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College Basketball Power Rankings: Jared Sullinger and 10 Naismith Candidates

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIDecember 15, 2011

College Basketball Power Rankings: Jared Sullinger and 10 Naismith Candidates

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    Jared Sullinger returned to the Ohio State lineup last night, and the Buckeyes rolled over USC-Upstate in the second half. 

    In the preseason, Sullinger—along with Harrison Barnes and Jeremy Lamb—was considered a front-runner for the Naismith Award, which is given to the nation's best player.

    The award ceremony is a few months away, but here are power rankings of the top 10 Naismith candidates through the first month of the college basketball season.

10. Robbie Hummel, Purdue

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    Season: 18.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 42.7% FG, 42% 3PT, 80% FT

    Though Robbie Hummel's percentages have dipped since his torrid start to 2011-2012, his Purdue Boilermakers stand at 9-2. 

    Hummel could have helped his POY case, however, with a better performance against Xavier. The senior scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting down the stretch, as the Musketeers rallied from a 19-point deficit with under 10 minutes left to steal the victory.

    While he didn't play well under the pressure, Hummel has already shown his ability to step up in crunch time; his go-ahead three-pointer with 20 seconds left against Iona gave Purdue a 91-90 victory. 

9. Dee Bost, Mississippi State

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    Season: 18.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 43.2% FG, 35.4% 3PT, 75.4% FT

    Mississippi State's addition of Arnett Moultrie flew under the radar this preseason, and while the UTEP transfer is averaging a double-double for the Bulldogs, Dee Bost is Rick Stansbury's most important player.

    Without Bost, the Bulldogs would not have a facilitator who can score, not to mention a defensive wizard whose quick hands and instincts pester opponents.

    Bost has had a few woeful nights from the field, but Mississippi State would not be 10-1 without him.

    Improved consistency would bump Bost up the power rankings.

8. Herb Pope, Seton Hall

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    Season: 21.9 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 55.4% FG, 38.9% 3PT, 69.2 percent FT

    Most casual college basketball fans remember Herb Pope for punching Texas Tech's Darko Cohadarevic in the groin.

    Well, Pope is still punching people in the groin—just metaphorically.

    Every night, the senior posts an elite performance. Seriously, look at his game-log and pick out a dud.

    You can't—maybe, just maybe, his 4-of-13 shooting night against St. Joseph's, but Pope still scored 17 points and grabbed 10 boards.

    The 6'8" forward, who has led Seton Hall to an 8-1 start, is one of three Division I players averaging 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds (Kevin Jones and Julian Mavunga are the other two).

7. Harrison Barnes, UNC

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    Season: 17.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 48.8% FG, 51.7% 3PT, 71.7% FT

    Harrison Barnes is the smoothest offensive player in the country, but he can't ascend this list until he proves he's better than a capable defender—or until the production of those ahead of him declines.

    If he averaged 20-plus points, he'd probably be ranked higher. Yes, UNC's balance prevents Barnes from eclipsing that mark on a nightly basis, but why should the Tar Heels' makeup punish the guys ahead of Barnes, all of whom lead their respective teams?

    It would be easier to neglect the above if Barnes didn't average 14.5 points—on 11-of-28 shooting—and 3.5 boards in UNC's two losses.

6. Jeremy Lamb, UConn

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    Season: 20 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 51.2% FG, 37.9% 3PT, 85.7% FT

    Jeremy Lamb is one of the nation's best scorers, but he's also an elite defender. 

    If UConn hadn't relinquished its 17-point lead against Central Florida, the Huskies would probably be ranked No. 1 or 2 in the nation. The Huskies did lose, however, and Lamb was far from spectacular—15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, three turnovers and just two rebounds.

    A better performance there, and Lamb would be a few notches higher.

5. Doug McDermott, Creighton

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    Season: 24 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 62.6% FG, 60.6% 3PT, 78.3% FT

    Doug McDermott has dominated for his father's Creighton Bluejays, and while those are the most ludicrous numbers anyone has posted through eight games, the sophomore hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. 

    Look at his game-log; he consistently hits more than he misses—three-pointers included. 

    Remember the consistent damage Derrick Williams inflicted from beyond the arc last year? He connected on 56.8 percent of his treys, if you don't.

    But while Williams made just 1.1 threes per game, McDermott is averaging 2.5 at 60.6 percent.

    Unbelievable.

    Oh, by the way—Creighton is 7-1.

4. Tu Holloway, Xavier

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    Season: 17.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.4 SPG, 40.3% FG, 39.1% 3PT, 87.5% FT

    Tu Holloway has always been a streaky shooter.

    However, he has also always been clutch—remember his performance against Kansas State in the 2010 Sweet 16?

    This year, he's the best crunch-time player in the nation.

    Despite shooting 4-for-17 through the first two minutes of overtime at Vanderbilt, Holloway connected on back-to-back treys to inflate Xavier's lead to 74-66. The Commodores simply couldn't respond afterwards.

    Less than a week later, Holloway scored 17 of his 21 points during Xavier's second-half comeback against Purdue. He scored all 11 Musketeer points during the final two minutes, connecting on three consecutive triples. 

    Holloway's reliability under pressure is indisputable.

3. Marcus Denmon, Missouri

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    Season: 21.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 53.3% FG, 49.2% 3PT, 91.7% FT

    Missouri hasn't played the toughest schedule en route to its 9-0 start, but that shouldn't diminish Marcus Denmon's ranking.

    In fact, the senior has risen above his season averages in three games against fellow BCS schools. The guard averaged 25 points on 62.5 percent shooting in wins over Notre Dame (pre-Tim Abromaitis injury), California and Villanova.

2. Thomas Robinson, Kansas

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    Season: 17.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 53.1% FG, 71.4% FT

    With the exception of his scoring output against Kentucky, Thomas Robinson has dominated around the hoop. The junior has scored in double-figures in every game and has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 7-of-9.

    Against teams currently ranked in every Top 25 poll, Robinson is averaging 17 points and 11.5 boards. He also went for 26 and 11 against Long Beach State, a formidable mid-major with T.J. Robinson, one of the best unknown bigs in college hoops.

1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

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    Season: 18.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 59.8% FG, 83.6% FT

    Jared Sullinger's absence and Ohio State's subsequent loss can be viewed in two ways regarding the Naismith: Either you punish Sullinger for diminishing his team's chances to win, or you realize exactly how indispensable the sophomore is to the Buckeyes.

    I'll espouse the latter since it appears that Sully won't miss any more action. 

    With Sullinger, the Buckeyes had dominated their opponents—they even routed Duke by 22 points behind Sullinger's 21 and eight.

    Without him, though, they lost a challenging, yet winnable game. 

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