Award Tour: Doug McDermott is Simply Toying with the CompetitionPosted by Jameson Fleming (@jamesonfleming) on February 21st, 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.
Several players and coaches dropped out of the rankings even though they probably deserve a spot on their respective lists. Arizona’s Sean Miller saw his team drop a road game against Arizona State, which is of course completely acceptable. For now, or at least until his squad figures out how to score again, Miller will remain sidelined from our top five. Jim Boeheim’s team also can’t score. The offensive issues for the Orange are more fixable than Arizona’s because the only player ‘Cuse is missing is Baye Keita — his face should be put on a milk carton for how little he contributes with the ball. On the NPOY side, both of Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick deserve some love and one will likely find his way into the rankings with a win against Louisville this weekend.
Player of the Year
10. Kyle Anderson – UCLA. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 114.0 oRTG
At no point this season did UCLA ever look like it would struggle to make the NCAA Tournament, but rarely did the Bruins look they’d be a threat to make a deep run in March. That has changed. UCLA has won seven of eight games to easily move into second place in the Pac-12 thanks to a league-best offense. Who runs that attack? Kyle Anderson. He picks his spots to score, but he also puts an emphasis on being the distributor Steve Alford’s offense needs. He’s had three double-figure assist games in his last eight after recording just one previously.
9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 113.3 oRTG
The Big 12 is arguably the best conference in the country, and it’s loaded with very good players. For most of the season, various Big 12 players have popped in and out of the rankings, most notably Marcus Smart. With the Oklahoma State guard’s decline, however, the Big 12 is lacking a standout Player of the Year candidate. Joel Embiid looked like he might take over the race, but the Kansas freshman still hasn’t been able to consistently play major minutes. Queue Andrew Wiggins: He’s the top shot-taker and maker for the best team in the league (by far) and he can defend all over the court. With a stretch against Texas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and at West Virginia remaining, Wiggins could easily put the Big 12 POY award on lockdown with several strong performances.
8. Casey Prather – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked.
2013-14 stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 119.4 oRTG
Florida has positioned itself as possibly the best team in the country. Despite that possibility, Florida doesn’t have a great Player of the Year candidate. Casey Prather has taken over this season as the team’s leading scorer, but he’s not the team’s top all-around player. Scottie Wilbekin serves as the team’s glue-guy, but calling him just that is insulting his worth. Patric Young serves as the team’s best two-way presence inside the arc. All that said, Prather fills it up on the offensive end, scoring 24 points in a huge road win against Kentucky, the team’s first in Lexington since 2007. He’s a good enough defender for his offensive output to outweigh his teammates’ contributions.
7. Xavier Thames – San Diego State. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 17.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 120.3 oRTG
Of any top 10 team, San Diego State can least afford for its star player to have an off day. Xavier Thames has struggled in his last three games (5-of-20 from two; 2-of-15 from three), but luckily the Aztecs played two inferior teams and only lost one game. That trend can’t continue if SDSU wants to avoid losses against New Mexico (two games left) and UNLV. The remaining players in Steve Fisher’s rotation have an average offensive rating of approximately 100.0. So if Thames doesn’t produce, the offense will likely be a disaster.
6. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 4
2013-14 stats: 15.8 PPG, 2.5 APG, 113.2 oRTG
Brandon Ashley’s injury continues to wreak havoc on Arizona’s offense, and Nick Johnson is suffering the most. In the chart below, I computed his averages in eight Pac-12 games with Ashley and five without (the Wildcats’ loss to Cal counts in this category because Ashley only played two minutes).
The lowest a national title winning team has been ranked in adjusted offensive efficiency in the KenPom era is UConn in 2011 at 18th. Arizona sits around 50th. Based on that parameter, the Wildcats don’t stand a chance to cut down the nets in April.
5. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 7
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, 112.9 oRTG
Louisville has the look of a national title contender: near-elite offensive efficiency, elite defensive efficiency, +10 percent margin in turnover percentage, +5 percent in rebounding margin. The only thing Russ Smith’s team is missing is a bevy of big-time wins. Smith has the chance to put Louisville and himself on the map with the team’s final stretch against Cincinnati, Temple, Memphis, SMU and UConn. If Smith explodes and Louisville wins at least four of those games, you might be able to argue that only Doug McDermott should rank ahead of Smith for POY.
4. Tyler Ennis – Syracuse. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 117.8 oRTG
Tyler Ennis’ Syracuse team is as much of a disaster as a one-loss ACC team in the third week of February could possibly be. The issue at hand is the Orange’s lack of creativity on offense. Trevor Cooney runs off some screens to try to get a shot, then the ball goes to C.J. Fair or Jerami Grant in an isolation and they try to score. Rinse. Repeat. Obviously, the offense varies a little, but that’s the main gist of the ‘Cuse attack. With each game, teams are finding more ways to bottle up Fair and Grant on the baseline. The offense has come to a standstill because Ennis hasn’t stepped up to create opportunities when the wings can’t. Until Ennis or even Cooney or Michael Gbinije shows some creativity, the Orange’s offense will remain stagnant. Luckily for Syracuse, Duke showed the first time around that it doesn’t have defenders who can slow down Grant and Fair.
3. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 19.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 112.8 oRTG
Jabari Parker came out against North Carolina with a strong first half. The result? A 37-30 lead for the Blue Devils in the Dean Dome. But in the second half, UNC completely took Parker out of the game by using multiple variations of the zone defense. Parker rarely moved throughout the zone despite being the ideal player to put in the high post and bust it. He struggled with turnovers and his best offensive opportunities came on put-backs.
2. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: 5
2013-14 stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 121.1 oRTG
The best players step up against good competition. Shabazz Napier has been on fire in American Athletic Conference games: He’s posting a studly 132.0 offensive rating against conference foes, versus a 118.0 rating against an average non-conference schedule. He had another outstanding all-around game against Temple on Thursday night despite a poor shooting night. Napier finished with a team highs in points (17), rebounds (12), and assists (seven).
1. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 25.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 124.0 oRTG
Coach of the Year
5. Jim Crews – Saint Louis. Last Week: Not Ranked. As mentioned above, Jim Boeheim and Sean Miller still deserve to be in the Coach of the Year conversation for taking two teams into February undefeated. But for now, I’ll take these three spots to highlight three coaches who have also done extraordinary jobs this year. Saint Louis was predicted by a few to win the A-10, but nobody could imagine the Billikens would be 24-2 with a three-game lead at this point. This team plays superior defense thanks to a keen ability to contest shots and force turnovers without fouling.
4. Rick Barnes – Texas. Last Week: Not Ranked. Rick Barnes set up a revolving door of highly-touted recruits and future pros. That door came to an abrupt halt last season as Texas fell to a lowly 16-18 record. This season, Texas still doesn’t have a star player, but this team is the best Longhorns club since 2011 when Barnes had several future NBA players on his roster.
3. Mick Cronin – Cincinnati: Last Week: Not Ranked. After the 2010 season, Mick Cronin’s seat was brutally hot thanks to another year of under-performing. Since that 19-16 season featuring “Born Ready” Lance Stephenson, Cronin’s Bearcats earned a six-seed in 2011 and 2012 as well as a 10-seed in 2013. This season, Cronin’s club has completely exceeded expectations, going 24-3 with wins against Pitt, SMU, Memphis, Louisville, and Connecticut.
2. Billy Donovan – Florida. Last Week: 5. If it weren’t for a lucky bounce for Shabazz Napier, Florida would be looking at only one loss since the first week of the college hoops season. According to KenPom, the Gators are up to a 35.7 percent chance to go undefeated in SEC play and would be the only major conference team to go without a loss in its league.
1. Gregg Marshall – Wichita State. Last Week: 2. Are teams starting to figure out how to attack Wichita State’s defense? Through the first 22 games, all but five teams had one of their 10 worst offensive performances of the year against the Shockers. In the last six games, just one team had a bottom-10 performance (Indiana State). Their opponents are averaging an effective field goal percentage of 49.6 percent while WSU’s season average for defensive eFG% is 45.9 percent. Keep an eye on it.