Award Tour: Jabari Parker Remains No. 1 Despite Heavy ShakeupPosted by Jameson Fleming on December 20th, 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.
Two new players, Wichita State’s Ron Baker and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, cracked the NPOY Top 10 for the first time this week. Their overall performances could no longer be outranked by high-scoring guards Roberto Nelson and Jahii Carson. Nelson’s drop is more justifiable after playing just eight minutes against Towson. He was ejected for attempting to punch another player in the first half. Carson will ultimately have a better shot of making it back into the Top 10 because he’s a more complete player for a better team. This week’s list…
Player of the Year
10. Ron Baker – Wichita State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 14 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 134.9 oRTG
For a player who only had scholarship offers to South Dakota State and Arkansas-Little Rock, Ron Baker has turned into a bona fide star. Only 31 players in all of college basketball have turned in a higher offensive rating than the Shockers’ sophomore. He’s excellent at creating his own shot inside the arc as his teammates are only assisting on 11 percent of his jumpers. And oh by the way, he’s drilling 64 percent of those two-point shots. He could lead the Shockers into February without a loss.
9. Marcus Paige – North Carolina. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 19.6 PPG, 4.1 APG, 124.3 oRTG
I held off putting Marcus Paige in the rankings for as long as possible, but his performance in a loss against Texas was enough that he could no longer be denied his rightful place in the Top 10. The hesitation with Paige was whether he could maintain the incredible improvement from his freshman season. With 23 points in each game against Kentucky and Texas, it’s obvious Paige is North Carolina’s star. On twos, threes and free throws, he’s shooting 49.3/40.0/91.2 compared to 36.8/34.4/83.6 in 2012-13. With the return of Leslie McDonald to the rotation, Paige should be freer to take better shots and those percentages could rise even more.
8. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 8
2013-14 stats: 15.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 120.7 oRTG
Nick Johnson continued his stellar junior season with a 17-point performance on just eight field goal attempts thanks to 11 trips to the free throw line against Southern. With other stars like Aaron Gordon and T.J. McConnell in the Wildcats’ lineup, Johnson has stood out the most. He’s scored in double-figures in every game except one and put up an oRTG of 100+ in all but two games.
7. Julius Randle – Kentucky. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 111.9 oRTG
Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein have formed one of the more imposing frontcourt duos on the defensive end of the floor. They’ve got a pretty sweet thing going on: Cauley-Stein is the primary post defender who blocks shots and rotates over as a secondary defender to contest drives. Randle is the team’s primary weak-side rebounder who cleans up Cauley-Stein’s blocks and grabs the many missed shots that Cauley-Stein forces. The result? Randle rebounds 23 percent of the opponents’ misses and Cauley-Stein blocks nearly 15 percent of the opponents’ shots.
6. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 15.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.9 APG, 120.1 oRTG
Shabazz Napier is still the nation’s best stat-sheet stuffer, but his poor decisionmaking on Wednesday night against Stanford is going to cost him in the NPOY race. After answering two Stanford baskets with baskets of his own, Napier’s shot selection quickly dissipated. He chucked up several awful three-point shots without his rebounders in position and also took an ill-advised wild layup attempt. His most surprising decision came in the final seconds when he passed up an open game-winning shot for a worse shot from his teammate.
5. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 16.6 PPG, 5.2 APG, 117.9 oRTG
Thanks to the emergence of junior transfer Chris Jones, Russ Smith has been able to settle into a role of a distributor and scorer. Smith can pick and choose when he wants to attack (he’s still vicious in transition), which has freed him up to take better shots around the rim. He’s assisting on 37 percent of his team’s baskets this year as opposed to just 21 percent last year. He’s also recorded at least five assists in seven of 11 games this year after doing that only eight times all last season.
4. Chaz Williams – Massachusetts. Last Week: 5
2013-14 stats: 16.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, 116.8 oRTG
Chaz Williams has not only been an assist machine, but in his last two double-digit assist games he’s generated a bevy of easy baskets. Against BYU and Ohio, Williams dished out 26 assists with 16 resulting in layups or dunks and seven more creating three-pointers.
Add the 59 points his assists generated to the 43 he scored, and he’s accounted for 102 points in those two games (he had another 12 points and seven assists in a game sandwiched between those two performances).
3. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 18 PPG, 3 SPG, 109.8 oRTG
Last week, I examined Marcus Smart’s struggles outside the paint. That trend continued during his latest game against Delaware State.
During his last five games, Smart has hit just five of his last 30 shots outside the paint. If he doesn’t turn that around quickly, Smart could be in for some ugly Big 12 games. Luckily, Smart is still taking 40 percent of shots around the basket and converting those attempts at 72 percent.
2. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 4
2013-14 stats: 25.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 121.6 oRTG
After an incredible junior season, Doug McDermott found something to improve on. In 2012-13, he averaged six free throw attempts per game, but this season he’s up to 7.3 per game which translates to 50 extra free throws during the entire season. With McDermott sinking freebies at a clip of 89 percent, that’s a potential 45 extra points throughout the season.
1. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 22.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 116.4 oRTG
Playing in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night established that Jabari Parker is ready for the NBA. Not that we didn’t already know that, but Parker was toying with the idea of shooting only from the college three-point line. His four three-pointers averaged 26 feet in distance. Against UCLA, he helped slow down an excellent offensive team in the second half and had one of the best overall games in his career. Parker finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Duke’s win.
Coach of the Year
5. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse – Last Week: Not Ranked. For the first few weeks of the season, it would have been premature to say this Syracuse team is better than last year’s version that made the Final Four. After the Orange’s latest streak of playing five potential NCAA Tournament teams in six games (and winning them all), it’s no longer a stretch to say the ‘Cuse is a better team this year. Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney have performed better than Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche while Jerami Grant has filled James Southerland’s shoes nicely despite lacking a three-point shot.
4. Jay Wright, Villanova – Last Week: 4. The Wildcats haven’t played since the last edition of the rankings, so we’ll look at a few metrics to further illustrate just how much better Villanova is than last year. When looking at Ken Pomeroy’s four factors for offense and defense (eFG%, TO%, OR%, and free throw rate), Wright’s team has improved in seven of the eight factors while seeing only the slightest drop-off in offensive free throw rate (50.6 to 50.3).
3. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State: Last Week: 3. The teams with exceptional defensive eFG percentages are usually stacked with long front line defenders who make life miserable for opponents around the basket. Iowa State is 13th in the country in defensive eFG percentage. Its tallest player who averages more than 10 minutes per game is 6’7” Georges Niang. Iowa State doesn’t gamble in the halfcourt, instead relying on guarding teams tightly. The Cyclones’ lack of emphasis on the offensive glass has allowed them to prevent easy buckets in transition.
2. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin – Last Week: 2. Many coaches have a certain type of player who they like to model their roster around. Just in this top five, Jay Wright tends to usually stock his roster with guards who can handle the ball and he plays three or four of them at a time. Jim Boeheim always has a versatile wing/forward of the Wes Johnson, Kris Joseph, C.J. Fair, and Jerami Grant type. For Wisconsin, it’s big guys who can shoot it. Here’s every 6’8” or taller Bo Ryan player who could stroke it from the past decade.
1. Sean Miller, Arizona – Last Week: 1. It’s good to be Sean Miller, isn’t it? All seven players in his rotation are efficient scorers with all but Aaron Gordon recording an oRTG of 110+. There’s rarely a weak link on the floor for the Wildcats which forces teams to tightly guard all five players. Combine all that talent with Arizona’s penchant for pounding the offensive glass and it’s easy to see why ‘Zona is still undefeated.