Award Tour: Four New Players Enter the NPOY DiscussionPosted by Jameson Fleming on January 3rd, 2014
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.
College basketball is chock-full of star players on the verge of making these Player of the Year rankings. Wichita State’s Ron Baker and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige dropped out, but not by their own faults. Michigan State’s Keith Appling and Florida’s Casey Prather have simply had better seasons to this point. Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams was once as high as No. 4 in the rankings, but several poor performances have dropped him straight out of the top 10. Meanwhile, Kansas has two players, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, who could go No. 1 in the NBA Draft, but neither has yet to crack the list. The Pac-12 may have only one elite team this season, but it is loaded with top players like Arizona’s Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, and UCLA’s duo of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – none of whom are on this week’s list either. So who made it? Let’s get to this week’s post-holiday list.
Player of the Year
10. Keith Appling – Michigan State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 121.9 oRTG
NBCSports.com‘s Rob Dauster put together a handy little chart comparing all of the nation’s elite point guards. What did he find? Under these parameters, Keith Appling is the No. 1 high-profile point guard in the country.
You can see the rest of the chart here. When you factor in the points Appling scores per possession and the points he creates per assist, he ranks better than Tyler Ennis, Shabazz Napier, Chaz Williams, Marcus Smart and Russ Smith. The biggest knock against Appling remains his inconsistency in Michigan State’s biggest games.
9. Casey Prather – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 121.9 oRTG
After three seasons without much of a role at Florida, Casey Prather has developed into one of the best players in the SEC. He’s nearly tripled his point production (6.2 PPG to 17.8 PPG) thanks to an increase in minutes (33 percent to 74 percent of Florida’s game time) and usage (19.5 percent to 28.1 percent).
8. Joseph Young – Oregon. Last Week: Not Ranked.
2013-14 stats: 20.2 PPG, 1.4 SPG, 142.4 oRTG
After two great years at Houston, Joseph Young transferred to Oregon where he has become an even better player under Dana Altman. He ranks No. 1 in the country in offensive efficiency among players who use at least 20 percent of their teams possessions. He’s the leading scorer on a team with six players averaging nine points or more per game. Oh, and he’s only committed nine turnovers all season.
7. Tyler Ennis – Syracuse. Last Week: Not Ranked.
2013-14 stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 122.2 oRTG
It was only a matter of time until someone from Syracuse landed on the list, but surprisingly, it’s not C.J. Fair or Jerami Grant. Instead, it’s freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who has quickly become the Orange’s most outstanding player. Fair has struggled with turnovers and poor shot selection while Grant has been a star in several of Syracuse’s games, but neither is as important as Ennis. He has an incredible 70 to 15 assist-to-turnover ratio. Plus, he drops incredible behind the back passes like this.
6. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 5.
2013-14 stats: 17.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 116.3 oRTG
Kentucky contained Russ Smith fairly well. The Cardinals’ senior still scored 19 points with four assists, but it was more about the mistakes Kentucky forced Smith into than anything else. He missed all five of his three-point attempts and the turned the ball over four times. Despite his struggles, Smith still landed this highlight reel dunk over Julius Randle.
Smith followed up his so-so performance against Kentucky with a spectacular 24-point, nine-assist game against Central Florida. He drained six three-pointers in that one.
5. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 16.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 120 oRTG
Shabazz Napier continues to have one of the best all-around seasons in college hoops. Despite his team’s loss to Houston, Napier proved to be the best player on the court by recording 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Now that Connecticut’s three-point shooting is beginning to regress back to the mean, Kevin Ollie will need Napier to lead his offense to easy baskets around the rim.
4. Julius Randle – Kentucky. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 115.5 oRTG
Even though Kentucky was able to pull off a huge win against rival Louisville despite Julius Randle missing a huge chunk of the second half with cramps, Randle still moves up three spots in the rankings. Why? Randle dominated the 21 minutes he played against the Cardinals and tore Belmont to pieces in Kentucky’s previous game. He knocked down 15 of the 16 two-pointers he took in those two contests and shot 1.39 free throws for every field goal he attempted. Beast mode.
3. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 2.6 SPG, 110.1 oRTG
It’s sink or swim time for Marcus Smart. After a few big performances early in the season, Smart has largely been mediocre ever since. With a recent injury to teammates Michael Cobbins and the arrest of Stevie Clark, Smart will need to step up even more than he already has. That means hitting shots outside the paint. During his last seven games, the Cowboys sophomore is only nine for his last 39 on shots outside the paint including a 2-of-7 performance against Colorado depicted below.
2. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 24.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 120.9 oRTG
In a post last week about which Big East players need to step up, I noted Doug McDermott has only blocked nine shots during his entire college career. I tweeted out that nugget and McDermott actually favorited the tweet. If he was using it as motivation to go out and play tougher defense, it didn’t work. In the two games since that tweet, Dougie McBuckets didn’t block any shots, but he’s still doing everything else exceptionally well.
1. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 21.4 PPG, 8 RPG, 117.3 oRTG
Jabari Parker is coming off a season-low 12 points, but that’s OK, it came in just 23 minutes in a blowout win against Elon. Despite the limited court time, he still grabbed double-figure rebounds for the fourth time this season. Parker continues to be an all-around threat to score as he’s shooting 61.3 percent on shots around the rim, 48.6 percent on two-point jumpers, and 45.5 percent from three, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Coach of the Year
5. Jay Wright – Villanova. Last Week: 4. The Wildcats took a beating for the final 30 minutes of their game against Syracuse, but they rebounded nicely with an overtime road win at Butler. Villanova looks like it could land a #2 or #3 seed in March if Jay Wright’s club can keep it going.
4. Fred Hoiberg – Iowa State. Last Week: 3. DeAndre Kane didn’t get any love above, but there’s a good chance he’ll land in the rankings fairly soon. Fred Hoiberg called Kane his best defender before the season; when you add his defense to his stellar offense, Kane is a rare two-way player that has made Iowa State more than just an NCAA Tournament team. The Cyclones are a threat to make a deep run in March.
3. Jim Boeheim – Syracuse. Last Week: 5. The Orange showed some moxie by overcoming a big 25-7 deficit against previously unbeaten Villanova to put a drubbing on the Wildcats. Syracuse ended that game on a 71-37 run. When the zone starts forcing bad shots and turnovers, the ‘Cuse can overrun a team quickly.
2. Bo Ryan – Wisconsin. Last Week: 2. After a two-week layoff, the Badgers returned to action by beating Prairie View A&M, and followed that up with a Thursday drubbing of Northwestern in Evanston. Wisconsin turned the ball over just six times in the two games which represents an incredible trend among Bo Ryan teams. Wisconsin has ranked in the top five in the country in turnover percentage during each of the past six seasons (12.9 percent this season). That’s remarkable.
1. Sean Miller – Arizona. Last Week: 1. Washington State isn’t good, but the Cougars aren’t exactly bad. They’re ranked #115 on KenPom.com and have a win over Purdue. But Arizona put a licking on Wazzu, jumping out to a 21-2 lead and holding the Cougars to a total of just 25 points for the entire game. Sean Miller’s club is out to send a message to a much improved league.