After a thrilling Saturday of nonstop college hoops action, I think it is fair to say that college basketball has officially arrived to the national sports spotlight.
After about three weeks of major conference play, certain players have amped up their level of play, while others have fallen into the shadows.
Now is the time of the year where National Player of the Year candidates can really be determined, as playing in conference games truly shows who are the best players in America.
To compile this list, I took into account a bevy of factors, including individual stats, importance to team, team record, and recent performance.
Dominant teams like Florida, Arizona and Butler are not represented on this list, because they don't have star players on their roster. Their high merit has been a result of balance.
I even had to expand the honorable mentions list a tad because so many players have earned their recognition over the past couple weeks.
Finally in the heart of college hoops mania, here is my biweekly top 10 Wooden Award candidates ranking.
Note: The Wooden Award Committee released their midseason Top 25 candidates list over the past two weeks. For the purposes of this article, I ignored that list.
This is an honorable mentions list. The following players (in alphabetical order) were considered but ultimately failed to make the cut:
Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Jack Cooley, PF, Notre Dame
Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Treveon Graham, SG, Virginia Commonwealth
Elias Harris, SF, Gonzaga
Andre Hollins, PG, Minnesota
Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati
CJ Leslie, PF, NC State
Rodney McGruder, SG, Kansas State
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Key Stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG, .631 FG%
Previous Ranking: 6
Bottom Line: Zeller is still competing against his preseason hype, and that hype is narrowly edging him out. After a dominant first half against Wisconsin, he struggled in the latter half as Indiana was upset. Nonetheless, Zeller has averaged 19 points and seven rebounds over the past two weeks, keeping him afloat in the rankings.
Key Stats: 20.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG
Previous Ranking: NR
Bottom Line: Ohio State nearly upset Michigan State in Lansing, solely because of Thomas' relentless efforts. He scored 28 points in 40 minutes of action, in a game where none of his teammates scored more than six points. Thomas has scored at least 20 points in six consecutive outings.
Key Stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, .444 3P%
Previous Ranking: NR
Bottom Line: McLemore had been on the cusp of the rankings for a bit, and then he exploded on to the national scene with a near-perfect 33 point performance against Iowa State. The NBA-ready talent has solidified himself as the nation's top freshman, excelling in all aspects of the game thus far.
Key Stats: 18.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, .657 FG%
Previous Ranking: 8
Bottom Line: Olynyk was slowed down a bit by Butler in a game for the ages, but he still managed to put up 14 points and seven boards. Gonzaga's seven-footer had been averaging 28 points and nine rebounds over his prior three games, cementing himself as unarguably the nation's most improved player.
Key Stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.6 BPG
Previous Ranking: 7
Bottom Line: Ben McLemore may be flashy, but Withey is the backbone behind Kansas' 15 game win streak. The seven-footer has been producing steadily in four games over the past two weeks, and is still averaging over four and half blocked shots per night.
Key Stats: 19.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.4 SPG
Previous Ranking: 4
Bottom Line: Louisville may have been dethroned from its No. 1 ranking, but Smith still played a magnificent game against Syracuse, registering 25 points and four steals. His suffocating on-ball defense doesn't show up in the statsheets, but it does in these rankings. He's averaged 24 points over his past two games.
Key Stats: 17.4 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .591 FG%
Previous Ranking: 2
Bottom Line: Plumlee's offensive productivity has tailed off a bit with the absence of Ryan Kelly, averaging just 13 points per game since his injury. NC State's CJ Leslie won their head-to-head matchup against the Wolfpack, but Plumlee has still been enough of a force to remain in the upper-half of the rankings.
Key Stats: 12.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 9.3 APG, 3.2 SPG
Previous Ranking: 6
Bottom Line: Carter-Williams is more disruptive on the defensive end than any other player. He stands 6'6'', but is quick enough to guard fellow point guards. He made a statement with back-to-back game-sealing plays in a signature win over Louisville, and has continued to put up impressive assist totals for Syracuse.
Key Stats: 24.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, .525 3P%
Previous Ranking: 3
Bottom Line: Its starting to become unfair for opposing defenses to guard such a matchup nightmare in McDermott. Over the past three weeks, he's averaged 32 points per night on 37 of 60 shooting, including eight of 11 beyond the arc. Despite a loss to Wichita State, Creighton's Doug McDermott continues to inch towards the top spot.
Key Stats: 18.0 PPG, 7.2 APG, .508 FG%
Previous Ranking: 1
Bottom Line: Burke nearly gave up the top spot after an uninspiring performance in a loss to Ohio State, but retained it with an uncanny showing against Minnesota on the road. He's the ultimate floor general for what could be the nation's No. 1 team when the polls are revealed Monday.
Doug McDermott is nipping at Burke's heels, while Michael Carter-Williams and Mason Plumlee aren't far behind either. In a season where there is no "face of the sport," any one of these 22 players mentioned can emerge as the National Player of the Year.
Check back in two weeks for another edition of these rankings.