Award Tour: Ben McLemore Rises and College Basketball New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by DCassilo on December 28th, 2012

awardtour

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

With the lack of college games lately, I’ve been catching up on some NBA action. To tie in with my article, I focused mostly on players who have won the Wooden Award over the last decade. To no one’s surprise, Anthony Davis is already starting to be a force in the NBA, but that’s not the case for most. There are stars (Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin), starters (Jameer Nelson, Evan Turner and Andrew Bogut), role players (J.J. Redick, Tyler Hansbrough and Jimmer Fredette), and T.J. Ford, who was forced out of the league due to injury. Overall, being the top player in college means little more than likely getting drafted. There’s still a lot of work to do.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 19.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

While Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall were supposed to lead UNLV, that responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Bennett. He’s been more than up to the task and is our first freshman on this list since the preseason. This week: December 29 at North Carolina, January 3 vs. Chicago State

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

Lehigh\'s C.J. McCollum Is an Elite Guard

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum will need to keep lighting it up.

With his injury, McCollum will go 21 days between games. He’ll need to shake off the rust quickly to move back up the list. This week: December 29 vs. Bryant

8. Michael Carter-Williams – Syracuse (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 12.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.3 APG, 3.4 SPG

While Carter-Williams does a lot while he’s on the court, it will be hard to get much higher than No. 8 until he improves his shooting. Over his last two games, he is 4-for-23, 1-for-9 from three-point land and 16-for-25 from the line. This week: December 29 vs. Alcorn State, December 31 vs. Central Connecticut State, January 2 vs. Rutgers

7. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 20 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Two of Thomas’ worst games this season have come in titanic tilts against Duke and Kansas. He’ll need to play better in big games, as the Buckeyes will have plenty of them come conference play. This week: December 28 vs. Chicago State, January 2 vs. Nebraska

6. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.0 BPG

While Thomas struggled in the game against Kansas, Withey put together his second straight double-double. It’s a promising sight, as Withey has never been a dominant rebounder despite his size and athleticism. This week: December 29 vs. American

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG

Zeller posted a season-high 24 points against Florida Atlantic despite playing only 22 minutes. It’s a terrific sign for Zeller and Indiana, as the Hoosiers need him to carry a bit more of the offensive load. This week: December 28 vs. Jacksonville, December 31 at Iowa

4. Erick Green – Virginia Tech (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 25.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.5 APG

The biggest problem for Green, who is now the nation’s leading scorer, is the team he is on. The Hokies have already lost three times this season, including a 36-point defeat to Colorado State this past Sunday. It would be hard to give this award to a player on a team that might be on the bubble (or worse) come March. This week: December 29 at BYU

3. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 17.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 7.1 APG

Burke was off this past week and will now begin his quest for a Big Ten title as well as Player of the Year honor in that conference. This week: December 29 vs. Central Michigan, January 3 at Northwestern

2. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 23.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The McDermotts Have Creighton Crashing The Polls In November.

McDermott got a little rest last week.

The holidays meant no games for McDermott, who will begin conference play in the week ahead. This week: December 29 vs. Evansville, January 2 at Illinois State

1. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG

Nothing could knock Plumlee off the top spot this past week, as he and the top three players were off. This week: December 29 vs. Santa Clara, January 2 vs. Davidson

TOP FIVE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

5. Find a team to replace Vanderbilt as the obvious upset pick

The Commodores are 5-5 this season and look like they are on their way to a rough season. That means it’s time to look elsewhere for a team that will undoubtedly lose early as a five or six seed. Early candidates: Notre Dame, New Mexico and Maryland.

4. Watch the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West Conference

A quick look at these two conferences suggests that they could combine to get over 10 teams into the dance. In the Atlantic 10 you have Charlotte, Butler, Temple, La Salle, Dayton, VCU, Saint Louis and Xavier. In the MW, there’s Wyoming, New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado State and Boise State. There is a lot of depth across the country this year.

3. Don’t pick my bracket based on games in November

Last year over Thanksgiving weekend I watched UNLV knock off No. 1 North Carolina. That was it for me. UNLV was my team. Fast forward to March, and I have them going to the Elite Eight. Of course, the Rebels lost to Colorado in their first game of the Tournament.

2. Watch Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State play each other

Not since the Big East conference in 2009 has there been a league with as many elite teams as the Big Ten. Anytime the Wolverines, Hoosiers and Buckeyes play one another, it will have the feel of a national title game. In case you’re wondering, the first of those games is Michigan at Ohio State on January 13.

1. Go to the Big East Tournament

There will never quite be another Big East tournament like this year’s version. At the very least, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be out of the league next season, and by next March, there might not even be a conference at all. Needless to say, I’ve already booked my trip to New York City.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

While Nick Johnson’s block against San Diego State on Tuesday certainly brought back memories for Arizona fans of Derrick Williams against Memphis, my first thought was Greg Oden. His block against Tennessee in the NCAA tournament was a more similar play, although Johnson’s is more impressive due to his size and the ground he covered. Anyway, here’s Oden’s block, which is one of the most underrated memories in tourney history.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 14.2 PPG, 5.5 APG

After missing a portion of the Cincinnati game with leg cramps, Christon bounced back against Wofford by tying a season-high with eight assists. Few freshmen are in complete control of the offense like Christon. This week: December 29 at Tennessee, January 2 at Wake Forest

9. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG

Austin is back in the top 10 after recording three straight double-doubles. Over that span, he’s averaging 16.3 PPG and 12.3 RPG. It’s no coincidence that Baylor has won all three games. This week: December 28 at Gonzaga

8. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 5.3 APG

Carson needs to cut back on the turnovers to survive Pac-12 play. So far this season, he has 50 turnovers to go along with his 64 assists. He’s had at least four turnovers in seven of 12 games. This week: December 29 vs. Coppin State, January 2 vs. Utah

7. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG

Adams’ scoring has kept him in the top-10. (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

In a season full of great performances by Adams, he might have had his best against Fresno State last Saturday. The freshman went 10-for-14 from the field and finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists. This week: December 28 vs. Missouri, January 3 vs. California

6. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.8 PPG, 5 RPG

With his 27 points against Fresno State, Muhammad has now scored at least 21 points in his last three games. It’s the type of scoring that was expected this season, and it looks like he will be a force in conference play. This week: December 28 vs. Missouri, January 3 vs. California

5. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 16 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.2 APG

Now that Ryan Harrow is back in the starting lineup, Goodwin is able to focus more on scoring. It was a mixed bag against Marshall last Saturday, as he scored 18 points but went 4-for-17 from the field. This week: December 29 at Louisville, January 2 vs. Eastern Michigan

4. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 10.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.9 BPG, 2.8 SPG

Noel topped 10 points against Marshall for the first time since December 4 but is still looking a little too timid offensively. His 53.4 percent shooting from the field suggests he needs to be more aggressive and good things will follow. This week: December 29 at Louisville, January 2 vs. Eastern Michigan

3. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 12.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.7 SPG

After his fast start to the season, Smart has significantly cooled off. He’s still putting up good all-around stats but he’s failed to score more than 11 points in any of his last four games. This week: December 31 vs. Gonzaga

2. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG

McLemore put up 22 points to lead his team to a victory on the road against Ohio State last Saturday. That’s the sign of a special player. His ability to practice with the team last season has clearly gone a long way in helping him start strong. This week: December 29 vs. American

1. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

In case you missed it above, Bennett has now made the jump into our top-10 NPOY list too. He’s just that good, as he’s averaging nearly 20 PPG despite playing just under 28 MPG. This week: December 29 at North Carolina, January 3 vs. Chicago State

COACH OF THE YEAR

5. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – 5)
Record: 10-1

The Jayhawks continued their dominance over Ohio State with a road victory against the Buckeyes last Saturday. As referenced above, credit needs to be given to Self, who clearly kept McLemore involved last season. This week: December 29 vs. American

4. John Thompson III – Georgetown (Last week – 4)
Record: 10-1

It’s been quiet dominance for the Hoyas this season, as they are ranked only No. 15 despite their only loss coming in overtime to Indiana. It’s really a shame they never got to finish their game against Florida to open the season. This week: None

3. John Groce – Illinois (Last week – 2)
Record: 12-1

The loss to Missouri last Saturday doesn’t drop Groce too far, as he has Illinois a lot higher in the polls than anyone thought right now. The real test will be how he navigates his team through the toughest conference in America. This week: December 29 vs. Auburn, January 2 at Purdue

2. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 3)
Record: 9-2

For Stevens to win this honor, he will likely need to guide Butler to first place in the Atlantic 10. It’s a conference full of tough teams, making it a more difficult task then he’ll get credit for. This week: December 29 at Vanderbilt, January 2 vs. Penn

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 1)
Record: 11-0

The Blue Devils were off last week and Coach K surely used that time to make sure his team finishes its final two non-conference games on a high note. While Santa Clara and Davidson might not seem like difficult opponents, those are two potential tournament teams. This week: December 29 vs. Santa Clara, January 2 vs. Davidson

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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