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Jeff Withey's blocks put him near top of the Player of the Year Race

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By Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish | College Basketball Insiders

It's time for the latest Player of the Year Race -- and Doug McDermott is closing the gap between him and the No. 1 spot. There are two new faces and one returnee, but it's the rise of a sophomore guard that is the biggest surprise of the early season.

National Player of the Year Race
Week 4
1. Mason Plumlee--Prev. 1
PF | 6-10 | SR | Duke

Duke is still undefeated and a month into the season Plumlee is the leader for the award. He has been sensational for Coach K and the Blue Devils in the first nine games, averaging 19.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. He's shooting 61 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line, a dramatic improvement over the first three years in Durham. He has six double-doubles in nine games, including a 16-point, 14-rebound performance against Temple last weekend.

2. Doug McDermott--Prev. 2
F | 6-8 | JR | Creighton

McDermott jumped out of the gates a little slow, but he's been on fire of late. He had 30 points and was 6-of-8 from deep in a win over Akron and also had 27 points in a victory at Nebraska. Over the past four games, McDermott is 17 of 24 from beyond the arc and he's shooting 52 percent from long distance overall this season. He's now averaging 22.7 points and 6.7 rebounds for a Bluejays team that is in the Top 25 (and one).

3. Jeff Withey--Prev. 4
C | 7-0 | SR | Kansas

Withey doesn't need to put up huge offensive numbers to have a major impact. He does it primarily with his shot blocking and shot altering on the defensive side. He's averaging 5.6 blocks, and his offense continues to improve as he's putting up 13.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest. Withey had eight points, seven rebounds and a handful of swats while only playing 23 minutes in the Jayhawks’ rout against Colorado over the weekend.

4. Cody Zeller--Prev. 5
C | 7-0 | SOPH | Indiana

The Big Handsome, as he is affectionately called by many in Bloomington, is coming off his best statistical game of the season. He had 19 points and 19 rebounds in a rout over Central Connecticut State. His numbers for the season still aren't quite Player of the Year-worthy: 15.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

G | 6-6 | SOPH | Syracuse

He's long and versatile -- and has emerged as one of the top players in the nation after waiting his turn a year ago. MCW had 15 points, 16 assists, five steals and four blocks in a rout against Monmouth and went for 15 points and 10 assists in another easy win over Long Beach State. Carter-Williams is averaging 12.4 points, a nation-leading 10.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 steals.

6. Erick Green--Prev. 8
G | 6-3 | SR | Virginia Tech

The Hokies came up short in Morgantown against West Virginia, but it wasn't due to Green. The nation's most underrated point guard went for 23 points, 10 assists and four rebounds without a single turnover in the loss to Bob Huggins' Mountaineers. He also had 23 points, five boards and four assists Monday night in a rout over Mississippi Valley State. He's averaging 24.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds this season for rookie head coach James Johnson.

7. Brandon Paul--Prev. N/A
G | 6-4 | SR | Illinois

He torched Gonzaga for 35 on Saturday night at the Kennel -- and is the primary reason the Illini remain undefeated and on the verge of cracking the top 10. Paul is averaging 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 48 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep.

8. Trey Burke--Prev. N/A
G | 6-0 | SOPH | Michigan

The Wolverines have looked like a well-oiled machine on the offensive end, and much of the credit should be given to their point guard. Burke is averaging 16.9 points, 7.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc. He had 16 points, seven assists and four boards in a win against Arkansas on Saturday.

9. Marcus Smart--Prev. 3
G | 6-4 | FRESH | Oklahoma State

The Cowboys frosh has settled down a bit after a terrific start to his college career. He's still averaging 13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.6 steals and a block for Travis Ford -- whose team has just one setback thus far. Smart had seven points and seven boards against Missouri State and 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in a win over South Florida, but had four turnovers in each of the victories.

10. Russ Smith--Prev. N/A
G | 6-0 | JR | Louisville

Smith makes his share of mistakes, but he's also capable of making huge plays. He went for 31 points, grabbed seven boards and dished out five assists in a rout of UMKC. He's also one of the better on-ball defenders in the country. Smith is averaging 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.3 steals while shooting 39 percent from long range.

Dropped out: Jamaal Franklin, Alex Len, Isaiah Canaan

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