Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson
There isn’t a wrong answer, so whoever wins this year’s Wooden Award will be more than deserving.
As an official voter, I’ve thought long and hard about that ballot I’ll be casting in a few weeks. After three months of indecisiveness -- you’ve seen how I’ve waffled from week to week -- I’ve decided on Robinson.
Here’s why: Robinson’s phenomenal season has been achieved under an immense amount of pressure. He enters each game knowing that, if he doesn’t perform well, his team will likely lose. Other than ESPN.com third-team All-American Tyshawn Taylor, Robinson isn’t surrounded by a wealth of standout players. The Jayhawks went 16-2 in the Big 12 with a walk-on (Conner Teahan) as their sixth man and a transfer from Loyola Marymount (Kevin Young) as their seventh man. This is as thin of a team as Bill Self has ever had in Lawrence.
Because of that, teams almost always elected to double-team -- and sometimes triple-team -- Robinson. The 6-foot-9 junior almost always maintained his composure and responded with a double-double. He had 22 of them in Kansas’ 31 games. Along with averaging 18 points, Robinson ranked second in the nation in rebounds with 11.9 per contest. His numbers were achieved against significantly better competition than Davis faced at Kentucky. Kansas played a much tougher nonconference schedule, and let’s be honest, the Big 12 is better than the SEC.
Take Davis off Kentucky’s roster and the Wildcats would’ve still been one of the top five teams in the country. I realize that’s not Davis’ fault and that he shouldn’t be penalized for being surrounded by supreme talent. But it is what it is. Without Robinson, the Jayhawks would’ve struggled to make the NIT. That’s not an exaggeration. The pressure on Robinson to carry one of the nation’s elite programs in what was supposed to be a “down” year was immense. But the junior responded.
Here’s how my final Wooden Award ballot will look.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas -- In what was likely his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, the junior had 25 points and 14 rebounds in a win against Texas. He ended the regular season averaging 18 points and 11.9 rebounds, a mark that ranks second in the nation. Robinson is projected to be a top-10 pick in this summer’s NBA draft.
Anthony Davis, Kentucky -- Two of Kentucky’s last three games were against Florida and Vanderbilt, which are generally regarded as the top two teams in the SEC other than Kentucky. Davis averaged 25.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in those two games. He ended the regular season averaging team highs in points (14.4), rebounds (9.8) and blocks (4.7).
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina -- No other player in the ACC had as good of a season as Zeller, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tar Heels to an ACC title-clinching win Saturday at Duke. The 7-foot senior averaged 23 points over his final three regular-season games. He’s averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for the season.
Draymond Green, Michigan State -- The most versatile player in college basketball averages 16.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals for a team that shared the Big Ten title with Michigan and Ohio State. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Green earned conference MVP honors ahead of future NBA lottery pick Jared Sullinger.
Doug McDermott, Creighton -- The sophomore had 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting in Sunday’s overtime win against Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game. He ranks third in the nation with 23.2 points per game and also averages 8.2 rebounds. Most impressively, McDermott is shooting 61 percent from the field and 49.5 percent from 3-point range.
Here are the other 10 official Wooden Award finalists, as announced Tuesday morning on ESPN.com:
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State -- The point guard is averaging 19.2 points for the Racers, who will take a 30-1 record into the NCAA tournament.
Jae Crowder, Marquette -- Voted Most Valuable Player in the Big East, Crowder is averaging 24.7 points in his last six games.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri -- With an 18-point scoring average, the senior guard is the key reason the Tigers are a top-5 team and a Final Four contender.
Kevin Jones, West Virginia -- The senior forward, who averages 20 points and 11.2 rebounds, would’ve easily been a first-team All-American had his team not struggled so mightily down the stretch.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse -- The versatile forward leads the nation’s second-best team in scoring with 14.1 points per game.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- Kentucky’s do-everything freshman averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks. He’s vowed to return for his sophomore season. We’ll see.
Damian Lillard, Weber State -- The point guard ranks second in the nation in scoring with 24.5 points per game and also averages 3.9 assists.
Scott Machado, Iona -- Ranks second in the nation in assists with 9.9 per contest. Also averages 13.6 points.
Austin Rivers, Duke -- The freshman leads the Blue Devils with 15.3 points per game. Came on strong during the second half of the season.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State -- Almost impossible to stop in the paint, the sophomore led Ohio State in points (16.9) and rebounds (9.3).