Smart leads first Player of the Year watch staff

OK State freshman Marcus Smart was a prep All-American and now he's No. 1 in our watch (Getty Images)  
OK State freshman Marcus Smart was a prep All-American and now he's No. 1 in our watch (Getty Images)  

By Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish

We're not even two weeks into the season, so this list is obviously somewhat premature. However, we're going to do it anyways. Here's the first edition of the Player of the Year watch.

A freshman tops the list, but it's not UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad -- or one of Kentucky's talented frosh, either. Cody Zeller and Doug McDermott entered the season as the favorites for the award, but Zeller put up a dud against Georgia and McDermott has been efficient, but has yet to erupt on the offensive end.

Last year it was a two-man race between Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson, but this year it should be interesting with plenty of guys able to get in the equation.

Player of the Year Watch List
Week 1
G | 6-4 | FRESH | Oklahoma State

The consummate winner and intangibles guy -- and it didn't take him long to show what he's all about. Smart isn't a natural point guard, but Travis Ford moved him there out of necessity. He's thrived. Through four games, he's averaging 14.8 points, eight boards, five assists, three steals and 1.5 blocks per game. Against N.C. State, he went for 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out seven assists, had four steals and four blocks. Oh yeah, the Cowboys blew out the Wolfpack. Smart is the real deal.

PG | 6-0 | SOPH | Michigan

Burke and the Wolverines haven't been tested in their first three games, but his numbers are still impressive - and has been his play. He's averaging 18.3 points and eight assists per game and is shooting 44 percent from deep. Michigan has plenty of talent, but there's no doubting who the star is in Ann Arbor

C | 7-0 | SOPH | Indiana

He's considered the frontrunner for the award and was averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds until a lackluster performance against Georgia on Monday night in which he scored just six points and grabbed four rebounds in 27 minutes. Zeller's still not a finished product, but he's rebounding better - and his numbers (14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) are still impressive even with the off-night against the Bulldogs.

F | 6-8 | JR | Creighton

Has come out of the gates slowly, including a five-point performance against UAB in which he took just six shots the entire game. He's being double and triple-teamed, isn't forcing the issue and that's why his scoring is down from 22.9 points last season to 16.7 through three games this year. McDermott's rebounding (8.3 rpg) has improved slightly and so has his passing and defense.

PG | 6-2 | JR | Ohio State

Craft is another guy -- like Smart -- who can't solely be judged by numbers. He's relentless and changes the tone of the game on the defensive end -- and picks his spots on the offensive end of the floor. Thus far, he's averaging 17 points per game and five assists. He's also made 7-of-14 shots from beyond the arc and has made 88 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.

PF | 6-10 | SR | Duke

No matter what anyone says, this Duke team is led by Plumlee. He's a different player from his first three seasons in Durham. He's scoring, rebounding (which he did a year ago) and even making his free throws. Plumlee is averaging 21.7 points, 8.7 boards and 2.7 blocks while shooting 77 percent from the charity stripe -- more than 30 percentage points higher than he's ever made in his three-year career. He was 7-of-8 from the field against Kentucky's frontline and had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Georgia State.

PF | 6-9 | SOPH | North Carolina

We said he could make a Thomas Robinson-esque jump and that's exactly what McAdoo has done thus far. He was averaging 21 points and 11.3 boards through the first three games and then he only had 10 points and four rebounds in a thrashing over Mississippi State. Expect more double-doubles out of the big, strong, athletic, hard-playing big man.

C | 7-1 | SOPH | Maryland

Had a break-out game against Kentucky's young and talented frontline in the season-opener with 23 points, 12 boards and four blocks -- and followed it up by averaging 14.5 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 blocks in wins against Morehead State and LIU Brooklyn. The big Ukranian has the size and skill to help get the Terps in the top half of the ACC this season.

PG | 5-10 | SR | Baylor

Struggled in the loss to Colorado, but has been sensational for the most part this season. With Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy gone, it's Jackson's team -- and he's averaging 20.2 points, seven assists and 2.4 steals per game. He's also shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

PG | 6-1 | SR | Murray State

Our preseason first-team All-American is one of the best guards in the country and is off to a solid start, averaging 18.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists thus far.


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