ROUNDBALL DAILY

The race for the National Player of the Year award in college basketball

Like everything else this season, the race for the National Player of the Year award has been topsy-turvy. There’s no clear-cut favorite, and nobody has broken away from the pack. Just when you think one guy is going to pull away and win it, he falls back. There’s been more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Luckily for you, we here at RoundballDaily.com have been closely monitoring the race. Here’s a look at where we stand right now:

THE CANDIDATES:

VictorOladipo

AP Photo

Victor Oladipo, Jr., G, Indiana (14.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.2 apg). Oladipo may be the leader in the clubhouse right now. He’s having a fantastic season as a do-everything playmaker for one of the best teams in the nation. When the Hoosiers have needed a big shot, Oladipo knocks it down. When they need a defensive stop, he gets one. He’s also an excellent facilitator and solid rebounder at 6-5.

NAISMITH MOMENT: Oladipo went for 26, 8 and 3 in Indiana’s 81-68 win over Ohio State on February 10. As Clark Kellogg would say in NBA 2K13, he was as efficient as a heat pump. Oladipo made 17 of the 20 shots he attempted in that game (8-10 FG, 9-10 FT) and carried the Hoosiers to the finish line.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 3 to 1. There has been no clear No. 1 this season, but if we had to pick one, it’d probably be Indiana. Like the Heisman, being the best player on the best team usually gives you a great chance at winning the Naismith.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: He doesn’t project as a star at the next level, but Oladipo is definitely going to be a lottery pick. He has a Calbert Chaney-like feel to him. That’s not to say that he won’t be better than Chaney in the pros.

 

Burke-decides-to-stay-at-Michigan

AP Photo

Trey Burke, So., G, Michigan (18.8 ppg, 6.9 apg). If this award were for the Most Outstanding Player, Burke might get the nod. He has been the best pure point guard in the country this season, averaging nearly 7 assists per game and leading Michigan’s offense. He’s also been the guy to take the big shot down the stretch for the Wolverines, and he’s knocked those shots down more often than not.

NAISMITH MOMENT: There hasn’t really been one, although Burke has had a ton of big games. He put up 25 points, 8 assists and 5 boards in a loss at Indiana. He had 29 and 5 dimes in a win over…Penn State. It doesn’t help that the Wolverines have stumbled down the stretch and just lost at previously winless (in conference) Penn State.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 8 to 1. Burke is probably going to have to put together a tremendous Big Ten tournament run in order to win this thing. He’s certainly capable of doing that, but it sure ain’t going to be easy in the Big Ten. Burke may well be the best player in the country, but he just hasn’t had that head-turning moment that separates him from the other candidates.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: He’s small (listed at 6-0), but he’s got so much speed and skill that it’s hard to believe Burke won’t be chosen in the lottery.

 

AP/Nick Wass

AP/Nick Wass

Otto Porter, So., G/F, Georgetown (16.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg). The hard-charging Hoyas have won 11 in a row, and Porter has been the main reason why. He scored 33 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and came away with 5 steals in a huge road win at Syracuse, then followed that up with 22 points, 5 boards and 4 assists in a thrilling double-overtime win at UConn.

NAISMITH MOMENT: It has to be the Syracuse game, although the Orange have fallen off of late. If Georgetown finishes off this amazing run with a Big East championship, Porter will have a real case.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 10 to 1. Porter came on strong late, but he didn’t have the type of early-season success that breeds momentum for this award.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: Porter is slotted at No. 7 on NBADraft.net’s Mock Draft at this point, and it seems like a sure bet that he will end up being selected in the lottery. He’s got great size (6-8, 205) and all of the skills to be a good pro.

 

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AP Photo

Marcus Smart, Fr., G, Oklahoma State (14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.9 spg). Smart has probably been the most underrated player in the country this season. He’s putting up Jason Kidd-at-Cal like numbers in rebounds, steals and assists, but nobody seems to be noticing.

NAISMITH MOMENT: Smart put up 25 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals in Oklahoma State’s signature win this season, an 85-80 triumph over Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. He also had 28, 7 boards and 4 dimes in a nice overtime win over in-state rival Oklahoma.

CHANCES OF WINNING: 15 to 1. It should be higher, but again, no one knows who he is.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: People may not know who Smart is right now, but they will come June, when Smart figures to be one of the top picks in the NBA Draft. He’s a do-everything guard who can rebound and defend. He projects as a true point who can also score, and has solid PG size (6-4).

 

Mason-Plumlee-Dunk

Photo: Dukehoopblog.com

Mason Plumlee, Sr., C, Duke (17.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg). A few weeks ago, Plumlee may have been the favorite to take home the Naismith. He’s had some absolutely beastly games, putting up 32 and 9 in a close win over Wake Forest and putting up 30 and 9 in a win over NC State. He’s had some games where he doesn’t show up (8 points against Florida State, 8 against Clemson, 4 against Maryland), but when he’s on, no one in the country is scarier.

NAISMITH MOMENT: It’s probably the 30 and 9 he hung on NC State on February 7. It probably doesn’t help that the most memorable performance by a Duke player came from Ryan Kelly, who posted 36 in his return against Miami on Saturday, but still. Plumlee has done enough

CHANCES OF WINNING: 10 to 1. He’s had a spectacular season, but his disappearance in games and Duke’s inconsistency could cost him. Unlike Oladipo or Porter, Plumlee hasn’t brought the POY game all year long.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECTS: The dude is Conan-the-Barbarian-big, and he will be a handful at the next level. He’s going to be a lottery pick.

 

 OUR PREDICTION: Victor Oladipo. There’s plenty of time for another twist or turn, but we’re going with Oladipo for now.

 

 

 

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