Three AAC guards among National Player of Year candidates
But Creighton's Doug McDermott still tops the list, for all of the obvious reasons.
How good are the guards in the American Athletic Conference? Good enough to be ranked third, fourth and fifth on this list of CBSSports.com National Player of the Year candidates.
But do I have them in the right order?
Take a look and let me know.
(Note: The CBSSports.com National Player of the Year will be named during Final Four week.)
1. Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Why he's here: McDermott is at the top of this list for all of the obvious reasons. He's posting crazy numbers -- 26.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from 3-point range -- for a nationally relevant and successful team, and he's doing it consistently against high-major competition. (You saw the 45 points he put on Providence, right?)
2. Jabari Parker (Duke)
Why he's here: Parker is averaging 19.2 points and 9.0 rebounds for a Duke team that's ranked seventh in the latest AP poll. Truth be told, that ranking for the Blue Devils is probably a tad high given their body of work. But this ranking for Parker is accurate and deserved, if you don't mind me saying.
3. Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)
Why he's here: How could Kilpatrick be third on this list when he wasn't even named the American's Player of the Year? That's a reasonable question, I guess. My answer: Because the people voting on that award screwed up. Just so we're clear, I don't mind UConn's Shabazz Napier being honored; he's also in the top five here. But Kilpatrick is averaging 20.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists for a Cincinnati team that shared the league title with Louisville, and he got 34 points in a win over Memphis last week. That's strong.
4. Russ Smith (Louisville)
Why he's here: Again, we're splitting hairs here. But I would've actually voted Smith, at this point, as the AAC POY ahead of Napier given that he's averaging 17.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds for a Louisville team that shared the league title. Smith's shooting percentages are up from both inside and outside of the arc. His assist numbers are up, too.
5. Shabazz Napier (Connecticut)
Why he's here: Finally, here's Napier -- the UConn senior who is averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He's terrific, obviously. He could actually be one of three American guards to be named a First Team All-American.
6. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
Why he's here: Despite all of the criticism directed at Wiggins early, here he is, ranked sixth on this list and in a decent position to earn First Team All-American honors. The 18-year-old freshman is averaging a team-best 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who are the Big 12 champs and still in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
7. Nick Johnson (Arizona)
Why he's here: Johnson's numbers aren't eye-popping, I admit. But when you're the leading scorer for a team that wins the Pac-12 and will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, you deserve to be recognized accordingly.
8. Xavier Thames (San Diego State)
Why he's here: SDSU won't get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament even if the Aztecs win the Mountain West tournament, but I think I could make a case for them. The main reason for that is Xavier Thames, who is averaging 16.9 points for a team that's 27-3.
9. Nik Stauskas (Michigan)
Why he's here: Can you tell I tend to favor the best players on the nation's best teams? Stauskas fits that description, clearly. He's averaging 17.4 points for the Big Ten champions while shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range.
10. Fred VanVleet (Wichita State)
Why he's here: Cleanthony Early is terrific, and Ron Baker might someday play in the NBA. But the leader of the undefeated Shockers is VanVleet, the sophomore point guard who is averaging 12.1 points and 5.3 assists for the MVC champs. He got 22 points against Indiana State in the MVC title game.
Fifteen other worthy candidates (listed in alphabetical order): Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), James Bell (Villanova), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), C.J. Fair (Syracuse), Jordair Jett (Saint Louis), Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin), DeAndre Kane (Iowa State), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Julius Randle (Kentucky), T.J. Warren (N.C. State), Scottie Wilbekin (Florida), Chaz Williams, UMass)
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