Award Tour: Doug McDermott Wins National Player of the YearPosted by Jameson Fleming (@JamesonFleming) on March 13th, 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.
Picking a 10th player to fill out the National Player of the Year rankings was agonizingly hard. There were so many tremendous options like rankings stalwart Tyler Ennis, who finally fell out of the Top 10 thanks to his poor play during Syracuse’s struggles. Then there’s Bryce Cotton and T.J. Warren. Providence is closer to the NCAA Tournament than North Carolina State, but both stars have had incredible seasons. Cotton is averaging more than 40 MINUTES per game and is single-handedly willing the Friars to the Big Dance. Warren has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wolfpack. While he won ACC Player of the Year, on a national scale his team’s lack of success kept him out of these rankings. There’s also Marcus Smart, who turned in an impressive five-game stretch to put Oklahoma State back into the Tournament picture comfortably. His fellow Big 12 stud Melvin Ejim took home the league’s Player of the Year honors. Kyle Anderson has had a Shabazz Napier-like season for the Bruins, except he did it as a 6’9″ point guard.
Player of the Year
10. Marcus Paige – North Carolina. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.5 APG, 120.6 ORtg
After a long absence from the Top 10, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige finally returns thanks to dominant play in the ACC. Before losing to Duke in the regular season finale, UNC had won 12 consecutive games thanks to Paige’s leadership. During the last 13 outings, Paige has averaged 17.6 points per game. Even when he’s not scoring, the Tar Heels’ sophomore impacts the game as a passer, but also a defender. Against Notre Dame, Paige shut the door on an upset attempt by blocking a last-second layup at the end of regulation.
9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: 8
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 113.9 ORtg
All season long, fans have been waiting for Andrew Wiggins to explode and have a Kevin Durant-like game. The Kansas freshman finally delivered in a loss at West Virginia without Joel Embiid. Wiggins dropped an efficient 41 points to give scouts a signature performance and a chance to remember why he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His shot chart from that game is a thing of beauty.
8. Scottie Wilbekin – Florida. Last Week: 9
2013-14 stats: 12.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, 112.4 ORtg
The most important player isn’t always the award candidate on a team, but with Scottie Wilbekin and Florida, he’s the man who deserves the accolades. Unlike Arizona where the most valuable player is arguably T.J. McConnell and the award candidate is Nick Johnson, Florida’s MVP and standout is Wilbekin. The Florida senior has held this team together as its glue-guy who can act as a distributor or scorer – sometimes both at once. He’s also mentored freshman point guard Kasey Hill, guiding the two-guard when Hill takes over the primary ball-handling duties.
7. Fred Van Vleet – Wichita State. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 131.5 ORtg
Fred Van Vleet has essentially taken over the “Tyler Ennis steady point guard on an elite team” spot in the rankings. He finds other ways to impact a game than just scoring, but the sophomore can occasionally light up the scoreboard. Against Indiana State in the MVC Championship Game, Van Vleet dropped 22 points including several well-time threes to stop ISU scoring runs. Van Vleet is dangerous when left open and is a nifty penetrator, much like Ennis who can easily change speeds to throw off defenders.
6. Nick Johnson – Arizona. Last Week: 6
2013-14 stats: 16.1 PPG, 4 RPG, 113.8 ORtg
After four brutal games without Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson and the Wildcats have rebounded to look like potentially the best team in the country. In the first four games without Ashley, Johnson struggled — shooting 1-of-18 from three and 14-of-42 from two. Since then, Johnson is 10-of-24 from three and 24-of-59 from two in six games. Arizona still isn’t an elite offensive team, but the Wildcats are close enough that they should be considered a legitimate national title contender.
3c. Shabazz Napier – Connecticut. Last Week: 4
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 6.0 RPG, 116.9 ORtg
3b. Sean Kilpatrick – Cincinnati. Last Week: 5
2013-14 stats: 20.9 PPG, 2.5 APG, 120.5 ORtg
3a. Russ Smith – Louisville. Last Week: 3
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 4.8 APG, 114.7 ORtg
Russ Smith, Sean Kilpatrick, and Shabazz Napier have been grouped again together as American Athletic Conference Player of the Year candidates. The race between the three is incredibly close. Each player has his strengths, but ultimately Russ Smith comes out on top. With how close these three players are, Napier loses out because Connecticut eventually dropped off and finished at 12-6. When comparing Kilpatrick and Smith, it’s important to realize Smith handled Louisville’s ball-handing with ease, but he is also a significantly better defender.
2. Jabari Parker – Duke. Last Week: 2
2013-14 stats: 19.2 PPG, 9 RPG, 113.3 ORtg
After watching Jabari Parker’s freshman season, he’s a lock for the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top frosh. He’ll also likely headed off to the NBA as one the league’s future stars and top-five pick. Compared to former winners of the award who are forwards or centers (including DeMarcus Cousins, who didn’t win the award but still put up incredible numbers), Parker is overshadowed by his fellow big men. The biggest concern with Parker is his defense.
Besides Parker, the four players on the list have had varying success in the NBA. Davis is one of the league’s top young stars and Cousins, while sometimes explosive, is still a solid NBA big. Sullinger and Beasley have had some success, but neither looks like they’ll live up to expectations set by their incredible freshman campaigns.
1. Doug McDermott – Creighton. Last Week: 1
2013-14 stats: 26.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 123.4 ORtg
Doug McDermott is one of the most special players in college basketball history. His ability to score over four years will likely land him as high as fifth on the all-time scoring list. The Creighton senior should be the unanimous pick for National Player of the Year.
That said, McDermott doesn’t necessarily match up very well against some of the recent high-usage Player of the Year winners. Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough were both two-way players who contributed significantly more on defense and the glass. Kevin Durant could also mix it up better defensively than McDermott. This isn’t to take away from what McDermott has accomplished, but it’s context to show while his career is legendary, several players in recent history can challenge his every game on-court impact.
Coach of the Year
5. Tony Bennett – Virginia. Last Week: 5. “Last time I heard [John Paul Jones Arena] that loud I was at the Taylor Swift concert. I sat there, and there’s 14,000 teenage girls screaming, and I remember sitting there like, ‘I wonder if we can get it like this for a game.’” — Tony Bennett. While the amount of fans who enjoy both Taylor Swift and college basketball can probably only fill a SWAC arena, it’s still worth applauding Bennett’s work at UVA to get his arena to the Taylor Swift level of loudness. An ACC regular season title will do that for ya.
4. Jay Wright – Villanova. Last Week: 4. Amazingly, Villanova looks like it could land a No. 1 seed in March, even with today’s shocking quarterfinal loss to Seton Hall at the buzzer. The advantage for Villanova as a one-seed is it would be able to play in Buffalo and then Madison Square Garden. Considering the Wildcats will have just played there in the BET and their fans travel well to MSG, it’s an ideal scenario as long as they can avoid local favorite Syracuse.
3. Larry Brown – SMU. Last Week: 3. In just two seasons under Larry Brown, SMU has gone from a miserable offensive team to a good offensive team and an OK defensive team to an elite defensive team. The two major differences from 2012 under Matt Doherty and 2014 under Brown come on threes and twos. In 2012, SMU shot the highest percentage of field goal attempts as threes in the country (47.1 percent). In 2014, that number stands at just 23.3 percent, good for 344th. What’s important to note is the team’s actual shooting percentage for threes is up 3.3 percent. On defense, Doherty’s final team allowed opponents to connect on 52.1 percent of two-pointers, but under Brown that number is just 41.4 percent, seventh best in the country.
2. Billy Donovan – Florida. Last Week: 2. Florida turned in the first and only 18-0 season in SEC history. In 2012, Kentucky’s great squad with Anthony Davis started off 16-0, but fell in the SEC Tournament championship game to Vanderbilt. With an SEC Championship, the Gators can surpass the Wildcats as earning the best season in league history. Remember, that Kentucky team won the national title with relative ease.
1. Gregg Marshall – Wichita State. Last Week: 1. Wichita State wants to one-up Florida. The Shockers completed their astounding regular season by finishing 34-0 with a Missouri Valley Conference Championship. Wichita State cruised to the title with an average margin of victory of 20 points in the tournament. With a one-seed in the Midwest almost a certainty, the Shockers will be in prime position to make a Butler-like run and reach consecutive Final Fours as a mid-major.