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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Morning Five: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The SEC media on Monday released its preseason selections for the upcoming season and with the exception of some carpetbagging school called “Missouri” on this year’s list, it looks an awful lot like last year’s list. Kentucky came in as the choice for first place in the 2012-13 version of the SEC race with 17 first-place ballots, with Florida (five), Missouri (one) and Tennessee (one) following up the Wildcats. It appears that not much is expected from South Carolina (#11) or Mississippi State (#12) this season, which gives Frank Martin and Rick Ray an opportunity to immediately exceed expectations if they can put together some conference wins. Missouri’s Phil Pressey was chosen as the preseason SEC POY, another interesting choice given that he was a third-team selection in the Big 12 last year — clearly many pundits are predicting big things for the dynamic waterbug guard this season. Pressey was joined on the first team by Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Arkansas’ BJ Young, Florida’s Kenny Boynton, and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
  2. While on the subject of making preseason lists of elite players, CBSSports‘ Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman released their combined ballot for their top 50 Wooden Award candidates (which by rule cannot include transfers or freshmen). Forty-two players showed up on both of their lists, but the devil is always in the details, and where the pair differ is far more interesting and open for debate. Which writer left Ohio’s DJ Cooper off his list? Or Allen Crabbe? Or Elias Harris? The one thing missing here is the why/why not — we wish that the pair had taken the time to explain their differences, even if was only with a sentence or two at the end.
  3. NCAA president Mark Emmert gave a talk at Wright State University on Monday, and The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy was there to report on the proceedings. In response to a question about the highly controversial NBA one-and-done rule, Emmert stuck to his previous position on the matter by stating that he “dislikes it enormously” and finds it “anathema to the collegiate model of academics.” When pressed for additional information afterward, Emmert appears to have once again punted to the NBA, stating only that he’s had “conversations” with the league and its players’ union about changing the rule. While we certainly recognize that Emmert has no authority over the NBA whatsoever, we’d like to see him take a more forceful stance on the issue that would satisfy fans and coaches alike. If the NBA refuses to cooperate in pursuit of its own self-interest, then Emmert should begin saber-rattling likewise — he has more leverage here than he’d like to admit if he’d only recognize it.
  4. With all the bad news coming out of the UCLA program recently — the ongoing sagas involving the eligibility of star recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson and recent injuries to David Wear and Tyler Lamb — it was somewhat shocking to read this sunnier-than-SoCal headline from the LA Times on Monday:  UCLA basketball seems to be entering a bright new era. Mmmkay. Granted, the piece by Bill Dwyre focuses more on the long-term prospects of the Bruins program with a renovated Pauley Pavilion and a gleaming new statue of the Wizard of Westwood outside, but other than a brief mention of the NCAA’s investigation into the two freshmen, it more or less glosses over the fact that the program from the outside appears to be tottering. Maybe when Dwyre is walking around the tree-lined campus it’s easier to get lost in the Wooden mystique, but several things — not of all which are completely under Ben Howland’s control — need to come together for this program to get back on its blue-blooded track this season. It remains to be seen whether the planets and stars will indeed align.
  5. Finally, Luke Winn gets historical with us in his latest column where he enters the wayback machine and finds a slim but sturdy Shaquille O’Neal facing off in an “epic” battle between LSU and the running and gunning Loyola Marymount Paul Westheads some 22 years ago. The theme of his piece is that last season’s scoring across all of college basketball was the lowest it has ever been in the shot clock era (including when it a 45-second clock was in effect in the late ’80s and early ’90s). What was defined as uptempo two decades ago would look like a different game today — even then, nobody ran the ball like LMU, but teams regularly hit 80 possessions per game, whereas nowadays most teams never see the north side of 70 per game. There are a number of reasons for this trend, of course, but we’ll save that for the book that we’ll write someday — for now, just get over there and check out the data and a superb highlight clip of a young Shaq destroying everything in his path on the way to a 148-141 victory (you read that correctly).
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Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 List and Analysis

Posted by mpatton on October 4th, 2011

Want to know why North Carolina is number one in nearly all preseason polls? Look no further than the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List, which notes the top fifty returning players in the country, four of whom will be wearing Carolina blue this season. Another surprise is that no other ACC teams are represented. First we’ll look at the four selections:

  • Harrison Barnes was a lock: face it, even Duke fans know Barnes and Jared Sullinger are the two favorites as far as national player of the year awards are concerned. As soon as he opted to return, the Tar Heels vaulted into the top national spot. Don’t expect another lackluster start out of Barnes this season.
Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes Headlined Four North Carolina Players on the Wooden Presesason Top 50 List.

  • John Henson is a more interesting pick. Henson’s defensive prowess is well-documented. He alters nearly every drive or post-up within his extensive wingspan. Here’s the caveat: Henson is as raw as they come offensively. If it’s not an alley-oop from Kendall Marshall or a put-back dunk, he struggles (though it should be noted, his free throw shooting improved dramatically the second half of last season). Until we see how much Henson has developed, it will be tough to evaluate his chances as a player of the year candidate.
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Morning Five: 10.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

  1. We’ll have a more detailed analysis of this later today, but the 2011-12 Wooden Award list was released on Monday, and there were more than a few interesting  trends with this preseason’s offering.  Keeping in mind that freshmen and transfers are not eligible for the opening list, the 50 players broke out in the following ways.  The Big East has ten players on the list; there were nine from the Big Ten; the SEC merited seven.  The Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC represented with only four players each, and all four of the ACCers came from the nation’s consensus #1 team, North Carolina.  That left 12 players from the non-power conferences, with the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, and Big West each earning two spots.  There are 26 seniors on the list, nine juniors and 16 sophomores, while positions were split between 23 guards, 23 forwards and only four centers.  Stay tuned later today as we’ll present a more thoughtful analysis of the preseason Wooden Award selections.
  2. The Big 12 Monday appeared to take a significant step toward self-preservation for at least the next several years by announcing that its conference board of directors unanimously approved a measure that will equally share all Tier I and Tier II broadcasting revenue from its football and basketball telecasts.  It would not include Tier III broadcasts such as those planned for Texas’ Longhorn Network, which of course is largely the reason the conference ended up in this situation in the first place.  League interim commissioner Chuck Neinas was careful to say that such an arrangement was by no means a done deal, and that each school would still have to go through its own internal processes to approve such an agreement.  Missouri, still said to be interested in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, will have its Board of Curators meeting tomorrow where this will certainly be on the agenda.  Assuming Mizzou does not receive its coveted invitation from the SEC, you would have to presume that this revenue sharing agreement will shore up the conference for at least a… season or two.  That is, until Texas figures out some way to leverage the LHN into even greater riches, at which time the conference will once again threaten to implode from within.
  3. We mentioned in this space yesterday that the Big East came out of its Sunday meetings in Washington, DC, with a greater resolve to keep its remaining core together and to do whatever it takes (“by any means necessary?”) to find solid replacements for the soon-departed Syracuse and Pittsburgh.  Mike DeCourcy makes the case suggesting that, despite what appears to be a race to the bottom of a new conference for those moving around, the best athletic deal for those existing members is to stand pat.  His key point — that the Big East represents the easiest route to a BCS bowl and multiple NCAA Tournament trips — is a salient one, but we’re not sure that citing Boston College and Miami (FL)’s departures as ‘disasters’ captures the overarching reasons for their subsequent failings.  Miami football, for example, has certainly fallen considerably from its national relevance while a member of the Big East — but did that drop-off have more to do with coaching (Larry Coker to Randy Shannon) or conference affiliation?  With Hurricane basketball, is the U’s mediocrity as an ACC member more attributable to its conference affiliation or Frank Haith (who began there in 2004 simultaneous with Miami’s jump)?  We think it’s rather tough to make that case, especially when there are so many other confounding factors at play in situations like these.
  4. Class of 2012 power forward and overall top five prospect Mitch McGary has reportedly narrowed his college choices to Duke, North Carolina and Michigan.  The 6’10″ star originally from the northern Indiana town of Chesterton, announced on his personal blog (via ESPN) that he has taken three visits to those schools and he has no plans to go anywhere else.  If you read the tea leaves, he’s considered a Michigan lean among folks who follow this stuff for a living, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise us to see him in either shade of blue down on Tobacco Road either.  For what it’s worth, #1 Shabazz Muhammad and #3 McGary represent the remaining two uncommitted jewels of this year’s class, according to Rivals’ rankings.
  5. Quick, what’s the capital city of Kentucky — Lexington or Louisville?  Or so goes the joke among those who live there, because, as far as we know, the actual seat of government in the Bluegrass State hasn’t yet moved from its central Kentucky town of Frankfort.  UK head coach John Calipari may be in need of a geography lesson himself, as the quotable top Cat took a tongue-in-cheek shot at his biggest state rival in an interview on KSTV recently.  In answering a question as to what makes his program special, he made a comparison to other states that have multiple powerhouse basketball programs: “There’s no other state, none, that’s as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique.”  Queue Rick Pitino’s acerbic passive-aggressive response in 3… 2… 1…

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Morning Five: 04.10.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 11th, 2011

  1. The season is officially over so it’s time for players to start acting like knuckleheads again.  This weekend’s edition comes to you from Gainesville, Florida, where two Florida players — sophomore forward Erik Murphy and freshman forward Cody Larson — were arrested after allegedly trying to break into a parked car in St. Augustine late Saturday night.  Larson was already on a short leash with head coach Billy Donovan as a result of his involvement in a painkiller scheme during his senior year of high school, but Murphy, who averaged 4/2 last season, was expected to start for the Gators in 2011-12.  The most disturbing part of this story?  That the two players reportedly hovered near a bar’s cash drawer before bouncers ejected them, at which time they decided to break into the car — a frightening proposition in the “could have been worse” category.
  2. The biggest coaching news over the weekend involved something that didn’t happen, specifically that former UCLA/Kansas/everybody in the NBA head coach Larry Brown was not selected as the next captain of the UNLV ship in Las Vegas.  Despite his public overtures for the position, UNLV decided to go with BYU assistant coach Dave Rice, a former Rebel assistant who also played on the two best teams in program history — the 1989-90 national champions and the 1990-91 Final Four team.  Rice was a somewhat controversial choice locally, as public support was largely behind Reggie Theus, one of the best players in program history and the former head man at New Mexico State; but he was largely responsible for BYU’s offensive attack that featured NPOY Jimmer Fredette the last several years, and he claims he wants to bring the “Runnin’” part back to the UNLV program (Lon Kruger’s teams were rather methodical).
  3. In case you missed it, BYU’s Jimmer Fredette received the Wooden Award on Friday night in Los Angeles.  With his receipt of the most prestigious men’s award now in tow, Fredette ended up winning all six of the major NPOY awards this season.  This is the fourth time in the last five years that  unanimity across all awards has occurred, with only Evan Turner and John Wall last season splitting awards as the sole exception.
  4. Adam Zagoria reported on Sunday that Manhattan College had hired Louisville assistant Steve Masiello as its next head coach.  The school had initially made an offer to LIU’s Jim Ferry, but they couldn’t figure out the financial terms, so the Jasper administration went with Masiello instead.  He’ll have a five-year deal and a leg up on New York-area recruiting given his origins from the area (Westchester County) and the extensive amount of players that Louisville has pulled out of the region the last few years — most notably Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels.  Speculation is that Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino, will return to Louisville from Florida to take Masiello’s place on the Cardinal staff.
  5. This is a little dated, but for all of us who have a lady friend (or six) in our lives from November to April, it undoubtedly rings very true.  (h/t Peter Robert Casey for his tweet alerting us to this particular brilliance)

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Evan Turner Wins 2010 Wooden Award

Posted by jstevrtc on April 9th, 2010

In a ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club earlier tonight, Ohio State’s Evan Turner was presented with the 2010 John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year.  With this one, he is 6-of-6 in player of the year awards, taking the Associated Press, Naismith, National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sporting News, and US Basketball Writers Association honors as well.

Turner, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Kentucky’s John Wall were also in attendance at the ceremony, with the former two making an in-audience appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live last night.  Wall was also scheduled to appear on the show, but missed the taping due to an exam.

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Analyzing the Wooden Candidates

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2007

 University of Texas' Kevin Durant, left, and University of Tennessee's Candace Parker pose after winning the 2007 John R. Wooden Award, Saturday April 7, 2007 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Who will be this year’s Wooden Award Winner?

This afternoon the 2007-08 Wooden Award candidates were released to the public. The top 50 vote-getters (who gets to vote for this anyway – is the Wizard of Westwood sitting in his apt filling out ballots?) are listed below (organized by conference, then by team):

2007-08 Wooden Candidates v.2

Quick ruminations:

  • Conference Rundown: Pac-10 (10), Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (6), SEC (5), Big 10 (2), Mid-Majors + Low Majors (12).
  • We like the love thrown to the non-BCS leagues – nearly a quarter of the selections are from eleven other leagues.
  • It’s no surprise the Pac-10 is held in such high esteem this coming season, while the Big 10 isn’t – look at the difference in good players returning.
  • For some reason, the Wooden doesn’t consider freshmen in its preseason picks, even though it does at the end of the year (Kevin Durant was the recipient last year). If it did, you’d figure the Pac-10 would look even better, with OJ Mayo and Kevin Love added to the mix.
  • Other than freshmen, who are some notable omissions around the country? First thought was Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga), but maybe that has something to do with his propensity to ingest hallucinogens – can’t see the WoW signing off on that selection. We might have chosen Darrell Arthur over Mario Chalmers at Kansas, but maybe the Jayhawk fans would disagree with us. Raymar Morgan (Michigan St.), anyone? Edgar Sosa (Louisville)? What about Alex Harris down at UCSB?
  • Some guys we’d take off the list – Tyrese Rice at BC has shown he can shoot a lot and turn the ball over a lot – what else? Choosing DeMarcus Nelson smacks of making sure someone from Duke is on the list. We’re also not sure about the selection of Texas Tech’s Martin Zeno to the list. None of this really matters, though, as the list will eventually whittle itself down based on actual performance.
  • Anybody else have any thoughts?
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