When the topic of player of the year in college basketball comes up everyone immediately thinks of names such as John Wall of Kentucky, Scottie Reynolds of Villanova, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, Evan Turner of Ohio State, Sherron Collins of Kansas, and Damion James of Texas. But many other players have made a name for themselves this year and deserve to be mentioned in the player of the year conversation. Here’s my list of the best of the rest (in no particular order).
Wesley Johnson (Syracuse) – The Junior transfer from Iowa State has made a huge impact on the 20-1 Orange who are also 7-1 in the brutal Big East. Johnson is averaging 17 ppg along with 9 rpg and is shooting 45% from the 3-point line and 56% overall. The most impressive part of Johnson’s game is that he raises his play against Big East opponents, he averages 18 ppg and 11 rpg in those contests.
Devan Downey (South Carolina) – Downey is averaging 22 ppg on the year while shooting 42% from the field to go along with 3 spg. The stat that puts Downey into the upper tier of college players is the 31 ppg he averaging in SEC play. Downey has carried a mediocre South Carolina team to a 12-8 record overall and a 3-3 record in the SEC along with a win against #1 ranked Kentucky, which was the first win against a #1 ranked team in Gamecock history. If Downey wants to be in the player of the year conversation he will need the Gamecocks to continue to win big games.
James Anderson (Oklahoma State) – Anderson has led the Cowboys to a 15-4 start to the season and 3-2 Big 12 record. He is averaging 22 ppg and 6 rpg overall and 24 ppg in Big 12 play.
Jon Scheyer (Duke) – Scheyer was overshadowed by all the hype surrounding Kyle Singler in the beginning of the season, but now that Singler hasn’t lived up to the preseason player of the year hype, Scheyer has stepped up as the leader of the Blue Devils. Scheyer has been impressive scoring the ball as he is averaging 19 ppg and shooting 38% from the 3-point line overall, but Scheyer’s most impressive statistic is his 6 apg and his 4:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State) – Varnado is a defensive force who is averaging 5.3 bpg which is second in the nation and 11 rpg. Varnado can also put the ball in the basket as he is shooting 59% from the field and averaging 14 ppg. Varnado also has 10 double-doubles and 1 triple-double on the year. The triple-double came in a win against Arkansas in which Varnado had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky) – The big-time low post player from Kentucky has had a brilliant freshman season so far. Cousins is averaging 16 ppg and 10 rpg overall while shooting 55% from the field and 18 ppg and 10 rpg in SEC play. Cousins has 11 double-doubles on the year and has had a double-double in 3 of Kentucky’s 5 SEC games.
Players on the Rise
Quincy Pondexter (Washington) - 20 ppg, 8 rpg, 45% from 3-point range, 7 double-doubles, 55% shooting overall
Luke Babbitt (Nevada) – 22 ppg, 10 rpg, 41% from 3-point range, 14 double-doubles, 53% shooting overall, hasn’t scored less than 14 points in a game so far this season
South Carolina Stymies Ole Miss (SCAR-16, #4 Miss-10)
The “Old Ball Coach” usually beats his opponents using his superior offensive knowledge but not against the Rebels. It was actually the Gamecocks’ defense that held one of the nation’s best offenses to only 10 points and made Jevon Snead look eerily uncomfortable. Mississippi let the pressure of being on prime-time television get to them and South Carolina took advantage of the Rebels lackluster performance.
Hawkeyes Tame the Lions…Again (Iowa-21, #5 PSU-10)
Iowa has now won 7 of their last 8 games against Penn State, who were the #5 team in the country basically by default. The Nittany Lions did not deserve to be ranked #5 and it showed against Iowa. PSU moved into the top 5 because of early upsets within the top 10 and by playing weak teams early on (Akron, Syracuse, Temple). PSU is a top 15 team at best until they can prove themselves against a somewhat worthy opponent.
Oregon Thumps California (Ducks-42, #6 Bears-3)
This wasn’t the usual underdog puts in a great effort and comes away with a close, hard-fought victory kind of upset win. This Oregon win was that of an absolute thrashing of the Golden Bears of California. The Ducks dominated from the start, seamlessly playing like there wasn’t a defense on the other side of the ball. Oregon did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted on both side of the ball. On the other hand, Cal had one of their patented “didn’t show up” games against a very dangerous opponent. This looked like the year that the Golden Bears were finally going to play consistent football throughout the season and challenge the already one loss Trojans for the Pac-10 Title, so much for that.
If you’re looking for my thoughts on #9 Miami losing to #11 Virginia Tech, there aren’t any. I don’t consider VT beating Miami in Blacksburg an upset.
As always your thoughts and comments are welcome and encouraged.