Frank Burlison's Top 10 John R. Wooden Award Candidates
1. Andrew Bogut (Utah, 7-0, Soph.)
His numbers: 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game; .638 FG. Why he's here: He's the dominant "big" presence in college basketball and has taken a team that would be second division in the Mountain West Conference without him and helped shape it into a potential Sweet 16 club.
2. Wayne Simien (Kansas, 6-9, Sr.)
His numbers: 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game; .542 FG. Why he's here: There was a very large "vote for me for Big 12 Player of the Year" statement uttered, figuratively, by Simien against Oklahoma State Sunday:
3. Salim Stoudamire (Arizona, 6-2, Sr.)
His numbers: 18.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game; .534 3pt FG. Why he's here: An argument can be made that he's the most prolific outside shooter at a Pac 10 school since Reggie Miller was hoisting jumpers at UCLA.
4. J.J. Redick (Duke, 6-4, Jr.)
His numbers: 22.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game; .412 3pt FG. Why he's here: Much too much has been made about whether he's a "better" jump shooter than Salim Stoudamire. The bottom is that he's one over the very best players in college today – period.
5. Chris Paul (Wake Forest, 6-0, So.)
His numbers: 15.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.5 steals per game; .506 3pt FG. Why he's here: His numbers aren't nearly reflective of how gifted he is – or of in how high esteem he's held by opposing coaches.
6. Sean May (North Carolina, 6-8, Jr.)
His numbers: 15.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game; .532 FG. Why he's here: He's been the most consistently solid member of the team most believe is the most individually talented in the country.
7. Hakim Warrick (Syracuse, 6-9, Sr.)
His numbers: 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game; .568 FG.Why he's here: He's the most explosive of all of the post players. He'll go down as one of the outstanding four-year players in Big East Conference history.
And the Illlinois trio of (in alphabetical order):
Dee Brown (Illinois, 5-11, Jr.)
His numbers: 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game; .540 FG. Why he's here: If there is anyone as fast in the college game, it's just one guy (Nate Robinson of Washington). He makes as many big plays defensively as he does on offense.
Luther Head (Illinois, 6-3, Sr.)
His numbers: 16.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game; .502 FG. Why he's here: Is there a more versatile perimeter player in college basketball? It's doubtful.
Deron Williams (Illinois, 6-3, Sr.)
His numbers: 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game; .427 FG. Why he's here: Williams didn't come into college with as much hype as a lot of point guards from his high school class but has evolved into arguably the best playmaker in college today.
Next 10: Eddie Basden (Charlotte, 6-5, Sr.), Brandon Bass (LSU, 6-7, So.), Ike Diogu (Arizona State, 6-8, Jr.), Raymond Felton (North Carolina, 6-1, Jr.), Francisco Garcia (Louisville, 6-7, Jr.), John Lucas (Oklahoma State, 5-11, Sr.), Tre Simmons (Washington, 6-5, Sr.), Craig Smith (Boston College, 6-7, Jr.), Ronny Turiaf (Gonzaga, 6-9, Sr.), Shelden Williams (Duke, 6-9, Jr.) and Kennedy Winston (Alabama, 6-7, Jr.).
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Games of the Week
Frank Burlison's six-day scan of the most significant college games prior to conference tournament action:
Indiana at Wisconsin
Why it deserves your attention: The Hoosiers got a big victory against Michigan State Sunday in Bloomington in a game that was nothing less than "must win" if they were to maintain relatively optimistic at-large bids hopes. This game in Madison borders on being just as significant.
How it could play out: Junior guard Bracey Wright scored 34 points against MSU and dropped in 30 when the Hoosiers beat the Badgers in Bloomington on Jan. 8. One would think IU will need a comparable effort out of him to have a pop at pulling this one out in hostile territory.
Saint Joseph's at George Washington
Why it deserves your attention: There is good reason to assume that these are the teams that will be hooking up in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament title game in Cincinnati on March 12.
How it could play out: The Hawks were stunned at Rhode Island Saturday in the first game following the controversial Temple game of last week. And the Colonials must be bursting with momentum after the can-you-believe-it game-winning shot tossed in at the buzzer at Dayton by Carl Elliott Saturday. If Saint Joseph's can pull this one out, the Hawks have to be considered solid favorites in the conference tournament.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State
Why it deserves your attention: The Cowboys dropped Big 12 decisions at Nebraska and Kansas (after leading the Jayhawks most of the second half Sunday). But there isn't much relief in store against an opponent that rates as the biggest surprise in the conference (7-7 in the Big 12 and 18-7 overall after three consecutive victories).
How it could play out: Can the Aggies maintain true at-large aspirations after playing a non-conference schedule that was a dozen or more notches below the "challenging'' level? Only if they win this one, beat Baylor in their regular-season finale and do considerable damage in the Big 12 tourney.
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest
Why it deserves your attention: The Demon Deacons are still in the hunt for an ACC regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The stakes are just as critical for the visitors in this one: they need a win oh-so-desperately to beef up their at-large resume that has take some hits during a stretch of seven losses in 11 games.
How it could play out: The Yellow Jackets' past five games (three of which they have won) have been decided by margins of eight, two, one, four and four points. Expect something every bit as close this time around.
Georgetown at Connecticut
Why it deserves your attention: These are a couple of Big East clubs heading in opposing directions. The Hoyas, once locks for an NCAA at-large bid, have lost three in a row and haven't scored as many as 70 points since losing (78-73) at Syracuse on Jan. 18. Snapping that losing streak at three is going to be a bear against a team that looks every bit the best in the conference right now.
How it could play out: Georgetown has a shot at the upset but only if freshman Jeff Green can get a lot of help inside against the best group of post players in the country.
Charlotte at Louisville
Why it deserves your attention: A likely Conference USA regular-season title will be the potential prize when the conference's two best team hook up in this one. We might look back at this as the best game of the week.
How it could play out: A March 12 rematch for the conference tourney title could come about in Memphis. The Conference Player of the Year voting could be heavily influenced by a matchup of the 49ers' Eddie Basden and the hosts' Francisco Garcia.
Pacific at Cal State Fullerton
Why it deserves your attention: The Tigers are 23-2 and ranked No. 17 (Associated Press). But their 16-0 Big West record is in real danger in the gymnasium of a team it struggled with in Stockton on Dec. 30 before prevailing 94-88.
How it could play out: The host Titans are 17-8 in Bob Burton's second season as the program's coach and have the kind of offensive firepower on the perimeter that will make life rough for UOP once again.
Syracuse at Connecticut
Why it deserves your attention: Both teams have been playing very well of late and Orange forward Hakim Warrick (71 total points in wins over St. John's and Providence) will be tough to beat out for Big East Player of the Year – especially if he leads his team to a win over the Huskies.
How it could play out: Connecticut has been getting sizzling play of late from sophomore playmaker Marcus Williams. He's one of the reasons the Huskies figure to take a six-game winning streak into the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Duke at North Carolina
Why it deserves your attention: You do the math – Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels, Blue Devils, anywhere, anytime. Yes, you'll find your way in front of a television screen to check this one out.
How it could play out: The way he has been playing of late, UNC's Sean May could be in line for a lot of ACC Player of the Year votes with a strong performance in a winning effort. Of course, Duke's J.J. Redick will have something to say on both counts.
Kentucky at Florida
Why it deserves your attention: Both teams are playing their best basketball of the season. The Wildcats have already clinched the SEC regular-season title but have a No. 1 NCAA tourney as a nice carrot.
How it could play out: The Wildcats had to eke out a 69-66 victory over the Gators in Lexington on Feb. 8. There is no reason to believe anyone is going to get a blowout in the rematch.
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Frank Burlison's College Basketball Top 25
Records include games of Feb. 27
|1. Illinois 28-0|
|Next Games: Thursday, vs. Purdue; Sunday, at Ohio State|
|Comment: How focused with the Illini be Sunday? Very . . .|
|2. North Carolina 24-3|
|Next Games: Thursday, vs. Florida State; Sunday, vs. Duke|
|Comment: Wins vs. Seminoles, Blue Devils should sew up top seed|
|3. Boston College 23-2|
|Next Games: Monday, vs. Pittsburgh; Saturday, at Rutgers|
|Comment: The Eagles' hopes for No. 1 seed rest on Big East tourney|
|4. Wake Forest 24-4|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Georgia Tech; Sunday, at North Carolina State|
|Comment: Close regular season against teams with slim at-large hopes|
|5. Kentucky 22-3|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Tennessee; Sunday, at Florida|
|Comment: Victory at Alabama by far biggest of 2004-05|
|6. Kansas 21-4|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Kansas State; Sunday, at Missouri|
|Comment: The folks in Lawrence held their collective breath for two hours Sunday|
|7. Oklahoma State 20-5|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Texas A&M; Saturday, vs. Texas|
|Comment: Two games in Stillwater to regain Mr. Mo|
|8. Duke 21-4|
|Next Games: Thursday, vs. Miami; Sunday, at North Carolina|
|Comment: Swept Georgia Tech, St. John's despite J.J. Redick's 7 of 26 shooting|
|9. Connecticut 19-6|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Georgetown; Saturday, vs. Syracuse|
|Comment: Warning to the NCAA field; you don't want the Huskies in your bracket|
|10. Syracuse 24-5|
|Next game: Saturday at Connecticut|
|Comment: Hakim Warrick had 35 and 36 points in final two Carrier Dome games|
|11. Louisville 24-4|
|Next Games: Thursday, vs. Charlotte; Saturday, at DePaul|
|Comment: Closing regular season 26-4 is going to be a chore|
|12. Arizona 24-5|
|Next game: Saturday, at Arizona State|
|Comment: A rubber match with Washington could be on tap in L.A. March 12|
|13. Washington 23-4|
|Next Games: Thursday, at California; Saturday, at Stanford|
|Comment: Huskies need Bay Area sweep to share Pac 10 title|
|14. Gonzaga 22-4|
|Next game: Sunday, WCC Tournament in Santa Clara|
|Comment: The Bulldogs are playing for their NCAA seeding now|
|15. Utah 24-4|
|Next game: Saturday, vs. San Diego State|
|Comment: Utes have a lot of nagging injuries|
|16. Michigan State 20-5|
|Next Games: Wednesday, at Northwestern; Saturday, vs. Penn State|
|Comment: The Spartans are destined for a third Wisconsin tilt in Chicago March 12|
|17. Alabama 21-6|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Auburn; Saturday, at Mississippi State|
|Comment: Two tough losses (LSU and Kentucky) last week|
|18. Charlotte 21-4|
|Next Games: Thursday, at Louisville; Saturday, at South Florida|
|Comment: C-USA title on the line in Freedom Hall|
|19. Wisconsin 18-7|
|Next Games: Tuesday, vs. Indiana; Saturday, vs. Purdue|
|Comment: Will face determined bunch of Hoosiers Tuesday|
|20. Villanova 19-6|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Seton Hall; Saturday, at St. John's|
|Comment: Wildcats' junior class clicking in a big way|
|21. Oklahoma 21-6|
|Next Games: Monday, at Texas; Saturday, at Texas Tech|
|Comment: All in all, Sooners have probably over-achieved this season|
|22. Florida 18-7|
|Next Games: Wednesday, at Georgia; Sunday, vs. Kentucky|
|Comment: Two losses in past seven games (by three at Kentucky and four at LSU)|
|23. Pacific 23-2|
|Next Games: Thursday, at Cal State Fullerton; Saturday, at UC Riverside|
|Comment: Will get at-large bid – if it's needed, that is|
|24. LSU 18-7|
|Next Games: Wednesday, at Mississippi; Saturday, vs. Vanderbilt|
|Comment: Winning tip-in vs. ‘Bama probably sealed at-large bid|
|25. Cincinnati 22-6|
|Next Games: Wednesday, vs. Tulane; Saturday, at Memphis|
|Comment: Only two "bad" losses (22 to Illinois, 19 to DePaul)|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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