This article has been submitted by Yung DAP Dave Power.
The NCAA basketball season to date has been bizarre, with only one unbeaten team left in the Memphis Tigers and some surprises in the top 25 rankings. Said surprises include Drake and Purdue, both who were not in the preseason top 25, and did not receive a single vote to be in the rankings. Check this link to see the top 25; Drake is ranked 14 and 15 respectively in the AP Top 25 poll and the ESPN/USA Top 25 poll, while Purdue is ranked 19 and 23. But who are the best players in the country, the MVP’s of their own teams, the cream of the crop, or as the award says “The Player of the Year?” My top 5 contenders to date are as follows:
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC (22.8 PPG/ 10.8 RPG/ .550 FG%)
Psycho T was the preseason favorite to win Player of the Year and is undoubtedly still the best player in college basketball. Playing on a National Championship caliber team in North Carolina, Hansbrough sweats and bleeds the Tar Heel baby blue. This is exactly the type of player coaches love to coach, as he brings it every night and never takes a play off. He brings an old school blue-collar mentality on the court every night that is sometimes lacking in high profile players. He relentlessly attacks the rim, and has the mentality “I ain’t ever scurred – props to Bone Crusher.” Check this to see Psycho T dunking hard on 7’7” Kenny George, yes, right over a 7-7 monster. He is the best player on possibly the best team in the NCAA and although they have faltered since having Ty Lawson out, everyone knows he is the leaders and most important player on the court at all times.
Michael Beasley, Kansas St. (25.2 PPG/ 12.3 RPG/ .563 FG%)
As unstoppable as any player who has been in the NCAA in the last 20 years, he posts up and scores easily with his back to the basket. He also has a great 3 point shot (.436 3P%) and spot up game. He is the type of player that floats around and sets screen and watches the play develop to find his openings. Having a deadly fade away jumper from within 10 feet helps too. He will definitely be a great NBA player as his game and body frame suit the NBA game well. He predicted and is quoted as saying, “We will beat Kansas at home, we will beat them away, and we could beat them in Africa.” He has been correct so far in his prediction as Kansas State defeated Kansas 84-75 with Beasley pouring in 25 points, breaking a 24 year home-court losing streak to Kansas. Its not like Kansas is a bad team either, so that was a bold prediction and shows that Beasley can put it all on the floor in the spotlight. Paired with Bill Walker and an aggressive squad of players, watch out for the Wildcats to make a run in March for the championship before Beasley finishes up his first year and hits the NBA path.
Kevin Love, UCLA (17.5 PPG/ 11.1 RPG/ .608 FG%)
The UCLA freshman came into an already great squad with two final four appearances in the last two years. What has Kevin Love been able to add to a great team? Most noticably, rebounding, as he is the second best rebounder in the Pac-10. But what he has done most importantly is bolster the UCLA front court to hopefully get them into the National Championship and come away with a victory. As I mentioned in my NBA draft preview. Kevin Love has an unbelievable talent for pushing the ball up the floor, not on the dribble but with a single outlet pass all the way down the court. Once that ball is gobbled up off the backboard you can expect it to be in the point guard’s hands or in the opposing basket within seconds. Averaging 17.5 PPG and being the top scorer on his team makes him a monster on both ends of the floor. Again, another team to watch for come March with their experience in the past combined with some good young talent.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (20.3 PPG/ 10.2 RPG/ .508 FG%)
Luke Harongody of Notre Dame…. Wait, who the heck is Luke Harongody? I’ll tell you, not only is he a surprise star to NCAA hoops but his Fighting Irish are one of the surprise teams in the country. Holding down the 18 and 20 spots in the country respectively in the AP and ESPN/USA polls, Notre Dame is surpassing expectations. If you have happened to catch a Notre Dame game this year, Harangody is an undersized forward at 6-8 weighing a questionable 250 lbs, but he is the Big East version of Tyler Hansbrough. Instead of being wild and out of control though, he keeps the volume down, but the output is the same, scoring with heart and brute force. Averaging 6.5 free throw attempts a game this year while putting up 10.75 attempts over his past eight games, he capitalizes by shooting his free throws at a clip of .793%. Harangody makes the Irish click and gives all the great 3-point shooters at Notre Dame an inside scorer that they have lacked for many years. The 3-point line is a large factor in the NCAA tournament and if Harangody can keep his production up, they will have a chance to make a solid run in the tournament with him seeing double teams and spreading the floor.
Brook Lopez, Stanford (18.1 PPG/ 7.9 RPG/ 2.1 BPG)
Yes, the athlete superstar who was suspended from the team at the beginning of the year for not attending class. Missing the first 9 games of the season due to the suspension, that will definitely hurt his chances of winning Player of the Year. However, since his return he has led the Cardinals to a 12-2 record while recording 3 double doubles and posting 18.1 PPG. The Cardinals are a slow-it-down team now because both Lopez brothers at 7’ do not move as quick as other 6-8 forwards in the NCAA. This is not to say they are slow, just not as quick, but what Brook Lopez gives up in speed he gives right back in footwork and low post scoring. His back to the basket skill is untouchable and reminds of a more polished and grown Spencer Hawes. Being a seven footer he obviously blocks shots, swatting 2.1 per game, and he leaves the rest for his shot blocking brother Robin. He is a legitimate center and is the best offensive center in the NCAA right now. Paired with his brother down low and a good shooting squad, the Cardinals have a real chance to knock off quality teams in the NCAA tournament and they have an outside chance at the win, a hopeful 3-seed going into the tournament.
This is a great class of players this year in the NCAA with more players to make a case for Player of the Year still with 7-10 games to go before conference tournaments start. One thing I promised myself do in this article is give a shout out to my homie John Heymans who is the 6’4” (and less talented) version of Tyler Hansbrough. He gives his all in practice and in games, even getting knocked out in practice for going so hard. We like to call him “H” but I’m establishing a new nick name: Psycho Horatio!
This article has been submitted by Yung DAP Dave Power.