Award Tour: Doug McDermott is the New No. 1 Player and Nerlens Noel is Looking Special

Posted by DCassilo on January 18th, 2013

awardtour

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

For the first time this season, Doug McDermott is atop the Player of the Year race. It’s no fault of McDermott’s, but when a guy from a mid-major conference is having a season like he is having, there is always some skepticism. How would he do in the Big Ten? How would Mason Plumlee do in the MVC? These are fair points, but one thing I do know is that McDermott gets a defense’s best look every night he’s on the floor, and putting up numbers like his against that type of attention is always an impressive feat.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 18.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

Outside of McDermott, the hottest player in the country might be Olynyk. In his last three games he scored 33 points against Santa Clara, 31 against St. Mary’s and 21 against Portland, in a game in which he went 8-of-9 from the field. Keep an eye on him against Butler on Saturday.This week: January 19 at Butler, January 24 vs. BYU

9. Russ Smith – Louisville (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 18.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 SPG

Being the best player on the best team in the country has to get you a spot on this list, right? While Smith can score, he’s probably most valuable when his defense takes another team’s best player out of the game. This week: January 19 vs. Syracuse, January 22 at Villanova

8. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG

McLemore is one of those shooters that NBA scouts drool over. He’s shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from deep and 87.7 percent from the line. Translation: get this man as many shots as possible. This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

7. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.7 BPG

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a New Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

One of the most difficult things for me this week was trying to figure out who was more valuable to Kansas: McLemore or Withey. It’s almost impossible to figure out whose development has been more important, so if any Jayhawks fans have an opinion, drop it in the comments.  This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

6. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 8.9 RPG

So far in Mountain West Conference games, the trend for Bennett has been that he doesn’t perform well versus ranked teams. Against New Mexico and San Diego State, he’s averaging 11.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. This week: January 19 at Colorado State, January 24 vs. Wyoming

5. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG

It apparently took until Big Ten play to wake Zeller up, as he’s already recorded as many double-doubles (two) in conference games as he did in all of his non-conference games. The loss to Wisconsin was a setback for the team, but he had 23 points and 10 rebounds in defeat. This week: January 20 at Northwestern, January 23 vs. Penn State

4. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG

Thomas and Ohio State made the biggest statement in conference play this past week. The Buckeyes knocked off undefeated Michigan behind 20 points from their star. They’ll need more games like that from their leader to grab the conference title. This week: January 19 at Michigan State, January 22 vs. Iowa

3. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 18.0 PPG, 7.2 APG

The thing I don’t understand about Burke is why his draft stock is so bad. Almost no one has him as a lottery pick. He’s a leader who can shoot, pass and doesn’t turn the ball over. What am I missing? This week: January 24 vs. Purdue

2. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 17.4 PPG, 11.5 RPG

After a slow start to ACC play, Plumlee has posted back-to-back double-doubles. He’s also being a little more assertive, as he took 20 shots against Georgia Tech on Thursday night. That could be what Duke needs with Ryan Kelly out. This week: January 23 at Miami (Fl.)

1. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 24 PPG, 7.2 RPG

If Zeller Falters, McDermott Could Take the NPOY Crown

McDermott has been on fire shooting the ball.

In his last two games, McDermott has shot 27-of-41 from the field and put up 70 points. It’s enough to grab the reins of the Player of the Year race. The Creighton junior faces his toughest conference game of the season on Saturday, and the Jays will need him to stay hot. This week: January 19 at Wichita State, January 23 at Drake

FIVE WORST MAJOR CONFERENCE TEAMS

5. Utah – (8-9 overall, 0-5 in the Pac-12). The Utes’ poor conference start could have been a lot better. They lost by four points or less at Arizona State, at Arizona and at home against UCLA. Their best win this season has been against Boise State, which isn’t as bad as usual considering the talent the Broncos have this year.

4. South Florida – (9-7 overall, 0-4 in the Big East). Last year’s trip to the NCAA Tournament is a distant memory, as the Bulls have sputtered all season long. The defense is still there, but the team is getting absolutely no offense. A four-point win over George Mason has been the high point of the season.

3. Penn State – (8-9 overall, 0-5 in the Big Ten). Ever since Tim Frazier went down, this has not been a very good basketball team. It needed overtime this year to beat Delaware State and lost by 16 points at home to Northwestern. Saturday’s home game against Nebraska could be the team’s only shot for a conference win this season.

2. TCU – (9-8 overall, 0-4 in the Big 12). When TCU moved to the Big 12 for football reasons, everyone expected the basketball team to struggle, so this is really no surprise. Scoring has been nearly impossible for the Horned Frogs, as they are averaging 55.1 PPG. There’s no reason to think this team will win a single conference game.

1. Georgia – (6-10 overall, 0-3 in the SEC). Before we get in to why Georgia is so bad, let’s not forget that this team actually held its own for a while against Indiana in the Legends Classic. But that was a very long time ago. Like most of these teams, offense is the problem. Only one Bulldog averages more than 8.1 PPG. To be fair, Georgia probably has more talent than any team on this list, but that’s what makes them even more disappointing.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT

In honor of Doug McDermott grabbing the top spot this week, here is an interview that Rush The Court did with him back in December after Creighton played California. By all accounts, he’s as great off the court as he is on it.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

10. Jordan Adams – UCLA (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 15.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG

As usual, Adams was inconsistent again last week. He followed up 18 points against Colorado with just two points against Oregon State. The latter was his worst performance of the season. This week: January 19 vs. Oregon, January 24 at Arizona

9. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 14.5 PPG, 5.1 APG

Christon’s torrid pace to start conference play has him back in the top 10. On Wednesday against St. Bonaventure, he had 19 points, 10 assists and the game-winning basket. He could contend for A-10 Player of the Year. This week: January 19 vs. La Salle, January 23 at Charlotte

8. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.6 APG

Since the calendar turned to 2013, Goodwin has seen his numbers slip. He’s averaging just 10.1 PPG over his last four contests. It’s becoming more likely we will see him back in Lexington next season. This week: January 19 at Auburn, January 22 at Alabama

7. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.2 APG

One of the most underrated awards races this season is who will take home Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Carson, Adams and Muhammad have led a revival for the conference, and there’s also Damyean Dotson of Oregon. This week: January 19 vs. Arizona, January 24 vs. USC

6. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 5 RPG

Muhammad is a great player, and I can understand why people have him higher than this, but he doesn’t offer much but scoring right now, and the guys ahead of him here are better all-around players. In 15 games this year, Muhammad has 12 assists and six steals. This week: January 19 vs. Oregon, January 24 at Arizona

5. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 14 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.7 APG, 2.8 SPG

Although Smart slipped a bit this week, he always seems to find a way to impress me. He’s only averaged 12 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 3.0 APG in his last two contests, but he made an impact by recording eight steals during that span. This week: January 19 vs. Texas Tech, January 21 at Baylor

4. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Watching Austin play is quite the experience. He looks way too thin to be able to battle for boards, but he plays a little stronger than he is. And when he steps back to launch a three-pointer, he looks like a shooting guard. His game has progressed very nicely. This week: January 19 vs. Hardin-Simmons, January 21 vs. Oklahoma State

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 10.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.9 BPG, 2.8 SPG

Kentucky's frontcourt was superb against LIU-Brooklyn, but questions about their rebounding linger. (Centre Daily Times)

Noel is looking like the real deal for Kentucky. (Centre Daily Times)

In case you missed it, here are the jaw-dropping lines that Noel put up this past week. Against Texas A&M, he had 15 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, seven blocks and four steals. Against Tennessee, he had 12 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and four steals. He’s clearly not the reason for Kentucky’s struggles. This week: January 19 at Auburn, January 22 at Alabama

2. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG

It’s not a major part of his game, but McLemore has blocked two shots in his last three contests. It’s nothing to go crazy about, but it’s nice to see all areas of his game are growing. This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

1. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 19 PPG, 8.9 RPG

For the first time in a while, Bennett is on a little bit of shaky ground for the top spot. He only scored nine points against San Diego State, but as I’ve said here before, he has bounced back from weak performances perhaps better than any player in the country this season. This week: January 19 at Colorado State, January 24 vs. Wyoming

COACH OF THE YEAR

5. Bruce Weber – Kansas State (Last week – NR)
Record: 14-2

It’s about time Weber got some credit for what he’s doing in Manhattan. Unranked to start the season, the Wildcats are No. 16 right now and have already beaten Florida. We’ll learn a lot more about the Wildcats when they play Kansas next week. This week: January 19 vs. Oklahoma, January 22 vs. Kansas

4. Dana Altman – Oregon (Last week – NR)
Record: 15-2

Do you remember when the Oregon job was open, and the school couldn’t give the position away? Well, it seems as though that was a blessing in disguise, as Altman is the perfect fit for the Ducks. Despite losing two of its top three scorers from last season, Oregon is siting pretty at No. 21 in the nation.This week: January 19 at UCLA, January 23 vs. Washington State

3. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – 4)
Record: 15-1

Now winners of 14 straight games, the Jayhawks and Self have reached No. 4 in the country. That is impressive when you consider the talent this team lost from a year ago. Yet another Big 12 title seems like a mere formality. This week: January 19 at Texas, January 22 at Kansas State

2. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 2)
Record: 15-2

I seriously considered moving Stevens into No. 1 this week, but I think what he’s done this season is just a tad less impressive than what Coach K has done at Duke. However, if Butler beats Gonzaga on Saturday, my opinion will likely change. This week: January 19 vs. Gonzaga, January 23 at La Salle

1. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 1)
Record: 16-1

It was starting to get too easy for Coach K and Duke, so the injury bug bit. Now the Blue Devils must deal with Ryan Kelly out and a banged up Seth Curry. With the team more susceptible to upsets, Duke’s depth will be tested. This week: January 23 at Miami (Fl.)

DCassilo (19 Posts)


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3 Responses to “Award Tour: Doug McDermott is the New No. 1 Player and Nerlens Noel is Looking Special”

  1. Jack says:

    I’m a KU alum, and choosing between McLemore and Withey is really difficult because they serve such different roles, even beyond the wing/interior separation. McLemore is arguably the best pure scorer we’ve had since the 2008 squad with Rush and Chalmers. Selby and Henry were close, but they never really meant as much to the team or fans as McLemore does. The Rush comparison is also apt because McLemore has that same relaxed, “let the game come to me” attitude that often drifts into quasi-apathy or lack of aggression. Self has made that comparison as well, noting that McLemore sometimes doesn’t look for his shot enough or look to take over a game. Then again, from Iowa State, we know he’s very capable of doing so, but even there he only took 12 shots. I guarantee you ask any KU fan, though, if they think we beat Kentucky last year with McLemore playing, and 95% confidently answer yes. We just couldn’t shoot the ball to save our lives; we made Kentucky play ugly, but we couldn’t score. McLemore is the wing scorer we were missing in that game, and he is hugely important to us this year.

    Withey, meanwhile, doesn’t get many accolades for his shooting, which, admittedly, has fallen off lately (3-10 against Baylor, 2-3 against Texas Tech, 3-10 against Temple, but 6-10 against Iowa State). But holy hell, his ability to block shots, alter shots, and not foul is unreal. He’s only had 3 fouls in a game once, nearly a month ago (and let me tell you, 2 of those 3 fouls were highly dubious). Having him play 30 minutes every night is a huge help, and knowing that Self will almost never have to manage his minutes in the second half due to foul trouble ensures that he can be a presence in any late-game situation. His passing has improved (which is helping Kevin Young make his presence felt), his free throw shooting has dropped ten points from last year but seems to be on an uptick (e.g., 8-10 at Texas Tech), and his comfort level is high. If his little running hook could become more consistent, and his mid-range jumper could arrive, he would be the clear choice.

    In the end, I think, Kansas is a team that has always been founded on defense and has generally ranked in the top-ten in most defensive categories. It comes not just from having one stand-out defensive player, but from having top-to-bottom skill and having everyone buy in to Self’s philosophy. Young is energy, Withey is the bedrock, Releford is our best on-ball defender, McLemore (and Releford) are lanky and laterally quick, and Johnson is smart and quick up top. Offensively, it’s been a struggle this year, and McLemore and Releford have been carrying the load on that front. But McLemore is by far our best player in terms of making his own shot, making a variety of shots, and hitting difficult shots. I think that’s maybe why you have to give it to McLemore at this stage.

    As a final note, though, while I wouldn’t trade McLemore for anyone in the country, there are other plays out there who fit his profile type and can fill up the score sheet. Withey? There is no one in the country like Withey. He gives us a dimension that no one (outside of maybe Dieng, but he fouls way more) can bring to a national title contender. So it all depends on your criteria for a NPOY.

  2. DCassilo says:

    Interesting breakdown. I kind of feel the same way about Withey. He just impacts the game in a completely different way from most players. The bottom line is Kansas needs both to win, and it’s the best duo in the country.

  3. Jack says:

    “Best duo in the country.” I like that. Thanks for the dap.

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