Ranking College Basketball's Frontrunners for 2013 National Player of the Year
Many of college basketball's greats have been honored with the prestigious National Player of the Year award. But what makes this the greatest honor in college basketball is the number of greats who haven't earned one.
The 2012-13 college basketball season is less than a month away, and with Midnight Madness behind us, it's starting to feel real again.
As we enter the season, one of the big questions is who will win college basketball's most coveted prize this year.
The field is deep and there are no clear favorites, and with at least a dozen players in legitimate contention it is tough to predict. But we can narrow down the field.
The following five players are the top contenders to walk away with NPoY honors, but only one can go down in history by winning the award.
5. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
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Weight: 195 pounds
Notable Stats (2011-12): 19.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG
Isaiah Canaan had an incredible junior season at Murray State, leading the Racers to a 23-0 start, the Ohio Valley conference championship and an NCAA tournament birth, which led to a Round of 32 trip that tied the deepest run in school history. No one would have blamed him for taking off to the NBA a year early.
But he's not done just yet.
Canaan feels he has more left to do at the college level and has decided to return for his senior season.
After scoring an incredible 19.0 points per game and facilitating the Racers' offense last year, he has to be considered among the early contenders for NPoY honors. He played extremely well last season and will be looking to improve upon that in 2012-13.
Canaan feels like he has more to do, and winning college basketball's most prestigious award should be on his list.
4. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
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Weight: 215 pounds
Notable Stats (2011-12): N/A
Shabazz Muhammad is the only freshman on this list, trying to follow Anthony Davis and make it two straight years that a frosh has won the award.
Muhammad is an incredibly athletic wing. He slashes through the lane on the offensive end, while his chiseled physique makes it difficult to stop him from cutting through the paint and finishing above the rim.
He is a dangerous player within 15 feet of the basket. Opposing coaches will have to find a way to keep him on the perimeter, or else he will surely finish with a few stellar dunks.
Muhammad is not a one-dimensional player, however. He also has solid range, forcing the defense to stay honest, and if left alone he can hit the three.
He also plays tough defense, thanks to his athleticism and strength. It's tough to get by him, and once his team gets out in transition, Bazz shoots down the floor like he was shot out of a cannon.
With a versatile game and the ability to get to the rim, Muhammad will be one of the top scoring threats in the nation this season, and will be in contention for this award.
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton
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Weight: 220 pounds
Notable Stats (2011-12): 22.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG
Doug McDermott was a NPoY candidate last year after leading Creighton to one of the best seasons in school history. His scoring prowess was incredible, as he averaged nearly 23 points per contest.
McDermott is back for his junior season and will be looking to improve upon last year, and once again finish among the nation's best. In fact, there's already been talk about him being the nation's top player this year.
Not only does he score in bunches, but McDermott is one of the most efficient scorers in the country. Unlike many scorers who chuck up 30 shots to score their 25 points, McDermott makes most of his shots, shooting over 60 percent from the floor last year, and nearly 50 percent from three.
Leading the nation's top offense helps as well, and we could see McDermott lead the nation in scoring this year after finishing third in 2011-12. If he accomplishes this feat, he has to be in contention for NPoY honors.
2. James Michael-McAdoo, North Carolina
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Weight: 230 pounds
Notable Stats (2011-12): 6.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG
You might look at James Michael-McAdoo's stats from last season and think that I'm crazy for ranking him as the No. 2 contender for NPoY. However, these numbers are a horrible indication of who he is as a player, as he only played 15.6 minutes per game last year, stuck behind John Henson and North Carolina's incredible frontcourt.
But now that all three starters from last year's frontcourt have departed for the NBA, McAdoo will get his chance to shine, and show why he was such a highly regarded recruit coming into college.
As a sophomore he will look to be a source of offense. He is athletic enough to throw down electrifying jams, but he has learned how to play in a half-court set as well.
He has all the tools to succeed on both ends of the floor, and now that he will be the premier player for the Tar Heels, I expect him to do so.
1. Cody Zeller, Indiana
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Weight: 240 pounds
Notable Stats (2011-12): 15.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG
It's hard to pick against Cody Zeller as the favorite for college basketball's top individual award. The seven-footer is coming off a fantastic freshman season, and what's more surprising is that he elected to return for his sophomore year.
Zeller will lead the preseason No. 1 ranked team, the Indiana Hoosiers. He is the centerpiece for the nation's top team, and in the past we've seen big men who lead their team to a championship also win this award (Anthony Davis).
Zeller adjusted to the college game quickly, scoring double-digit points in 32-of-36 games last season and recording five double-doubles. Zeller will look to continue his improvement this year, and I expect to see a significant increase in his rebounding totals because of it.
He is a tremendously talented player who is surrounded by a good team while constantly exceeding expectations. I have to give him the nod as the preseason favorite for NPoY honors.