With the college basketball season hitting its stride towards March Madness, the player of the year debate has heated up into a six-man showdown. Every fan knows Hansbrough, Curry, Harangody, and Griffin, but Jodie Meeks and Jeff Teague have entrenched themselves firmly into the debate.
Following Meeks' mind-boggling 54 points Tuesday night against Tennessee, and Teague being the catalyst for an upstart Wake Forest squad, both players seem to be hitting their stride at exactly the right time.
In the Demon Deacons' upset win against North Carolina, Teague showed exactly the type of tenacity and all-around skill set that make him a force in the ACC. Teague entered the season without the hype of fellow Tobacco Road resident Tyler Hansbrough but has led Wake to an unblemished record and a top five ranking in the polls.
With the heart of the ACC schedule coming up, Teague has a chance to catapult Hansbrough and end the year as the premier talent in what's already a stacked conference.
Meeks, on the other hand, has led Kentucky back into the national spotlight and reenergized the Bluegrass faithful all season long. Before Tuesday's Jordanesque performance, Meeks had already topped 30 points four times this season. Along with fellow Wildcat big man Patrick Patterson, Meeks has given Kentucky faithful reason to believe a return to prominence is imminent.
We came into this season loving Hansbrough for his tenacity and all or nothing attitude and fawning over Curry for his picture-perfect jumper and boyish charm. Now, as we sit at the midway mark of the season, Jeff Teague and Jodie Meeks are climbing the stat sheets and the polls all the way to the top.
At the end of the season, the award will most likely end up in the hands of the UNC poster boy or the mid-major media darling, but at least Meeks and Teague have expanded the discussion. If we've learned anything so far this season, it's that there seems to be no clear-cut favorite for Player of the Year.
Names are made in March, and Meeks or Teague has the chance to become the breakthrough star that Stephen Curry became last year. Regardless of who wins the individual accolades, we should all be looking forward to seeing how much these two talented underclassmen can shine when the lights are the brightest.