Even though an official announcement was only made available recently, the 2011-12 Wooden Award preseason top 50 watch list already hit the internet this afternoon. College hoopsters have ESPN's Andy Katz to thank for his handiwork, as he tapped into his endless string of contacts to not only reveal the 50 names on the list hours in advance, but also gather quotes from rival coaches on every single player.
And at a slow time in the year like this, we can't help but devour any breaking news that comes our way. So here are ten deep thoughts on what the names, both on and off the list, mean to us.
1. Detroit's Ray McCallum Jr. very much deserves a spot among the sport's elite. We wouldn't be surprised if he set the bar statistically on the mid-major scene. With Eli Holman in a mess of trouble due to an assault allegation, McCallum is going to shoot...shoot...and then shoot the rock some more for the Titans this year. The comparison isn't perfect, but we could envision a Steph Curry type impact for this kid in just his second season. He's that good.
2. Three players nominated last year missed out this time around. Florida's Kenny Boynton, Missouri's Kim English and Syracuse's Brandon Triche each struggled with their shot often in 2010-11, and it appears all three have hit a wall in their development. Boynton isn't strong enough as a passer to alleviate for his inconsistent stroke and bad shot selection. English had a down year offensively while teammates stepped up, but he's always been more valuable on the defensive end of the court and isn't really a serious POY candidate in the first place. Triche, from an efficiency standpoint, dropped off the map as a shooter, and he still took 150 threes. It's even so bad that Andy Katz left these three guys off his massive list of snubs.
3. Doron Lamb's omission is significant. There were many times last year where Lamb looked like the most consistent scorer on the floor for John Calipari's Wildcats. He scored 13 each night despite getting only 28 minutes, on a team filled with talent that opened ahead of him on the depth chart. Lamb still came in as a highly touted prospect, but it almost felt like he carved out a role on Kentucky's crowded roster last year with the way he shot the ball from deep. And when you look at some of the guys who made this list that shot poorly in starting roles a year ago, an obvious talent of Lamb's level probably shouldn't have gone unnoticed. Right now Lamb is going #42 in the latest Draft Express mock draft, and that's right about where he should have been in these proverbial rankings.
4. Ohio State and North Carolina each landed three and four players on the watch list respectively. The headliners, Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, might just be 1-2 for this thing by season's end. Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor are talented guards without a doubt, but with the way last year ended and everything we've seen of them this offseason, Sullinger and Barnes are the two best bets to take home this award next spring.
5. Of all the quotes in Katz's article we love the one about Michigan State's Draymond Green: "He's as versatile a player as anybody in the country. He's a miniature Barkley with a good body, good skills, and knows how to play. He's a kid that loves to play with great energy." The Barkley comparison is great, and you get the feeling that this is the year where Green really starts to dominate people in the post, a la Sir Charles. At worst he's a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. At best he's a triple double threat every time he steps on the floor and could factor into this race.
6. There's hopes for California this season. The Bears' starting backcourt of Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez each made the top 50, the only two guards nominated from the Pac-12. Heck, the only other Pac-12 school that got a player named was UCLA (Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson), despite notable gripes from Oregon State (Robert Cunningham) and Washington (Terrence Ross). The Bears haven't been to a Sweet 16 since 1997, and with Gutierrez in his final year of eligibility, this could be their best chance in a while.
7. Patric Young, Florida's up-and-coming big man is one of the most intriguing picks on this list. Fresh off averaging a mere 3.4 points per game last year for the Gators, Young seemed to mature playing for Team USA over the summer. Everyone seems to agree that he's poised to flourish as a starter this year, but looking solely at his 2010-11 campaign it would have been understandable to see him omitted from the top 50. It's very possible that his work with Team USA opened up a few more eyes and landed him on this list.
8. Joshua Smith in, Renardo Sidney out. The two most puzzling big men in the country. We know that Joshua Smith likes to shun workouts, and that Renardo Sidney likes to get suspended. But the brief glimpse we got of Sidney last year indicated that he's going to produce some elite numbers when he's on the court. The key here is 'on the court'. As far as Joshua Smith is concerned, 'on the court' might mean no more than 22-23 minutes per night. With the way he reportedly ballooned up over the summer, it's hard to see Smith's conditioning allowing him to play significant minutes anytime soon. Sidney, on the other hand, might just win SEC Player of the Year for all we know. After all, he has John Lucas' vote.
9. It's a bummer that C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, the NCAA's leading returning scorer at 21.8 ppg, didn't make the cut. The 6'3", 165 lb. guard from Canton, Ohio hauled down 7.8 rebounds per game and nearly doubled his steal percentage from his freshman year in 2010-11. As long as he stays healthy his junior season should be filled with monster numbers. This looks like a case where a power conference player with a high recruiting ranking might have picked up a nod over the kid from the Patriot League.
10. Gonzaga's Elias Harris is back on the watch list, but what are the expectations for his third season? An alley-oop highlight machine as a frosh, Harris really had a sharp fall from grace last year. He seems to have gone from an elite prospect to a really good player with high potential in the span of one season, and many people view him in a different light than they did at this time last year. With the versatile Steven Gray gone though, this is finally the time where we figure out just how good Harris is.