With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is still considered the leading candidate to win the Wooden Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. The race, however, is far from over.
Players such as Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, Michigan’s Trey Burke and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart will all garner heavy consideration. And so will Georgetown’s Otto Porter, who might be the biggest threat of all to Oladipo.
Or at least that’s how it seems this week.
A 6-foot-8 forward, Porter is averaging 15.9 points on the season, but that number rises to 19.2 points in his past 13 games. As a result, Georgetown sits alone atop the Big East standings with a 12-3 conference record. Porter has been particularly impressive during the past week. You can read about that -- and more -- in the ballot below.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana: I’m just not sure there’s a player out there that does more for his team than Oladipo. The one possibility could be Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, who could be an even better leader. But right now I think Oladipo is more polished as a player. And it helps that he plays for the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
Otto Porter, Georgetown: Porter sparked the Hoyas to their 10th consecutive victory by scoring 21 of his 22 points after intermission in Georgetown’s 79-78 double-overtime win at Connecticut. Porter’s layup with 9.5 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner. Five days earlier he scored 33 points in a win at then-No. 8 Syracuse.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: A victory at BYU on Thursday could well give the Zags the first No. 1 ranking in school history. Olynyk is one of the main reasons. The 7-foot junior averages 17.7 points and 7 rebounds -- and he’s playing just 25.4 minutes per game for a squad that has blown out most of its West Coast Conference opponents.
Trey Burke, Michigan: The sophomore point guard has been phenomenal for the Wolverines, averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 assists and only 1.8 turnovers. But Michigan, which was ranked No. 1 less than a month ago, has lost four of its past seven games, including a 23-point setback to Michigan State and an embarrassing defeat Wednesday at Penn State, previously winless in the Big Ten. It’s hard to keep a player -- particularly a point guard -- at the top of this list when his team is struggling so mightily.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott had 32 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Bradley. Saturday’s game against Wichita State in Omaha will be for the regular-season title of the Missouri Valley Conference.
On the cusp (listed alphabetically):
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: The preseason All-American is averaging 21.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 43.2 percent from the field. Canaan hasn’t been surrounded by the same kind of hype he received as a junior, mainly because this Racers squad isn’t as good as the one that lost only a single regular-season game a season ago.
Shane Larkin, Miami: The point guard helped the Hurricanes get back on track Wednesday by scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists in a victory over Virginia Tech. A bigger test will come Saturday when Miami travels to Durham to face a Duke squad it embarrassed 90-63 on Jan. 23.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State: If they win the rest of their games, the Wildcats can claim a share of the Big 12 title for the first time since 1977. McGruder (14.8 points, 5.4 rebounds) is the main reason K-State is in this position. His senior leadership has been invaluable during coach Bruce Weber’s first season.
Mason Plumlee, Duke: The senior is averaging 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds for a Duke squad that has a huge game this weekend against Miami. Plumlee has proven himself over and over against some of the top competition in the country.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: The freshman guard is one of the best leaders in the country and has completely revitalized the Cowboys’ struggling program. Unfortunately he’s made just nine of his past 32 attempts from the field.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: The scoring machine finally dipped below the 20-point barrier and is averaging 19.9 points on the season. His 14 points in Sunday’s victory over Michigan State marked his second-lowest output of the season. Thomas had made just 24 of his past 66 field-goal attempts (36.3 percent).
Kendall Williams, New Mexico: Williams’ 46-point effort in Saturday’s victory over Colorado State has landed him a spot on this list. It was arguably the most impressive showing by a player all season. Williams averages a team-high 14.4 points for a Lobos squad that’s on pace to win its fourth Mountain West Conference title in the past five seasons.
Jeff Withey, Kansas: If the Jayhawks win the league title, Withey will get my vote for Big 12 Player of the Year. He averaging 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on a very balanced team and ranks third in the country in blocks with 3.8 per game.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: The senior guard ranks third in the country in scoring with 22.9 points per game. He also contributes 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Wolters had a 53-point game against IPFW on Feb. 7. He shoots 49.9 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range.
Cody Zeller, Indiana: The sophomore averages team highs in points (16.3) and rebounds (8.1) for the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers. But he had a poor showing in a nine-point, seven-rebound effort in Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota. Zeller is having a solid season, but I’ll be surprised if he is named first-team All-America.