LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Picking the best team in the country isn’t the only thing that has college basketball fans fussing this bizarre season.
Try picking the Player of the Year, the guy who deserves to win the John Wooden Award.
The folks at the Los Angeles Athletic Club asked me to help narrow the final 20 candidates this week.
That’s the perfect spot to open Dr. Bo’s College Basketball Notebook:
*I won’t share all 20 names on my mid-season ballot. I’ll share two local players I included:
- Jordan Nwora of Louisville
- Nick Richards of Kentucky
Nwora’s place in the national debate has faded this month. In the Cards’ last three games, Nwora has scored 16 points and made 6-19 two-point field goal attempts.
Doesn’t matter. Louisville has won six straight. The Cards are positioned to win seven straight Atlantic Coast Conference games for the first time in school history Wednesday night at Boston College.
Nwora might be doing less statistically, but the team is doing more.
But after being ranked first in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings for the first month of the season, Nwora is no longer ranked in Pomeroy’s Top 10 player of the year candidates (although he’s still ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference).
In Sam Vecenie’s latest ranking of the Top 100 prospects for the 2020 NBA Draft at The Athletic, Nwora dropped to No. 36, six slots into the second round.
I expect Nwora to make the 20-player Wooden cut.
As for Richards, has any player in the country done more to improve his status over the last month?
I’ll need names and evidence somebody has been a more powerful force at both ends of the court.
These are Richards’ numbers over Kentucky’s last eight games (starting with the Wildcats’ overtime victory over Louisville Dec. 28):
Try 17.6 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks with a 67% field goal percentage.
Vecenie ranked Richards No. 75 on his NBA board. I’ll take the under. He’s better than that.
*To return to the original question, who is the frontrunner for national player of the year?
Fill in the blank.
Pomeroy ranked Kansas guard Devon Dotson first, followed by Iowa center Luka Garza, Marquette guard Markus Howard, Duke center Vernon Carey and Obi Toppin, a forward at Dayton.
Nobody on that list reminds you of Zion Williamson. Or Trae Young. Or Buddy Hield.
One of Pomeroy’s top five was an AP first-team preseason All-American: Markus Howard.
What happened to the others?
James Wiseman got annoyed with the NCAA and dropped out of Memphis to prepare for the NBA. Cassius Winston and Michigan State lead the Big Ten, but the Spartans have delivered an uneven season. I already mentioned Nwora.
Who was the fifth player?
It’s a guy that I believe deserves serious consideration: Seton Hall forward Myles Powell.
The Pirates, not Villanova, are the team to beat in the Big East. Powell has averaged 23 points as Seton Hall has won its first seven league games. Powell plays with the toughness that wins in March.
*Bracketology has shifted from a monthly topic to a weekly discussion. What are the numbers on the local teams as February approaches?
- Louisville: As high as a two-seed but no lower than a three.
- Kentucky: Currently a four-seed but trending toward a four.
- Indiana: As high as a seven, as low as a nine — with plenty of work to do.
- Western Kentucky: Win the Conference USA Tournament.
*The top six teams in the latest AP college basketball poll are not the top six teams in the latest Las Vegas future book odds for the NCAA Tournament.
According to Eli Hershkovich Radio Dot Com Sports, these are the latest numbers.
CBB futures, @SuperBookUSA:* KU 7-1* Gonzaga 10-1* Duke 10-1* MSU 12-1* Baylor 12-1* Dayton 12-1* Louisville 14-1* Seton Hall 16-1* WV 16-1* UK 20-1* Oregon 20-1* Auburn 20-1* Arizona 25-1* Villanova 30-1* SDSU 30-1* Butler 30-1* Maryland 30-1..* Illinois 60-1— Eli Hershkovich (@EliHershkovich) January 27, 2020
Not bad prices on the Cardinals or Wildcats if you believe either team has the juice to win six straight games when it matters.
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