Wooden Award ballot and tourney thoughts

March, 11, 2013

Monday musings after the final regular-season weekend:

• Well, I waited until the final day before making my decision on how I'll vote on the Wooden Award final five and in our ESPN.com straw poll.

Victor Oladipo's 14 points and 13 rebounds in a winning effort for Indiana at Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor pushed him over Michigan's Trey Burke and Creighton's Doug McDermott. Oladipo made the winning plays when the games mattered most for a team that has a chance to be the No. 1 overall seed and won the toughest conference in the country.

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Victor Oladipo
AJ Mast/Icon SMIVictor Oladipo has been the best player on the team that won the top conference.

So here is my ballot:

1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana
2. Trey Burke, Michigan
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton
4. Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
5. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

If I got to choose a bench, I'd go with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Kansas' Ben McLemore, Miami's Shane Larkin and Indiana's Cody Zeller. I'll take that nine against any team in the country and win.

• Teams sometimes make the decisions easier for the selection committee. Virginia nearly did but then had a remarkable comeback against Maryland and won in overtime. So now the Cavs live for another day and will need to prove themselves in the ACC tournament.

• Saint Louis' A-10 regular-season title and No. 1 seed is such a wonderful tribute to my late friend Rick Majerus. This is one of the best stories of the year, and it's a season the players and staff will never forget.

• Truth test for Georgetown: Is there any way the Hoyas truly believed they could win a share of the Big East and get the No. 1 seed in the tournament once Greg Whittington was ruled ineligible?

• The selection committee said it never looks at storylines, but how great would it be if Missouri and Kansas met in the second round of the NCAA tournament?

• Duke isn't as good as the 2010 national title team, but the Blue Devils don't need to be this season. This team has much more defined roles at this point in the season with the return of Ryan Kelly. Seth Curry has become a big-time college talent after he looked a bit overwhelmed when he first transferred from Liberty.

• Although Duke is receiving the necessary pub and love over its recent run and the chance to be the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, Miami's ACC title cannot be understated. Miami won it outright, and that might go down as one of the biggest surprises in ACC history.

• North Carolina looked like it did at Indiana in November -- overmatched and lost -- in the crushing defeat by Duke. The Tar Heels must forget that result. If they do, UNC can still be a problem in its first NCAA tournament game.

• You play your way into the field. That's what Kentucky did with the win over Florida.

• You give yourself a chance to be selected. That's what Baylor did by beating Kansas, and now the Bears have a chance to knock off Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament.

• Ole Miss could have caved after losing to Mississippi State, but the Rebels swept the week, including beating LSU in Baton Rouge. Marshall Henderson is scoring again, and Ole Miss has given itself a chance.

• So, too, did Alabama with Trevor Releford's game-winning shot from half court.

• NC State has gone off the grid of late, but I still wouldn't be surprised at all to see this crew in the Sweet 16.

• If Andre Roberson is healthy and plays in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, then I'm going with Colorado to win a few postseason games (without seeing the NCAA bracket).

• Even if Tennessee doesn't make the NCAAs, this program will on a regular basis. You can tell how much Cuonzo Martin has the Vols working toward a common goal, playing defense and being much more efficient.

• I agree with ESPN's Jay Bilas on the Pac-12 POY. UCLA's Larry Drew II has to be considered a strong contender after leading the Bruins to the Pac-12 outright title. Drew II has had one of the best comebacks I can remember.

• I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be a Minnesota fan.

• San Diego had Saint Mary's beat, but the Gaels' Matthew Dellavedova lost USD's Johnny Dee on a baseline move and drained a corner 3-pointer late in regulation, setting up the overtime win by Saint Mary's. Bids can be one defensive possession away from being snatched.

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Kerron Johnson
AP Photo/Wade PayneKerron Johnson drained the bucket that sent Belmont to the NCAA tournament.

• Murray State would have had a legit shot to beat Belmont in regulation had the clock not stopped when Isaiah Canaan got the ball on an inbounds. Instead, the momentum was halted and the game went to overtime, and Belmont won after Canaan dribbled the ball off his foot and Kerron Johnson hit a game winner from 10 feet. If Murray State wins that game, the OVC probably gets two NCAA tournament bids.

• If you haven't seen Kameron Woods, you're missing out on the next big thing at Butler. Woods can be an all-league player in whatever conference the Bulldogs are in next season.

• Air Force had better be in the NIT. The Falcons would have a legit shot to get to New York, and the committee needs to respect what the Falcons have done in the Mountain West.

• New Mexico will get punished for losing at Air Force, but don't read too much into it. This Lobos squad has earned the respect of being a potential second-weekend NCAA tournament team.

• Providence couldn't beat UConn, but, like Kevin Ollie, Ed Cooley had to deal with injuries and other issues yet had the Friars competing for a postseason berth down to the final weekend (UConn would have earned one had it been eligible).

• Why would anyone doubt Temple in the A-10 late in the season?

• Remember when Bruce Weber was getting run out of Illinois? The Illini did need a new voice, but Weber didn't lose his as a coach. He ended up sharing a piece of the Big 12 title with Bill Self and the Jayhawks.

• I like Boise State's profile better than Colorado State's last year. The Rams beat New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State at home last season, but they didn't do anything as impressive as Boise winning at Creighton this season. The Broncos have also beaten UNLV, SDSU and CSU at home. Leon Rice has done a tremendous job with the Boise State program, dealing with the conference mess and putting the Broncos in position to earn a bid.

• I loved seeing the complete opposite reactions from Valpo's Bryce Drew and Marquette's Buzz Williams after buzzer-beaters Saturday. Drew fell backward to the floor and rolled over. He experienced the thrill of making a last-second shot as a player and now knows what it's like to coach one. Williams never uncrossed his arms in the corner as Vander Blue hit the game-winning shot off the glass. I couldn't tell whether he even smiled. But I wouldn't have been surprised in the locker room if Williams didn't dive on the floor. He's not about himself in public, but he pours his passion into every possession, practice and game.

• The semifinal buzzer-beaters for the Horizon League (Wright State over Detroit, too) couldn't have come at a better time after the league took a hit with Butler's departure (I was the first to say it would take a step back). The Horizon League lost a top-25 presence, but the competitive balance and excitement didn't wilt.

• I've been on record that Creighton likely will be the 10th member of the new Big East and deserves the chance to bump up from the Missouri Valley. I'd love to see how the Bluejays would fare against the Big East schools on a regular basis. Even without Creighton, the Valley would still be one of the top 10-12 leagues in the country.

• Montana continues to be the team of record in the Big Sky, with back-to-back regular-season titles. The Griz will be a tough out in the NCAAs if they can get out of the Big Sky tournament.

• I'm all for the hot team getting into the NCAA tournament with a run through the conference tournament, but it has to be made more difficult than just three or four games on a neutral court. That's why the top seeds should be rewarded either with a double bye or with getting to play the tournament on the campus site (NEC) of the highest remaining seed. Liberty might still be able to get out of the Big South in this scenario, but at least the league is making it harder to do so and the best representative is more likely to come out of the league. This is still more advantageous for the conference because it gives the league the opportunity to play out of the 16-seed game. A good example is the NEC. Robert Morris earned the top spot, hosted, then lost in the semifinals to Mount St. Mary's. So that's on Robert Morris. RMU had the chance.

• Joe Scott went to Denver to build a winner and did so, with the Pioneers claiming a share of the WAC title in their one and only season in the league.

• Louisiana Tech got swept at New Mexico State and Denver for its first conference losses, but that shouldn't dampen what Mike White did this season in Ruston.

• Middle Tennessee State could be this year's Iona, earning a bid when some don't expect it after the squad failed to reach the final of its conference tournament.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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