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A discussion I want to have today might be a little bit premature, but in my opinion, it’s never to early to start discussing college basketball.  With the abundance of talent that enters this college season, many people consider the 2014 NBA draft to be one of the strongest drafts since 2003.  It also helps that many players returned to school, most notably, potential lottery picks Marcus Smart and Gary Harris, and the nations leading scorer last year, Doug McDermott.  That being said, I bring you my top 5 Candidates who could potentially bring home the trophy of the best player in the college season.

5) Adreian Payne 6″10′ 240 lb. PF/C Michigan State Sr.

Adriean

Why he will win National Player of the Year:

With the lone departure of Derrick Nix from the Michigan State squad from a year ago, it only seems logical that Adreian Payne be the one to carry the reigns in the post from what Derrick Nix offered the team.  Rumor is that Adreian has added some weight to his frame from last year in order to handle more responsibility in the post, and if that’s the case and he hasn’t lost the mobility and incredible athleticism he’s exerted over his previous three years in East Lansing, teams better watch out.  Payne really started to put his talent together towards the end of the season, so it’s easy to see that he could be one to break out even more so as a senior.  Payne only averaged a decent stat line of 10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, along with 1.3 bpg and .8 spg.  But this is in large part to the balanced attack the Spartans exhibited and also sharing the ball in the post with Nix.  Without Nix, he could turn into the Alpha dog down low and increase his output to around 15 ppg and 10 rpg while leading the Spartans to a number 1 seed when the tourney comes around.  This could be enough to launch him to win the award despite not having such daunting stats.  Payne leading the team both statistically and as a captain goes a long way in voters’ eyes.

Why he won’t win National Player of the Year:

Like the Michigan State team last year, they will again be extremely balance in the perimeter and in the post.  There could be a deep rotation of 8 or 9 for this team so it could limit the touches he gets.  The other reason he might not is because of his own teammate.  Gary Harris is another candidate to win the award as he is returning for his second season back in East Lansing.  If Harris grasps the Alpha dog role, Payne might play second fiddle and not factor in as much among the National audience.

4)  CJ Fair  6″8′ 225 lb SF Syracuse Sr.

Why he will win National Player of the Year:CJFair

CJ Fair has grown at an exponential level while playing under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.  I remember watching him when he was a freshman thinking he had NBA level ability but had to make major strides on the perimeter in order to get to that level.  Well, 3 years later, and here we are.  One of the most versatile players in the country set to lead his Syracuse team this season.  Long, athletic, and versatile are the three words that describe him perfectly.  This year Fair will be the centerpiece of an always solid Syracuse team that will most likely be in the top 25 the whole season.  Last year he averaged a solid 14.5 ppg with 7.0 rpg and 1.1 bpg and spg, respectively.  If he can average around 17 ppg and 8 rpg while leading his Orange squad all season, he will be in the mix to take home the hardware.

Why he won’t win National Player of the Year:

There is a chance that Syracuse might not be as strong as last years team with the loss of Brandon Triche, James Southerland, and Michael Carter-Williams.  If this is the case and there is a fall off, it doesn’t “Fair” well for CJ and his Player of the Year candidacy. Most National Player of the Year candidates are on one of the top teams in the NCAA or they put up monster stats on a decent team.  Fair most likely won’t be putting up those monster stats in a loaded ACC and his team might suffer as well with so many newcomers getting playing time this year.

3) Andrew Wiggins 6″8′ 200 lb. SG/SF Kansas Fr.wiggins

Why he will win National Player of the Year:

The question with Andrew Wiggins is this; Is the hype real? The consensus number 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by just about every mock draft website is immensely talented.  There’s no denying that.  But how will he react when he’s facing competition that is quicker, taller, longer, more athletic and so on?  How will he react to being the go to guy as a freshman playing with players that are all older then him? How will he take being the center of every teams gameplan game in and game out?  We will find out soon enough. He’s athletic, quick, and can do just about everything on the basketball court. This is why he can win it.  Kansas will be in the national spotlight like usual and he will be the go to man on that team from the start.  If he puts up 18 ppg 7 rpg and 3 apg along with locking down on defense with 2 spg and 1 bpg, look for him to be in the Player of the Year mix at the end of the season.

Why he won’t win National Player of the Year:

He won’t win the award if the questions asked above are answered in a negative way.  If he backs down to being the Alpha dog on this Kansas team and struggles with consistency during the season he surely won’t be in the mix later on in the season when the voters submit their ballets.  Another thing that could be a factor is the fact that Bill Self said that Wayne Selden has been one of the team’s most consistent performers during full squad workouts in the summer. So if Wiggins doesn’t stand out and Selden imposes his will on the team, maybe Selden is the one with Player of the Year honors in sight.

2) Marcus Smart 6″4′ 220 lb. PG/SG Oklahoma State So.

Why he will win National Player of the Year:

marcus

Smart took complete grasp of this Oklahoma State team as a freshman in his first full-time season running the point guard position.  Not only did he take the team by storm, but he took college basketball by storm as well.  He’s physically dominant for the point guard position and he emphasizes this in the way he plays.  Last season he dominated in the paint, on the boards, and defensively; Smart plays exactly how he’s built.  Like a bull in a China shop, he posts up smaller guards and bulldozes people on his way to the basket.  The one thing he needs to work on is his outside stroke to continue his development.  Also working on his pure point guard skills is another thing holding him back. This is the main reason why he decided to come back to school after debating whether or not to go to the draft despite being projected as a top 5 pick in most mock drafts. If he makes solid improvements on being a true floor general and his jumpshot, college basketball’s best leader will see himself with a Player of the Year trophy at the end of the season.

Why he won’t win National Player of the Year:

Smart is my number 2 candidate for a reason, I feel as though someone else has the best chance to win the award.  But say Smart fails to improve upon his efficiency and still isn’t much of a pure point guard? What if opposing teams game plan for him even more and he struggles? This could really hold him back.  Look for Smart to be the runner up of the National Player of the Year conversation by the end of the year.

1) Doug McDermott 6″8′ 225 SF/PF Creighton Sr.Doug McDermott, Carl Hall

Why he will win National Player of the Year:

The best walk-on in college basketball resides in Omaha, Nebraska.  Might this be the only walk-on ever to win such a prestigious award? I think so.  The scoring machine on the Creighton Blue Jays will be a force to be reckon with this year after a summer of playing overseas and training with NBA players for the 2016 Olympic squad.  Word is that him and the previously mentioned Marcus Smart were both very impressive in the tryout as the only two college invitees by the NBA.  Anything less than 25.0 ppg this season by Doug McDermott would be a let down in my opinion, he is just that talented.  His offensive array is unorthodox to say the least, but it’s efficient also.  Awkward leaners and post play is what he is known for.  Along with the ability to stretch the floor as the ultimate mismatch at the college level.  He shot a ridiculous 49% from 3 point land last year while averaging 23.2 ppg on 55% from the field.  That efficiency is just unprecedented at this level and that is the reason why he should win the award.

Why he won’t win National Player of the Year:

If McDermott doesn’t win the award it’s most likely because of two reasons.  The first is that Creighton has a down year for them, gets a really low seed or doesn’t make the tournament at all.  This would be bad for him because your team has to be relevant in order to be in the Player of the Year race, and his team is a mid-major, so who knows how good they might be.  The second reason is the abundance of other candidates who will be playing in the spotlight every single game.  If any of the candidates are dominant and playing for top 5 teams all season, the light will shine brighter on them than it will on Creighton.  Otherwise, expect to see a dominant offensive player work his magic at the college ranks once again on his way to more prestigious awards.

DARKHORSES

Gary Harris SG Michigan State: As previously mentioned, if he takes the Alpha dog role on Michigan State then he becomes a threat to win the Player of the Year award instead of Payne.  My bet is on Payne though because he is a senior and is incredibly talented in his own right and will be a huge leader for that team.

Julius Randle PF Kentucky:  This team is so incredibly talented, but he is most likely the best of the bunch.  He is a physical freak and a bulldozer in the paint.  If anybody from that team is going to win the award it will be him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Kentucky went on to have one of the best season in team history and Randle led the way with around 15 ppg and 10 rpg on his way to winning the award despite a loaded roster.

Russ Smith SG/PG Louisville:  The ultra quick, fast, and athletic jitterbug could surprise people this year.  He will lead them in scoring without Peyton Siva there and with an equally talented team from a year ago, don’t be surprised if his name is brought up a lot towards the end of the season.

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