Award Tour: Trey Burke And Marcus Smart Rise to the Top

Posted by DCassilo on February 22nd, 2013


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

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a real college all-star game? First of all, it would give every team a break it needs, and second, seeing the top players face off would be great. Imagine something like Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Jeff Withey and Kelly Olynyk against Marcus Smart, Deshaun Thomas, Otto Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller. Personally, I would love to see Burke and Smart run their teams against each other. I know there is some lame all-star game during Final Four weekend, but a mid-season game is something that the NCAA should consider.


10. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.9 SPG

It’s amazing that Smart not only is this great already but also has so much room for improvement. In the double-overtime loss against Kansas on Wednesday, he was the most important player on the floor despite going 2-of-14 from the field. One more offseason of workouts will make him a lethal player. This week: February 23 at West Virginia, February 27 at TCU

9. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk's Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation's Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

Kelly Olynyk’s Breakout Year Has Gonzaga As One Of The Nation’s Elite Offensive Teams (USA Today Sports Images)

There is likely no better frontcourt tandem in the nation than Olynyk and Elias Harris. The two combine to average 32.5 PPG and 14.4 RPG. There are few teams in the country that will be able to match up with that duo in the NCAA Tournament. This week: February 23 vs. San Diego, February 28 at BYU

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 20.1 PPG, 6 RPG

Thomas is just a straight-up gunner. He takes 16 shots per game and has scored in double-figures in every game this season. It seems nearly impossible to completely take him out of a game defensively. This week: February 24 vs. Michigan State, February 28 at Northwestern

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG

For all his accolades as a scorer, McDermott’s ability to rebound often gets overlooked. The 6’8″ junior has eight double-doubles so far this season and has hauled in as many as 13 rebounds in a game. This week: February 23 at St. Mary’s, February 27 at Bradley

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 BPG

At the most important part of the season, Withey is playing his best basketball. He’s had double-doubles in his last three games, which is something he hasn’t done all season. The 14 rebounds against Oklahoma State on Wednesday were a season-high. This week: February 23 vs. TCU, February 25 at Iowa State

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 16.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG

While Oladipo gets most of the headlines, I don’t think we can overlook how important Zeller has been lately for the Hoosiers. His numbers don’t look that gaudy, but this is a guy who averages just 28.6 minutes per night. Without him down low, there’s no way Indiana knocks off Michigan State. This week: February 26 at Minnesota

4. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.4 SPG

I like Oladipo a lot, but I don’t think it can be overstated that the three guys in front of him on this list don’t have a teammate that evens sniffs the top-10. When your team has nearly five guys that average 10 PPG, you’re naturally tougher to defend. There is no debate, however, that nobody is better defensively than Oladipo. This week: February 26 at Minnesota

3. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 15.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG

If Porter Jr. is going to have any chance at becoming Player of the Year, he needs a performance to remember on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. While he’s got the stats, he needs to get on everyone’s radar. He’s somehow not a household name yet. This week: February 23 at Syracuse, February 27 at UConn

2. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 17.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG

Despite the brief stay at No. 1, I really feel like Plumlee is being overlooked in the Player of the Year race. His per game averages are stellar, and he’s on a potential No. 1 seed. Sometimes being so consistent can work against you. This week: February 24 vs. Boston College, February 28 at Virginia

1. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 18.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.9 APG

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

Can Burke get some help down the stretch? (AP Photo)

Through Michigan’s recent struggles, Burke’s numbers have never wavered. He scored a season-high 29 points against Penn State last Sunday and appears poised to play his best basketball down the stretch. This week: February 24 vs. Illinois, February 27 at Penn State


5. Saint Louis at Butler (February 22). There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played after Friday’s showdown, but if Saint Louis wins, it will be a game up in the Atlantic 10 standings and have wins over Butler and VCU. A win for Butler would make this a crazy race down the stretch.

4. Alabama at Florida (March 2). These teams are at different levels but first place in the conference should be on the line when they meet. The game means a lot more for Alabama, a team that can lock down a Tournament bid with a win.

3. Wichita State at Creighton (March 2). The Missouri Valley title will likely be on the line in this regular season finale. After a disappointing conference season, Creighton needs the win to boost its NCAA resume. Both these teams could meet again in the conference title game.

2. Indiana at Michigan (March 10). Even if the conference title isn’t on the line, this is a game that has major Tournament ramifications. Seeding and momentum will be on the line when the Hoosiers and Wolverines meet up in Ann Arbor. It’s likely that Michigan will need this one just a little more.

1. Syracuse at Georgetown (March 9). Aside from being the last time these two teams plays a Big East regular season game, it’s possible the conference title could be on the line. Both teams have rigorous schedules down the stretch, but it’s only right that they square off for a league crown.


I miss Gus Johnson in the NCAA Tournament. It’s an event that’s made for him. Case and point is Syracuse vs. Vermont in 2005. Whenever I think about this game or hear the name T.J. Sorrentine, I always say in my head, “From the parking lot!”


10. Glenn Robinson III – Michigan (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 11.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG

While most of February has been disappointing for GR3, hopefully last Sunday’s 29 points and 10 rebounds against Penn State is a sign of good things to come. If it’s not, the Wolverines could be in a lot of trouble. This week: February 24 vs. Illinois, February 27 at Penn State

9. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG

It seems like there is nowhere to go but down lately for Austin. He’s struggled to hit shots and has been less of a factor on the boards. The rigors of a full season appear to be wearing this freshman down. This week: February 23 at Oklahoma, February 27 at West Virginia

8. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.4 APG

Christon has yet to have a game in conference play where he scored less than 13 points. His team isn’t winning enough, and he still can’t make an outside shot, but Christon has many good days ahead of him in his Xavier career. This week: February 23 vs. VCU, February 26 vs. Memphis

7. Jakarr Sampson – St. John’s (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 14.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG

It’s been well documented how young this St. John’s team is, and if the strong recruiting is going to pay off, Steve Lavin needs to coax Sampson and D’Angelo Harrison back to school. If those two do return, this is a Top 25 team next season. This week: February 24 vs. Pittsburgh

6. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG

Jordan Adams Had a Ridiculously Efficient Week, Averaging 24.5 Points Per Game And Showing A Versatile Game (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Jordan Adams has been a nice surprise for the Bruins. (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

It seems like Adams is finally figuring out how to play alongside Shabazz Muhammad. He’s scored at least 14 points in his last three games, including 20 points against Stanford last Saturday. Despite the struggles this season, UCLA is dangerous if that tandem is hot at the same time. This week: February 24 at USC, February 27 vs. Arizona State

5. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.9 APG

Could Carson win Pac-12 Player of the Year as a freshman? It’s probably going to Allen Crabbe, but Carson will certainly be in the mix, especially if the Sun Devils can rally and take the league title.  This week: February 23 vs. Washington, February 27 at UCLA

4. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 18.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG

Our third straight Pac-12 freshman is a pretty good indication how tough it will be for voters to pick the top first-year player in the conference. Damyean Dotson of Oregon will surely get some votes, as well. This week: February 24 at USC, February 27 vs. Arizona State

3. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 17.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG

It’s yet another week of up-and-down play for Bennett. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds against San Diego State but followed that with eight points and seven rebounds against Colorado State. Luckily for him, UNLV won both games. This week: February 23 at Wyoming

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

The run on top ends after four weeks for McLemore. His numbers dipped this past week, as he averaged a pedestrian 10.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG over the last two contests. That can’t continue to happen for Kansas to make a deep March run. This week: February 23 vs. TCU, February 25 at Iowa State

1. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.9 SPG

Forget his numbers for a second. When was the last time you saw a freshman that was as good of a leader as Smart? About a year ago, I said he reminded me of Chauncey Billups. Their games are different, but that will to win is something they clearly share. This week: February 23 at West Virginia, February 27 at TCU


5. Bruce Weber – Kansas State (Last week – NR)
Record: 21-5

If Weber can be the one that keeps Kansas from the league title in his first year at Kansas State, he’s going to be pretty hard to ignore for this award. For that to happen, the Wildcats will likely need to win their final five games. This week: February 23 at Texas, February 25 vs. Texas Tech

4. Tom Izzo – Michigan State (Last week – 2)
Record: 22-5

The loss to Indiana was a setback, but if Michigan State can pick up a road win against Ohio State on Sunday, all will be forgotten. It’s not out of the question, as Izzo’s teams have rarely slumped in Big Ten play. This week: February 24 at Ohio State

3. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 3)
Record: 22-5

Stevens has the big wins to back it up, but whoever wins the Atlantic 10 is going to have a pretty good case for Coach of the Year. If Saint Louis knocks off Butler on Friday, you’ll likely see Jim Crews here. This week: February 22 vs. Saint Louis

2. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – 4)
Record: 21-4

With two games left against Syracuse, the Big East title is there for the taking for the Hoyas. If JT3 can do that, it will be his best coaching job to date and worthy of some accolades. This week: February 23 at Syracuse, February 27 at UConn

1. Jim Larranaga – Miami (Fl.) (Last week – 1)
Record: 22-3

To be completely honest, this one might already be in the bag for Larranaga. Barring an unbelievable collapse, Miami is going to win the ACC regular season title, and that should be enough to become the nation’s top coach. With the NCAA investigation as a distraction, it’s a great, great coaching job. This week: February 23 at Wake Forest, February 27 vs. Virginia Tech

DCassilo (19 Posts)

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