Naismith Trophy

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Brian Mull | | January 27, 2016

College basketball: 9 to watch in 2016 Naismith Trophy race

  Could a guard -- like Providence's Kris Dunn -- take back the Naismith this year?

College basketball is often called a guard’s game, however, forwards and centers have dominated the Naismith Trophy in recent seasons.

Including 2015 winner Frank Kaminsky, a college star at Wisconsin and first-round pick of the Charlotte Hornets, five of the last eight recipients did most of their damage under the boards. While Kaminsky and 2014 winner Doug McDermott also possessed a perimeter punch, Naismith honorees such as Tyler Hansbrough (2008) and Anthony Davis (2012) lived exclusively in the lane.

Taller players have also fared well. Going back to 2005, eight of the last 11 winners were at least 6-foot-8, although Kevin Durant (2007) and Evan Turner (2010) were positionless.

There’s a heavy dose of guards on this week’s list, with new additions representing the ACC.    

The initial 50-man watch list was released earlier this month.

The list will be pared to 30 players on Feb. 11th, 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 during the regular season we’ll publish a nine-man watch list, ranking the favorites to win the award if the season ended today.

The usual candidates will land here, although this list could fluctuate wildly from week-to-week, especially early in the season when performances and level of competition vary from game-to-game. We’ll concentrate on production rather than reputation, aim to rank the players based on their consistency, offensive efficiency and overall contributions to helping their teams win games.  

9. Sheldon McClellan, Miami (16.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard is averaging double figures scoring for the fourth consecutive season, but he’s become incredibly efficient in his second year with the Hurricanes. McClellan has connected on 61.5 percent of 2-pointers, 54.8 percent of 3-pointers and 87.8 percent of free throws to produce the nation’s best offensive rating (147.1). High percentage shots like this one have helped Miami open the season with an 8-1 record and earn consideration as an ACC contender.

Watch: vs. College of Charleston, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3)

8. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (16.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.8 apg)

The Hoosiers have struggled to a 104.1 defensive rating, but Ferrell at least helps in that regard (100.1). Still, his real value is on the offensive end. He’s second in the nation in win shares (2.5), and poured in a career-high 38 points last week in Indiana’s romp over IPFW. That total was four points shy of the Assembly Hall record.

Watch: vs. Notre Dame, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)

7. Marcus Paige, North Carolina (17.7 ppg, 4.0 apg)

The sample size is small (three games), yet watch the smooth lefthanded senior operate and it’s obvious he’s worthy of inclusion on any list of the nation’s best players. The lone knock on Paige is that he probably needs to be more assertive if the Tar Heels hope to reach their ultimate goal. His usage percentage of 21.5 is third among UNC starters. He’s 9 of 16 on 3-pointers, though and commits a turnover on only 8.4 percent of possessions -- which would rank him among the national leaders if he had enough minutes to qualify.

Watch: vs. UCLA, 1 p.m. Saturday (CBS)

6. Jakob Poeltl, Utah (20.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg)

Credit sharp Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall for devising a terrific defensive game plan to harass Poeltl on Saturday. Despite being the tallest player on the floor, the 7-foot Poeltl had season lows in field goal attempts (five) and points (11) along with a season-high four turnovers in a 67-50 Shockers’ victory. It’s the lone blemish on a super sophomore campaign for Poeltl -- who hit four of those shots -- and is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage (.698) with a 38.0 player efficiency rating.



Efficiency Rating

John Brown, High Point


Jakob Poeltl, Utah


DeSean Murray, Presbyterian


Chris Cokley, UAB


Josh Scott, Colorado


Watch: vs. Duke, noon Saturday (ESPN)

5. Grayson Allen, Duke (21.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

The Blue Devils did not play last week due to exams, but Allen’s torrid start brings to mind the amazing senior season another Duke guard, J.J. Redick, compiled en route to winning the 2006 Naismith Trophy. Allen is more athletic and considered a better driver, while Redick is perceived as the superior shooter. But the numbers reveal more about these two 6-foot-4 wings who engineered the offense for Mike Krzyzewski.










Allen 15-16









Redick 05-06









Watch: vs. Utah, Noon Saturday (ESPN)

4. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (22.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

After a one-week absence, the senior guard shot his way back up these rankings on the strength of two terrific games for Oklahoma, which is No. 2 in the Pomeroy Ratings, and leads the nation in 3-point shooting (48.0 percent).  Hield was 8 of 16 from 3-point range and 10 of 10 at the free throw line in convincing victories over Villanova and Oral Roberts. At 6-foot-4, he’s also a valuable perimeter defender (85.0 defensive rating).

Watch: vs. Creighton, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU)

3. Kris Dunn, Providence (16.8 ppg, 6.9 apg, 6.1 rpg, 3.4 spg)

The nation’s best point guard has a great story, but this wasn’t one of his best weeks. A stomach bug sent him to the locker room for the second half of the Friars’ win over Boston College and kept him out all together in their win over Bryant. An illness that will pass isn’t enough to knock him from his perch in the top tier of the Naismith race. The Friars are 10-1 and it’s hard to imagine just where they’d be without Dunn running the offense and hounding opposing ballhandlers.

Watch: vs. Rider, 8 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports Network)

2. Ben Simmons, LSU (19.0 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 5.9 apg)

It’s hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy for the affable 6-10 forward, who surely expected to contend for championships. Things are not working out as planned. The Fighting Tigers (or is it Bayou Bengals?) lost in overtime at Houston on Sunday to fall to 4-4. Simmons only took seven shots in the game (fifth-most on the team), although he did record his sixth double-double (13 points, 14 rebounds) and maintain his spot as national rebounding leader.

Watch: vs. Gardner-Webb, 7 p.m. Wednesday (SEC Network)

1.Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (18.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 7.2 apg)

The smooth 6-5 guard continues putting together a season unlike any in recent memory. He took a slight step backward last week, producing only 1.01 points per possession in wins over Florida and Maryland-Eastern Shore. He hit only 6 of 18 behind-the-arc in those games. His season stacks up favorably to other perimeter-oriented players who won the Naismith recently.




Off. Rating

eFG pct.

Asst. rate

Valentine, 15-16





Burke, 12-13





Fredette, 10-11





Durant, 06-07






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