The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list was released Wednesday, and while not being included on this list does not eliminate a player from winning the award, it essentially shows the 25 guys with a chance to be named player of the year.
Let’s run through all 25 (and a few snubs), from least likely to win, to most likely to.
29. Tyus Jones, Duke
How he wins: Jahlil Okafor tears his ACL, but Jones steps up and leads the Blue Devils to the ACC title.
Why he won’t: His teammate is Jahlil Okafor. He’s not going to win the Wooden Award.
28. Daniel Ochefu, Villanova (not on the list)
How he wins: Villanova loses only once more and Ochefu averages at least 15 points/10.5 rebounds/2.5 blocks the rest of the way.
Why he won’t: The Wildcats are just too balanced. No one stands out enough to win a major award.
27. Wayne Blackshear, Louisville (not on the list)
How he wins: Louisville wins all of their big games, and Blackshear becomes their go-to-guy, putting up 25+ in nationally televised games.
Why he won’t: He has a tendency to disappear in games.
26. Jordan Mickey, LSU
How he wins: He continues to average a double-double, then slips Kentucky a “Mickey” and is the main reason LSU upsets Big Blue.
Why he won’t: He plays for LSU and, unless they beat Kentucky, that means no one cares.
25. Bobby Portis, Arkansas
How he wins: Portis scores more than 20 a game, including a couple 30+ nights, and leads his Razorbacks to a win at Kentucky.
Why he won’t: He plays for Arkansas and, unless they beat Kentucky, that means no one cares very much. (They are ranked now though!)
24. Ron Baker, Wichita State
How he wins: The moppy-haired mid-major star does his best Adam Morrison impression, shoots the lights out, and scores a few BIG numbers.
Why he won’t: He’s not the best player on his team. 16 points per is great, but how about more than 4.4 boards and 2.4 assists? I’ve heard people talk about him as an NBA player, but I don’t see that at all. His best skill is shooting, though he’s never shot better than 39% from the college line.
23. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
How he wins: The super frosh catches fire and leads the Buckeyes to some huge wins and a Big Ten regular season title.
Why he won’t: Big Ten coaches with thorough scouting reports will be much tougher than the schedule he’s already faced. Besides, he’s not even the highest guy named D’Angelo on this list!
22. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
How he wins: The little guy puts the Hoosiers on his back and plays great against all of the Big Ten’s marquee sqauds. Like, 30 points or a triple-double each time great. That great.
Why he won’t: To stand-out in that conference, you’ve got to be elite, not just very good. Yogi is very good, but I don’t know if he’s great.
21. Ryan Boatright, UConn
How he wins: Kemba begat Shabazz who begat Boatright. UConn is Guard University. Boatright can score in a hurry. If he can take over a few games, he’ll earn some attention.
Why he won’t: He doesn’t shoot a high percentage, mainly because he’s not the greatest with shot selection. That can range from “confident” to “reckless”.
20. Georges Niang, Iowa State
How he wins: Niang fulfills his the prophecy as the best player who plays like a guy at the your local Y. He’s uses his craftiness to lead the nation in triple-doubles. ESPN shows you a thousand graphics about how he’s the only player in the country to average X points, Y rebounds, and Z assists. Oh, and the Cyclones end Kansas’ run of Big XII championships.
Why he won’t: Sure, a balanced game is nice, but scoring 10 or less in half his team’s games, like he has so far, won’t get him there.
19. Terry Rozier, Louisville
How he wins: Louisville wins all of their big games, and Rozier becomes their go-to-guy, putting up 25+ in nationally televised games.
Why he won’t: I wrote the exact same path for Blackshear and I’m not even done with Louisville guys. Balance and system hurt Rozier’s shot.
18. Melo Trimble, Maryland
How he wins: The freshman and the Terps continue to crash the Big Ten’s party and he outduels the best guards in the conference.
Why he won’t: Again, it’s just so hard to imagine a freshman guard stumping some of the best coaches in the nation.
17. Chasson Randle, Stanford
How he wins: Two wins over Arizona and one each over Utah and UConn and Randle finishes in the top 3 in the nation in scoring (he’s 23rd right now, at over 19 ppg).
Why he won’t: EAST COAST BIAS. Late night games for the Cardinal and no marquee wins mean Randle never becomes a household name. Even though his name is Chasson. Half of you are reading that thinking, “I have no idea how to pronounce that.”
16. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
How he wins: Johnson shows why he’s a big time lottery pick and lays waste to the Pac-12.
Why he won’t: He makes flashy plays, but Johnson has yet to have a monster game. Last night was his first 20+ point outing of the year.
How he wins: Haws leads the nation in scoring (currently 4th), beats the Zags at the Kennel, and destroys the rest of the WCC.
Why he won’t: BYU just isn’t good enough for Haws to get enough recognition to win the award.
14. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State (not on the list)
How he wins: Wichita State runs the table and Van Vleet stirs the drink.
Why he won’t: He has to score more and Wichita State just hasn’t been the same without Cleanthony Early this year.
13. D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s
How he wins: Harrison goes on to lead the nation in scoring AND tattoos.
Why he won’t: He’s a scorer and I don’t know if that’s enough. He’ll need to show flashes of something more.
12. Juwan Staten, West Virginia
How he wins: The Mountaineers win the Big XII and Staten makes a statement every chance he gets.
Why he won’t: In the biggest game of the year so far, Staten shot 1-9 and scored 4 points. WVU won big…but this is an individual award.
11. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
How he wins: Kinda the same as Staten. Sooners win big games and Hield goes bonkers in them.
Why he won’t: Hield’s worst games have been against good competition. That would have to change.
10. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
How he wins: The Zags run the table and enter the tourney as the #2 overall seed, behind Kentucky. Wiltjer outscores Kevin Pangos and plays competent defense.
Why he won’t: The Zags are too balanced for him to get too much praise. Which is why…
9. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
How he wins: The Zags run the table and enter the tourney as the #2 overall seed, behind Kentucky. Pangos is the floor general on both ends and everything runs through him.
Why he won’t: Again, the Zags don’t have anyone who’s going to take over, but if they do, it’s Pangos. He’s been the most efficient offensive player so far this year. Efficiency is great, but volume wins awards. He’d have to average more than 12 points and 5 assists.
8. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky (not on the list)
How he wins: The Kentucky offense needs someone to be the main main, so KAT steps up and dominates the SEC.
Why he doesn’t: Not enough minutes. Kentucky’s depth just makes it hard for anyone to showcase themselves to this level.
7. Justin Anderson (or any other Virginia player)
How any of them wins/Why they won’t: This is a total cop-out, but the Hoos make all the other teams I called balanced look like the 2000-2001 Sixers. They share it so well. Anderson has been flashiest so far, which gives him the leg up. I just can’t see any of them standing out enough.
6. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
How he wins: Double-doubles every single night and a voting base that’s scared that Trez will tear them in half if they don’t vote for him.
Why he won’t: I think we’ve reached the point of the list where I can no longer list weaknesses in this space. Harrell’s going to have to be beaten, not lose it on his own.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
How he wins: Best player on the best team.
Why he won’t: Numbers. Too many Kentucky players, not enough minutes or shots to go around.
4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
How he wins: The Irish shock the basketball world and win the ACC, with Grant leading the way.
Why he won’t: I would think that it’s more likely that Grant will finish behind Cauley-Stein, Harrell, and others in the voting, but I think he has one of the most direct paths to winning. Though it’s more unlikely, he puts himself firmly in the conversation if it happens.
3. Delon Wright, Utah
How he wins: Best guard in the nation. That means something. If it means they beat Arizona and win the Pac-12, he’s in the mix.
Why he won’t: EAST COAST BIAS! How many of you have seen a Utah game? How many of you know what Wright looks like? He’s third in the race right now, and he may stay there because we’ve got quite the 1-2 left.
2. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
How he wins: The most complete player in the nation. He can do everything.
Why he won’t: If we’re scoring this like a boxing match, Frank the Tank is down on points. He got outplayed by Jahlil Okafor. Kamisky’s line looks better in retrospect, but we forget that Okafor spent much of the game in foul trouble. When the two giants squared off, Okafor was better. Kaminsky needs a couple haymakers to catch up.
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
How he wins: Plays like he has and Duke bounces back from it’s January swoon.
Why he won’t: He’s the favorite, but not by much. It’s essentially a two man race, with a lot of other guys needed to do a lot to get involved. He could turn things into a landslide if he dominates Harrell and Lousiville tomorrow.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer of PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.