Five weeks remain in what’s been a ridiculously unpredictable regular season to this point.

Through all the uncertain team results we’ve been able to rely on Buddy Hield, who has been dependably consistent regardless of the opponent or venue. His back-to-back 3s around the four-minute mark Saturday at LSU erased a five-point deficit and gave Oklahoma its first lead since early in the game. Hield, who finished with 32 points on 8 of 15 3-point shooting, remains atop our Naismith Trophy watch list. 

 
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The initial Naismith watch list will be pared to 30 players Feb. 11. The 10 semifinalists will be announced March 2 and four finalists will be revealed on March 20. The winner receives the award on the first weekend of April during the Final Four in Houston.

Each Monday for the remainder of the regular season we’ll publish a nine-man watch list, ranking the favorites to win the award if the season ended today.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (26.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 apg)

Hield’s special shooting not only shines against this season’s crop of Naismith Trophy contenders, it’s also illuminated when compared to the last four guards to win the prestigious award.  

 

PPG

2PFG Pct.

3PFG Pct.

Reb / gm

O-Rating

Buddy Hield (2015-16)

26.2

53.2

52.4

5.9

127.8

Trey Burke (2012-13)

18.6

50.6

38.4

3.2

121.2

Jimmer Fredette (2010-11)

28.9

49.1

39.6

3.4

114.5

J.J. Redick (2005-06)

26.8

52.1

42.1

2.0

120.2

Jameer Nelson (2003-04)

20.6

52.6

39.0

4.7

115.3

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Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (18.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.6 apg)

The leader of the Spartans does not want our pity. Rather, his current focus is leading the Spartans to their 10th Final Four appearance in school history.

Still, in almost any other season, Valentine would be the clear frontrunner for this award. His numbers are so impressive for the 19-4 Spartans they stand up fine next to the 1978-79 campaign produced by the greatest to ever wear the green-and-white in East Lansing, Mr. Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

 

 

PPG

RPG

APG

FG Pct.

3PFG PCt.

FT Pct.

Valentine (2015-16)

18.5

7.7

6.6

46.2

43.2

82.8

Johnson (1978-79)

16.1

7.4

8.2

45.5

n/a

83.1

 

Kris Dunn, Providence (17.4 ppg, 6.9 apg, 6.1 rpg)

The Friars’ point guard is a modern-day Robin Hood on the college basketball court. He steals the ball from the opposition and distributes it to his teammates. For the second consecutive season, Dunn ranks top five nationally in assist percentage -- 45.9 percent of Friars’ baskets -- and steal percentage -- 5.57 percent of opponent’s possessions. The only other player to accomplish this feat since 2004? DeShawn Freeman of Sacramento State, who was fifth in assist rate and first in steal percentage in 2004-05.

After last week, Xavier and Georgetown are well aware of Dunn’s quick hands, impeccable instincts and prodigious playmaking skills. He scooped up 11 steals to go along with 42 points and nine assists as Providence split the pair of Big East battles.

Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa (18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.8 bpg)

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon put rangy forward Jake Layman on Uthoff and kept another defender close by when the Big Ten contenders clashed Thursday night. The game plan worked. Layman and his teammates hounded Uthoff into his worst shooting night (2-for-13) and second-lowest offensive rating (72) this season, as Maryland scored a much-needed victory.

Uthoff rebounded Sunday, knocking down half his field goal attempts and all his free throws in a 23-point, six-rebound, three-block performance.

Remaining on an even keel is a key component of the stretch forward’s success.

Ben Simmons, LSU (19.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.9 apg)

The Tigers narrowly missed a statement victory over No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday, and that outcome sent a shot of sadness through the Naismith Watch, only because with each passing week it becomes clear that we may have a Ben Simmons-less NCAA tournament.

LSU is 6-6 vs. teams in the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and 1-3 vs. the top 50. But there’s hope. LSU is in a three-way tie for second in the SEC (with South Carolina and Kentucky). Finishing ahead of both in the final standings will likely gain the committee’s attention.

Simmons is an elite defensive rebounder, superior passer who draws fouls at a high rate. More than half of his shot attempts occur at the rim, and he finishes at a 76.8 percent clip.

Georges Niang, Iowa State (19.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.1 apg)

Niang is in a 3-point shooting slump. He was 1 of 8 as the Cyclones split games against Kansas and Texas A&M and has missed 10 of 11 over three games.

Otherwise, he continues moving along at an efficient pace against a schedule rated No. 10 most difficult by KenPom. Delving even deeper, the Cyclones collective opponents have an adjusted defensive efficiency of 99.3, which is fourth-best in the nation.

Despite all those clingy defenders, Niang has recorded an offensive rating of 114.4 in Iowa State’s eight games against teams in the top 50 at KenPom. He’s connected on 60.2 percent of 2-pointers as the Cyclones have a 5-3 record in those contests.

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (17.5 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.3 rpg)

Besides ranking in the top 10 in a half-dozen official Big Ten Conference stats, the Hoosiers floor general has been shooting the 3-point shot at a sizzling pace of late. He’s knocked down 20 of 33 (60.6 percent) in the last six games, but not even his 5 of 6 effort at Wisconsin last Tuesday could save Indiana’s winning streak. His 30 points against the Badgers matched a conference game career-high set Dec. 31st, 2013 against Illinois.

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Jakob Poeltl, Utah (17.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg)

After shooting 44 percent from the free throw line last season, Poeltl received help from former Seattle Supersonics center Jack Sikma, who was a teammate of Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and is now a shooting coach.

The changes have taken hold. Poeltl has gone from liability to weapon at the free throw line. In the Utes’ last three games, Poeltl hit 33 of 45 (73.3 percent) to elevate his season percentage to 69.4, making five free throws per game.

That’s not all he’s done well of late. In the Utes last three games he averaged 24.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg on 64.5 pct shooting, helping his squad extend their winning streak to five games.

Brice Johnson, North Carolina (16.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg)

During his four years in Chapel Hill, Johnson has matured from spindly 6-9, 187-pound freshman to a 6-10, 230-pound senior. As he’s grown, his shooting has improved - both from the field and the free throw line - and he’s progressed from being a very good defensive rebounder who snagged around 22 percent of opponents’ misses his first three seasons) to an elite one who gobbles up 31.6 percent. That’s 7.8 defensive rebounds per game, or one every 3.3 minutes.

Yet, Johnson’s most impressive stat is his near perfection at the rim, site of one-third of his attempts per hoop-math.com. Johnson has converted 70 of 75 point blank chances (93.3 percent) to fuel the nation’s third best offense, per KenPom.'

The next nine

Grayson Allen, Duke; Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia; Perry Ellis, Kansas; Jack Gibbs, Davidson; Josh Hart, Villanova; Kevin Punter, Tennessee; Gary Payton II, Oregon State; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga.