Award Tour: Mason Plumlee, Anthony Bennett and Coach K Are Our Frontrunners

Posted by DCassilo on December 21st, 2012

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

The holidays are always a good time to take a breath and reassess the entire country in college basketball. What is out there is a lot of uncertainty, especially in terms of title contenders. Is there really much that separates No. 1 Duke from No. 9 Kansas or even No. 24 Oklahoma State? But in terms of our races, it’s pretty clear that the field is chasing Mason Plumlee for Player of the Year, Anthony Bennett for Freshman of the Year and Mike Krzyzewski for Coach of the Year. All three have been nothing short of stellar from the opening tip. While parity is fun, there’s nothing better than watching the field try to hunt down the favorite.

And now, a look at those fields.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Brandon Paul – Illinois (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.5 APG

Paul showed his versatility for a guard by grabbing a season-high nine rebounds against Eastern Kentucky last Sunday. The craziest thing about the Illinois senior is that while he would be a frontrunner for the top player in any other conference, it’ll be a fight to even make the All-Big Ten team. This week: December 22 vs. Missouri

9. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 24.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG

Not much to write as McCollum missed his only game this week with an ankle inury. He’s day-to-day, so he shouldn’t miss much time. This week: None

8. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 10.7 APG, 3.4 SPG

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

Michael Carter-Williams Has Been a Revelation This Season

It was a typical two games this week for Carter-Williams. The assists were there but so were the missed shots and turnovers. The fact that Jim Boeheim is tolerating the latter two is a good indication of how special this kid is. This week: December 22 vs. Temple

7. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.4 BPG

Despite all the defensive accolades he receives, Withey’s offense cannot be overlooked. Make no mistake, he is a focal point of what the Jayhawks want to do, as he’s attempted at least eight shots in all but two games this season. The senior had 17 points and 13 rebounds against Richmond on Tuesday. This week: December 22 at Ohio State

6. Cody Zeller – (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.3 PPG

The loss against Butler is the type of game Zeller is supposed to take over and will his team to victory. Instead, he made just four shots from he floor and grabbed five rebounds. It’s safe to say that he has not taken a leap forward in his sophomore season. This week: December 21 vs. Florida Atlantic

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Award Tour: Anthony Bennett is the New No. 1 Freshman, the Five Worst D-I Teams, and an Ode to the Big East Conference…

Posted by DCassilo on December 14th, 2012

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David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Farewell, Big East. As a Villanova grad who grew up in New Jersey, you were always close to my heart. I’ll miss the prime time Saturday night final. I’ll miss the coaching legends. I’ll miss the physical play that would be called for a foul in any other league. I’ll miss the afternoon games of the Big East Tournament. I’ll miss being sponsored by Aeropostale. I’ll miss record crowds at the Carrier Dome. I’ll miss seeing Carnesecca and his sweater sitting behind the St. John’s bench. I’ll miss Mick Cronin being displeased with his team. I’ll miss West Virginia fans throwing stuff. I’ll miss looking at the newspaper and saying, “Wow, DePaul won.” I’ll miss Madison Square Garden. I’ll miss the weird dimensions of the RAC. I’ll miss Seton Hall thinking its good. I’ll miss Providence’s mascot. I’ll miss UConn breaking the rules. I’ll miss Pitt’s illegal screens and 30-year old point guards. I’ll miss Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami. I’ll miss Pitino’s press conferences. I’ll miss people saying Villanova is Guard U when it rarely sends a guard to the NBA. I’ll miss Georgetown running the Princeton offense. I’ll miss the overachievers at Notre Dame and Marquette. I’ll miss that time South Florida was good. I’ll even miss the double bye, Burr and Higgins. Now let’s end this league in style.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Brandon Paul – Illinois (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.5 APG

Illinois is going to need a big effort out of Brandon Paul at Indiana. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Brandon Paul tore apart Gonzaga. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

With 35 points at Gonzaga last Saturday, Paul officially declared his candidacy in the Player of the Year race. The major improvement in his game this year comes down to his shooting. He never cracked 40 percent from the field in his first three years but is up to 46.8 percent this season.This week: December 16 vs. Eastern Kentucky

9. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 10.4 APG, 3.8 SPG

There’s no doubt that Carter-Williams does more to fill up the stat sheet than any player in the country, but it’s his passing that has been second to none. He leads the nation in APG and has 37 dimes in his last three games. A high turnover rate (3.8 per game) and poor three-point shooting (22.2 percent) hold him back from challenging for the top spot. This week: December 15 vs. Canisius, December 17 vs. Temple

8. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.6 BPG

After blocking five shots against Colorado last Saturday, Withey has swatted the ball at least that many times in six of his team’s eight games. His defensive dominance coupled with the rise of freshman Ben McLemore has the Jayhawks thinking of a return to the title game. This week: December 15 vs. Belmont, December 18 vs. Richmond

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Award Tour: The Struggles of Ranking Cody Zeller

Posted by DCassilo on December 7th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What do we do about Cody Zeller? That’s what we’re asking after his second game this season with fewer than 10 points. The preseason pick for Player of the Year has simply not been the monster in the middle that was expected, but he hasn’t been a disappointment either. We’ll start with the bad. He’s scored 20 or more points just twice in eight games and is averaging a pedestrian 15 PPG and 7.6 RPG this season. You’ll find about 100 players with numbers like that. Now the good. He’s shooting 63.2 percent from the field and his numbers are almost identical to his stellar freshman season. To be honest though, Zeller is likely staying as high as he is on this list based on expectation. But now we’re giving him one final chance. If he doesn’t break out by the end of December, he’ll be off the top 10 list.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Elias Harris – Gonzaga (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Harris has Gonzaga thinking national title. (AP)

As a senior, Harris is finally coming into his own in all areas of the game. That has especially been true for his offense. After a slow start, he’s scored at least 16 points in five of his last six games. As Gonzaga continues to win, his candidacy will pick up steam. This week: December 8 vs. Illinois

9. Isaiah Canaan – Murray State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 21.4 PGG, 3.7 RPG, 3.9 APG

With one game this past week against an NAIA opponent, Canaan essentially had an off week. His slight fall down the rankings has more to do with the other players on the list than with himself. Canaan’s biggest challenge for the rest of the season will be playing well enough to overshadow his weak competition. This week: December 8 at Evansville

8. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 24.4 PPG, 5.0 RP, 3.2 APG

We’ve said all season that if a player from a conference like the Patriot League is going to win this, he needs to be beyond spectacular. McCollum has been close to that, but performances like the 13 points he put up against Fordham in his last game won’t cut it. Chances are we’ll see another 30-point game from him soon enough, though. This week: December 8 vs. St. Francis (Pa.)

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Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Outduels Deshaun Thomas for Top NPOY Spot, COY Top Five Debuts…

Posted by DCassilo on November 30th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Up until Wednesday, nobody deserved to be atop the player of the year list. There had been some strong performances by great players, but no one had grabbed the reins of this year’s race. But when Duke and Ohio State took the court on Wednesday, it became obvious that the two best players in the country were on the floor: Deshaun Thomas and Mason Plumlee. A deep three-pointer from Thomas would be followed by a monster dunk from Plumlee. It was fun theater to watch in what might go down as the most memorable non-conference game of the season. In the end, Plumlee took those reins with 21 points and 17 rebounds, while Thomas was limited to 16 points by early foul trouble. And now, we have our front-runner. Even a bad week won’t necessarily knock him off the top spot. Plumlee made his move. It’s time for the rest of the country to respond.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Sean Kilpatrick – Cincinnati (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 6.7 RPG

Perhaps the nation’s most underrated player on the nation’s most underrated team, Kilpatrick came up big in the rather anonymous Global Sports Classic. Against Iowa State and Oregon, Kilpatrick averaged 24 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He can beat you in a number of ways, as he has already hit eight three-pointers and 16 free throws in separate games. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Alabama, Dec. 6 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock

9. Le’Bryan Nash – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 19.2 PGG, 6.4 RPG

Nash or Smart? The battle rages for who is the better Cowboy. (AP)

Deciding who is better between Nash and Marcus Smart can be a difficult task, but the sophomore has proven to be a tad more consistent this season. In all five games he’s played, Nash has tallied at least 16 points and five rebounds. This week: Dec. 1 at Virginia Tech, Dec. 5 vs. South Florida

8. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 6.2 BPG

Notching a triple-double will surely get our attention at Rush the Court, and that’s exactly what Withey did against San Jose State. The senior had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks in the victory. A defensive stalwart, it was the second time this season he had at least 10 blocks in a game. This week: Nov. 30 vs. Oregon State

7. Isaiah Canaan – Murray State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 22.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

As noted last week, Canaan was bound to have some monster scoring games once he could get his three-point shot to fall, and that’s what happened this past week. With the help of 55 percent shooting from deep, Canaan scored 30 points against Old Dominion and 32 points against Lipscomb. Expect much more of this to come. This week: Dec. 4 vs. Bethel

6. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 21 PPG, 7.3 RPG

McDermott finally got his scoring going with 80 points in his last three games. Still, he needs to shoot more, as he has attempted 11 shots or less in four of seven games despite being Creighton’s only real scoring threat. If he does so, he could really start putting up some big numbers. This week: Dec. 1 vs. Saint Joseph’s, Dec 6 at Nebraska

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Award Tour: Freshman Marcus Smart Makes His Case and a New No. 1 Player

Posted by DCassilo on November 23rd, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

I got a chance to go to the Legends Classic on Monday with the opportunity to see what was supposed to be the nation’s top team (Indiana) and top player (Cody Zeller). I left with one certain conclusion: I saw neither. It’s not to say that they won’t claim those titles by season’s end, but now is not the time to give them those honors. But that’s just the theme across college basketball right now. A dominant team or player has yet to emerge, and as I look around the country, I’m not sure if we’ll ever see it. This is as wide open a year as ever for the sport, and that should provide an exciting regular season and NCAA Tournament. We’ve already had plenty, and it’s not even December.

And now on to those awards races, which experienced lots of changes and player debuts this week. Also in there is a Thanksgiving list leftover.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Le’Bryan Nash – Oklahoma State (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 6.8 RPG

While he might have been overshadowed by his teammate below, Nash is just as crucial to the Cowboys’ hot start. Part of what makes him so dangerous is his ability to get to the free throw line, as he has attempted at least 12 shots from the charity stripe in each of the last three games. It’s becoming clear that he makes up half of one of the best duos in the country. This week: Nov. 25 vs. Portland State

9. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG, 3 SPG

Smart’s stock is soaring after the Puerto Rico Tipoff (ballislife.com)

The other half of that duo, Smart is officially on everyone’s radar after a stellar performance at the Puerto Rico Tipoff. In the championship game, he put up an eye-opening line of 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and four blocks. His ability to excel in big games is something not many players in the country have, let along freshmen. This week: Nov. 25 vs. Portland State

8. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG

It has been a bit of disappointing start for McDermott, who was expected to score in bunches this season. Instead, he is attempting nearly five fewer shots per game and has a season-high of “just” 24 points against lesser competition. He’ll need to do much better to move back up in the rankings. This week: Nov. 23 vs. Wisconsin, Nov. 24 vs. Arizona State/Arkansas, Nov. 28 vs. Boise State

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Award Tour: Shabazz Muhammad Is Out, So Who’s In?

Posted by DCassilo on November 16th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

Take a second to play out a hypothetical situation. John Doe is a top recruit. He is probably going to play for Basketball College. A booster for that school’s biggest rival, Hoops University, knows this and gives Doe $1,000 to come visit Hoops. A year later, the NCAA finds out, and who gets punished? Not the booster and Hoops but Doe and Basketball College. This is the insanely stupid can of worms that the NCAA has opened up in the Shabazz Muhammad ruling. To make matters worse, recent reports say the NCAA had it out for him before they even learned of this. It brings to focus a larger issue that still does not get enough play – the student-athlete has no rights. Unlike professional sports, there are no unions. It’s just the NCAA and powerful universities versus tiny student-athletes. For now, Muhammad doesn’t play, and that shakes up both of our top 10 lists. Hopefully by including these players below, they haven’t become susceptible to another NCAA violation.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Pierre Jackson – Baylor (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 23.3 PPG, 8.7 APG

Welcome to the race Mr. Jackson (AP)

As you’ll see throughout this list, it might just be the year of the point guard. Jackson is a special one, as he’s already poured in 27 points and 31 points this season. The assists are there too, making him one of the toughest players to guard in the country. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Colorado, Nov. 18 vs. St. John’s/Murray State

9. Kenny Boynton – Florida (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG

A near inclusion on this original list, Boynton makes it in there after a stellar start to the season. While he took a backseat role against Wisconsin, being the engine that drives one of the top teams in the country will only help his candidacy. This week: Nov. 18 vs. Middle Tennessee St., Nov. 20 vs. Savannah State

8. Allen Crabbe – California (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 30 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3 APG

After averaging 15.2 PPG as a sophomore, Crabbe has opened the eyes of many with a 27-point and a 33-point game to open the season. It’s impossible to shoot this well (60 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from 3-point range) all season, but he seems to have the tools to contend for the nation’s scoring title. This week: Nov. 16 vs. Denver, Nov. 22 vs. Drake

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Award Tour: Setting the Candidates For the 2012-13 Season

Posted by DCassilo on November 9th, 2012

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

It’s a brand new season of college basketball, and what better way to celebrate than a brand new weekly feature on Rush The Court. Every Friday this season, I’ll be updating the races for Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year. But don’t think of this as just a list of 10 players each week with a few sentences attached. There’s more that we love about college basketball than its players and coaches. There are the fans, the venues, the announcers and the madness, and each week I’ll be looking at something different that makes November through early April the most exciting time of the year.

We’ve waited long enough, though, so without any more delay, here’s a look at the top 10 candidates to succeed Anthony Davis as college basketball’s top player.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

10. Mike Moser – UNLV, junior
2011-12 stats: 14 PPG, 10.5 RPG

Mike Moser, UNLV

Mike Moser is On Everyone’s NPOY Radar This Season (photo credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP)

A double-double machine, Moser is the only player on a Top 25 team to average at least 10 points and 10 rebounds last season. Consistency was his biggest problem last season. For every 34-point game, there would be a four-point dud a few nights later. With a light non-conference schedule, Moser should be able to pad his stats early on. This week: Nov. 12 vs Northern Arizona

9. C.J. McCollum – Lehigh, senior
2011-12 stats: 21.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG

It’s not too often that a Patriot League player is considered one of the nation’s best, but it’s just the latest stereotype that McCollum has dispelled at Lehigh. His run in the NCAA Tournament last season made him a big enough name to remove any small school bias. He could finish the season with the best scoring average in D-I. This week: Nov. 9 at Baylor, Nov. 12 vs. Robert Morris, Nov. 13 vs. Pittsburgh/Fordham

8. James Michael McAdoo – UNC, sophomore
2011-12 stats: 6.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG

A ranking based more on potential and opportunity than anything else, McAdoo is expected to be the No. 1 option on the Tar Heels. With North Carolina’s deep roster last season, he took on a reserve role but averaged 11.8 PPG in just 19.3 minutes per game in the NCAA tournament. Remember, he was MVP of the 2011 McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. This week: Nov. 9 vs. Gardner-Webb, Nov. 11 vs. Florida Atlantic

7. Jamaal Franklin – San Diego State, junior
2011-12 stats: 17.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Forget national player of the year, the race between Franklin and Moser for conference player of the year should be fun enough to watch. After averaging 2.9 PPG as a freshman, Franklin exploded onto the scene last season. Still, not many people have heard of him, but they might after Sunday’s game against Syracuse. This week: Nov. 11 vs. Syracuse, Nov. 13 vs. San Diego Christian

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