College Basketball Insider

Joel Embiid is on this list of National Player of the Year candidates

Joel Embiid cracks our top 10 for the first time this season.(USATSI)
Joel Embiid cracks our top 10 for the first time this season. (USATSI)

The Wooden Award released its midseason list of 25 players on Wednesday, and the most surprising thing about it to most people was that Kansas freshman Joel Embiid was nowhere to be found even though he's spent the past two weeks playing a huge role for a team that's topped four straight nationally ranked opponents.

Why?

That's what folks were asking on Twitter.

Why isn't Joel Embiid on this Wooden Award list?

The answer is rooted in the fact that ballots for that list that was published Jan. 22 were actually due Jan. 10 -- otherwise known as a time when KU was 10-4 and only two games removed from a home loss to SDSU. It should also be noted that Embiid finished with just six points and six rebounds in a game against Oklahoma two days before ballots were due, and all of that, I think, played a role in his omission that seemed reasonable at that time.

But a lot has changed since Jan. 10.

Kansas, again, has won four straight, and Embiid has scored at least 12 points and grabbed at least nine rebounds in three of those games, one of which was the 13-point, 11-rebound, eight-block performance last Saturday against Oklahoma State. Suddenly, the Jayhawks are great and Embiid is tremendous. But the Wooden Award list couldn't take either of those things into account because that list was compiled nearly two weeks ago.

This CBSSports.com List of National Player of the Year Candidates is fresh, though.

So it includes Joel Embiid.

Outrage, averted.

Check it out.

(Note: This list of candidates will update every other Thursday this season.)

1. Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Why he's here: The soon-to-be 3,000-point scorer is averaging 24.8 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 50.2 percent from the field, 44.0 percent from 3-point range and 90.3 percent from the free throw line. McDermott also has Creighton off to a 16-3 start that's worthy of a No. 16 ranking in the Top 25 (and one). So he's posting big numbers for a successful team, and that's the type of stuff that matters on a list like this list.

2. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
Why he's here: Smart isn't shooting the ball as well from the perimeter as he did early in the season, but he's still averaging 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.6 steals for a team ranked 10th in the Top 25 (and one).

3. Shabazz Napier (Connecticut)
Why he's here: Napier's spectacular play is the main reason why the Huskies have won four of their past five games and climbed back into the Top 25 (and one). He got 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Tuesday's win over Temple and is now averaging 17.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists on the season.

4. Jabari Parker (Duke)
Why he's here:
Parker has only made 27.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in his past eight appearances, but he's still averaging 18.8 points and 7.7 rebounds on the season while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range. His next three games are against Florida State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. So some big tests are on deck.

5. Julius Randle (Kentucky)
Why he's here: Randle was 10-of-15 from the field in Kentucky's past two wins, and he's averaging 16.7 points and 10.6 rebounds for a team ranked 12th in the Top 25 (and one).

6. C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
Why he's here: Fair doesn't have enough big games to consistently grab headlines, but he's consistently solid for one of the nation's best teams. The senior is averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds for the undefeated Orange. He's scored at least 12 points in 14 straight games.

7. Russ Smith (Louisville)
Why he's here: Smith was spectacular last season and is statistically better this season. The senior guard is averaging 18.1 points, a career-high 4.8 assists and a career-high 3.4 rebounds while shooting a career-high 44.7 percent from the field and a career-high 39.8 percent from 3-point range. His next test next week against Cincinnati will be interesting.

8. Nick Johnson (Arizona)
Why he's here: Johnson is averaging a career-best 16.3 points while shooting a career-best 49.7 percent from the field, and he's the key to the top-ranked Wildcats. Yes, there are better prospects on the Arizona roster. But there might not be a better college player in the Pac-12.

9. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
Why he's here: The statistics alone are not a proper indication of what Ennis has done for Syracuse, but the statistics are still solid. The freshman point guard is averaging 11.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range. He's the main reason why the Orange are still undefeated.

10. Joel Embiid (Kansas)
Why he's here: I just saw Embiid up close in two straight games at Allen Fieldhouse, and there's no doubt in my mind that he belongs on this list. The 7-foot freshman is averaging 11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks for a team that a lot of people are now picking to win the national championship.

Fifteen other worthy candidates (in alphabetical order): Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Keith Appling (Michigan State), Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Rodney Hood (Duke), DeAndre Kane (Iowa State), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Lamar Patterson (Pittsburgh), Casey Prather (Florida), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Xavier Thames (San Diego State), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Chaz Williams (UMass)


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
 
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