College Basketball Insider

San Diego State's Xavier Thames is a legitimate National POY candidate

Xavier Thames and the Aztecs have come on very strong in the past two weeks. (USATSI)
Xavier Thames and the Aztecs have come on very strong in the past two weeks. (USATSI)

Xavier Thames has scored at least 23 points in three consecutive games and is the main reason why San Diego State is ranked in the top five of all relevant national rankings despite starting the season completely off of the national radar.

He's been terrific.

That's the simplest way to put it.

The senior guard is efficient offensively and capable of turning bad possessions into points, and I hope you stayed up late Wednesday night to watch Thames get 23 points on just seven field goal attempts in SDSU's win at Boise State. If not, make sure to catch him next time because Thames has developed into a likely All-American, and that's why he's now in the top five of the CBSSports.com List of National Player of the Year Candidates.

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

1. Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Why he's here: McDermott is on track to be the consensus National Player of the Year, and any argument against him is dumb. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 25.8 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from 3-point range. So McDermott's stats are undeniably great, and he's doing all of this for a team that's ranked 12th and tied atop the Big East standings.

2. Jabari Parker (Duke)
Why he's here: Parker still isn't shooting the ball as well from the perimeter as he did early this season, but whatever slump he experienced seems over. The freshman forward is averaging 18.7 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from 3-point range and 76.0 percent from the free throw line. He's the main reason why Duke is once again in a position to make a run at a Final Four.

3. Shabazz Napier (UConn)
Why he's here: Napier has only played two games since the last CBSSports.com National Player of the Year update, and he's averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in those games, both of which were wins that launched the Huskies into the national rankings. The senior guard is averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists on the season for a team that owns wins over Florida, Memphis, Harvard and Indiana.

4. C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
Why he's here: Fair did not back his 28-point, five-rebound performance in that classic game against Duke with a nice effort against Notre Dame. But he's still the leading scorer (16.7 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (5.9 rebounds per game) on the nation's top-ranked team, and that's the main reason why Fair is a serious POY candidate.

5. Xavier Thames (San Diego State)
Why he's here: Thames has developed into one of the nation's biggest surprises for one of the nation's most surprising teams. He's averaging a career-best 18.2 points while shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from the field and a career-best 44.7 percent from 3-point range, and he's doing it for a team that's 20-1 and ranked third in the Top 25 (and one).

6. Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)
Why he's here: Kilpatrick has forever been overshadowed by other guards in his own league, most recently Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith. But the Cincinnati senior belongs in the same conversation. He's averaging 19.4 points and 4.2 rebounds for a team that's 21-2 overall, 10-0 in the American and ranked seventh nationally. He's a great leader with all of the intangibles coaches love.

7. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
Why he's here: Ennis doesn't have the kind of individual numbers that force folks to pay attention, but his value to the nation's top-ranked team is immeasurable. The freshman point guard is averaging 12.1 points and 5.7 assists. Without him, there's no way Syracuse would be doing what Syracuse is doing.

8. Russ Smith (Louisville)
Why he's here: Smith has been off of the national radar most of this season because Louisville didn't accomplish much early, and the Cardinals' only notable victory in nearly a month was over a Connecticut team that's spent time in and out of the rankings. Still, Smith is having a nice final year of college. He's averaging 18.3 points and a career-best 4.7 assists while shooting a career-best 45.3 percent from the field.

9. Nick Johnson (Arizona)
Why he's here: The fact that Johnson was 1-of-14 from the field in Arizona's loss at California last weekend is hard to ignore. But he's still averaging 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for a team that's ranked second in the Top 25 (and one).

10. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
Why he's here: Wiggins has been more dissected than any college basketball player in recent history, and he's held up remarkably well under the scrutiny. The freshman star is averaging a team-best 15.9 points and 6.0 rebounds for a nationally relevant program that is among the favorites to win the national championship, according to Vegas oddsmakers.

Fifteen other worthy candidates (listed in alphabetical order): Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Keith Appling (Michigan State), Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Joel Embiid (Kansas), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Rodney Hood (Duke), DeAndre Kane (Iowa State), Lamar Patterson (Pittsburgh), Casey Prather (Florida), Julius Randle (Kentucky), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Scottie Wilbekin (Florida), 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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