National player of the year candidates
The 2012-13 college basketball season has been one of the most tumultuous and dramatic in recent memory; the year has featured an unprecedented amount of upsets and surprises, rises and falls, and spectacular finishes.
Above all, there is no clear favorite. The No. 1 ranked team has gone down six times this season, twice as many as last year and the most since 2008-09. The parity has come as an especially welcome surprise in wake of the Kentucky Wildcats’ year-long dominance in 2011-12.
Just as quickly as Indiana or Duke or Michigan seemed to solidify themselves as the prohibitive March Madness favorites, they were struck down by conference foes and eager bubble squads looking to bolster their respective tournament resumes.
Just as we have no idea who will cut down the nets in early April, this year’s race for player of the year has been equally contentious. There is no Anthony Davis, no Kevin Durant, no Tim Duncan – and that’s what has made this year so captivating.
Here are your favorites to take home the Wooden Award for college basketball’s Player of the Year:
Trey Burke- Michigan
The former Penn State commit has had a tremendous season for the Michigan, providing an all-around game and leading the talented but young Wolverine squad to a potential 1 seed in the tournament. The sophomore point guard has been remarkably consistent all year, scoring nearly 20 points per contest, shooting 40 percent from deep, leading the Big Ten in assists per game and the nation in assist to turnover ratio. Aside from his steady offense, Burke is a tenacious on-ball defender, forcing 1.6 steals a game - including a game changing swipe-and-dunk in the waning moments of the win over No. 9 Michigan State on March 3. All things considered, Burke is the slight favorite to pose with the Wooden Trophy on April 12.
Victor Oladipo- Indiana
Much of the well-deserved hype heading into the season surrounding Indiana focused on Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, but Victor Oladipo has emerged as the Hoosier’s most dynamic and explosive player. The 6-foot-5 junior has a non-stop motor and is an absolute terror in the passing lanes and in transition, prompting head coach Tom Crean to compare him to his former Marquette pupil, Dwyane Wade. The comparison isn’t far off; Oladipo is a tremendous athlete and plays with reckless abandon night in and night out. Much like Wade, he is an outstanding rebounder for his size and is a lock to force turnovers and steals in every contest. Oladipo has arguably the most NBA potential among the player of the year candidates, and would prove to be a worthy recipient of the award.
Kelly Olynyk- Gonzaga
Once the nation’s favorite annual Cinderella squad, Mark Few and his Gonzaga program have established themselves as a true basketball power and will likely be selected as the No. 1 overall seed on selection Sunday. Behind it all has been Kelly Olynyk, the long-haired seven footer who did not play last year after electing to redshirt his junior season. The time off proved beneficial for the Canadian big man, as he’s put up career high numbers for what might be the best Gonzaga team in school history. Olynyk is very mobil for a big man, can get up the floor in transition and shoots nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. He is excellent with his back to the basket, with a patient post game and excellent passing ability out of the low post and in double teams; very much reminiscent of former John Wooden disciple Bill Walton, who collected Player of the Year three times as a UCLA Bruin.
Otto Porter Jr.- Georgetown
Otto Porter burst onto the scene this year for John Thompson III’s Georgetown Hoyas, posting career highs across the board en route to establishing himself as perhaps the most balanced player in the nation. Porter is hitting a scintillating 44 percent from three point land, has a proficient mid-range game and possesses an acute ability to move without the ball. Porter is consistent around the basket and aptly uses his 6-foot-8 frame to create space and crash the boards. What’s more, Porter is an excellent defender in the passing lanes and a skilled cutter in half-court sets. Expect Porter and the Hoyas to make a deep run in the tournament.
Doug McDermott- Creighton
After a tremendous sophomore campaign, Doug McDermott has returned to post even stronger offensive numbers in his junior year. The coaches son has a high basketball IQ, can score from anywhere on the floor and is perhaps the nation’s most dangerous long range shooter, hitting an eye-popping 50 percent from deep. Though he struggles defensively, McDermott is a solid rebounder (7.5 rebounds per game) and his size and shooting touch cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. He’s scored 30 or more points in seven different games, including a 41 point outing against conference rival Wichita State on March 3. ‘Dougie McBuckets’ – as he is affectionately known by the Creighton faithful – lead the Bluejays to a Missouri Valley Conference championship and could make himself into a household name with a big tournament performance. If he doesn’t win the Wooden Trophy this year, look for McDermott to be favorite to take home the honor his senior season.
Ben Morse is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.