The 2014 college basketball is winding down which means it is time for the announcement of national postseason awards. Creighton senior Doug McDermott was named the NABC Division I Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches on April 2, and is the favorite to win the prestigious John R. Wooden Award.
The John R. Wooden Award is given annually, since 1977, to the nation’s best player and the winner will be announced at the Final Four in Dallas, Texas, on April 5. The Wooden Award winner is determined by a vote and a player’s performance in the regular season, conference tournaments and postseason are taken into account as is the player’s character.
Here is a look at the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award which includes four freshman and six seniors.
1. Doug McDermott (Creighton): The 6-8 senior forward was named to the Wooden Award All-American team and became the first-three time Associated Press All-American since 1985, on March 31. He is also one of a handful of players to score 3,000 or more points in a career.
McDermott was the nation's leading scorer at 26.9 points a game this year. He tallied at least 20 points in 31-of-36 games this season and topped the 30 point plateau 13 times. McDermott, who only once did not reach double figures, produced seven doubles and shot 52.6 percent from the field along with 44.9 percent from beyond the arc and 86.4 percent from the charity stripe.
McDermott was the most consistent player throughout the season and perhaps played his best at the end of the season, leading the Blue Jays (27-8) to the Big East tournament championship game and second round in the NCAA tournament. In his last 15 games, McDermott scored at least 30 points seven times which includes a season-high 45 points against Providence on March 8.
2. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut: The 6-0 senior is very explosive and has moved up the charts due to his outstanding NCAA tournament.
In the Huskies upset over second-seed Villanova in the third round, Napier was red-hot from the floor but then left in excruciating pain after bruising his shin. He later reentered, finished a couple of insane drives that only he can make and led UConn to a victory. Napier finished with 25 points in 25 minutes and was 9-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. He added five rebounds and three assists.
Then in the Elite Eight against Michigan State, Napier carried UConn as the Huskies became just the second No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four. He tallied 25 points to go along with six rebounds and was 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Napier has 93 points, 18 assists and 24 rebounds in the tournament so far. He is 27-of-60 (45 percent) from the floor, has knocked down 14 three-pointers and has missed two free throws.
Overall, Napier is averaging 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
3. Russ Smith (Louisville): The 6-0 senior had a terrific year and was the catalyst for the Cardinals (31-6) winning the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament crowns. Louisville lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 this season. Smith was named the AAC tournament Most Outstanding Player and a Wooden Award All-American.
Smith could of improved his standing in the Wooden Award rankings considering Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16, however, he did not have a good tournament (he played decently).
In his three tournament games –--, Smith tallied 52 points (17.3 ppg) but was only 15-of-39 (36.1 percent) from the floor. He was only 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) from the three-point line and 20-of-31 (64.5 percent) from the charity stripe. Smith also committed 15 turnovers and dished out 13 assists.
For the season, Smith averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 turnovers a game. He reached double-figures in 35 games, topped the 20 point mark on 13 occasions and produced three double-doubles. His best performance came against Houston in the AAC Tournament (March 14) where he poured in 42 points on 14-of-22 shooting. Smith was hot from beyond the arc (5-of-7) and nearly perfect from the free throw line (9-of-10).
Jabari Parker, Duke: While the 6-8 freshman’s season came to a crashing end, Parker still had a terrific season that stood ahead of the other fabulous freshman in the class.
In one of his worst games of the campaign, Parker tallied 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in Duke’s NCAA first round setback against Mercer. He was 4-of-14 from the floor and 0-of-3 from long distance. Parker also turned the ball over four times and was whistled for four fouls.
Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. He reached double-figures in 33-of-his-35 games and topped the 20-point plateau on 18 occasions, including the first seven games of his collegiate career.
Parker produced 14 double-doubles and had his best game against rival North Carolina in the final game of the regular season. Against the Tar Heels, Parker set a career-high with 30 points and hauled in 11 caroms. He was 10-of-17 from the field, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.
For the season, Parker knocked down 47.3 percent of his shots and 35.8 percent from the three-point line as well as 74.8 percent from the free throw line.
5. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: The fifth spot was the hardest to decide but Kilpatrick gets the last spot because of his magnificent season.
The 6-4 senior joined Bearcat great Oscar Robertson as the only players in school history to tally 2,000 points. He also led Cincinnati to a share of the American Athletic Conference regular season crown and was named a First AP All-American as well as a Wooden Award All-American.
Kilpatrick, who produced two double-doubles, grabbed 4.3 rebounds and dished out 2.5 assists a game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Kilpatrick, who is tied for the most three-pointers in school history (313), finished his career with 2,145 points. He also set school records for games played (140) and career minutes (4,315).
The rest of the rankings
While selecting the fifth spot was difficult, deciding between No. 6-15 was no picnic.
6. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State: Early was legendary in Wichita State's loss to Kentucky in the third round as he dumped in 31 points. He finished the season averaging 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds.
7. Nick Johnson, Arizona: Johnson was Arizona's most reliable and versatile scorer. He is also an excellent perimeter. He finished the season averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
8. Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky: Wiggins was a little bit inconsistent but had a historic season. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebound for the year.
9. Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle had a solid freshman campaign, averaging 15.1 point and 10.7 rebounds.
10. Kyle Anderson, UCLA: Anderson had the best all-around season. He produced 14 double-doubles and averaged 14.6 points along with 8.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists.
11. Casey Prather, Florida: Prather has been the best player on the top-ranked and seeded-Gators. He is averaging 13.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a game.
12. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis was one of the top point guards in the country and was the engine that made the Orange go. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 dimes a game.
13. Nik Stauskus, Michigan: Stauskus shot Michigan to the Elite Eight and averged 17.5 points a game.
14. Gary Harris, Michigan State: Harris had a good season with 16.7 points and 4.0 rebounds.
15. C.J. Fair, Syracuse: Fair was the Orange’s leading scored 16.5 points and 6.4 caroms a game.