The Top 15 College Basketball Player of the Year Candidates So Far
Top 15 College Basketball Players at This Point
2014 has been called the year of the freshmen in college basketball, but despite that, there sure are a lot of seniors on this list. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and the youngsters from Kentucky are putting on an exciting show, but when it comes down to some of the best players in the game, leadership is proving to be a key ingredient as well.
The 2013-14 season hasn’t disappointed yet. The Big 10 looks to be the best conference in basketball as expected, but the ACC, bolstered by new additions Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, might have something to say about that before it’s all over.
Some teams are sticking to the script – the Michigan States and Syracuses of the world. Others are surging onto the scene to surprise everyone and break into the rankings – Iowa State and Massachusetts for example.
In this young season, there have already been major upsets and surprises. There have been teams that are already failing to live up to the hype or plagued with early-season injury problems. There have been players that are exceeding preseason expectations and players that are falling just a bit short.
Surely, much will change between now and April 6, when the Naismith Award for the best men’s college basketball player is handed out. A lot can happen in a few short months. But if the award were handed out today, here are 15 players that would stand a chance at it, or at the very least be mentioned in the conversation.
Adreian Payne - Michigan State
Despite nagging injury issues, the Michigan State senior is undoubtedly one of the best big men in the country. Payne scored a career high 33 points on the road against Texas in December, and he is averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Michigan State's title hopes are going nowhere without him.
Shabazz Napier - Connecticut
After a big start to the season, the senior guard has been slumping a bit for the past three games, shooting only 29 percent from the field during that span. He is, however, still the team leader in averages for points, rebounds and assists per game. A little help from his teammates would go a long way to making Napier’s stats more impressive and corroborative to his skill.
Joseph Young - Oregon
The junior guard for the Oregon Ducks is averaging 19.7 points per game. He rebounded from a couple of tough outings by exploding for 29 points against California last week.
Kyle Anderson - UCLA
The 6-foot-9 sophomore guard plays a unique role for the fast-paced UCLA Bruins team. He spends time running the offense and contributing down low. His dynamic skill set makes him difficult to defend, and despite his young age, he has emerged as a team leader.
Casey Prather - Florida
The 6-foot-6 senior is the best player for 10th-ranked Florida with 17 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Julius Randle - Kentucky
Despite a drop-off in sheer dominance from the start of the year, the huge Kentucky freshman is still averaging a double-double on the year with 16.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. His teammates have stepped up to help carry the load as well, making it less necessary for him to score 20+ points per game.
C.J. Fair - Syracuse
Consistency is the name of the game with the senior from Syracuse. He has scored at least 15 points in all but three games this season and had at least five rebounds in all but four. He's a big reason why the Orange are once again among the elite teams in college basketball.
Russ Smith - Louisville
The senior guard is averaging 21.4 points over his last five games. He'll need to maintain this high level of play to keep the defending champions in the hunt.
Nick Johnson - Arizona
Undefeated Arizona is the No. 1 team in the nation and the junior guard is a big reason why. Johnson plays superb perimeter defense and carried his team past a tough road test at UCLA with 22 points.
Aaron Gordon - Arizona
The 6-foot-9 freshman is perhaps the most defensively sound of all the freshmen in this year's stacked class. He leads all D-I freshmen in defensive win shares and is averaging 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Keith Appling - Michigan State
The senior point guard is certainly up there with the most valuable players on their own team. Appling has really stepped up this year to be a leader for the Spartans. He came up big in huge games against Kentucky and Ohio State, and he scored 24 points on Saturday to help the Spartans escape with an important conference win against Minnesota at home.
Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State
The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from Oklahoma State had a tough December, but has rebounded as of late, posting a double-double in each of his last two games.
DeAndre Kane - Iowa State
The senior guard is one of the major reasons the Cyclones are 14-1 and storming into the top 10 this year. The transfer from Marshall scored 30 points against seventh-ranked Baylor last week adding eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals to round out the night. He went out with an ankle sprain against Oklahoma and is out indefinitely, but hopefully the injury won't cause Kane to miss much time.
Doug McDermott - Creighton
The senior forward from Creighton is averaging 24.3 points per game and 43 percent from three-point range. He is truly a once in a generation talent and a two-time first team All-American.