Early Contenders: NCAA National Player of the Year
With the majority of the non-conference schedule completed, it’s time to take a look at the leading contenders for NCAA Player of the Year. It’s still early in the season as teams have played less than 10 games, so the final rankings can drastically change. But we are starting to see trends and some guys are separating themselves from the pack. It is really hard to compare apples and oranges however, so this week I am going to focus on forwards/centers and next week the guards. Here are my post player rankings for player of the year in the NCAA, based purely on their play so far this year:
1. Mason Plumlee (Duke) - Anyone who had Mason listed as their preseason favourite for POY is brilliant, or more likely, lying. Mason has been an enigma at Duke in his first three seasons – he went from absolutely brilliant to not even present. This year Mason has made big improvements in the weak parts of his game, and has been superb in playing his style of game. Offensively he is playing from the post out to 15 feet, being extremely active on the boards, and always engaged in the game demonstrating that senior leadership. This has translated to a 19.7 ppg average, 11.3 rpg, and 1.7 blocks. All of this is done at a very efficient 61% FG (field goals), 73% FT (free throws). Mason has played within his game and done what’s best for his team. For example he is the only player in the top 50 scorers not to shoot a single three, because that’s simply not his game. He has lead his team to a perfect record on the toughest schedule in the NCAA with signature wins over Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) and Temple.
2. Doug McDermott (Creighton) - Doug received a great deal of attention last year in the POY race, but fell short to the eventual winner… some guy named Anthony Davis – you may have heard of him? Doug is a junior and while he contributes to his team in a number of ways, he is a scorer first and foremost. He can score from anywhere on the floor and is a match-up nightmare. Even with a slow start to the season, Doug is shooting 55% FG/52% 3PT/85% FT and averaging 22.7 ppg. He is one of those guys that is a spectacular college player whose talents may not translate as well into the NBA. Watch him now and enjoy.
3. Cody Zeller (Indiana) - Cody will be a top 3 draft pick in the NBA next year, and would have been my preseason choice for potential player of the year. Cody is a very balanced player and can have a big impact on both sides of the ball. While he has had a solid season so far, it just hasn’t been as dominant as Plumlee and McDermott. He is averaging 15.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg and a solid 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks. Barring injury, he will be in the hunt at the end of the year. Cody is the younger and more talented brother of former Tar Heel Tyler Zeller.
4. Jeff Withey (Kansas) - Jeff is the defensive hub on a very good Kansas team. If I were to say 13.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg and shooting 58% FG you would think a solid player at the college level, but not a player of the year candidate, right? Wrong! Jeff is currently the best interior defender in college ball, both on the ball and as a help defender. This allows his teammates to play aggressive defence because they know there is an eraser behind them. In addition to everything above, Jeff is averaging an outrageous 5.6 blocks per game… nuff said.
5. Anthony Bennet (UNLV) - Anthony is my pick as the freshman of the year in the NCAA so far this year. This young Canadian from Brampton is powerful and has a great inside-outside game. He has flourished for UNLV and is filling the huge void left with Mike Moser being unavailable for the Rebels. He is currently averaging 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks.
Keep an Eye On:
Nerlens Noel (Kentucky) and Alex Len (Maryland) were also considered, and I suggest you keep an eye on both.
Remember, check back next week for a look at the top guards in college ball.
Follow LWOS on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport