Award Tour: Doug McDermott Strengthens Grip on POYPosted by Jameson Fleming on January 17th, 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.
As usual, there are many candidates knocking on the door of the Player of the Year race. Florida’s Casey Prather dropped out temporarily after missing the last two games with an injury. He’ll likely be back in the rankings at some point as he’s Julius Randle’s top competition for SEC Player of the Year. After a few rough games, UMass’ Chaz Williams is back on track thanks to a 26-point, eight-assist performance in the Minutemen’s thrilling win against George Mason. Andrew Wiggins is inching closer to the rankings after a monster double-double game against Iowa State, with 17 points and 19 rebounds against the Cyclones. Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Keith Appling have also picked up the slack for the injured Adreian Payne as Sparty continues to roll on.
Player of the Year
10. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 113.4 oRTG
Russ Smith hasn’t put together a complete game in a while and that trend continued Thursday night against Houston. He hasn’t scored fewer than 18 points since December 17, but his turnovers are out of control. He has committed 19 miscues in his last four games including five more against the Cougars. He’s logged at least four turnovers in seven of Louisville’s last eight games after doing so well with just three times in the Cardinals’ first 10 games. With Chane Behanan’s dismissal and Chris Jones’ recent struggles (10+ points in just one of Louisville’s last nine games), Smith’s production has to remain elite WITHOUT turnovers for Louisville to be considered a national title threat.
9. Lamar Patterson – Pittsburgh. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 123.4 oRTG
It’s a gamble to add Lamar Patterson to the Player of the Year rankings considering Pitt basically hasn’t played anyone all season. The Panthers’ first major challenge comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. This weekend will be Patterson’s chance to show he has in fact emerged as one of the best players in the country. He’s currently tearing it up in Oakland to the tune of 58 percent from two, 43 percent from three, and a studly 123.4 offensive rating on a 27.5 percent usage rate. He’s the main reason Jamie Dixon’s squad is the second best team in the ACC.
8. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.9 APG, 119 oRTG
Connecticut was in need of a marquee victory to make it clear this team wasn’t a fraud after unexpectedly losing several games after a 10-0 start. Shabazz Napier delivered a solid performance at Memphis to give the Huskies that much-needed victory. Napier struggled from three (1-of-8), but still scored 17 points with 10 assists and three steals.
7. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 16.3 PPG, 1.2 SPG, 121.7 oRTG
Nick Johnson has become an elite finisher around the rim. According to Hoop-Math.com, Johnson is making 82 percent of his shots at the bucket. That’s an incredible rate for a 6’3″ guard who is Arizona’s top option offensively. He also gave Arizona State problems on the defensive end of the floor, picking up two blocks in the process.
6. Tyler Ennis – Syracuse. Last Week:
2013-14 stats: 11.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 121.5 oRTG
While C.J. Fair is the necessary volume shooting cog that every offense needs, Tyler Ennis is the point guard who keeps the offense speeding forward. When Boston College bottled Ennis up in the halfcourt, he cranked up the defense to create easy opportunities for Trevor Cooney in transition. In the second half, Ennis found more freedom to operate and Syracuse’s offense took off. His overall line reflected his season: 12 points (two three-pointers), five assists, just one turnover, and six steals.
5. Julius Randle – Kentucky. Last Week: 5
2013-14 stats: 16.9 PPG, 11 RPG, 111.9 oRTG
After a mid-December loss to North Carolina, Kentucky started to roll until the Wildcats met the Razorbacks at Arkansas. Good news for the Wildcats: Julius Randle returned to his early season ways of getting to the line. Granted, the game was a foulfest featuring 60 whistles, but Randle still got 14 tries from the charity stripe. After just 12 free throws combined in his previous three games, John Calipari should be pleased to see his star freshman assert himself and embrace contact. Kentucky’s offense relies on drawing fouls more than any other top team, so when Randle gets to the stripe, odds are the Wildcats’ offense will be deadly efficient. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the defense disappointed Calipari against Arkansas.
4. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 18.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 111.2 oRTG
During the non-conference slate, it didn’t look like anyone could pass Jabari Parker for Player of the Year. Parker’s defense hasn’t been solid all season, but ACC play is showcasing his lack of it. What’s killing Parker is his offensive production has suddenly dropped off a cliff. He hasn’t hit his season average for points during his last five games, while shooting just 32.2 percent in the process.
3. DeAndre Kane – Iowa State. Last Week: 4
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 113.8 oRTG
Although Iowa State lost to Kansas, DeAndre Kane still performed to the All-American levels he established for himself this season. He played through a bum ankle to drop 21 points on just 13 field goal attempts, picking up eight rebounds and four steals along the way.
2. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 17.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 114.5 oRTG
Marcus Smart is reemerging as perhaps Doug McDermott’s top competition for Player of the Year. He suffered through a brutal stretch of hitting just 11-of-50 shots outside the paint, but against West Virginia and TCU, Smart bounced back. He drilled 11-of-21 jumpers while averaging 21 points per game in the two wins. He’s stepped up his game without Michael Cobbins and Stevie Clark in the lineup. As Oklahoma State’s prime distributor, Smart hasn’t committed more than two turnovers in a game in a month.
1. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 25.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 121.6 oRTG
Like Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott is dealing with the loss of a key teammate. When Creighton’s primary ball-handler Grant Gribbs went down with a knee injury, it didn’t look like McDermott could possibly become a bigger part of the Bluejays’ offense. You know where this is going: He’s scored more points than minutes played during the last two games. Previously, he dropped at least one point per minute only three other times this year with the last time being a 27-point performance in 26 minutes against Arizona State. Against Butler, McDermott toyed with the Bulldogs to the tune of 24 points in the first half. His full-game shot chart is above.
Coach of the Year
5. Fran McCaffery – Iowa. Last Week: Not Ranked
If you remove his meltdown against Wisconsin, Fran McCaffery basically hasn’t done anything wrong this year. He’s put together an extremely deep rotation with at nine players seeing 38 percent or more of the team’s available minutes. Despite so many constantly moving parts and lineups, Iowa hasn’t missed a beat offensively. Roy Devyn Marble is the star, but with nine players averaging at least five points per game, every player is a threat to score. The Hawkeyes’ only losses are to teams ranked ahead of them.
4. Gregg Marshall – Wichita State. Last Week: Not Ranked
The Shockers are one of three teams yet to lose this season. Part of Gregg Marshall’s success this year is having two studly scoring options. Earlier this season, Ron Baker was the team’s star in consecutive victories against DePaul, BYU and Saint Louis. As the year progressed, Cleanthony Early has grown more effective with each game. His four 20-point games against D-I competition have come in the last nine games and Early has scored double-figure points in every game but one this year.
3. Jim Boeheim – Syracuse. Last Week: 4
Every year Jim Boeheim thins his rotation to the point where he barely plays more than six players. If he could, he’d probably only play Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and nobody else. The trend began in 2008 with Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Donte Greene all playing at least 88 percent of the minutes available. Fair, Ennis, Grant and Cooney could approach those numbers this year. Fair is already at 90 percent, Ennis at 83 percent, and Cooney at 77 percent. Grant’s number is low because he missed a game earlier this year. As the season progresses, odds are Boeheim will rest his top players even less.
2. Sean Miller – Arizona. Last Week: 2
Sean Miller’s club keeps cruising after crushing Southern Cal and Arizona State during the past week. Arizona torched Arizona State’s stout defense to the tune of 1.23 points per possession Thursday night. It was the Sun Devils’ second worst defensive performance this year (Creighton’s top-ranked offense dismantled ASU earlier this season).
1. Steve Fisher – San Diego State. Last Week: 1
San Diego State has had one of the most unexpected seasons with just one loss coming along with wins against Creighton and Kansas. The Aztecs began the season ranked in the mid-60s on KenPom and will face UNLV this weekend currently ranked 22nd. It could be tough for Steve Fisher’s club to keep it up. The offense relies on its players taking on opponents in isolated situations and getting into the lane. SDSU’s two-point percentage is toward the bottom of the NCAA. The Aztecs’ elite ability to get to the line, crash the glass, and protect the ball bails out its individualized play.