The John Wooden Award, better known as the National Player of the Year, is getting ready to make the cut down to its finalists for the award. Unfortunately for some, like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, once you are cut from the list you cannot be added again. So my rankings are based on players who made the cut for the midseason list and still have an actual chance. I’ve broken it down into three categories:
Worth a Mention
8. DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
Thomas has been spectacular for the Buckeyes last year. Although he had quite the regular season as a Sophomore in 2012, he really came on to the scene and made a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament, helping lead Ohio State to the Final Four. With the departure of Jared Sullinger, Thomas has stepped up huge for Thad Matta’s squad. The Buckeyes are 21-7 and tied for second in the Big Ten, due in large part to Thomas’ production. With 19.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, Thomas can take over at any time.
7. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Bennett was one of the last prospects to pick a school last Spring, but no one could be happier with his choice of the Runnin’ Rebels. The Freshman is averaging 16.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on the year and has many scouts already saying he’ll be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. UNLV is 22-7 in the Mountain West but could be a huge sleeper come March. Look for Bennett to lead this team to some tournament wins, even as just a Freshman.
6. Cody Zeller, Indiana
While Zeller was everyone’s preseason favorite for POY, he finds himself a bit lower on the list at this point in the season. Although Zeller has been fantastic for IU, averaging 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, other players have simply outdone him. However, Indiana just keeps rolling along. At 25-4 and 13-3 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers are almost a lock for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While someone else will likely hoist the Wooden Award, Zeller very well could be the one cutting down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
Close, But No Cigar
5. Mason Plumlee, Duke
The last of three brothers to play for Duke, Plumlee has had himself quite the Senior season. The Dukie is tearing it up, averaging 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Throughout his career, Plumlee has been a notably awful free throw shooter, but thanks to practice in the off-season, he’s expanded his scoring arsenal thanks to an improved percentage from the charity stripe. With the ability to knock down a mid-range jumper as well as post up on anyone in the ACC, Plumlee is Duke’s catalyst for this year’s tournament.
4. Ben McLemore, Kansas
McLemore has without a doubt been the most exciting Freshman in college basketball this season. The redshirt Frosh from St. Louis has torched opposing defenses this year, putting up an average of 16.6 points per game. McLemore is able to take over the game at any time, like we’ve seen against Iowa State and West Virginia at home this year. He’s almost guaranteed to be a top five pick in the NBA Draft but if he stays hot, Kansas could make another run at the Final Four, if not the National Championship,
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton
The high school teammate of Harrison Barnes (imagine that team) is playing one hell of a year for the Jays. Creighton won another Missouri Valley Conference regular season title and they wouldn’t be near the team they are without McDermott. The Junior is currently second in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 23.4 points per contest while also contributing 7.6 rebounds per game. Despite some losses in the MVC this year that dropped the Blue Jays out of the Top 25, they should be a lock for the NCAA Tournament and this POY hopeful could take his mid-major deep into March.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke has been far and away the most exciting Guard to watch in all of college basketball this season. The Sophomore, and Columbus, Ohio native, can take over a game both through his scoring and his distribution of the ball. Add stellar defense to that repertoire and you’ve got yourself a legitimate POY candidate. Averaging 18.9 points and 6.9 assists per game this season, Burke has Michigan in position to make as deep of a post-season run as they’ve had in 20 years.
1. Otto Porter, Georgetown
I’m officially on the Otto Porter bandwagon. The Sophomore and Missouri native broke the hearts of many Tiger fans when he picked the Hoyas in the Spring of 2011, but he has not disappointed in D.C. Porter’s statistics of 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game don’t even do him justice. The big man has an incredible arsenal of moves including a three-point shot and a drive to the basket that most big men don’t possess. With Georgetown now ranked fifth in the nation and currently sitting atop the Big East, Porter’s stock is only going to rise. Right now, he’s the Player of the Year.