NCAA Basketball Player of the Year Rankings 2013-14: Week 5 Edition
Last season, Trey Burke became the first point guard to win the Naismith and Wooden awards since Jameer Nelson in 2004.
If the first month of the season is any indication of how the rest of the year will play out, a point guard could win for the second straight year.
Five of the 10 players in these rankings are point guards, and another two are combo guards who can shift over to the point when necessary.
It could just be that there's a lot of talent at that position this season, but that's not the whole story. The rule changes have made it easier to operate for point guards, especially those who are great penetrators.
So complain about the rules if you'd like, but watching these great point guards operate without getting mugged has been pretty fun to witness.
10 to Watch: Nick Johnson, Arizona; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Andrew Wiggins, Kansas; Jordan Adams, UCLA; Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; ; Alex Kirk, New Mexico; Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga; Marcus Paige, North Carolina; Tyler Haws, BYU; Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh.
10. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Stats (9 games): 20.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG
It's time to start paying attention to Missouri and Jordan Clarkson, a transfer from Tulsa. The Tigers had a really good offense the past two years because of Phil Pressey, who made everyone around him better.
Clarkson isn't the creator that Pressey was, but he turns the ball over less and is a much better finisher. Clarkson also might be one of the best drivers in the country as he gets to the rim just about whenever he wants. He's taken 73 of his 102 two-point attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com.
9. Keith Appling, Michigan State
Stats (8 games): 16.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Keith Appling had to drop in these rankings after the loss to North Carolina. He still put up decent numbers (13 points and three assists), but really, none of the Spartans played well.
Appling at least had an excuse as he took a nasty spill on his hip early in the game. Credit Appling for even getting back on the floor.
To get back to playing as well as they were early and get Appling back up these rankings, the point guard needs to take control of what was a sloppy attack against UNC and start creating for his teammates again. Lucky for the Spartans, they have some time to get right as the rest of their nonconference schedule is pretty easy.
8. Russ Smith, Louisville
Stats (9 games): 17.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG
Since scoring 36 points in the loss to North Carolina, Russ Smith almost has as many assists (18) as shot attempts (26). He's averaging 12.3 points in those three games and taking approximately 24 percent of the shots when he's on the floor.
This isn't the Russdiculous anyone knows, but the Cardinals needed others to get involved and Smith is doing his part to make that happen.
7. Joseph Young, Oregon
Stats (8 games): 20.1 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG
Joseph Young ranks second in the country in offensive rating for players who have used at least 20 percent of their team's possessions, according to KenPom.com (subscription required).
The No. 1 guy, Saint Mary's Brad Waldow, has taken 62 of his 75 shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com. No wonder he has such a high offensive rating!
Young is scoring from all over the court and shooting an impressive 48.6 percent from deep, including making all four of his three-point attempts in a win at Ole Miss on Sunday. Young was an efficient scorer at Houston as well, but I'm not sure anyone anticipated he would be this good at Oregon.
6. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Stats (10 games): 17.8 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 BPG
Julius Randle is getting a lot of attention from defenses because of how dominant he has been early on, and some of that attention has led to high turnover numbers. Randle is averaging 3.5 turnovers and he had four on Tuesday against Boise State, but most of his giveaways in that game were not because of pressure.
In fact, Randle seems to be getting better at handling double-teams. He scored twice against double-teams, had a drive where he beat three different defenders and another where he beat two. He also passed out of a double to set up a James Young three. When running two defenders at Randle is no longer a good strategy, coaches are going to have a headache game-planning for him.
5. Chaz Williams, UMass
Stats (8 games): 17.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Attention college basketball players: Want to make the Player of the Year watch? Follow the Chaz Williams example.
Williams put up 32 points (on only 14 shots) with 15 assists against just one turnover in a win over BYU. UMass now has wins over LSU, New Mexico, Clemson and BYU. Those four teams could all potentially make the tournament. The Minutemen are legit and so is their point guard, who is as entertaining to watch as he is good.
4. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Stats (9 games): 25.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.9 APG
Doug McDermott has bounced back from his seven-point game against George Washington to average 27 points in his past two games, including 33 points in Creighton's win against Nebraska. The GW game is still his only time out with less than 20 points this year.
For McDermott to climb these rankings, he's going to need to put up some big numbers against an NCAA tournament-caliber team. He'll get plenty of opportunities soon with the (new) Big East season starting in three weeks.
3. Jabari Parker, Duke
Stats (9 games): 22.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.1 SPG
Jabari Parker is taking 34.1 percent of Duke's shots when he's on the floor, which ranks in the top 30 nationally per KenPom.com. Only two of those 30 players have an effective field-goal percentage of 60 percent or better.
One of those two is Parker, and the other is Louisiana Lafayette's Shawn Long. Not even McDermott tops 60 percent. Parker's ability to score at such an efficient level as a freshman is unreal.
2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Stats (9 games): 19.7 PPG, 3.8 APG, 4.9 RPG,
Marcus Smart deserves some credit for dialing back his aggressiveness offensively against South Carolina last Friday and not forcing shots. Smart got a little trigger happy against Butler and Memphis—he went 12-of-28 in those two game—after he had scored 94 points in the prior three. He got back to picking his spots against South Carolina and scored 13 points on eight shots and had a season-high five assists.
Smart should realize that he doesn't necessarily need to put up huge scoring numbers to win Player of the Year, because he has the name recognition and his defense should not go unnoticed.
How good is Smart defensively? In man-to-man defense, his man has taken 49 shots this year and made only 10 (20.4 percent), per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required).
1. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Stats (9 games): 15.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 6.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Shabazz Napier and Connecticut had a quiet week with just one blowout win against Maine since Napier's game-winner against Florida. It's not really productive to judge Napier in blowouts. He seems to be at his best in the games that matter.
He didn't score much against Maine (seven points), but he still had a complete game with eight assists, five rebounds and four steals in only 22 minutes.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.
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