NCAA Basketball Player of the Year Rankings 2013-14: Week 9 Edition
The Player of the Year race really gets started this week with conference play beginning.
Some of the numbers that get put up in November and December aren't as meaningful because of the competition, but what's noticeable about the guys on this list is that they've been even more productive in big games.
Still, it's easier to get up for a big game when they are happening maybe once every three or four weeks. Conference play is a grind and crucial matchups are taking place almost every week.
By the end of January, we should have a much better idea of who deserves to be considered college basketball's best player than we do now.
10 to Watch: Adreian Payne, Michigan State; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Jordan Clarkson, Missouri; T.J. Warren, North Carolina State; Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado; Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Jahii Carson, Arizona State; Nick Johnson, Arizona; Andrew Wiggins, Kansas.
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription required).
10. Keith Appling, Michigan State
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG
One spot in the rankings has been reserved for a Michigan State player all season—either Keith Appling or Adreian Payne.
Appling gets the nod this week after averaging 20.5 points per game in the last week, while Payne put up only five points in the Big Ten opener against Penn State. That ended his streak of five games where he scored at least 16 points.
9. Casey Prather, Florida
Stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG
There are only nine players in the country averaging better than 15 points and shooting above 60 percent. Prather is one of them, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 62.4 percent.
Prather has been remarkably consistent for a guy who has never been a scorer at Florida before this season. He's scored in double figures in every contest and shot above 60 percent in nine of the Gators' 12 games.
8. Russ Smith, Louisville
Stats: 17.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG
For Louisville to be great this season and go on another March run, Russ Smith is going to need to play at a ridiculously high level (not Russdiculously), and that doesn't mean just scoring. He needs to create offense for his teammates.
Smith's teammates failed him at Kentucky and he morphed into his old self and started taking some ill-advised shots down the stretch. To his credit, he bounced back with an extremely impressive all-around game on Tuesday night at Central Florida. Smith scored 24 points on 14 shots, had nine assists against just two turnovers and had four steals. It was his most complete performance this season.
7. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Stats: 18.4 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Marcus Paige has an offensive rating of 127.5, and if he were to keep that up, it would be the highest offensive rating for any UNC leading scorer dating back to Tyler Hansbrough's junior season in 2007-08.
This is coming from a point guard who had to switch to shooting guard because of circumstances outside his control. Paige keeps performing at a high level, and it's still hard to believe how well he's played considering he was never supposed to play that role.
6. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 6.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG
Senior point guards who are supposed to be one of the best players in the country do not allow their teams to go to Houston and lose. That's why Shabazz Napier dropped this week.
Napier's final line on New Year's Eve was impressive—27 points, nine rebounds and five assists—but he takes the blame for his team's no-show in the first half. He had just two points and two assists at halftime when UConn trailed by 18. Napier nearly played hero again this season, but the Huskies shouldn't have even been in that situation.
5. Joseph Young, Oregon
Stats: 20.2 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG
At some point, Joseph Young has to come back to reality. The numbers he is putting up are not realistic over the entire course of a season for a guy who shoots as much as he does.
Young is making 46.7 percent of his threes, 60.5 percent of his twos and 81.8 percent of his free throws while attempting 27.6 percent of his team's shots when he's on the floor. And he plays for an undefeated team.
Honestly, he's probably too low in these rankings based off those ridiculous numbers and his team's success.
4. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Stats: 18.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.7 APG
Julius Randle played one of the best halves of basketball any player has played all season in Saturday's win against Louisville. The Cardinals could not stop Randle. Unfortunately, cramps did.
Still, Randle was impressive enough for a half—scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting—to move up the rankings this week.
The only improvement he really needs to make going into SEC play is cutting down on his turnovers, and he does have only three giveaways in the last two games. He's learning how to attack quickly before a double-team can force him into a mistake.
3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 SPG
Marcus Smart is not getting to the line as often as he was last season, but that could change with the Big 12 season beginning on Saturday for Oklahoma State.
Smart is averaging 8.4 free-throw attempts in seven contests against major-conference schools and 4.3 attempts in the other six games. Now is the time to really start watching how he performs, as he's not nearly as assertive in blowouts.
2. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Stats: 24.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.2 APG
Creighton opened Big East play against the second-best defense in the Big East in Marquette, according to Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency, and Doug McDermott managed to score 19 points.
Five of his seven baskets were well-contested with a defender right in his face. Don't believe anyone who tells you he will not be able to score in the Big East. It doesn't matter what situation it is or the defense he's facing. McDermott is going to keep getting buckets.
1. Jabari Parker, Duke
Stats: 21.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.1 SPG
Jabari Parker has been great against pretty much every opponent this season, but it's likely that he's only going to be better once conference play begins.
In the five games Duke has played against major-conference schools, Parker is averaging 22.2 points per game. In the four games decided by single digits, he's averaged 23.2 points. Parker, obviously, welcomes competition and he likes to play on the big stage.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @cjmoore4.