Award Tour: The Battle for Runner-Up is Heating Up

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@jamesonfleming) on February 28th, 2014

AwardTour

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.

Marcus Smart is well on his way to getting back in the good graces of the Player of the Year rankings. In the two games since he returned from suspension, the Oklahoma State sophomore is averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 8.5 APG. It’s too late to make any kind of run at Player of Year – both nationally and in the Big 12 – but Smart can salvage an otherwise disappointing season and ensure the Cowboys go dancing with a strong finish.

Player of the Year

10. Kyle Anderson – UCLA. Last Week: 10
2013-14 stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, 113.1 ORtg

Kyle Anderson is on thin ice after a poor performance in a loss against Stanford and a one-game suspension Thursday night for violating team rules. Other than Doug McDermott, Anderson might be the most unique player in the country. He’s one of just two players 6’7″ or taller in the country to rank in the top 100 in assist rate. The 6’9 Anderson is 20th in that metric, assisting on 35.4 percent of his team’s baskets. Saint Joseph’s Halil Kanacevic stands 6’8″ and assists on 29.2 percent of his team’s buckets.

9. Scottie Wilbekin – Florida. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, 113.2 ORtg

Wilbekin Has Been Outstanding for the Gators This Season

Wilbekin Has Been Outstanding for the Gators This Season

During the last month, it’s become more apparent that this Gators team is Scottie Wilbekin’s team. Casey Prather was the early star, but lately, Wilbekin has been the dominant force on an outstanding Florida squad. Wilbekin has improved in SEC play, toting an offensive rating of 121.0 and averaging 19.0 points per game in Florida’s five toughest conference games so far.

8. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 114.1 ORtg

Andrew Wiggins hasn’t quite been the star he was expected to be on the offensive end of the floor. There’s no doubt that he’s been a very good scorer, but his top contribution for the Jayhawks may be on defense.

Between Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Kansas might have the best defensive duo in the country.

7. Tyler Ennis – Syracuse. Last Week: 4
2013-14 stats: 12 PPG, 5.6 APG, 115.7 ORtg

Last week, I wrote that Tyler Ennis needed to be more assertive in the Orange’s offense because Syracuse’s offensive attack was stalling without a true third option. Ennis re-emerged as that third option against Maryland when Jerami Grant went out with back problems. While scoring 20 points on 18 shots isn’t the most efficient day, it’s a step forward for Ennis and the Orange.

6. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 16.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 115.4 ORtg

During the last two games, Arizona’s offense and Nick Johnson specifically have found their groove again. Last week I mentioned that no team ranked outside the top 20 in offensive efficiency has won a national title since 2003. Arizona sat 50th last week and was falling without the services of Brandon Ashley. But during the last two contests against California and Colorado, the Wildcats have exploded on that end of the floor. Johnson has been a big part of that, scoring 42 points on 15-of-29 shooting and he dished out 11 assists.

5. Sean Kilpatrick – Cincinnati. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 20.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 121.6 ORtg

4. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, 118.8 ORtg

3. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 5
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 112.6 ORtg

These three are grouped together because not only are they chasing Jabari Parker for the No. 2 spot in the NPOY award, but they are fighting for American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Sean Kilpatrick is coming on strong, posting at least 18 points in 11 consecutive games. Shabazz Napier has had the most spectacular headline-making season as the league’s best all-around player. Russ Smith has been a silent assassin. Until his fireworks at the end of the victory at Cincinnati, however, Smith hadn’t stuck out among Napier and Kilpatrick. Here’s a comparison of the three star guards using their performances in conference games only:

Shabazz’s numbers stand out the most, but his team’s performance is holding him back.

Napier looks like the clear favorite by the numbers, but given his team’s five losses – and his performance in those losses – the nod here goes to Louisville’s Russ Smith. In Connecticut’s five losses, the opponents turned Napier into a scorer rather than a point guard. He has just 16 assists in those five games.

2. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 18.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 111 ORtg

Despite only scoring 19 points, which is in line with his season average, you can argue Parker played his best game of the season last Saturday against Syracuse. Parker made smart decisions all game and had an all-around outstanding defensive game. With Parker, if you can just get average defense out of the star freshman, then it’s a good day. If you get the kind of defense from him that limits and frustrates Syracuse’s stud wings, then it’s a great day.

1. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 26 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 124 ORtg

For the most part, KenPom does an excellent job finding recent similar statistical seasons for each player. When looking at Doug McDermott, all you can do is laugh. The three players that closest compare to McDermott aren’t even in the same neighborhood as this guy.

The only thing these big men do better than Dougie McBuckets is rebound.

Coach of the Year

5. Tony Bennett – Virginia. Last Week: Not Ranked. The Cavaliers are one close call against Duke from having a 47.6 percent chance (according to KenPom) of finishing ACC play undefeated. After stumbling through its non-conference schedule, Tony Bennett’s club has dominated conference play. The Cavaliers have the best defense by far (89.2 defensive efficiency vs. No. 2 Syracuse at 97.8) and rank second in the league offensively. They’re outscoring opponents by 0.23 points per trip with Duke ranking second at 0.18 points per possession. A two-seed in the NCAAs isn’t out of reach if Virginia can win out including the ACC Tournament.

4. Jay Wright – Villanova. Last Week: Not Ranked. The three-ball has been the top weapon of choice for Jay Wright’s team, but it has also been its downfall. In Villanova’s three losses (Syracuse and Creighton twice), its opponents shot 37-of-63, which is good for an astounding 58.7 percent. In the rest of Villanova’s games, opponents have connect on just 32.4 percent of trifecta attempts. That’s three points lower than the national average.

3. Larry Brown – SMU. Last Week: Not Ranked. Southern Methodist’s basketball program finally has life again, as Larry Brown has done a superb job during his two years in Dallas. With three games left, the Mustangs are amazingly still alive to win a league containing the likes of Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Memphis. With a win against Louisville next week, SMU will have notched victories against each of the other four NCAA Tournament teams in the league. Who had that before the season began?

Larry Brown Has Gotten the Job Done at SMU (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Larry Brown Has Gotten the Job Done at SMU (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

2. Billy Donovan – Florida. Last Week: 2. Florida is closing in on an unbeaten record in SEC play. With home games against LSU and Kentucky as well as a road game against lowly South Carolina, things are looking good for Billy Donovan’s club. Despite his team’s long winning streak, Donovan still hasn’t found playing time for stud freshman Chris Walker. After finally getting clearance from the NCAA, Walker has only played a total of 29 minutes and scored 10 points this season.

1. Gregg Marshall – Wichita State. Last Week: 1. After struggling defensively (without losing) for three weeks, the Shockers turned in two of their best defensive performances during MVC play against Bradley and Drake. The main culprit for their struggles was allowing more open and easier shots. In the Shockers’ last two games, they clamped down again, forcing their two opponents to post an eFG of 45.4 percent and 30.5 percent.

Jameson Fleming (18 Posts)

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.


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