NCAA Basketball: Top 15 Contenders for Defensive Player of the Year
John Henson and Anthony Davis are the two frontrunners for the NABC Defensive Player of the Year award, but a whole slew of other elite defenders could earn it, too.
Since the award's inaugural year in 1987, only one freshman (Greg Oden) and one mid-major player (Kenneth Faried) have collected the hardware. Davis looks to become the second freshman Defensive POY while the likes of C.J. McCollum and Kent Bazemore strive to follow in Faried's footsteps.
So, who are the top contenders for the award?
15. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
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Playing for Lehigh, C.J. McCollum would need a spectacular defensive season just to garner any national attention.
But he has very quick hands and—despite being 6'3"—can rebound the rock. As a sophomore, McCollum averaged 2.5 steals and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Through five games, he's collected 2.3 steals and 5.3 boards.
14. T.J. McConnell, Duquesne
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T.J. McConnell is developing a reputation as an all-around player. Not only is he a triple double threat—he posted a 15-point, 10-rebound and 11-assist game against District of Columbia last week—but he is also a hard-nosed defender, averaging three steals per game.
McConnell finished his freshman year with 2.8 steals and 3.8 rebounds per game.
13. Jared Cunningham, Oregon State
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Jared Cunningham's freakish athleticism helps him suffocate elite offensive threats, like John Jenkins. Read Ballin' is a Habit's analysis of the aforementioned matchup.
Cunningham recorded seven steals in Oregon State's narrow loss to Vanderbilt, and the sophomore is averaging 3.2 swipes per game.
12. Cameron Moore, UAB
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Through three games, Cameron Moore has blocked 18 shots for a nation-best six swats per game.
He only blocked 1.5 shots per game last season, so it might be too early to jump on Moore's bandwagon. Still, the senior, who is also averaging 13.3 rebounds per game, would be near the top of every voter's ballot today.
11. Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion
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Kent Bazemore is the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year and College Insider's Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year.
A versatile defender, Bazemore averaged 2.2 steals, 0.9 blocks and 5.1 rebounds per game as a junior. He's swiping the ball at an even better rate this year—3.2 per game—while blocking one shot and snatching four boards as well.
10. Kyle O'Quinn, Norfolk State
Kyle O'Quinn is averaging three blocks, one steal and 10.6 boards per game. As a junior, he averaged 3.4 blocks and 11.1 rebounds.
Playing in the MEAC, O'Quinn probably won't win the Defensive POY award, but he is one of the best defenders in the country.
9. Chris Gaston, Fordham
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Chris Gaston reads the glass as well as anyone in college basketball. To prove it, he's the country's leading returning rebounder after averaging 11.3 boards as a sophomore.
Fordham has played just two games so far, and the Syracuse zone neutralized Gaston—he grabbed what will probably be a season-low five rebounds.
The junior is also reliable for about 1.5 blocks per game—his sophomore average.
8. C.J. Aiken, St. Joseph's
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After averaging 3.5 blocks per game as a freshman, C.J. Aiken has been even more of a swat machine in 2011-12. Through five games, he has accumulated 21 blocks.
Aiken hasn't been a dominant rebounder, which weakens his Defensive POY case. However, his ability to alter shots will earn him some votes.
7. William Mosley, Northwestern State
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If you've never heard of Northwestern State or the Southland Conference, you're probably like the majority of college basketball fans.
For that reason, William Mosley, who led the nation with 4.9 blocks per game last season, will need another remarkable season to be considered for the Defensive POY award.
Mosley is off to a good start, averaging 3.2 blocks, 1.2 steals and nine boards per game.
6. Mike Moser, UNLV
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Mike Moser didn't receive enough playing time to display his defensive prowess at UCLA, but in five games at UNLV, he has shown why he was touted as a talented defensive prospect.
The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 3.8 steals, 1.2 blocks and 13 boards per game.
5. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
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Trevor Mbakwe is a double-double machine—Tubby Smith can rely on his senior forward to corral about 10 boards on a nightly basis.
While Mbakwe's 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals from a season ago wouldn't really catch your eye as you scan through stat leaders, he has a nose for the ball and provides some of the intangible defensive efforts that don't appear in the box score.
4. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
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Gorgui Dieng averaged 1.9 blocks in just 15.6 minutes per game as a freshman. After receiving a boost in playing time, Dieng's shot-blocking average has doubled to 3.8 swats per game.
Playing in the Big East, Dieng has the potential to catch the nation's attention with his shot-blocking ability. If he maintains his three-plus average, he'll have to be in the top five on most ballots.
3. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
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Aaron Craft is one of the grittiest defenders in college basketball.
As a freshman, he fueled Ohio State's defensive effort and averaged two steals per contest. He hasn't swiped fewer than three steals in the Buckeyes' first five games of 2011-12 and is averaging 3.4 steals per game.
He's probably the best defensive point guard in the nation.
2. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
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In 2006-07, Greg Oden became the first freshman to win the Defensive POY award. Anthony Davis has the potential to become the second.
Through five games, Davis is averaging 4.4 blocks, one steal and 7.4 rebounds per game. He swatted a season-high seven shots against Thomas Robinson and Kansas on Nov. 15.
1. John Henson, UNC
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John Henson blocked nine shots against Michigan State in UNC's season opener, and while he didn't match that total in the Tar Heels subsequent three games, he hasn't blocked fewer than one shot in any contest this season.
Henson is averaging four blocks and 10.8 rebounds.
Although copious hype surrounded Anthony Davis as he entered his freshman year, Henson is still the favorite because he has displayed this type of defensive prowess before—he swatted 3.2 shots and corralled 10.1 boards as a sophomore.