The college basketball season is still a couple of months away from really kicking off but with all this transfer and recruiting news, I am getting a little bit antsy for some action. To satisfy my urge for college basketball goodness, I decided to instead, write my “Way too early Player of the Year candidates” list.
Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton
The Creighton senior averaged a bit over 23 points last year to go along with almost 8 rebounds per game. McDermott is a scorer, pure and simple, the entire Creighton offense relies around his ability to put the ball in the bucket and he does it as well as anyone else in the nation. He can shoot the three point shot at an insanely effective level and his overall field goal percentage goes to show how efficient he is.
If Creighton has another good year, especially considering that they are moving up to a much tougher conference, it would give McDermott greats odds at being named National Player of the Year. It is doubtful that any other player on an expected tournament team will be leaned on more heavily to provide scoring for his team. If McDermott has a bad game, it is more than likely that the Bluejays will lose that game. No player in the country is more valuable to his team.
The fact that he is a senior should also give him an advantage because not only does he have the experience and the knowledge of what it takes to make it in the NCAA, I’m sure the NCAA would love rewarding a kid for staying in school. In the age of one and dones, seniors that could probably have already been drafted in the NBA are quite rare, McDermott is one of those kids because he has attracted NBA attention over the past two summers. Both times, he has resisted temptation and opted to go back to school and play for his dad, Greg McDermott. For the NCAA, that is the type of player they want to see more of so rewarding for sticking around him would make sense, even if it may not be fair to younger players.
McDermott is currently attending the World University Games where he will be the main scoring threat for a Team USA that is looking to bounce back from a 5th place finish in 2011. This will be a great way for McDermott to get himself in game playing shape early and allow him to play his best from the start of the NCAA season.
James Michael McAdoo, Forward, North Carolina
Expectations for the Tar Heels are always high, they have established a tradition of excellence that is always expected to be met. Last year, they fell quite short of that goal and it was an unfortunate season for UNC fans.
For the 2013-14 season, UNC fans will expecting a much better season and much of the pressure will be put on their upperclassmen. With PJ Hairston having a nightmare summer, between his arrest, NCAA probe and injury, a lot more pressure will come down on Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo. While Bullock is a really solid player, McAdoo is the guy who should become the focus of the team.
At 6″9, McAdoo is quick, long and athletic. Offensively, he is a threat on the fast break where he can finish with reckless abandon. In the half court, he has become adept at making shots outside the paint with his jump shot and he is great at breaking his man down off the dribble. He will be expected to score most of UNC’s points when it comes down to the wire and he will have the opportunity to really show what he can do.
Defensively, McAdoo is one of the most versatile players in the nation. He is great at playing the passing lanes and cutting off the pass coming into the post. He can hold his own against both small forwards and power forwards and his length bothers a lot shots that he doesn’t get to block. McAdoo is also a smart player who understands help defense and systems so he can be used to guard almost any player on the court without any worries. He will also be counted on to end offensive possessions for the other teams by grabbing the defensive rebound as he will be one of the most skilled rebounders on the Tar Heels roster.
Having such an important role on one of the most high profile teams in history, McAdoo should have ample chances to make his claim that he deserves to win the National Player of the Year.
Keith Appling, Guard, Michigan State
One of the best defensive players around on the wing, Appling will be the key to Michigan State’s success. As one of the most consistent programs around, the Spartans will rely heavily on Appling to keep that success going forward.
Versatility is key for Appling, he rebounds extremely well for a guard, is a good play maker for his teammates and he score the ball when needed. Offensively, he will be expected to step up and shoulder a lot of the load so he will have had to make some progress in his repertoire.
Still it all comes back to his excellent defensive abilities. The Spartans are not usually a high scoring team and they mostly focus on stopping the other team from scoring. Appling will be key to all of that as he can stop the ball from making any forward progress and he plays some of the best on ball defense I have ever seen in college basketball.
Chances are he will not win the award because defense is often overlooked by people who choose end of season awards but I wanted to throw him in the mix to give him some recognition.
Alex Poythress, Forward, Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats are going to be absolutely stacked in 2013-2014. They have six McDonald’s All Americans coming in as freshman. Their starting lineup from last year will probably completely changed except for a single exception, Alex Poythress.
Though the Wildcats will be talented, they will be young and green. They will need someone with experience to shoulder the load when it comes down to the tough moments. Someone who has been there before. Alex Poythress will be that guy, he will be the Wildcats’ closer.
Offensively, he made great strides in his freshman year, showing a bit more polish by the end of the season. Assuming he spent his summer really working hard on his shot, he should be back as a Sophomore with even more tools on the offensive end.
Poythress is one of the most athletic players in the NCAA and he uses those skills to his benefit. He has great length, quickness and jumping ability. His speed allows him to guard both guards and forwards making it possible for Kentucky to switch on picks. His versatility makes him incredibly important on both ends of the court.
If Kentucky is one of the best teams in the nation and Poythress is its biggest contributor, he will have as good a shot as any to be chosen as the player of the year.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, Guard
Have a look at these numbers: 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. That statline was put together by Kevin Durant in his only season at Texas. It was such an amazing season that he became the first freshman to become the Naismith player of the year. It has since been won by only one other freshman, Anthony Davis in 2012.
So it’s a bit rare for first year players to win the award but if anyone was to do it again, it would be phenom Andrew Wiggins. According to most scouts, if Wiggins had been allowed to enter the NBA draft this year, he would have been the first overall pick. He is one of the most athletic and dangerous prospects in college basketball history. If you look at the numbers put up by Durant, those are the type of stats that Wiggins could have a shot at putting up.
It’s especially important to consider that Durant was coached by Rick Barnes who isn’t a particularly good coach. Wiggins will have Bill Self, one of the best coaches in the NCAA. Wiggins will have an extreme amount of pressure put on his shoulders but he will be the big man on campus the moment he arrives at Kansas. He will have as many shots as he wants to take.
If Wiggins delivers on the hype he has been getting, and he is getting a lot of it, then it would not be unbelievable for him to win the National Player of the Year. Wiggins has the skill set to be the best player in the world and his journey will start in the NCAA, personally, I think he will match and even exceed his hype and take home the trophy.