My Wooden Ballot

A peak at the ballot of one voter for John R. Wooden Award for the outstanding player in NCAA men's basketball.<br><br>See where Frank Burlison picked the three Illinois guards on his John R. Wooden ballot.

The ballots for the John R. Wooden Award were due in Monday afternoon.

I emailed my picks (each of the 1,000 or so casting votes is asked select 10 players, in order of preference, from the 23 choices listed on the ballot) Monday morning, albeit with a tad bit of trepidation.

But who couldn't feel a lot more definitive about making their choices – especially No. 1 – if the deadline were, say, noon April 5? A certain game played the night before, as well as a couple more also contested on the same Edward Jones Dome floor in St. Louis on Saturday night, would impact balloting considerably.

The red tape involved in making travel arrangements for the players and coaches involved, award administrators point out, make the March 28 deadline imperative. The top five in the balloting, for both the men's and women's award, are flown into Los Angeles for the nationally televised presentation on April 9.

OK. I can buy that.

So, here are my choices, listed in reverse order . . . well, I'll list my "just missed my Top 10 choices" first:

Just Missed the Cut: Ike Diogu (Arizona State, junior, center), Joey Graham (Oklahoma State, senior, forward) and Shelden Williams (Duke, junior, center).
Comment: Diogu was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and is a three-time all-conference choice. He's the easy winner of the "Best player not to play in the NCAA Tournament this season" award. Graham, who will be chosen no later than the middle of the first round of the NBA draft, wasn't quite as consistently outstanding as the guys who made my top 10. No one that I saw played any harder than Williams did this season and, quite frankly, I'm already second-guessing my decision to leave him off the ballot. Yikes! Too late now . . .

No. 10: Hakim Warrick (Syracuse, senior, forward).
Comment: The Big East Player of the Year and he also played well in leading the Orange to the conference tournament title. We cut him some slack for those 10 turnovers in the first-round NCAA loss to Vermont.

No. 9: Dee Brown (Illinois, junior, guard).
Comment: I know, I know . . . he was the Big Ten Player of the Year, but I've got a couple of his teammates higher up on my ballot. I give him the edge over Nate Robinson (Washington) as the best "undersized shooting guard" in the country and my vote as the best sub-six-footer this season.

No. 8: Wayne Simien (Kansas, senior, forward).
Comment: How much deeper into the tournament would the Jayhawks have traveled if the Big 12 Player of the Year had hit that turnaround jumper at the buzzer in the first round against Bucknell? Oh, well . . .

No. 7: Chris Paul (Wake Forest, sophomore, point guard).
Comment: Pound for pound, inch for inch, blah, blah, blah . . . he is the most innately gifted player in college today.

No. 6: J.J. Redick (Duke, junior, shooting guard).
Comment: The ACC Player of the Year's jump shot ran away from home once the NCAA Tournament started him or we might have had a Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels semifinal in St. Louis after all.

No. 5: Salim Stoudamire (Arizona, senior, shooting guard).
Comment: The most dependable player in the "clutch" this season and also one of the most difficult to check, 1-on-1.

No. 4: Deron Williams (Illinois, junior, point guard).
Comment: He's a living testament to why you shouldn't judge a player by his statistics alone. There wasn't a better playmaker/floor leader anywhere this season.

No. 3: Luther Head (Illinois, senior, wing).
Comment: If the Illini are cutting down nets in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis next Monday night, everyone wearing Orange should recall his block of a Salim Stoudamire jump shot late in regulation against Arizona and say, in unison, "Thank you, Luther!"

No. 2: Sean May (North Carolina, junior, center).
Comment: The guy who has the best opportunity Saturday, and maybe Monday, in St. Louis to make me want to re-cast my ballot. I'm still trying to recall the six shots he missed against Wisconsin Sunday. All 19 he took seemed like dunks or layups to me.

No. 1: Andrew Bogut (Utah, sophomore, center).
Comment: Despite relatively impressive numbers (20 points and 12 rebounds), he didn't do nearly enough to help his under-manned team knock off Kentucky in their Sweet 16 game in Austin. He missed way too many close-in shots and was terrible (four of 11) at the free-throw line. That being said, no one player in college basketball this season drew as much defensive attention or was as responsible for his team's success. Take May, Head, Williams or Stoudamire off their teams, and they're still in the NCAA Tournament. With Bogut in the lineup, the Utes won the Mountain West Conference, finished 29-6 and beat UTEP and Oklahoma in the tourney. Remove him from the equation and Utah would have finished in the second division in its conference.



Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at FrankHoops.com

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