The biggest names in college basketball were included in the Atlanta Tipoff Club's list of semifinalists for the 2014 Naismith Trophy, an honor given to the best player in the sport.
Creighton's Doug McDermott is among the most notable competitors on this list as the nation's leading scorer, although he will have tough competition from four freshmen, including Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
Here is a complete look at the list, courtesy of NaismithAwards.com:
|Fred VanVleet||Wichita State||Sophomore|
Although Creighton is not often where you look for a National Player of the Year, McDermott has done enough to justify being a top contender for the award. He leads the country with 26 points per game while also adding an average of 6.9 rebounds and hitting 44.3 percent of his shots from three-point range.
The senior is quickly climbing the record books as one of the highest-scoring college players of all time, and he is the main reason why the Blue Jays are in the Top 10 of both major polls.
While the individual accomplishments are nice, the forward explained that he still wants to win a championship, telling Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald:
I'd like to do that. I want to do that for our team, our seniors, the school, the city of Omaha. That's something (deep run in March) that we haven't done.
We can do it. We can play with anyone in the country.
Of course, he is not the only elite veteran trying to carry his squad deep into the tournament. Fellow seniors Russ Smith, Shabazz Napier and Sean Kilpatrick have all been just as important to their teams as elite scorers who have made big plays late in the game.
Meanwhile, one of the stories of this season has been the emergence of an exciting freshman class. Wiggins, who was hyped as the world's best NBA prospect prior to the season, is finally starting to get comfortable as the go-to scorer for Kansas.
Julius Randle and Parker have also taken leadership positions on their squads and are contributing in big ways on both ends of the court.
Tyler Ennis has not quite had the scoring numbers of these three, but the Syracuse point guard has made huge plays for a team that started 25-0. His consistent play and clutch shots late in games make him worthy of a spot on this list.
One player that caused some debate was Fred VanVleet from Wichita State. Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports argues that teammates Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early were more deserving:
If “Team is great, point guard makes everything work” I like that narrative…then where is Wilbekin,McConnell? #Naismith— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) February 28, 2014
On the other hand, Bleacher Report's Jason King disagreed and generally liked the list:
Kudos to voters who selected Wichita State's @FredVanVleet as one of 10 finalists for National POY. He deserves to be on that list.— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) February 28, 2014
I thought the Naismith list was solid: Ennis, NJohnson, Kilpatrick, McDermott, Napier, Parker, Randle, Russ Smith, VanVleet, Wiggins— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) February 28, 2014
The debate for all of these players will continue throughout the season and into the NCAA tournament. Finalists for this award will be announced on March 23.
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