Let’s Open the Wooden Watch List’s Doors Just a Bit WiderPosted by Brian Goodman on January 22nd, 2014
Earlier today, the Los Angeles Athletic Club released its Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, a veritable collection of this season’s top performers who are in the running for the sport’s highest individual honor. While the organization got most of the list right, this is sports coverage in 2014, so the proper response to the released list is to immediately poke holes in it and state cases for those who were overlooked. Of course, the way the season is shaping up, this might just serve as a list of Doug McDermott and the players he soundly beat on the way to taking Wooden Award honors in “The Year Of The Freshman.” But if the purpose of the list is to acknowledge players based on their performance thus far this season, there are five who deserve more consideration than they were granted by the LAAC.
- Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh: 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 122.8 ORtg, 59.8% eFG, 44.3% 3FG – It seems like everything about the Panthers this season has been criminally underrated, including its star forward. The senior has had just one bad game all season long (November 12 against Fresno State), and on the rare occasion when he isn’t an efficient scorer, he still finds ways to help Jamie Dixon’s offense.
- Joel Embiid, Kansas: 11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 67.9% FG, 115.3 ORtg, 68.4% eFG, 12.7% BLK – The Cameroonian freshman exploded onto the scene early in the season, and depending on whom you ask (as well as what time it is), is the leading prospect to be selected with the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft. With Tarik Black combating foul trouble and Perry Ellis fighting inconsistency on a regular basis, it’s tough to picture where the Jayhawks would be if not for its stud rookie center.
- Nik Stauskas, Michigan: 18.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 44% 3FG, 79.6% FT, 130.7 ORtg, 65.8% TS – Whether you’re a casual fan or a stat nerd, it’s equally easy to see the impact Stauskas has made for the Wolverines this season. While Michigan had its struggles early with losses to Iowa State, Charlotte and Duke, they’re now undefeated in arguably the country’s best conference, and without the services of last year’s NPOY, Trey Burke, or this year’s projected All-American, Mitch McGary. Stauskas has been at the center of Michigan’s improvement, averaging 19.1 points per game over the team’s last nine outings with 38 assists against just 12 turnovers in that time.
- Xavier Thames, San Diego State: 17.0 PPG, 46.7% 3FG, 1.6 SPG, 2.6 APG – Thames is one of the most improved players in college basketball this season, and his three-point shooting has been a key factor in balancing out San Diego’s interior toughness. Additionally, if you value recent performance, he’s got that too: Thames has averaged 2.5 points above his season average over his last six games.
- Gary Harris, Michigan State: 18.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG – The only thing that has kept Harris from making a bigger impact this year has been a pesky ankle injury, but if his production over the past month has been any indication of what’s to come, it’s well behind him. The future pro grabbed Monday’s game by the horns after the Spartans looked listless for the first 20 minutes, and while he’s had many other great games, that kind of approach coupled with his individual performance will keep Michigan State among those poised for a deep run in March.