My 20 finalists for John Wooden Award

March, 8, 2011

Quick hits for Tuesday:

The Wooden Award asked for its top 20 finalists for national player of the year. Plenty of media members offered a list of 20 players; here is mine (don't get hung up on the order):

1. Jimmer Fredette, BYU
2. Nolan Smith, Duke
3. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
4. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
5. Derrick Williams, Arizona
6. Marcus Morris, Kansas
7. Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame
8. Kemba Walker, Connecticut
9. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
10. Dwight Hardy, St. John's
11. Tu Holloway, Xavier
12. Brad Wanamaker, Pitt
13. Jordan Hamilton, Texas
14. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State
15. Alec Burks, Colorado
16. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
17. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
18. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
19. Chandler Parsons, Florida
20. Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary's

• I wrestled with whether or not to put Hofstra's Charles Jenkins on this list. He has had a fantastic season but the Pride lost in the CAA semifinals. Maybe that's a harsh judgment, but it's how I hedged my decision.

• I'll be surprised if Texas Tech doesn't choose from this list of five in its search for a new head coach: Billy Gillispie (former Kentucky, UTEP, Texas A&M coach), Buzz Williams (Marquette), Doc Sadler (Nebraska), Johnny Jones (North Texas) or Tony Benford (played at Texas Tech for Gerald Myers, been an assistant at New Mexico, Arizona State and is currently at Marquette). The Red Raiders must get a coach with Texas ties; if they decide to hire an assistant, Benford makes a lot of sense based on his connections in the state and his strong ties to the school. Benford would champion Texas Tech like no other. Williams will win regardless of where he coaches. I'd be surprised if Sadler bolted because he has the Huskers primed to move up in the Big Ten next season. Jones would jump at the chance and has longed for an opportunity at a higher level. Gillispie is the obvious front-runner.

• The Ivy League missed a chance to get more coverage if a one-game playoff is required to determine the league's auto bid. There is no rule that the game has to be at an Ivy League school. If needed, the game should be played in New York City on Saturday to take advantage of the media attention that could have been directed toward Harvard and Princeton instead of a midday affair at Yale in New Haven, Conn. Of course, watch Penn beat Princeton tonight and make the whole thing irrelevant.

• Old Dominion and Gonzaga had moments of inconsistency this season but I don't think teams will want to draw either in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

• The George Mason teams from 2011 and 2006 are similar. Mason needed a BracketBusters road win in 2006 to feel secure about an at-large bid. The Patriots got one last month, too. In both seasons, they lost in the CAA tournament. Let's see if Mason can make another historic run this time around.

• When the Big East goes to 17 teams with the addition of TCU in 2012, it can no longer invite every team to New York for the Big East tournament. There is no reason to bring more than 12 teams to a conference tournament. In the current format, the league makes one of its better teams (Connecticut), one with a chance to advance far in the NCAAs, play on Tuesday. It makes zero sense. When the Big East tournament bracket can't fit on one screen shot on ESPN there is a problem.

• The MAAC tournament moves to Springfield, Mass., for the next three years. It will be a true neutral site. I was skeptical of a move like that but the atmosphere is irrelevant. Two teams bring plenty of passion and energy when an automatic bid is on the line.

• Saint Mary's is taking a chance playing Weber State this week. It won't do anything for the Gaels' résumé. The only thing that could come out of this nonconference game is a potential injury. The Gaels will be judged on what they have done so far and nothing more. Saint Mary's should still get in as an at-large bid based on the numbers, including a win over St. John's (the Gaels should thank Steve Lavin for scheduling that road opener for ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon).

• The Atlantic 10 actually has it right in trying to be more inclusive. If you're going to invite everyone to your tournament then have the first-round games on campus sites.

• Western Kentucky is going to review whether or not Ken McDonald will be back next season. The Hilltoppers were a disappointment this season, finishing 8-8, 16-16 overall, ending the season with a loss to North Texas in the Sun Belt semifinals.

• Wofford won the Southern Conference and has quietly replaced Davidson as the new dominant team in the league. It's too bad that two of the top guards in the country who get little national publicity -- College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock and Hofstra's Charles Jenkins -- won't be in the NCAA tournament.

• Doesn't it feel as if Oral Roberts is always playing for an automatic bid? The Golden Eagles play Oakland for the Summit championship in Sioux Falls, S.D., (because of course one team from Tulsa and another from outside of Detroit should decide the league's auto bid in South Dakota). If the Grizzlies win, they will be a trendy first-round upset pick.

• Gonzaga handled its toughest challenger in the WCC final in Saint Mary's. Can Butler do the same to Milwaukee, which beat the Bulldogs twice this season? If not, it would be quite a run for Rob Jeter if he can get this done. But the reality is Butler has a better shot to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament than Milwaukee.

• John Adams, the NCAA's coordinator of officials, has been making the rounds this week. His is a candid voice on the subject of officiating -- he doesn't mince words and gives a face to officials who haven't had one voice for years.

• I have no issues with Florida's Billy Donovan and Chandler Parsons winning SEC Coach and Player of the Year. I would have gone with Donovan and while I had John Jenkins of Vanderbilt originally, Parsons makes sense for leading the Gators to the SEC title.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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