The 15 finalists for the men's John R. Wooden Award were announced on Saturday.
ESPN's Andy Katz reported the news and points out that the race for this accolade may be the most wide open in history. The Wooden Award is given to the most outstanding player in college basketball, and former Kentucky star and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis won the award last year.
Here are the finalists:
|Anthony Bennett, F||UNLV||Freshman|
|Trey Burke, G||Michigan||Sophomore|
|Erick Green, G||Virginia Tech||Senior|
|Shane Larkin, G||Miami (Fla.)||Sophomore|
|Doug McDermott, F||Creighton||Junior|
|Ben McLemore, G||Kansas||Freshman|
|Victor Oladipo, G||Indiana||Junior|
|Kelly Olynyk, F||Gonzaga||Junior|
|Mason Plumlee, F||Duke||Senior|
|Otto Porter, Jr., F||Georgetown||Sophomore|
|Marcus Smart, G||Oklahoma State||Freshman|
|Deshaun Thomas, F||Ohio State||Junior|
|Jeff Withey, C||Kansas||Senior|
|Nate Wolters, G||South Dakota State||Senior|
|Cody Zeller, F||Indiana||Sophomore|
A noteworthy trend on this list is the strong presence of the Big Ten. Dominant scorer Deshaun Thomas has been absolutely critical to the Buckeyes' success. He averages 19.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the only other player who puts up double figures for OSU.
That is not to take anything away from point guard Trey Burke, who has been key in the Wolverines' rise in the 2012-13 season.
The sophomore has been remarkably efficient offensively, shooting 49.2 percent from the field and better than 38 percent from beyond the arc. His 6.9 assists per game are offset by only 1.9 turnovers.
Indiana Hoosiers teammates Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are strong candidates as well, as they lead one of the country's most explosive and multifaceted offenses.
Another set of teammates—Kansas super frosh Ben McLemore and defensive dynamo Jeff Withey— have also been sensational. McLemore is widely considered as a lottery pick in the impending NBA draft.
The ACC is also well represented as might be expected, with Duke's Mason Plumlee, Virginia Tech's Erick Green (also the nation's leading scorer) and Miami's Shane Larkin.
Mid-majors got some love, too.
Stat sheet-stuffer Nate Wolters has put up 22.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists for Summit League co-leading South Dakota State. Creighton's Doug McDermott is a matchup nightmare due to his 6'8'' frame and incredible range. He averages 23.3 points per contest for the Bluejays.
Center Kelly Olynyk has been outstanding in his own right, leading Gonzaga to an improbable No. 1 ranking.
As Katz notes, the winner of the award will be announced during the Final Four in Atlanta. A strong case could be made for all of these players, but those who are teammates are likely to split votes, which will make projecting the winner all the more difficult.