National Player of the Year: Evan Turner Leads the Pack
While all the talk is about teams and brackets and seeds, let's not forget about some of the top individual players who hope to lead those squads deep into the NCAA Tournament.
So let's get started with my five leading candidates to win the coveted Naismith Award, which honors the best player in men's college basketball:
+ Evan Turner, Jr, G, Ohio State
No one has as well-rounded a game as Turner, and his effort has been so consistent this year that even a six-game absence in midseason shouldn't keep him from winning this honor. Once he returned from breaking his back, he picked up where he left off, chasing down double-doubles each night out and even recording many near triple-doubles.
Turner leads the Big Ten in scoring (19.5 points per game) and rebounding (9.4), and is second in assists (5.8) and steals (1.8), but did you know he's also fifth in field-goal percentage (.538) and even ninth in blocks (0.9)? Before only playing 39 minutes the last two games, Turner had played all 40 minutes in each of Ohio State's previous three games and has turned the trick nine times overall this year. He is carried the Buckeyes towards a first-place tie in the Big Ten and maybe even a No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed. No player in the country means more to his team than Turner.
The funny thing about Turner is that he seems more of a lock for national player of the year than Big Ten player of the year, as Michigan State's Kalin Lucas continues to get support for the league honor.
+ Sherron Collins, Sr, G, Kansas
Collins is KU's undisputed leader and obviously means a great deal to his team, but if you take him away, the Jayhawks are still dangerous, whereas the Buckeyes wouldn't even be an NIT squad without Turner.
But that shouldn't diminish Collins' candidacy for national honors. He leads the Jayhawks with 15.3 points per game and 4.3 assists, and also, despite playing for a deep team that plays eight guys at least 15 minutes, and another three players about seven minutes each, averages a team-best 32.8 minutes per game.
Late in a tight game, you want Collins on the line. He makes 84 percent of his free throws and is a proven winner. Kansas is 119-18 in Collins' four years at point guard.
+ John Wall, Fr, G, Kentucky
No one in the country is more electrifying than Wall, and many expect him to be the first player taken in the NBA draft in June. But he still has some work to do before leaving Lexington, like lead the Wildcats to their first national championship since 1998.
Wall leads the team in scoring (16.8), assists (6.2) and minutes (34.4), and is third in rebounding (4.0). With the exception of Derrick Rose, no college basketball player in recent memory has shown his kind of explosiveness. He's also a defensive witch, averaging nearly two steals per game. He saved the day with a late gem at Vanderbilt on Feb. 20, preserving a narrow win over the ranked Commodores.
But even John Wall might have hit the wall. A slightly less-then-stellar February, perhaps due to his youth, might have taken him out of the top spot as Evan Turner continues his relentless push.
+ John Scheyer, Sr, G, Duke
Before he even stepped foot on the Durham campus, Scheyer was a Youtube legend after having scored 21 points in 75 seconds in an Illinois high school playoff game.
And he's been Mr. Steady in his four outstanding years at Duke. No doubt he's the ACC Player of the Year and he'll get some consideration for national POY honors, but he doesn't have the all-around game that Turner has.
+ Scottie Reynolds, Sr, G, Villanova
Much like Scheyer, Reynolds has been a key contributor since the first days he stepped on campus, seemingly seven or eight years ago.
It didn't take long for Reynolds to assert himself as a team leader, and now that his career is winding down, he's got his Wildcats poised to make a deep tournament run.
Reynolds is among Big East leaders in scoring, steals, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and three-point percentage. He might be the league's top player and could take a few votes away from Turner on any national ballot.
Also receiving consideration:
+ DeMarcus Cousins, Fr, C, Kentucky
+ James Anderson, Jr, G, Oklahoma State
+ Wesley Johnson, Jr, F, Syracuse