Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Back at No. 1; A Farewell to Nerlens Noel

Posted by DCassilo on February 15th, 2013

awardtour

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

College basketball suffered a devastating loss when news broke that Nerlens Noel had torn his ACL in Tuesday’s game against Florida. Perhaps the best defender in the country, Noel was starting to come into his own offensively. The injury has once again sparked the debate about the one-and-done rule. First of all, know your target with this debate. It’s the NBA, not the NCAA. David Stern came up with the rule, but the biggest effects have been seen in college basketball. The positive for the NCAA has been increased exposure. Everyone wants a chance to see players like Noel before they hit the big show. But on the flip side, it’s tough on coaches who can’t plan their recruiting as easily as they used to. And finally, there’s the health risk for the player. This is another reason why I think there needs to be some sort of union-like body watching out for college athletes’ interest. If we knew a player like Noel would be taken care of financially in the event of an injury, I don’t think people would have as big a problem with the one-and-done rule.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The big man for Gonzaga is as consistent as they come, seemingly giving the Bulldogs somewhere between 15 and 20 points every single night. Some say this is the best Gonzaga team ever, and he deserves much of the credit for that. This week: February 16 at San Francisco, February 20 vs. Santa Clara

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

The drop for McLemore is mostly because of the terrific weeks by other players on this list. The freshman didn’t do too badly himself, as he poured in 30 points in a win over Kansas State. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

As one of the few Buckeyes that can score, Thomas keeps posting 20-point games because he keeps getting a lot of shots. The junior has taken at least 15 shots in each of his last five games and fewer than 11 just once all season. This week: February 17 at Wisconsin, February 20 vs. Minnesota

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 23 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Losers of three straight and perhaps headed for a seat on the bubble, McDermott’s team is playing him out of the Player of the Year race. While he has played well, he’s missing the memorable performances he needs to overcome everything working against him. This week: February 16 at Evansville, February 19 vs. Southern Illinois

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 13.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.1 BPG

Withey’s eight double-doubles are already two more than all of last season. If there was a Most Improved Player award in college, it would be hard to argue against the Kansas senior. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

5. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 14.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.4 SPG

Forget LeBron, if we want to talk scoring at a high percentage, let’s look at Oladipo. He’s shooting 64.4 percent for the season. That’s pretty unheard of for a guard. It shows that’s he’s a good shooter who takes smart shots. This week: February 16 vs. Purdue, February 19 at Michigan State

4. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 15.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Let me take this time to remind you that Porter was not included on the Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List. It’s a sign that no player’s stock has risen more in conference play that the Hoyas’ best player. This week: February 15 at Cincinnati, February 20 vs. DePaul

3. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG

After starting at No. 1, Zeller’s stock mainly fell because his numbers were really good but not as great as what was expected. But in a topsy-turvy season like this, the value of consistency is often overlooked. He’s been solid all year long and helped Indiana become No. 1. What more can you ask for? This week: February 16 vs. Purdue, February 19 at Michigan State

2. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 18.2 PPG, 7.0 APG

Burke is not the reason for Michigan’s slump. In fact, he’s the only player performing like he should. With only one game in 11 days, he’ll need to be the leader in practice that gets his teammates going again. This week: February 17 vs. Penn State

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

How Much Higher Can Duke's Stock Go? (Duke Hoop Blog)

Plumlee has picked up the slack for Kelly lately. (Duke Hoop Blog)

Back at the top spot for the first time in a month, Plumlee has been the catalyst to Duke’s six-game winning streak. During that span, he has two 30-point games and two double-doubles. This race will come down to the wire, but Plumlee has the lead with just over a month to go. This week: February 16 at Maryland, February 21 at Virginia Tech

FIVE BEST MID-MAJOR CONFERENCE RACES

5. Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont currently has a one-game edge on Murray State for the top spot, but the Racers already won the lone head-to-head game. These are two teams that could do damage in the field of 68, so grabbing the automatic bad is crucial.

4. Mid-American Conference. Akron, who is 11-0 in conference play, is up one game on Ohio and has already beaten the Bobcats. But the two teams meet again on February 27 in what is one of the most important mid-major games left this season. Ohio reached the Sweet Sixteen last year, so we know what they can do, if they get in.

3. Patriot League. Without C.J. McCollum, Lehigh has somehow managed to go 8-1 in conference games and is tied with Bucknell, which they already beat. The rematch is on February 18, and the winner of that game should plan a trip to at least the NIT.

2. MEAC. There are eight teams without a loss in conference games and two of them (Norfolk State and North Carolina Central) are in the MEAC. But here’s the best part: For whatever reason, they don’t play in the regular season. This means they could both hit the conference tournament with a 16-0 conference record and only one of those teams might even make the NIT. Keep an eye on how this plays out.

1. Atlantic 10 Conference. It’s hard to call this one a mid-major, but technically it is, and it has one heck of a race going on. There are currently eight teams within two losses of the first place in the league. That includes tournament locks like Butler and teams fighting for their postseason lives like George Washington. It’s shaping up to be a can’t-miss conference tournament.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

Since we won’t be seeing much of Nerlens Noel for a very long time, below is the video of his 12 blocks against Ole Miss. It’s a quick way to remember how special he looked this season and how exciting it will be once he gets back on the court.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2 SPG

While UCLA has continued to struggle, Adams has done enough to get him back on this list. He’s been a scoring threat from the very first game for the Bruins and should stick in school long enough to put up some gaudy career numbers. This week: February 16 at Stanford

9. Jakarr Sampson – St. John’s (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 14.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG

This past Sunday against Syracuse, Sampson went off, as he scored 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting. It takes a pretty mature freshman to handle the Orange zone that well, although he did have seven turnovers in the game. This week: February 20 vs. South Florida

8. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.6 APG

In two games this past week, Christon averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Those are the type of numbers I expect from him as early as his sophomore season. While he might not make a huge postseason impact this season, file his name away. This week: February 16 at Dayton, February 20 at Rhode Island

7. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG

Austin has fallen apart following his 19 points and 20 rebounds against Oklahoma. In his four games since, he’s only managed to score in double figures once. The rigors of conference play can have this kind of effect on freshmen. This week: February 16 at Kansas State, February 20 vs. Iowa State

6. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 17.6 PPG, 5 APG

After a torrid start to conference play, Carson is beginning to slow down. Over his last three games, he’s averaging 13 points and 2.7 assists per contest. It’s no coincidence that the Sun Devils have lost two of those games. This week: February 16 at Colorado, February 20 vs. Washington State

5. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG

Muhammad has pretty much been what everyone expected this season, except for all of the UCLA losses. He’s scored in double figures in all but one game and looks ready for the NBA. The only question is what postseason tournament his final college game will be in. This week: February 16 at Stanford

4. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 10.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.4 BPG, 2.1 SPG

Nerlens Noel's impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

Nerlens Noel’s impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

This will be the last time I rank Noel, and as I mentioned above, it’s sad to see him go. He had the look of a player that was just starting to get it, and it would have been fun to see that in March. Now let’s just hope for a speedy recovery. This week: Injured

3. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 3 SPG

A 41.3 percent shooter this season, you know it’s a good week for Smart when he goes 10-of-18 from the field. With six straight wins for the Cowboys, it might not be long before we see Smart back in the Player of the Year race. This week: February 16 vs. Oklahoma, February 20 vs. Kansas

2. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Bennett has been madly inconsistent since conference play began and this past week was no different. He followed up 17 points and 12 rebounds against New Mexico with eight points and eight rebounds against Air Force. His season has been a microcosm of his entire team’s. This week: February 16 vs. San Diego State, February 20 vs. Colorado State

1. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

In an update to last week’s blurb, the injury to Noel makes McLemore the likely No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft. There has been a little question as to whether he’d stick around, but you have to remember, this is his second year in school. We could see him donning a Bobcats (or Hornets) jersey real soon. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

COACH OF THE YEAR

What more can you say about the job that Jim Larranaga has done this season? (Getty)

What more can you say about the job that Jim Larranaga has done this season? (Getty)

5. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 4)
Record: 20-5

Even with three losses in his last seven games, when you look at Stevens’ body of work this season, he deserves to be on this list. And with five players scoring at least 10 PPG, Butler will be one of the hardest teams to defend against in March. This week: February 16 at Fordham, February 19 vs. Duquesne

4. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – 4)
Record: 18-4

The Hoyas are now tied for first place in the Big East Conference. It’s been the defense that has them there, as Georgetown has not allowed more than 65 points since January 8. This week: February 15 at Cincinnati, February 20 vs. DePaul

3. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 3)
Record: 22-2

Even with the stellar record, Duke is going to need some help to win the ACC regular season. The Blue Devils need Miami to lose twice to gain a share of the league crown. The Hurricanes toughest game outside of the Duke rematch? At home against Virginia. This week: February 16 at Maryland, February 21 at Virginia Tech

2. Tom Izzo – Michigan State (Last week – 5)
Record: 21-4

The Spartans have once again creeped up on everyone, but their toughest test is ahead of them. Starting next Tuesday is a three-game stretch against Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. Izzo still has some work to do. This week: February 16 at Nebraska, February 19 vs. Indiana

1. Jim Larranaga – Miami (FL) (Last week – 1)
Record: 20-3

The impressive thing is not that Miami is winning; it’s how they are doing it. This past week the Hurricanes beat North Carolina by 26 points at home and had minimal trouble in a six-point road win against Florida State. A perfect ACC season seems crazy to think about, but what has Miami done to suggest it isn’t possible? This week: February 17 at Clemson, February 19 vs. Virginia

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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