NCAA Basketball

Ranking the Top 10 Wooden Award Candidates: Volume One

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The Wooden Award Watch: Volume One

Wooden Award Watch
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Griffin, Evan Turner, Jimmer Fredette, Anthony Davis and Trey Burke. Do these names ring a bell? These are the names of the last five Wooden Award winners, handed to the National Player of the Year in college basketball. While some of these players were projected to be top picks in upcoming NBA drafts, many past Wooden Award winners were not. The distinction remains: some great college players don’t turn out to be great NBA players.

I’m looking at you, Jay Williams (2001-02 winner), T.J. Ford (2002-03), J.J. Redick (2005-06), Tyler Hansborough (2007-08), Evan Turner (2009-10, and Fredette (2010-11). Okay, that was mean.

What’s great about the Wooden Award is that it doesn’t award potential. It awards the player that made the biggest impact on the court in that particular college basketball season. It doesn’t take into account who will be the top pick in the upcoming pro draft. J.J. Redick was one of the, if not the best college basketball player I’ve ever seen play. His 26.8 points per game his senior year, combined with 139 made 3-pointers, led him to receive every major Player of the Year award by different media outlets. No one thought Redick would be a dominant pro.

While this year’s talent in college basketball may be unmatched to date, on-court production will lead someone to receive this illustrious award. Will it be any of the three freshman phenoms: Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, or Andrew Wiggins? Will it be Marcus Smart, who shockingly stayed for his sophomore year to work on his game? Or will it be a seasoned veteran like perhaps senior Doug McDermott?

Here is the first volume of the College Basketball Wooden Award Watch.

Dan Karpuc is a college basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @dan_karpuc, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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10. Andrew Wiggins (Freshman, Kansas)

Andrew Wiggins
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 16.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG

So far, Wiggins has not been the superstar everyone thought he was going to be. Don’t get me wrong: everyone, including myself, sees his incredible potential. However, the Wooden Award goes to the most deserving Player of the Year. Right now, he barely cracks my top-10. On a team with many other high-caliber players, Wiggins will need to show some of that superstar potential in order to stay on this list of extremely productive players. While Bill Self must be in heaven with the number of quality players on his squad, Wiggins has been a “victim” of a very balanced offensive system. That might be his downfall come season’s end, since other freshman have seemingly been given more freedom, especially offensively.

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9. Cameron Bairstow (Senior, New Mexico)

Cameron Bairstow
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 20.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG

Bairstow is not a household name. However, you cannot ignore his start to the season, in which he recorded 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting in 23 minutes in a win against Alabama A&M, 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes in a victory against Charleston Southern, and 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting in 32 minutes in a win versus UAB. While his most recent game against Massachusetts was disappointing (eight points in 24 minutes), Bairstow will be one of the main options on a team headed by a great point guard in Kendall Williams, who is featured later on the list.

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8. Russ Smith (Senior, Louisville)

Russ Smith
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 18.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.3 APG

The defending champion Louisville Cardinals seek a repeat NCAA Title. Their leader is Smith. The Cardinals sit at a perfect 5-0, and Smith’s leadership and playmaking abilities have been one of the main reasons for their perfect start.

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7. Jahii Carson (Sophomore, Arizona State)

Jabii Carson
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 23.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.4 APG

The Arizona State Sun Devils sophomore didn’t get any love last season as a freshman who put up 18.5 points per game to go with 3.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists. This year, he has improved in both the scoring and the assist categories, and hasn’t scored less than 18 points in a game. He has led the Sun Devils to a 5-0 start, which was highlighted by his 40-point performance in the 86-80 victory at UNLV on Tuesday. Shooting a blistering 16-of-25, it looks like Carson will get plenty of opportunities to shoot the basketball, therefore allowing him plenty of opportunity to rise on the next version of this list.

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6. Shabazz Napier (Senior, Connecticut)

Shabazz Napier
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 16.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.0 APG

Napier does it all for the 6-0 UConn Huskies. Leading the team in all three categories listed above, the senior captain does whatever he needs to do, whether it's dishing the ball to his teammates or isolating and creating his own shot. Along with Doug McDermott, Napier plays on a team that completely relies on his performance. So far, he has certainly risen to the occasion.

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5. Kendall Williams (Senior, New Mexico)

Kendall Williams
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 19.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 8.0 APG

Registering 10 assists in two of his teams first four games, Williams has shown he can also score the basketball, going for 20 against Charleston Southern and 29 against UAB. New Mexico has gotten off to a 3-1 start and can be a dangerous team down the stretch with Williams’ leadership. He has registered over 1,000 minutes in each of his first three seasons with the Lobos. This experience has certainly been evident in the season’s first few weeks.

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4. Marcus Smart (Sophomore, Oklahoma State)

Marcus Smart
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 20.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG

After a “slow” start in his team’s first three blowout wins, Smart put the whole world on notice after a 39-point explosion on national television as his Oklahoma State Cowboys massacred the then No. 11 Memphis Tigers by the tune of 101-80. Smart came back to school to work on a few parts of his game that he felt needed work, particularly shooting the ball from the outside. So far this season, he has brought his 3-point percentage up from 29 percent a year ago to 38.5 percent so far this season. It’s easy to tell that he is going to be quite the player at the next level. Even NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who was at the 39-point performance, said so.

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3. Jabari Parker (Freshman, Duke)

Jabari Parker
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 22.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.4 APG

Jabari Parker reminds me a lot of Carmelo Anthony. Noting that Anthony won Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors to go with an NCAA Title in his first and only season with Syracuse, that’s probably someone Parker wouldn’t mind being compared to. Parker has been Duke’s best player to date, and will be a top-three pick in next year’s NBA draft.

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2. Doug McDermott (Senior, Creighton)

Doug McDermott
Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 25.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.7 APG

Wow, would you look at those assists numbers! McDermott is actually the only player on the list who accounts for almost all of his team’s success. A ridiculously efficient scorer, McDermott has been one of the best players in college basketball for the last two seasons. He averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds in 2011-12, and 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds last season. This season, he has scored over 20 points in all four victories for the Blue Jays, scoring 37 points against UMKC and 33 points last game against Tulsa. But get this -- averaging 17.3 shots from the field per game, he has hit 55.8 percent of them to go with an insane 53.3 percent from 3-point range. In 2011-12, he hit 48.6 percent of his threes, and he hit 49 percent last season -- pretty remarkable. If Creighton continues their winning ways, McDermott may be the one leading this list come season’s end, even with the incredible freshman class and Marcus Smart involved.

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1. Julius Randle (Freshman, Kentucky)

Julius Randle
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Season: 20.8 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 2.2 APG

Registering a double-double in his first five collegiate games is pretty amazing, but also impressive is the fact that he has only played over 30 minutes in one contest. In other words, he has been dominant. Randle, who already has an NBA-ready body, is a force on the low block and has hit 61.1 percent of his shots from the field. He has made 71.7 percent of his free throws as well, so the “hack-a-Randle” strategy will not be of benefit to opposing squads. His output is simply unmatched by anyone else in college basketball. It’s important to note that his best game statistically came against current No. 1 Michigan State, where he scored 27 points and pulled down 13 boards. ight now, Randle would certainly get the nod as the National Player of the Year.