College Basketball Power Rankings: Top 20 Naismith Award Candidates, Nov. 21

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IINovember 21, 2011

College Basketball Power Rankings: Top 20 Naismith Award Candidates, Nov. 21

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    The college basketball season is just two weeks old, but it's never too early to think about the Naismith Player of the Year Award.

    Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Jeremy Lamb were the frontrunners in the preseason, but where do they rank now? Who else has emerged onto the national scene?

    These power rankings are based on performance and strength of schedule—not projections of future play.

    For example, Terrence Jones did not make the cut despite being an AP preseason All-American. The sophomore has come out of the gate slowly, averaging just 11 points and eight rebounds through four games.

    You'll also see Shabazz Napier ranked lower than his statistics should warrant because of UConn's low level of competition.

20. Kendall Marshall, UNC Tar Heels

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    Kendall Marshall is the facilitator of the No. 1 team in the nation. Although he hasn't scored much—4.3 ppg on 26.7 percent shooting—he is averaging 9.3 assists per game.

    Against Michigan State, the best defense UNC has faced thus far, Marshall turned the ball over five times, which is somewhat disconcerting. He did bounce back against UNC-Asheville, dishing out 15 assists while turning the ball over once.

    The Tar Heels don't play any outstanding defenses this week, so Marshall should be able to continue his distributing dominance.

    In order to be a more legitimate Player of the Year candidate, though, he'll need to score more.

19. Doron Lamb, Kentucky Wildcats

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    Doron Lamb is leading the Kentucky Wildcats in scoring with 16.5 points per game. He scored 26 points against Penn State and 17 in the Wildcats' resume building victory over No. 12 Kansas. 

    So far, Lamb has been an absolute assassin from long range, shooting 52.4 percent from deep.

18. Thomas Robinson, Kansas Jayhawks

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    Through two games, Thomas Robinson is averaging 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. He struggled offensively against No. 2 Kentucky, scoring 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but managed to snatch 12 boards before fouling out.

    Robinson ranks ahead of Doron Lamb because of his double-double average.

17. Tyler Zeller, UNC Tar Heels

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    Tyler Zeller bounced back from a rough opener against Michigan State—nine points and six rebounds—to average 21.5 points and nine boards over UNC's next two games.

    The big man took advantage of the size difference down low against UNC-Asheville and Mississippi Valley State, so we'll have to see how he handles better defenses.

16. Ja'Mychal Green, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Ja'Mychal Green has helped Alabama to a 5-0 start, averaging 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

    With the exception of Alabama's win over Maryland, Green has been very consistent. Foul trouble limited him to 12 minutes against the Terps.

15. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt Commodores

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    John Jenkins is on pace to shoot almost 300 three-pointers this season, and if he continues to shoot the trey at 39.4 percent, he'll score a lot of points.

    Through three games, Jenkins is averaging 23 points while knocking down 4.3 triples. His offense isn't the only impressive part of his game—he's swiped 1.7 steals per game, too.

14. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies

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    UConn hasn't exactly played any good defensive teams. Of the Huskies' four opponents, only Wagner (No. 199) ranks better than 200 in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency, so we shouldn't overreact to Shabazz Napier's torrid start to 2011-12.

    However, he did accomplish the rare feat of a triple-double on Sunday, scoring 22 points, grabbing 12 boards and dishing 13 assists against Coppin State. 

    Napier is averaging a well-rounded 19.3 points, 6.3 assists and six rebounds per contest.

13. John Shurna, Northwestern Wildcats

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    John Shurna's Northwestern Wildcats are 4-0 behind the senior's 21.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

    Most of the national attention on Shurna has focused on his offense, but the 6'9" forward is also a very skilled defender. After averaging one block and 1.1 steals per game as a junior, Shurna is swatting 1.8 shots and swiping 1.3 steals through four games.

    Also, keep an eye on Northwestern's Drew Crawford, who is averaging 27.5 points over the last two games. 

12. Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Long Beach State shocked No. 9 Pittsburgh, and Ashton Gibbs shot 38.1 percent from the floor. Still, the senior poured in 20 points and hit a few big three-pointers to keep the Panthers in the game.

    Overall, Gibbs is averaging 21.7 points and four assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from long range. His 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is very respectable.

11. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Trevor Mbakwe had his best performance of the season against Fairfield, Minnesota's toughest opponent to date. The forward scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while converting 16-of-18 from the charity stripe.

    Through three games, Mbakwe is averaging 18 points, 10 boards, two blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

    The Golden Gophers are set to play Mount Saint Mary's and DePaul this week, so Mbakwe's solid numbers should persist.

10. Dee Bost, Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Dee Bost has been great on both sides of the floor, averaging 16 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

    Although he scored just eight points in Mississippi State's win over No. 15 Arizona, Bost led the Bulldogs to an upset of No. 19 Texas A&M the night before, scoring 20 points and recording four steals.

    Bost could improve his 38.3 percent shooting percentage and 3.4 turnovers per game, but he's definitely one of the better guards in the country.

    Mississippi State plays three inferior opponents this week.

9. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jared Sullinger is off to a very solid start, averaging 18.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor.

    However, he could have bolstered his Player of the Year case with a better performance against No. 7 Florida. The forward scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Gators. Certainly not bad numbers—they're just not POY numbers.

    Sullinger should be able to boost his averages this week against North Florida, VMI and Valparaiso.

8. Casper Ware, Long Beach State

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    Casper Ware caught the nation's attention as he led Long Beach State to an upset at No. 9 Pittsburgh this week. The senior guard scored 28 points and dished out six assists, and the 49ers won 86-76.

    Just three days later, Ware almost led Long Beach State past San Diego State, but the Aztecs outlasted the 49ers in overtime despite Ware's 26 points and six assists.

    Ware is aveaging 24.7 points and 5.3 assists through three games.

    This week, Long Beach State plays Boise State and Montana, two decent mid-major teams, but the 49ers have a stretch of four-of-six against ranked opponents looming.

7. Harrison Barnes, UNC Tar Heels

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    Harrison Barnes has been Mr. Consistent through UNC's first three games, averaging 17.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest.

    Barnes is definitely the best scorer on the country's No. 1 team, but, early on, other players have topped his numbers. 

6. Anthony Davis, Kentucky Wildcats

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    Through Kentucky's first four games, Anthony Davis has displayed the defensive prowess scouts expected from him. The 6'10" forward, who swatted a season-high seven shots against No. 12 Kansas, is averaging 4.5 blocks per game.

    In addition, Davis is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

    Davis is ranked above Harrison Barnes because he's arguably worth as many points to his team. 4.5 blocks is equivalent to nine points—obviously, not all the shots he swats would find the net, but the point is still valid.

5. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut Huskies

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    Jeremy Lamb is off to quite an offensive start, averaging 22.8 points per game, but his defense has been very impressive as well. The sophomore already has 10 steals through four games.

    He has also provided us with what should hold up as the Dunk of the Year.

    Lamb's stats put him in the top of the pack, but he's currently at No. 5 because of UConn's weak early competition.

4. Robbie Hummel, Purdue Boilermakers

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    Robbie Hummel led Purdue to a second place finish at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The senior, who is shooting 46.9 percent from deep, is averaging 20 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. 

    Down by two points with 20 seconds remaining against Iona—a formidable mid-major—Hummel buried the game-winning three-pointer. He scored 20 points the following day to help Purdue defeat Temple, the second-best team in the Atlantic-10.

    He struggled from the floor against Alabama's stingy defense but still managed to score 17 points on Sunday night.

    Hummel is back in form—watch out, college basketball.

3. John Henson, UNC Tar Heels

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    John Henson, averaging 16.7 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game, has been a dominant force on both ends of the floor.

    Against Michigan State, he had his lowest point and rebound totals—12 and seven, respectively—but swatted nine Spartan shots. Nine!

    Henson has always been a good defender, but it appears he's an improved offensive player as well. So far, he has displayed an effective jump shot, which would make him even more valuable if it can persist. 

2. J'Covan Brown, Texas Longhorns

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    Saying J'Covan Brown has "done a little bit of everything" for Texas would be a vast understatement. Through three games, the junior is averaging 29.3 points, 7.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds and two steals.

    Somewhat of an erratic shooter in the past, Brown is shooting 50.9 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from long range.

    Texas has a relatively easy schedule in the coming weeks, so Brown's numbers could definitely remain ridiculously high.

1. Jared Cunningham, Oregon State

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    Jared Cunningham, averaging 26 points per game, has topped 35 in Oregon State's last two contests—wins against Hofstra and Texas.

    The sophomore is shooting 54 percent from the floor and is also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

    If Cunningham can lead the Beavers to an upset of Vanderbilt tonight, Oregon State could be on its way to a top 25 ranking. Who would have guessed that the previous sentence would ever be written?

    Although J'Covan Brown's numbers are better than Cunningham's, Cunningham has the edge because he led the Beavers past Brown's Longhorns.