College Basketball: Harrison Barnes and 10 Naismith Award Hopefuls

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IINovember 11, 2011

College Basketball: Harrison Barnes and 10 Naismith Award Hopefuls

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    Which college basketball star will succeed Jimmer Fredette as the 2012 Naismith Player of the Year?

    There's a long list of possibilities—some unforeseen sophomore could have a breakout season and capture the award—but this list is comprised of 10 of the likeliest players to receive the accolade.

Tu Holloway, Sr., Xavier

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    There has to be at least one non-BCS player on this list, and Tu Holloway of Xavier fits the mold of a potential Naismith Player of the Year.

    Holloway is a consummate player. He can score (19.7 PPG), crash the boards (5 RPG), distribute (5.4 APG) and defend (1.4 SPG).

    He's also clutch—remember his late-game heroics in Xavier's Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State in 2010?

    His Musketeers were picked to finish atop the Atlantic-10, and if Holloway makes that a reality while elevating his numbers slightly, he'll be a trendy "upset" pick for the Naismith award.

Anthony Davis, Fr., Kentucky

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    Currently projected by NBA Draft Net as the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Anthony Davis enters 2011-12 play with high expectations. 

    Davis is a rare physical specimen. As a high school junior, he was a 6'3" guard before hitting a seven-inch growth spurt that transformed him into an athletic center with a 7'4" wingspan.

    Davis probably won't post outstanding offensive numbers—they'll be good, not great—but you can count on his defense and rebounding to be worthy of Naismith Award consideration. The athletic power forward averaged six blocks in Kentucky's two exhibition games.

Andre Drummond, Fr., UConn

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    Andre Drummond, currently projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, is an absolute monster on defense and a developing presence on offense.

    His decision to join UConn a year early transformed the Huskies into a legitimate threat to repeat as national champions.

    If Drummond lives up to the hype, he'll be in the Naismith award discussion.

Jordan Taylor, Sr., Wisconsin

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    Jordan Taylor is an elite point guard. His 4.7 assists and 1.2 turnovers per game gave him the nation's best assist to turnover ratio in 2010-11, and he can also score. Taylor averaged 18.1 points per game as a junior.

    Taylor shot 42.9 percent from long range and 83.2 percent from the foul line.

    Without Jon Leuer and a few other key players from last year, Taylor will be tested. Can he replicate his tremendous junior season anyway?

    If he can, leading Wisconsin to a Top-10 finish, he'll have to be considered for the Naismith Award.

Perry Jones III, So., Baylor

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    Perry Jones joined Baylor as a potential No. 1 draft pick, but his averages of 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game left a lot to be desired.

    Although he didn't live up to the hype, Jones displayed flashes of his potential, scoring over 20 points six times during his freshman year. 

    The talent that made him one of the most hyped recruits in Baylor history is still there, and he could potentially break out as a sophomore.

Terrence Jones, So., Kentucky

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    With all the hype surrounding Kentucky's freshman class, Terrence Jones became an afterthought this summer.

    However, it is Jones who appears to be the Wildcats' leader in 2011-12. The sophomore netted 52 points in Kentucky's Blue-White scrimmage while pouring in 22 in each of the team's exhibition games. In the exhibitions, Jones shot a ludicrous 18-of-22 from the floor.

    Yes, he's caught the nation's eye in the preseason, but his gaudy numbers shouldn't come as much of a surprise. As a freshman, Jones averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He also topped 20 points eight times.

    Kentucky is the No. 2 team in the nation, and if Jones helps the Wildcats achieve their lofty expectations, he could easily be the Naismith Player of the Year.

Thomas Robinson, Jr., Kansas

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    Thomas Robinson averaged just 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game as a sophomore, but he will be Bill Self's featured frontcourt player in 2011-12 after the Morris twins bolted for the NBA.

    After losing two grandparents and his mother in less than one month, Robinson has one goal: make the NBA so he can attain custody for his younger sister. If you haven't read Tom Friend's tearjerking story about Robinson's situation, you must.

    Combine Robinson's increased playing time with his hunger for an NBA contract, and he could be one of the best players in college basketball this season.

Jeremy Lamb, So., UConn

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    Jeremy Lamb had an eye-opening postseason, averaging 16.2 points per game as Kemba Walker's sidekick.

    Now that Walker is in the NBA, Lamb is the offensive leader of the UConn Huskies. As a freshman, Lamb averaged 11.1 points on 48.7 percent shooting, but his tournament numbers prove he is capable of scoring at a higher clip.

    The questions around Lamb: can he handle the hype and being the No. 1 priority of opponents' gameplans?

    We'll see.

    But if he plays at the same level as he did during UConn's run to the 2011 National Championship, he'll be a Naismith Award candidate.

Jared Sullinger, So., Ohio State

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    Jared Sullinger averaged 17.2 points 10.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. As such a dominant post presence, he probably should have corralled more rebounds. However, his weight may have held him back—quicker bigs snatched rebounds away because they could beat him to the ball. 

    During the offseason, Sullinger shed a significant amount of weight. Not sure how much, but read Eamonn Brennan's article about Sullinger's weight loss.

    He might not be able to use his body as effectively in the post, but being lighter should open up opportunities to improve other parts of his game, making him a more well-rounded big man.

    Now that he's lighter, expect Sullinger to raise his averages from a season ago.

Harrison Barnes, So., UNC

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    Harrison Barnes struggled through the first half of his freshman year before erupting down the stretch. Over the final 17 games, Barnes averaged 19.9 points, including a 21-point average in the NCAA tournament.

    Now that Barnes has a full season under his belt, he should be poised for an impressive sophomore campaign. He should be able to average around 20 points per game while leading the No. 1 team in the nation.

    If that isn't worthy of Naismith Award consideration, what is?