Conference Tournament play is nearly upon us and the Wooden Award finalists have been narrowed down to 25 http://www.woodenaward.com/?p=1300 . I’ve decided to go one step further and narrow the list to 5, the most deserving to win the award if it were to be decided today.
The Wooden Award criteria is said to favor individuals who buy into the team play concept and who excel on both ends of the floor, the five candidates who should all be considered favorites in this wide open year all excel at both of those criteria and are currently leading their teams towards a deep tournament run.
Here’s my top 5 to take home the Wooden Award in April in order of merit.
1. Otto Porter Jr. -Georgetown
- Otto Porter Jr. is the most well rounded player in all of college basketball and his latest performance at Syracuse should vault him all the way to the top. In a huge game he scored 33 of the teams 59 points and led the Hoyas in rebounds and steals while playing all 40 minutes. At 6’8 he is constantly probing the defense while being counted on to bail the Hoyas out in late clock situations and generally delivers. Porter Jr. is averaging nearly 16 points and 8 rebounds a game while proving himself to be one of the premier defenders in the nation on a team not chocked will household talent and leading the Hoyas towards a Big East title. His draft stock is rising right along with his Wooden Award status as his multidimensional game will translate well to the NBA.
2. Trey Burke- Michigan
- No player in the nation is more relied upon than Trey Burke as he is counted on to carry the Wolverines and most nights he delivers. Burke at the point can be an offense of his own similar to what Chris Paul and Steve Nash are in the NBA, his ability to score and get into the paint open up perimeter looks for Nick Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. and is a major reason the Wolverines are among the nations leaders in offensive efficiency, the whole thing runs through Burke. The Wolverines are almost too reliant on Burke and that could be their downfall in the tournament, as great as a talent as he is, one poor performance and they are done. Fortunately for Michigan his poor performances are a rare occurrence.
3. Victor Oladipo- Indiana
- Victor Oladipo has come from nowhere to potentially win the Wooden Award, he wasn’t even on the preseason list. Now he’s considered a favorite among many and drawing comparisons anywhere from Michael Jordan to Dwyane Wade. His teammate Cody Zeller was considered the preseason favorite but early on it was apparent that Oladipo was the engine behind what is now the tournament favorite. His activity level on defense and his efficiency on offense is unmatched, Oladipo is making plays on both ends of the floor that only he can. I don’t currently have him as the favorite because his supporting cast is greater and the previous two truly carry their teams but it’s really close and I can see Oladipo winning the Wooden Award.
4. Marcus Smart- Oklahoma State
- In case you weren’t aware, Marcus Smart a freshman guard at Oklahoma State may very well likely be the top pick in this year’s NBA draft. That should speak volumes about his talent and contribution to a team that is challenging Kansas for a Big 12 Title. LeBryan Nash is a hot commodity and does plenty of work around the rim but it’s Smart who is the driving force behind the Cowboys and has been special as the season has progressed. Not many guards can go into Phog Allen as a freshmen and put up 25 points and 9 rebounds in a winning effort but that’s the type of performance that Smart is capable of and why many analysts are going to keep a close eye on the Cowboys during the Tournament.
5. Mason Plumlee- Duke
- Mason Plumlee narrowly edges out Cody Zeller in this spot mainly because of his performance despite being a marked man. Duke really has nothing else in the paint besides Plumlee and he has still managed to dominate most games in route to piling up 15 double doubles. Plumlee is always listed first on everyone’s scouting report and for good reason, he’s averaging a double double and hitting near 60 percent from the floor. While others on this list have had many peaks and valleys, Mason Plumlee has been solid as a rock all season long and that should help his chances when the Wooden Award is announced.