Wooden Watch: The case for Central Michigan's Marcus Keene

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Final ballots for the John R. Wooden Award are a month away, so time is running out to make a big impression as the official watch list was trimmed to 20 on Wednesday.

Here at the Wooden Watch, the top five have not changed, although the order has from last week's top five. Purdue's Caleb Swanigan edged ahead of UCLA's Lonzo Ball into third place. One name appeared in the top 20 that was not included in the midseason top 25 or the preseason top 50.

Presenting the case for Marcus Keene: Central Michigan's 5-foot-9 junior guard is the most lethal pound-for-pound scorer in the nation. He averages 30.7 points per game and could be the first player in 20 years to average 30 or more.

"He's about as unselfish a 30-point scorer as you can have," Central Michigan coach Keno Davis said. "He's a guy who is focused on winning. A lot of nights we need him to put up big numbers to win, but he fills up a stat sheet in a lot of other ways than just in those total points."

The Chippewas were picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference's West Division. They're tied for first in the division with Ball State. Keene is a major reason why.

Despite being the target of every opponent's scouting report, Keene has remained consistent by being able to score in a variety of ways. Look at his pair of 41-point games 10 days apart.

In a 105-98 win over Kent State, he attacked the rim and got to the free throw line 13 times, making 11.

In a 97-87 win at Ohio, Keene was powered by a 9-of-18 performance from 3-point range.

"He's got heart," Davis said. "Don't try to tell him he can't do something because he's going to prove you wrong. Whether that's being a Division I player, or being the leading scorer in the country, or being able to go rebound at that size. He continues to impress not only us here but throughout the country."

This week's top five:

1. Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats

Hart did what Hart does in the Wildcats' 75-64 win over Georgetown on Tuesday. The Hoyas had cut the lead to two and were within four with 90 seconds left. Hart's 3-pointer with 1:26 left capped off his 25-point, seven-rebound night and proved to be the dagger.

2. Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks

Mason nearly willed Kansas to a win with 32 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the Jayhawks' 92-89 overtime loss to Iowa State. In their 74-71 win at Kansas State, a clearly fatigued Mason still imposed his will. While struggling with his shooting (7-for-17), he made the plays that mattered, exemplified by two steals in the final two minutes.

3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers

Swanigan's numbers are kind of ridiculous. Seriously, he might just be the most consistent player in the nation. In wins over Northwestern and Purdue, he averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds -- and he fouled out of both games. Just think of what he could have done had he not been in foul trouble.

4. Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins

Ball will have another chance to make his name ring out when the Bruins face Oregon on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Ball blamed himself for the loss in their first meeting, as he was defending Dillon Brooks on the game-winning shot. Ball averaged 18 points, 6 assists and 6.5 rebounds in road wins over Washington and Washington State.

5. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Williams-Goss exploded for 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting in what was considered a possible trap game at BYU. He added seven rebounds and four assists in playing all 40 minutes in their 85-75 win over the Cougars. He missed the Zags' win over Santa Clara while nursing a sore ankle.

Honorable mentions

On the radar