As we near the final month of the college basketball regular season, it’s become abundantly clear that Shabazz Napier has a chance to become the seventh Connecticut Husky to win Big East Player of the Year.
I’m not saying Napier is the favorite. He’s not. But given the way the standings are shaking out, and given UConn’s remaining schedule (the Huskies should finish with 20+ wins), it’s conceivable that Napier wins the award, which would put him in the same company as Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet.
Here’s a look at the candidates, from most likely to take home the hardware to least. Place your midseason vote below.
*Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown — At one point, Porter led the Hoyas (7-3 Big East) in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-point percentage. His numbers have dipped in a few categories, but his supreme versatility makes him the “favorite.” I guess.
*Russ Smith, Louisville — He’s capable of plays like this and, to Rick Pitino’s dismay, plays like this, too. Bottom line: He’s Louisville’s best player, and even though the Cardinals are in a funk, they’re the best team.
*C.J. Fair, Syracuse — In his past nine games, Fair has played 359 of the possible 365 minutes. For the year, he’s averaging 14 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
*Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse — He leads the nation in assists (8.5 per game), but is he even Syracuse’s most valuable player?
*Shabazz Napier, UConn — Where would UConn be without Napier’s 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists? Chillin’ with DePaul, South Florida and Seton Hall at the bottom of standings.
*Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati — A big-time scorer, Kilpatrick’s 18.2 points per game won’t be enough unless the Bearcats improve on their 6-5 Big East mark.
*Jack Cooley, Notre Dame — Sixteen double-doubles in 24 games. Gotta consider Cooley.
*Brandon Triche, Syracuse — Triche provides veteran leadership and also tops the Orange with 14.5 points per game.
*Vander Blue, Marquette — Technically, Marquette is in first place and Blue (15 points per game) is its leading scorer. That makes him a viable candidate.
*Gorgui Dieng, Louisville — Can’t remember the last time a Big East Player of the Year averaged less than 10 points per game, but then again, the league is down this year. Dieng impacts the game enormously in other ways.
*Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh — Unless Pitt flat-out wins the league (a possibility), don’t expect a Panther to be named POY. Too much balance, which is great for winning basketball games, not great for individual awards.
*Jerian Grant, Notre Dame — The guy scored 12 points in 44 seconds Saturday. Even if he goes scoreless the next three games, his name stays on this list.
*D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s — Hey, the Johnnies keep winning and Harrison keeps piling up points. Can’t completely rule him out.
*Bryce Cotton, Providence — The league’s leading scorer (20.9 per contest) would have a much better chance if his team had a winning record.