March Madness 2013 Predictions: Power Ranking the Favorites for Tournament MOP

Ryan DavenportContributor IMarch 30, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 29:  Trey Burke #3 of the Michigan Wolverines shoots a game tying three pointer in the final seconds of the second half over Kevin Young #40 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the South Regional Semifinal round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dallas Cowboys Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With just eight teams remaining in the field, the list of contenders for the 2013 NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player has become just that much shorter as we head into the final three rounds of play. 

Through it's still early enough for a dark-horse candidate to emerge and leap to the top of the list, a handful of standouts have distanced themselves from the pack. 

And yes, usually tournament MOP honors go to the player that put up the most dominant performance in the championship game, but that doesn't mean that we don't already have a rough idea of which players have the potential to come away with the prestigious award. 

Here's a look at the top contenders for individual bragging rights heading into the Elite Eight. 

1. Seth Curry

So far, Duke's Seth Curry has been almost as good as older brother Stephen was for Davidson during the Wildcats' Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in 2008, as the senior has paced the Blue Devils in scoring in two of the team's three tournament victories thus far and has had at least 17 points in each. 

It's not just how much Curry's contributed offensively but also how efficient the sharpshooter's been, as Curry has been remarkably accurate from the perimeter, going 6-of-9 from outside the arc during Duke's convincing win over perennial contender Michigan State in the Sweet 16.

Despite his poor shooting performance against Creighton, Curry has been Duke's engine offensively, and if the Blue Devils are going to be cutting down the nets in Atlanta, he'll be the one taking home MOP honors.


2. Trey Burke

 Early on, it looked like Michigan's Trey Burke would be outdone by his two talented running mates in Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr.

However, Burke has been unstoppable as of late, and has been the game-breaker the Wolverines needed to secure the upset over No. 1 Kansas in the Sweet 16.

As arguably the best player in the country, Burke obviously has all the tools to come away with the tournament's most prestigious individual award, because performances like the 23-point, 10-assist masterpiece he turned in against the Jayhawks are indicative of what the sophomore's capable of when he's on his game. 


3. Michael Carter-Williams 

Even when Michael Carter-Williams isn't scoring, he's certainly contributing. 

Sure, the Syracuse star's performances against Indiana (24 points) and California (12 points) were impressive, but Carter-Williams' true value to the Orange was on display against Montana as well, as the sophomore grabbed eight boards and dished out nine dimes, despite banking only four points. 

It's certainly worth noting that Carter-Williams and the Orange have a tough matchup with surging Marquette awaiting them in the Elite Eight, but given the Golden Eagles' lack of size in the paint, the Syracuse star could be on the verge of his best game of the tournament. 


4. Deshaun Thomas 

During Ohio State's run through the first four rounds of the tournament, Deshaun Thomas has been the Buckeyes' offensive focal point, as the junior has put up at least 20 points in each of the team's three games. 

Now, with the Buckeyes set to take on unheralded Wichita State in the Elite Eight, it will be Thomas' job to help Ohio State avoid becoming the Shockers' next upset victim of the tournament. 

Thomas' shooting has been on fire throughout the tournament, and if Ohio State's going to find a way to topple some more talented offensive opponents, he'll have to continue that trend. 


5. Russ Smith

There's never a better time to have a career-best game than deep into an NCAA tournament run, and that's exactly what Louisville's Russ Smith did in the Sweet 16 against Oregon. 

With a sparkling 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting, Smith lead the Cardinals offensively, which is something he's done all tournament long, as the junior has had at least 23 points in each of the team's three games. 

Against a Duke team that's been very strong from the outside, Rick Pitino's team will need Smith to be at his best.