Top 20 Naismith Award Canidates

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Top 20 Naismith Award Candidates

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Paul Abell-USA Today Sports

The Naismith Award is the top honor any college basketball player can receive. It is the award given to the best college basketball player for that season. The most valuable player in college basketball is given the Naismith Award and is what every player strives for other than being a national champion.

This season is off to an exciting starts with numerous players showing they are deserving of the award. To gain the honor of national player of the year, you need to be a special player. It isn’t the best scorer in the country, not the best rebounder, not the best defender, or not the best passer; it is the best overall player and most valuable player to their team.

Cody Zeller was the unanimous preseason player of the year, but you can’t win an award before the season starts. Every player throughout the country are busting there butt everyday to get better and make their team better. This means that there will be other players who come out and prove night after night that they deserve to be in the discussion for this prestigious award. Almost every team has that one go to player, but which one of those go to players makes the plays when their team needs them most. Which one of those players has their best game when their team needs them to? The most valuable player in the country is one who comes up clutch when their team needs them most.

Here is a breakdown of the top 20 Naismith Award candidates after the beginning of the season.

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20: Pierre Jackson

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Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports

Pierre Jackson is one of the quickest, most elusive players in all of college basketball. Baylor’s senior guard can light it up from downtown, but can also beat his defender off the dribble with his quickness. Jackson can score, but he can also pass and that is what you need in your point guard. He averages just less than 20 points a game and 6.2 assists. He can also pick your pocket on the other end of the floor as he records about 2 takeaways a game. Pierre Jackson is an exciting player to much and he is a very good one.

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19: Anthony Bennett

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Bob Stanton-USA Today Sports

Anthony Bennett might be the best freshman in college basketball so far this season. The UNLV Runnin’ Rebel is running all over his competition. The freshman forward is averaging a little over 20 points a game, 9 rebounds a game, and 2 blocks a game. Bennett is putting up outstanding numbers early on and he is only a freshman. He will only keep getting better and can turn out to be a fantastic college basketball

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18: Nate Wolters

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Nelson Chenault-USA Today Sports

Nate Wolters is a player that deserves a lot more recognition than he gets. Wolters doesn’t get the attention because he plays for South Dakota State, but that doesn’t mean the kid can’t ball. Wolters is one of the purest scorers in the nation and his stats year after year prove it. This season he is averaging 20.4 points per game and also contributes with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. You don’t see many people who can put up 20+ points every night and are also able to dish out 6 assists at the same time. With Wolters, SDSU can pull off an upset later on this year.

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17: Alex Len

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA Today Sports

Alex Len is an emerging star for Maryland. The 7 foot 1 inch center is a dominate presence in the paint. He averages 14 points and 9 rebounds to go along with 2.6 blocks a game. He is a player relied heavily on by his teammates to score down low and to grab rebounds. Len is only going to keep getting better as a sophomore and that is only going to keep improving his stock.

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16: Jeff Withey

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Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Jeff Withey is a defensive machine for the Kansas Jayhawks. The 7 foot center can score, rebound, and yes, he can block shots. He averages just less than 14 points and 9 rebounds a game, which are solid numbers for a big man. The stat that jumps out at you is the block shots. He leads the nation in blocked shots with 5.6 a game! He almost blocks 6 shots a game that is an unreal stat. Withey is a force down low and stops teams from being able to finish at the basket and limits the other team scoring easy baskets. Withey is a defensive stud that can also score on the other end which makes him one of the best players in the country. You don’t want to be invited to his block party.

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15: Victor Oladipo

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Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

Victor Oladipo is a player who doesn’t get the attention he deserves because he has to play along side Cody Zeller. The junior guard can score, pass, rebound, and defend, what else can you ask from a player. Oladipo puts up 12.7 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2.6 steals. Oladipo is a player that every coach wants to have on their team and a player ever player wants to play with. Indiana seems to have a bunch of those players and Oladipo is right up their as one of the best.

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14: Deshaun Thomas

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Greg Bartram-USA Today Sports

Where would Ohio State be without Deshaun Thomas? The Buckeye forward has carried his team in the early part of the season. The junior averages just less than 21 points a contest to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Thomas, even as a forward can light it up from downtown. He causes match up problems because of his ability to score from the outside with his size. Thomas will need to continue to lead the Buckeyes if they want to have a successful season.

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13: Isaiah Canaan

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Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

Isaiah Canaan is a flat out scorer. The senior guard is the 8th best scorer in the country, averaging 21.4 points a game. He can beat you off the dribble, create his own shot and shoot from behind the arc. When he is on, he is un-guardable. Canaan chips in with 4 rebounds and 4 assists a game to try and help his team out when he isn’t scoring the basketball. Canaan is a top player in the country and has shown it so far this season.

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12: Russ Smith

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Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports

Russ Smith has been a surprise player for the top 10 Louisville Cardinals. He averages 20.3 points per game to go along with 3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Smith has been very effective on the offensive end of the court. He has put up double digit points ever single game this season and has a season high of 31. If he can continue to put up double figures night in and night out, Louisville can make a run for the national championship.

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11: Sean Kilpatrick

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Don McPeak-USA Today Sports

Sean Kilpatrick is one of the best two guards in America. The Cincinnati Bearcats swingman is one of the best scorers in the country and has his team off to a great start. He averages 20 points a game which is good for 25th best in the country. He also records 6 rebounds per contest. Kilpatrick teams up with Cashmere Wright to provide a lethal scoring combo, but Kilpatrick is the teams go to player.

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10: C.J. McCollum

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Kevin Jairaj-USA Today Sports

C.J. McCollum is one of the best players in the country without a doubt. He leads the nation in scoring with 25 points per game on over 50% shooting from the field. Last year, he led Lehigh to upset Duke in the second round of the tournament and this season McCollum is looking to lead the Mountain Hawks to another season to remember.

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9: Erick Green

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Peter Casey-USA Today Sports

Erick Green is the second leading scorer in the nation, averaging 24.4 points a game for Virginia Tech. He also grabs 4 rebounds and dishes out 5 assists every game for the Hokies. Virginia Tech has been a surprise team so far this season and it is all because of Erick Green’s performance.

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8: Michael Carter-Williams

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Rich Barnes-USA Today Sports

Who knew about Michael Carter-Williams before the season started? I sure didn’t, but know he is a name everyone knows in college basketball. Carter-Williams does it all for the undefeated Syracuse Orange. Carter-Williams average 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds for Syracuse as the point guard. He also leads the nation in assists with 10.4 a game and is second in the nation with 3.8 steals a game. Carter-Williams is putting up crazy numbers this season and if he keeps it up, Syracuse will have a successful season and he will defiantly be in the discussion for Player of the Year.

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7: Otto Porter

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Evan Habeeb-USA Today Sports

Georgetown is a team who has struggled to score recently, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning. Otto Porter is the reason why they continue to win. His numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the Hoyas most valuable player. Porter averages 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. He does it all for the defensive minded Hoyas and is a top player in the country.

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6: Trey Burke

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Rich Osentoski-USA Today Sports

Trey Burke hasn’t done anything this season that he wasn’t supposed to. Coming into the season, he was projected to be one of the best players in college basketball and that is exactly what he is. Burke is averaging 17 points a game, 3 rebounds a game, and just about 7 assists for the undefeated and NO. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines. Burke has a great surrounding cast around him and he knows how to get them involved in the offense, while also getting up his fair share of shots. Burke is the leader of the Wolverines and will have to continue that role if they want to make a run for the national championship.

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5: Jamaal Franklin

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Christopher Hanewickel-USA Today Sports

Most people don’t really know too much about San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin. Franklin is one of the best players in the country and flies under the radar mostly because of who he plays for. Franklin is a junior guard for the Aztecs and he comes as close to averaging a double-double as you can. For the Aztecs, he averages 19 points and 9.9 rebounds a game to go along with 3.3 assists. Franklin does it all for San Diego State and is a big reason to why they will have a tremendous season in the Mountain West.

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4: Brandon Paul

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James Snook-USA Today Sports

Illinois has gotten off to a surprising undefeated start this season, but they wouldn’t have been able to do it without Brandon Paul. The senior guard does it all for the Illini. He is averaging 19 points, 4.7, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Paul has risen into the player of the year conversation with the emergence of the Illinois team. He is the leader of the team and the best player on the team. For Illinois to continue their success, Paul will have to keep doing what his doing and maybe even have to put up even better numbers.

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3: Cody Zeller

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Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

Cody Zeller came into the season as the unanimous preseason player of the year. He had dropped out of the top spot, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been performing. Zeller is averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds for the No. 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. Zeller’s numbers are incredible considering that everyone around him can play as well. Oladipo, who was 15th on this list has been outstanding, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Will Sheehey have all been flat out amazing this season. Zeller doesn’t need to carry his team; he just needs to come out to play every night because he has talent all around him. This hurts Zeller in the Player of the Year discussion, but I’m sure he would trade a National Championship for it.

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2: Doug McDermott

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Bob Donnan-USA Today Sports

Doug McDermott’s stock has been rising as the season moves on. McDermott is averaging just less than 23 points for the Creighton Bluejays. He is also averaging just under 7 rebounds a game. He shoots over 50% from both the field and the 3-point line. Without McDermott, Creighton is nowhere near as good as they are this season. McDermott would be the most valuable player on almost any team, but he means that much more to Creighton. McDermott has been a household name his whole career and this season he is looking to go out as the player of the year.

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1: Mason Plumlee

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Paul Abell-USA Today Sports

Mason Plumlee has easily been the most dominate player early in the college basketball season. Plumlee is the leader of an undefeated Duke team and continues to carry the Blue Devils. Plumlee is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. His numbers, as good as they are don’t even show how dominate he has been. He has had multiple 20+ points and 15+ rebound games this season and that is something you rarely see in college. If Plumlee continues to perform like he has been, there will be no player in the country who can beat him out as player of the year.

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