The Player of the Year race for men’s basketball is down to the wire as the contestants are rounding to the finish. It has come down to five favorites, each for very different reasons. ;
2:1 Odds “Learning to Spell Oladipo” Victor Oladipo (13.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.2 Steals per game, .61 FG%, .46 3P%)
Leading the pack is “Learning to Spell Oladipo” with jockey Victor Oladipo holding the reins. With his insane field goal percentage of 61%, fourth in the NCAA, first in the Big Ten, and the highest among guards, he combines an excellent shot with his air-tight defense. He leads the Big Ten in steals and is notorious for his excellent on-ball defense that has stifled the likes of Keith Appling (twice) and Trey Burke to name a few. He makes you work extremely hard on offense and forces you to play smart on defense since he can score from anywhere. His work ethic can be seen on the boards too, where he averages 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, 3rd in the Big Ten, and 6.2 rebounds per game. He stuffs the stat sheet, makes the opponent play smarter, makes the opposition aware of his presence on both sides, and overall makes Indiana an infinitely better team. Not to mention he won the head-to-head match against Burke in their last game of the season. He’s fun to watch, athletic, a great teammate, and holds the title for “Greatest Missed Dunk of All Time”. That’s why Learning to Spell Oladipo the favorite.
3:2 “Born to Shoot Threes” Trey Burke (19.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.8 APG)
But he’s not favored by that much. With a name like Trey, he better be able to shoot the three-ball. That’d be like a guy named Dunk McGee not being able to dunk. Luckily, Burke can knock it down from anywhere on the court. He can also dish the ball just as well, leading the Big Ten in assists and ranking 11th in the NCAA. His defense is solid and is the distinct leader Michigan has been missing for the longest time. Plus, his steal on Keith Appling to take the lead against Michigan State in the final seconds to seal the victory was absolutely an MVP-esque move.
4:1 “Juiced Stats” Doug McDermott (23.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .49 3P%, .68 FT%)
For the second straight year, McDermott’s stats are ridiculous. But also for the second straight year, Creighton has failed to play anyone in the top 25 during the regular season. This is why McDermott is has lower odds of winning. But on the other hand, Creighton wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without him. No one else on the team scores in double-figures and only one other player averages more than five rebounds per game. If we’re talking MVP in terms of being the most valuable to your team’s success, then McDermott absolutely deserves to be in the conversation. Despite the weak competition, other than Wichita State who is up for an at-large bid, Juiced Stats is hoping to overtake the two favorites in the final furlong for an upset.
5:1 “Otto Mann” Porter Jr. (16.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.0 Steals PG, 1 Block PG, .50 FG%)
Otto Mann is your generic Georgetown product that can do everything really well. I think he has a good chance of succeeding at the pro-level and has shown he can carry the team both by physical lead and vocally. You know he’s a smart player by excelling in John Tompson’s system. He’s only had two truly bad games, one against Tennessee (a game 37-36 final score, though, where he had eight points) and when Pittsburgh blew them out. Other than that, Porter Jr. has been extremely reliable and the anchor to a very good Georgetown team that could go deep into the tournament if it can avoid its usual “get upset in the first round” recent history.
10:1 “Remember, Y is a Vowel” Kelly Olynyk (17.3 PPG, 7RPG, .65 FG%, 25 Minutes Per Game)
Olynyk has a pretty similar story to McDermott’s. What makes him special this season is that he’s taken Gonzaga to No. 1 in the country, almost by default, admittedly, and put up those numbers in just 25 minutes per game! Gonzaga has just two losses, both to the No. 13 team is the country, ironically, and has a win against Oklahoma State as the team’s toughest games were behind them by time they got to conference play. Still, Olynyk put up big numbers in limited playing time. What separates him from McDermott is his rebounding. It’s well noted that Olynyk gets pushed around very easily in the paint and rarely wins battles for the ball. Not to mention his defense is lackluster. If there were voting for “Most Improved Player” he’d be the outright favorite to win it. While doubling his minutes, Olynyk jumped from 5.8 PPG and 3.8 RPG to 17.3 PPG and 7 RPG. If he stays another year, he’ll be one of the early favorites for Player of the Year next year.