Award Tour: Randle Dropping, Parker and Napier Still at the Top…Posted by Jameson Fleming on December 16th, 2013
Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.
We haven’t been doing rankings for Freshman of the Year mostly because this freshmen class is so class loaded that you’ll see two or more freshmen in the top 10 of the National Player of the Year rankings all season. One player who has been noticeably absent or toward the bottom of rankings from all across the web (NBCSports.com, CBSSports.com, Cleveland.com) is Andrew Wiggins. The Kansas freshman was a preseason All-American, but he has struggled to crack those rankings (including this one). Despite his “struggles,” he’s closer than you think. In fact, Wiggins hasn’t really struggled at all. He’s only played poorly in one of Kansas’ three losses, a 10-point performance against Villanova, but has played well otherwise, scoring 15.9 points per game and averaging 20 per game against Kansas’ top four opponents: Duke, Villanova, Colorado and Florida. If Wiggins’ supporting cast gets backs on track like they did against New Mexico on Saturday, you’ll see him in the Player of the Year rankings eventually. He hasn’t been as dominant as expected one month into the season, but it’s way too early to say he’s a disappointment.
Player of the Year
10. Roberto Nelson – Oregon State
2013-14 stats: 25.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 121.5 oRTG
The Beavers’ star continued to excel with 26 points on 16 shots against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Once Pac-12 play begins in a couple weeks, we’ll be able to get a better read on whether Nelson can keep up his elite scoring pace.
9. Jahii Carson – Arizona State
2013-14 stats: 19.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 114.2 oRTG
Jahaii Carson is struggling through a bum ankle, but that didn’t slow him down much against DePaul. He dropped 23 points on 15 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, and had five assists. Carson’s Sun Devils likely won’t be tested again until an early January date with UCLA.
8. Nick Johnson – Arizona
2013-14 stats: 15.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 120.7 oRTG
For long stretches of Arizona’s Saturday game against Michigan, Nick Johnson looked invisible. He came away with 14 points, but he looked like the fourth best player on the floor for the Wildcats. That’s not a bad thing for Sean Miller. If the junior guard is sometimes Miller’s fourth or fifth best option, that speaks to Arizona’s depth, but it won’t help Johnson’s NPOY stock.
7. Julius Randle – Kentucky
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 111.9 oRTG
Despite his poor play against North Carolina, Julius Randle is still the best post player in the country. But when you combine Kentucky’s three losses and the egg he laid against the Tar Heels, the super freshman had to drop a few spots (#4 last week). He was a non-factor on both ends of the floor as he committed four turnovers, shot just 3-of-9 from the field, grabbed a season-low five rebounds, and committed four personal fouls. Not all of his offensive issues were his fault though, because his teammates have zero clue how to feed the post against a good defense.
6. Russ Smith – Louisville
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 120.5 oRTG
Russ Smith needed just 22 minutes to score 16 points in a blowout against Louisiana-Lafayette and dished out 10 assists against Western Kentucky during the past week. Amazingly, the six-foot guard is shooting 73.3 percent on his shots around the rim. Smith’s ability to easily get to the hoop plus his ability to finish his drives is unmatched by any other player in college basketball.
5. Chaz Williams – Massachusetts
2013-14 stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, 119.1 oRTG
Chaz Williams is putting up similar numbers as last year, but with two big differences. Williams is shooting 44.4 percent from three, up from 33.3 percent last year and his Minutemen are much better as a result. UMass went to the NIT last season, but as of now, Derek Kellogg’s team should be the A-10 favorites. His 32-point, 15-assist performance against BYU may turn out to be the best individual performance you’ll see all year. This shot chart from CBSSports.com is a thing of beauty.
4. Doug McDermott – Creighton
2013-14 stats: 25.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 120.1 oRTG
Doug McDermott is back on track after toying with Nebraska to the tune of 33 points on 23 field goal attempts. He’s such a dominant force in Creighton’s lineup that he’s attempted more field goals this year (150), than the next two guys on his team combined, Ethan Wragge and Austin Chatman (140).
3. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State
2013-14 stats: 19.0 PPG, 3.0 SPG, 110.1 oRTG
McDermott may soon overtake Marcus Smart for No. 3 in the rankings as Smart has slowed down quite a bit over the last two weeks. He’s scored just 55 points in four games since his November three-game explosion against Memphis, South Florida, and Purdue. His inability to knock down shots outside the paint is the main culprit for his recent dry spell.
(Shot charts via CBSSports.com)
2. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 6.9 RPG, 122.7 oRTG
It was an easy week for Shabazz Napier as Connecticut coasted by Maine with the senior guard taking just five shots in a 27-point victory. He did dish out eight assists and grab five rebounds in only 22 minutes, however. The UConn star is arguably the top stat-sheet stuffer in the country.
1. Jabari Parker – Duke
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 6.9 RPG, 122.7 oRTG
Duke had the week off, so Jabari Parker won’t be penalized and dropped from No. 1 because of that. His excellent shooting across the board is the main reason Parker is the most versatile offensive weapon in the country. He’s unguardable at 6’8″ because he’s capable of scoring from everywhere in every way possible. He hits 61 percent of his shots around the rim, 57 percent of his two-point jumpers, and 47 percent of his threes. Bigs can’t guard him on the perimeter and wings can’t guard him in the post. The result? Parker is taking 34 percent of Duke’s shots when he’s on the floor, and with very good reason.
Coach of the Year
5. Jay Wright, Villanova. James Bell has finally morphed into an elite player for Jay Wright after three low-impact seasons, as the senior wing has become an efficient go-to guy (110.3 oRTG on 24.7 percent usage). In fact, Wright’s top three offensive contributors — Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Darrun Hilliard — have all significantly improved from last year. While the team’s offense is better, Villanova’s defense is its calling card. Against La Salle on Sunday, the Cats allowed only three buckets outside the paint. Impressive.
4. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State. For three years, DeAndre Kane was a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer at Marshall. He transfers to Iowa State and all of a sudden he’s a medium-volume, high-efficiency scorer. The difference? In Fred Hoiberg’s offense, Kane can focus on being a distributor and ball-handler, and as a result, his turnovers are down while his shooting percentages are up. Despite a lackluster performance against Iowa, Kane, along with newcomer Dustin Hogue, are the main reasons Hoiberg has turned the Cyclones into a Top 25 team, again.
3. Kevin Ollie, Connecticut. What is in the water in Storrs? Five of Kevin Ollie’s top six shooters are draining threes at a clip of at least 41 percent with three players connecting at better than 57 percent. Ollie certainly isn’t responsible for that incredible rate himself, though, as he hit a grand total of nine three-pointers in 662 NBA games.
2. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin. In the quarter-season RTC Podcast, the guys talked about how Bo Ryan could be No. 1 in these rankings based on his team’s ability to win different kinds of ballgames and the quality of his wins: Virginia, Florida, St. John’s, Marquette, St. Louis, and West Virginia. That resume certainly gives him a case for No. 1, so he’s been bumped ahead of Kevin Ollie, but he’ll fall short of Sean Miller for now.
1. Sean Miller, Arizona. While several teams have struggled to combine new talent with returning talent (talking Kentucky, Kansas and Duke here), Sean Miller has seamlessly woven Aaron Gordon, T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into his rotation and turned Arizona into the No. 1 team in the country. Arizona’s non-conference slate already includes wins against San Diego State, Duke, Drexel and Michigan.