is not who you want taking those shots. This week: February 10 vs. Indiana, February 14 vs. Northwestern

3. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 23.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG

After a long string of great scoring outputs, McDermott put up a clunker, tallying 8 points against Indiana State on Wednesday. Naturally, Creighton lost, which is easy to do when only one of your players averages at least 10 PPG. This week: February 9 vs. Illinois State, February 13 at Northern Iowa

2. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 18.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG

With his second 30-point performance in three games, Plumlee is officially back on the charge for the top spot. Over the last three games, he’s missed five shots. That’s some one who is stepping up when needed. This week: February 10 at Boston College, February 13 vs. North Carolina

1. Trey Burke– Michigan (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 7.2 APG

Trey Burke and Michigan have the nation's top-seed within its grasp (

Trey Burke has been in complete control of the Wolverines. (

As mentioned above, we have a new No. 1 this week. Despite the loss to Indiana on Saturday, I think this is the best player in the country on the best team in the country. If there is anyone that can be the face of this college basketball season, it’s Burke. This week: February 9 at Wisconsin, February 12 at Michigan State


5. Trent Johnson – TCU. I only put Johnson on this list because he’s the reason for it. As I watched TCU knock off Kansas (side note: might be the biggest upset I’ve ever seen), I feel like everyone had that moment where they went, “Oh yeah, Trent Johnson left LSU and is coaching TCU now.” It’s easy to lose track of Johnson, who seems to jump around as much as Larry Brown.

4. Keno Davis – Central Michigan. It’s hard to forget Davis’ Providence teams, who I’m pretty sure played less defense than any team ever. Now he’s at Central Michigan, where he’s 9-13. Interesting thing about Davis I didn’t realize – this is only his fifth season as a head coach.

3. Corliss Williamson – Central Arkansas. Williamson, who played in the NBA from 1995-2007, is not only the head coach at Central Arkansas, he’s entering his THIRD SEASON. Prior to this, his only head coaching experience was at Arkansas Baptist. Although his team is just 9-12 this season, it’s already the most wins he’s had with the Bears.

2. Mike Davis – Texas Southern. Once a runner-up in the NCAA title game, Davis has fallen far and is now the head man at Texas Southern. I’m not sure why he’s been unable to get better jobs, as he’s never finished a season more than a game under .500. His team is just 9-14 but is in contention for a SWAC title.

1. Louis Orr – Bowling Green. I interviewed Orr for a story a year ago, and I still didn’t remember he was the head coach at Bowling Green. His teams have been largely mediocre since he took over in 2007 and haven’t sniffed the NCAA tournament. He is, however, a really nice guy, and I’m glad he’s still coaching somewhere.


Keeping the trend here of great NCAA tournament moments, here’s Northwestern State knocking off Iowa on a Jermaine Wallace shot in one of the craziest finishes in recent tournament history. Some things to consider here: 1) Iowa? A 3-seed? Crazy, I know. 2) Northwestern State has a better tournament history than Northwestern. 3) Iowa almost hits a miracle shot to win it.


10. John Brown – High Point (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG

I gave him a little shout out last week, but Brown makes the real list this time around after another strong two games. Don’t be surprised if he transfers to a bigger school during the summer, although he might have second thoughts since he is already turning 21 in April. This week: February 9 vs. Coastal Carolina, February 13 at Longwood

9. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 4.5 APG

Despite scoring in double-figures in every conference game this year, Christon has been up and down with his shot for most of the season. He’s shooting a respectable 47.3 percent from the field but just 60.6 percent from the line, and he hasn’t made a 3-pointer in nearly a month. This week: February 9 at Duquesne, February 13 vs. Fordham

8. Jakarr Sampson – St. John’s (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG

A first-timer on the list, Sampson looks like the frontrunner for Big East Freshman of the Year. He has been a key to St. John’s surprising 7-4 conference start with 14.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG in Big East games. This week: February 10 at Syracuse, February 14 at Louisville

7. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG

In a race as competitive as this one, a bad week will drop you quickly. While Austin averaged 11 RPG this week, he scored a total of just 16 points. The normally reliable Austin went 7-for-23 from the field in those games – both of which were losses for Baylor. This week: February 9 vs. Texas Tech, February 13 vs. West Virginia

6. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.2 APG

Jahii Carson's Big Week In Washington Included A Career-High 32 Points Against The Huskies (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Carson has lifted the Sun Devils this season. (Joe Nicholson, USA Today Sports)

Last Saturday, Carson scored 32 points against Washington to establish a new career-high. It’s the second time he’s cracked 30 points this season, and it’s only a matter of time before he goes for 40. This week: February 9 vs. Stanford, February 13 at Utah

5. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 18.6 PPG, 5 RPG

Nothing is better evidence of how strong the freshmen are this year than the fact that Muhammad, who came in with as much hype as any player, is the top scorer on this list and still can’t get higher than #5. Aside from scoring, he had zero fouls and just two turnovers over his last two games. This week: February 9 vs. Washington State, February 14 at California

4. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.7 APG, 3 SPG

The resurgence of Smart continued this week, as he played brilliantly in two wins and led Oklahoma State back into the top-25. He’s been a thief lately, as he’s notched 13 steals over his last three games. This week: February 9 at Texas, February 13 at Texas Tech

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 10.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.6 BPG, 2.2 SPG

Noel had his best offensive game of the season against Texas A&M last Saturday. The freshman scored 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. He seems to show improvement in at least one area every single night. This week: February 9 vs. Auburn, February 12 at Florida

2. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 18.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG

The continued struggles of UNLV have knocked Bennett off of the top-10 players list. While his numbers might not be enough to get his team going, they are enough to have him in the top-2 here for the ninth straight week. This week: February 9 vs. New Mexico, February 13 at Air Force

1. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

Most draft boards I’ve seen have McLemore or Noel at the top. It will all come down to need, of course, but McLemore seems like the type of player that can instantly give a team 15-20 PPG. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State


5. Tom Izzo – Michigan State (Last week – NR)
Record: 19-4

I live in Lansing, and before the year, I thought the Spartans were destined to finish the season somewhere between No. 20-25. The fact that Izzo has them close to cracking the top-10 and is tied for first in the best conference in America is just a tremendous coaching job. This week: February 9 at Purdue, February 12 vs. Michigan

4. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – NR)
Record: 16-4

While I’ve given Porter Jr. a lot of love, most of the credit for Georgetown staying afloat since Greg Whittington was suspended belongs to JTIII. The Hoyas have a huge test ahead of them, though, as they play three ranked teams in their next five games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

3. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 3)
Record: 20-2

Even with the injury to Ryan Kelly, Coach K has his team poised for a #1 seed, if it can finish strong in the ACC. One of the most-anticipated games of the season will be on March 2 when the Blue Devils host Miami. This week: February 10 at Boston College, February 13 vs. North Carolina

2. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 4)
Record: 19-4

Rotnei Clarke has been fully integrated back into the lineup, and it appears that Stevens has this team rolling again. On a side note, the Bracket Busters games are really hurting without Butler this year. This week: February 9 at George Washington, February 13 vs. Charlotte

1. Jim Larranaga – Miami (Fl.) (Last week – 1)
Record: 18-3

Miami is #8 – in the country. This is a team that wouldn’t have shocked many if it finished #8 in the ACC. The Hurricanes have now won 10 games in a row, including at North Carolina State and North Carolina and at home against Duke. This week: February 9 vs. North Carolina, February 13 at Florida State

DCassilo (19 Posts)

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