On Sunday, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr., Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Michigan's Trey Burke and Creighton's Doug McDermott as its four finalists for the 2013 Naismith Men's College Player of the Year award.
There isn't one among the four who jumps out as an obvious front-runner, which is about what you'd expect in a 2012-13 season defined by parity.
Of course, that won't stop us from trying to identify one.
Below we're introducing you to the distinguished quartet, ranking them in descending order of which ones are most likely to take top honors.
Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown (The Long Shot)
Season Stats: 16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2,7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 118.8 offensive efficiency rating (sixth in Big East)
Team Synopsis: Georgetown finished the regular season tied for first in the Big East, but lost its opening game in the NCAA tournament to 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.
Signature Performance: Porter Jr. scored 33 of his team's 57 points in a win at Syracuse on Feb. 23.
Porter is the type of player who makes basketball purists blush. His rate statistics aren't stellar—in large part because Georgetown plays at such a slow pace—but he's sound on both ends and facilitates exceptionally well for a big.
Porter's play improved noticeably when frontcourt mate Greg Whittington was deemed academically ineligible mid-season, and the Hoyas rode the 6'8" forward's all-around game to their best Big East finish since 2008.
Porter's chances are likely hampered by his relatively modest box-score contributions and his team's early exit from the NCAA tournament.
Doug McDermott, Creighton (Big Numbers, Little School)
Season Stats: 23.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 49.7 three-point FG percentage, 67.9 true shooting percentage (fourth nationally)
Team Synopsis: Creighton began the year as a mid-major darling and rose as high as 11th in the AP poll before falling off a bit during the conference slate. The Bluejays recovered late to win the Missouri Valley regular-season and conference-tournament titles.
Signature Performance: McDermott scored 41 points in the regular-season finale against Wichita State to secure the MVC crown.
Despite a negligible vertical leap, McDermott has emerged as one of the nation's best inside-out scorers. The coach's son is a master at playing the angles down low, and shoots one of the nation's best percentages from beyond.
And be advised, McDermott doesn't feast solely on mid-major competition. He dropped 30 on Wisconsin, 29 on Arizona State, 34 on Cal and 27 against Cincinnati in the round of 64 —not that McDermott minds playing against lower-echelon Missouri Valley teams...
McDermott isn't known as a defensive stopper, but that won't hurt his candidacy much. Probably the biggest impediment to a McDermott win is the fact that Creighton lost seven regular-season games, five of which came in conference.
Looking back at past mid-major Naismith winners (Jimmer Fredette, Adam Morrison, Jameer Nelson, Lionel Simmons, Marcus Camby), most played for a dominant regular-season team that finished the year ranked. Creighton, by comparison, was a bit under the radar, and the question is whether McDermott's statistical achievements will be enough to offset his team's relatively underwhelming record.
Trey Burke, Michigan (Clutch Favorite)
Season Stats: 18.8 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 37.9 assist rate (best in Big Ten)
Team Synopsis: The Wolverines started hot, winning their first 16 games and rising to the top spot in the AP poll a few weeks later. Eventually Michigan took its lumps in the loaded Big Ten, and it wound up with a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Signature Performance: Burke finished with 21 points and eight assists against Michigan State, adding two late steals to help seal the win.
As the conductor of Michigan's high-powered attack, Burke separated early from the rest of the point guard field. The Columbus, Ohio native combines a fantastic first step with one of the nation's best step-back jumpers, leading the Big Ten in assists and finishing second in scoring average.
His candidacy lost some momentum during Michigan's six-loss conference run, but he remains in the hunt due to remarkably consistent individual play. Burke scored 15 or more in all 20 of Michigan's Big Ten contests.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana (The Oddsmaker's Choice)
Season Stats: 13.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.2 steals per game, 64.3 effective field-goal percentage (10th nationally)
Team Synopsis: Indiana began the season ranked No. 1, largely validating the hype by winning the Big Ten regular season outright and earning the NCAA tournament's third overall seed.
Signature Performance: Oladipo dropped 26 points on 10th-ranked Ohio State in an 81-68 road win.
If you've never seen Victor Oladipo play, you would have no idea why he's up for this award.
His scoring average is nothing special. He rebounds well for a guard, but that's not exactly a sexy statistical attribute. Compare him to past Naismith winners on paper, and he feels almost like a novelty contender.
Thankfully, we have seen Oladipo play—a lot. His abundant athleticism and energetic defense make him one of the nation's most exciting players, and a season spent in the limelight with his Indiana teammates has provided the exposure necessary to overcome those aforementioned statistical shortcomings.
On Sunday, Oladipo added to the legend with a game-sealing three in Indiana's nip-n-tuck win over Temple, the latest in a season of spine-tingling moments.
Put simply, no player has greater aesthetic appeal, as evidenced by the fact that one of his missed dunks has become a highlight-reel staple. In a season where scoring is down and no player has posted runaway statistics, Oladipo's all-around game and magnetic court presence could provide the winning margin.
GIF courtesy of YardBarker.com
Advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com.
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