Wooden Award Watch: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates at Week 7
As league play for the major conferences approaches, we now have enough data and games played to compile legitimate National Player of the Year rankings.
Many players find themselves on this list due to steady play over the past month-and-a-half, while others have truly had a statement game to put themselves in the national spotlight.
Unsurprisingly, every player on this list plays for a team currently inside the AP Top 25, including seven in the top 10.
The list features four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and one freshmen. Two players do not play for a big-six conference team.
Here is our first Wooden Watch, ranking this year's top candidates to take home National Player of the Year honors.
Just Missed the Cut
This will serve as somewhat of an honorable mention. The following players were considered, but ultimately failed to make the cut (alphabetically):
Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Rotnei Clarke, PG, Butler
Allen Crabbe, SF, California
Jamaal Franklin, SF, San Diego State
Erick Green, PG, Virginia Tech
Alex Len, C, Maryland
Mike Muscala, PF, Bucknell
Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Deshaun Thomas, PF, Ohio State
10. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Key Stats: 13.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.6 BPG, .573 FG%
Top Performance: 16 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocks vs. San Jose State (11/26)
Bottom Line: Withey has re-asserted himself among the nation's top rim protectors this season, which isn't much of a surprise. The real surprise comes on the offensive end, where the seven-footer has really broadened his post-game arsenal.
9. Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois
Key Stats: 19.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, .468 FG%, .413 3P%
Top Performance: 35 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, 10-16 FG, 10-11 FT at Gonzaga (12/8)
Bottom Line: Not too many people were completely buying into Illinois until 6'4'' combo guard Brandon Paul produced his statement game against Gonzaga at the Kennel. Paul was key during the Illini's run in Maui, and is the star player on the most overachieving team this season.
8. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Key Stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, .607 FG%
Top Performance: 19 points, 19 rebounds, 2 blocks vs. Central Connecticut State (12/8)
Bottom Line: Zeller's stock fell a bit when his teammates failed to give him an adequate amount of touches against Butler—which is the main reason why Indiana lost. Nevertheless, Zeller is still posting solid numbers, and is the star of a top-10 team with wins over North Carolina and Georgetown.
7. Anthony Bennett, SF, UNLV
Key Stats: 20.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.9 BPG, .570 FG%
Top Performance: 25 points, 13 rebounds at California (12/9)
Bottom Line: Bennett has recently dethroned Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart from the frontrunner position for freshman of the year. The 6'7'' tweener is performing well beyond his years, having yet to score below 12 points in a game and showing an increasing amount of versatility. With UNLV star Mike Moser out, Bennett's development will be key for the Rebels.
6. Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati
Key Stats: 19.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 SPG, .385 3P%
Top Performance: 32 points, five rebounds, five steals, 16-16 FT vs. Iowa State (11/23)
Bottom Line: No one is having a more quiet, yet dominant season than Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick. The 6'4'' junior's outstanding, well-rounded play has been the driving force behind Cincy's undefeated record, which includes wins over Alabama, Oregon, Iowa State and Marshall. Kilpatrick has yet to score in single-digits.
5. Russ Smith, SG, Louisville
Key Stats: 20.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.1 SPG, .441 FG%
Top Performance: 31 points, seven rebounds, five assists, five steals, 12-18 FG vs. UMKC (12/8)
Bottom Line: Russdiculous is the reason why Gorgui Dieng's injury hasn't seriously affected Louisville thus far. Not only has Smith been on a scoring rampage, but I wouldn't put it against him to say he's been the best on-ball defender in the land.
4. Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Key Stats: 18.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, .535 FG%, .383 3P%
Top Performance: 27 points, five rebounds, eight assists, three steals 12-16 FG vs. West Virginia
Bottom Line: Michigan's Trey Burke has more than lived up to his All-American hype. I haven't seen a quicker first step in college basketball since Kemba Walker, and he has displayed tremendous court vision as well. Burke is the unquestioned floor leader for one of the top three teams in the land.
3. Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Key Stats: 12.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 10.8 APG, 3.7 SPG
Top Performance: 15 points, three rebounds, 16 assists, five steals, four blocks, 6-10 FG vs. Monmouth (12/8)
Bottom Line: After receiving minimal minutes last season as a freshman, MCW has been the epitome of a stat-sheet stuffer this season. The 6'6'' point guard leads the nation in assists and is second in steals. His combination of size, speed and talent has made him uncontainable, even against the likes of San Diego State.
2. Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton
Key Stats: 23.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, .555 FG%, .529 3P%
Top Performance: 34 points, nine rebounds, 10-17 FG, 4-7 3P, 10-10 FT at California (12/15)
Bottom Line: The scary thing about Doug McDermott is that he's only starting to heat up. He's scored at least 27 points in his last three games while proving he's the most unguardable player in the nation. Put a guard on him, he'll size you up. Put a big on him, he'll shoot the three. We expected a lot from Creighton's stud, but he's even exceeding expectations.
1. Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
Key Stats: 19.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .611 FG%, .731 FT% (.503% first three years)
Top Performance: 21 points, 17 rebounds vs. Ohio State (11/28)
Bottom Line: Plumlee's dominance can't be explained in statistics, but rather his team's strength of schedule. Duke has wins over Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, VCU and Temple, and Plumlee has overpowered each opponent.
Doug McDermott was close, but Mason Plumlee is the reason Duke is the No. 1 team in the country, and therefore takes the top spot.