Award Tour: Burke vs. Porter, McLemore vs. Smart and Larranaga vs. JTIIIPosted by DCassilo on March 8th, 2013
David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.
With just one regular season game to go, nothing is decided. It’s another example of how unpredictable this season has been. For Player of the Year, it’s down to Trey Burke and Otto Porter Jr. Both players have carried their teams and made everyone around them better. Then there’s Freshman of the Year, which is down to Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart. They are a couple of players who have been impacts guys from the opening game. And Coach of the Year? It’s Jim Larranaga’s to lose, but lately, it looks like he’s trying to lose it.
The final update of this will run on Tuesday of next week, so make sure to look out for it.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
10. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3 SPG
I’ve written about Smart so many times this season that I need to give myself a moment to step back and admire how well-rounded he is as a player. His 3.0 SPG are third best in the country. He’s a guy I’ll always want on my team. This week: March 9 vs. Kansas State
9. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 19.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG
Oddly enough, the Buckeyes have played their best basketball when Thomas has played his worst. Still, he’s scored at least 14 points in each game of this four-game winning streak. In most other conferences, he would be the Player of the Year. This week: March 10 vs. Illinois
8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 7 RPG
You would be hard-pressed to find many players that are more efficient than Olynyk. The junior shot 68.8 percent from the field while attempting over 10 shots per game. It will be fun when the rest of the country figures out who he is this March. This week: Regular season over.
7. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 8. RPG
It will go down as a disappointing year because of the expectations, but Zeller still improved his scoring and rebounding averages in his sophomore season. The most surprising thing, though, is that there is a Hoosier ahead of him on this list. This week: March 10 at Michigan
6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 23.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG
McDermott closed the regular season out in style with 41 points against Wichita State. Although he will probably get a few first-place votes, what ultimately held him back was the struggles of his teammates. This week: Regular season over.
5. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 BPG
There is an argument to be made for Withey to be No. 1. He’s the anchor of a terrific Kansas team, and the best interior defender in the country. He was nearly the best senior in college basketball this season (see #4). This week: March 9 at Baylor.
4. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 17 PPG, 10.2 RPG
It hasn’t been a terrific ACC season for Plumlee, but he should still finish the year averaging around 17/10. Once he and Ryan Kelly get in sync, this team will be deadly. This week: March 9 at North Carolina
3. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 13.7 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.3 SPG
With the way Oladipo played against Ohio State (seven points, five fouls), it would take a monster performance on Sunday for him to win this award. Too bad there wasn’t a Most Improved Player Award to give him. This week: March 10 at Michigan
2. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 19.1 PPG, 6.9 APG
For my money, it would a crime if Burke did not win Player of the Year in the Big Ten. Oladipo is a very good player, but Burke has put his team on his back and is on a mission to get them playing good basketball again. Also, his all-around numbers are outstanding for a point guard. This week: March 10 vs. Indiana
1. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 16.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2 SPG
The thing about Porter Jr. is that you just know he is going to find a way to do his damage. As a Villanova alum, I watched Wednesday’s game in constant fear because he’s just a terror to defend. Even in an off night, he posted a 17/4/5 line against the Wildcats. This week: March 9 vs. Syracuse
FIVE UNRANKED TEAMS THAT CAN MAKE THE ELITE EIGHT
5. Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats have beaten Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse. You won’t find many teams in the entire Tournament with wins like those. Led by their defense, Villanova can hang with most teams in the country.
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers. This seems like a ridiculous notion considering Minnesota lost to Nebraska on Wednesday but getting out of Big Ten play will do this team a lot of good. There’s great athleticism and talent across the roster, and they will be a very tough out.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels. Since going to a smaller lineup, North Carolina has become one of the hottest teams in the country. The Tar Heels have won six straight games and are playing better defense than they have all season. P.J. Hairston is a name to remember.
2. Butler Bulldogs. Don’t be fooled by Butler’s recent struggles. This is still a balanced team that can do damage in March. It wasn’t too long ago that this team was shooting up the rankings after beating Indiana and Gonzaga.
1. Missouri Tigers. With players in and out of the lineup all season, we’ve yet to really see what this Missouri team is really made of. They have a lot of talent and can score. Last year’s loss to Norfolk State will be a motivating factor, as well.
This might not a game-winner like a lot of the shots shown here, but it was just as important. Let’s head back to the 2007 NCAA tournament when Ron Lewis helped Ohio State avoid a massive upset at the hands of Xavier with his three-pointer at the end of regulation. It’s the early round version of the Mario Chalmers shot.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
10. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 14 PPG, 4.5 RPG
One of the few bright spots for Kentucky this season, Goodwin has recovered after a shaky stretch in SEC play. He still looks like he could use another year in school, but it’s unclear if that will happen. This week: March 9 vs. Florida
9. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.6 APG
Christon had his best game of the season on Wednesday, finishing with a 20/7/7 line and even knocking down two three-pointers in a win over Saint Louis. Crazy to think, he could one day be Big East Player of the Year. This week: March 9 at Butler
8. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 13.7 PPG, 8.9 RPG
It’s looking pretty likely that we won’t see Austin in the NCAA tournament this season. What most of the country will miss is a player who is a rich man’s version of Perry Jones III. This week: March 9 vs. Kansas
7. Jakarr Sampson – St. John’s (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG
In his first two games without D’Angelo Harrison, Sampson has shown an increased role in the offense but not an increased role in productivity. It’s not a surprise, as he’s now receiving more defensive attention than ever. This week: March 9 vs. Marquette
6. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 15.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG
If Adams sticks around next season, he’ll be a sleeper pick for Player of the Year. He can definitely score, and he’s a pest defensively, as well. This week: March 9 at Washington
5. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 5 RPG
Hype? Check. Solid but unspectacular numbers? Check. Looking bored at the college level? Check. I’ve said it before, but this is the 2012-13 version of Harrison Barnes. Only difference is, he won’t stay for his sophomore year. This week: March 9 at Washington
4. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 17.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5 APG
The losses continue to pile up but so do the gaudy numbers. Carson has scored at least 21 points in three of his last four games. I guess there’s no freshman wall here. This week: March 9 at Arizona
3. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 16.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Bennett’s numbers have taken a dive due to a shoulder injury. Overall, though, he’s had one of the best all-around seasons for any freshman. With a stronger finish, he could have been No. 1. This week: March 9 vs. Fresno State
2. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG
There was yet another monster game last Saturday for McLemore, who put up 36 points against West Virginia. He’s a guy who I think might be the face of this year’s NCAA Tournament. This week: March 9 at Baylor.
1. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 14.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3 SPG
Like Player of the Year, this race will come down to the weekend. Both McLemore and Smart have been elite players from their very first game. If there’s a tiebreaker, though, it goes to Smart, who is a true freshman. This week: March 9 vs. Kansas State
COACH OF THE YEAR
5. Bruce Weber – Kansas State (Last week – 5)
With a little luck, Weber’s Wildcats might be the team to finally unseat Kansas atop the Big 12 standings. If that’s the case, you’ll certainly see Weber move up a few spots here. This week: March 9 at Oklahoma State
4. Jim Crews – Saint Louis (Last week – 3)
Despite the loss to Xavier on Wednesday, Saint Louis is in prime position for at least a share of the Atlantic 10 title. Prior to the loss, Crews’ team had won 11 straight games. This week: March 9 vs. La Salle
3. Mark Few – Gonzaga (Last week – 4)
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are No. 1 in the country. With just two losses all season, Few has turned this team into a title contender. Their run in March will be among the biggest storylines. This week: Regular season over.
2. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – 2)
The Hoyas are one win away from a Big East title. Six weeks ago, they looked like a team that was perhaps on its way out of the NCAA tournament. Good work, JTIII. This week: March 9 vs. Syracuse
1. Jim Larranaga – Miami (FL) (Last week – 1)
With two losses this past week, Larranaga’s hold on this spot is a little shakier. I’m still probably going to give it to him, but he better beat Clemson on Saturday. This week: March 9 vs. Clemson