The preseason watch list for the Wooden Watch featured 50 players. In a little more than a week, voters will be asked to trim the list of names down to 25.
It’s not going to be easy.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Creighton’s Doug McDermott have, in my opinion, established themselves as the clear-cut leaders for the award. But after that, there are probably 35 to 40 players who could make a case to be on the list of midseason finalists.
Selecting 25 of them will be tough, but picking 15 is even more difficult. Here is my best attempt.
Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The No. 1 Blue Devils played their first game in 11 days Wednesday and whipped Cornell 88-47. Plumlee, a forward, had 18 points and nine boards and is now averaging 19.1 and 11.1 on the season. Plumlee has occupied the top slot for the entire season.
Doug McDermott, Creighton -- The versatile junior averaged 28.5 points during a four-game stretch before being brought back down to earth a bit in Wednesday’s 71-54 victory over Tulsa, when he finished with 16 points. McDermott is shooting 55 percent from the field.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse -- The identity of the nation’s best point guard seems to fluctuate from week to week, simply because there are so many good ones. Carter-Williams, though, is putting up numbers that can’t be ignored. He leads the nation in assists (10.7) and ranks third in steals (3.4).
Trey Burke, Michigan -- The No. 2-ranked Wolverines would be merely average if not for Burke, whose 18 points and seven assists per game have helped keep Michigan undefeated. Burke shoots 53.5 percent from the field and combines with Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.7 points) to form arguably the nation’s top backcourt.
Jeff Withey, Kansas -- No team in the country has been as impressive in recent weeks as the Jayhawks, who have won their past three games by an average of 31 points. Withey is one of the main reasons. The 7-foot center receives most of his acclaim for his 5.4 blocks per game. But he’s also averaging 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds.
On the cusp:
Anthony Bennett, UNLV -- No freshman in America is having as good of a season as Bennett, who averages 19.4 points and 8.6 rebounds for the 10-1 Runnin’ Rebels.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State -- The Racers are 9-1 thanks to Canaan, a preseason All-American who averages 21 points and shoots 43 percent from 3-point range.
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State -- Franklin is the definition of versatility. He leads the No. 18 Aztecs in points (18.6), rebounds (9.7) and assists (3.1).
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati -- The junior guard isn’t afraid to shoot it, as evidenced by his 27 field goal attempts in Wednesday’s win against Xavier. Kilpatrick averages 19.8 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana -- Not many players in the country do as much for their team as Oladipo, who is one of America’s most improved players with averages of 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.5 assists.
Brandon Paul, Illinois -- Paul had 17 points and nine rebounds against Eastern Kentucky on Sunday. He’ll probably need to play one of his best games of the season for the Illini to beat Missouri Saturday in St. Louis.
Russ Smith, Louisville -- The underappreciated guard and team scoring leader (19.6 points) played through an ankle sprain against Memphis last week and scored 19 points in a come-from-behind victory.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State -- The Buckeyes’ leading scorer (20.4 points) will be involved in the biggest game of the weekend when Ohio State hosts Kansas Saturday.
Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The sophomore is averaging 15.7 points. Last season he averaged 15.6. His rebounding numbers (6.6 to 8.3) have noticeably improved.