I have already stated my case for Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette for national player of the year, though we all know he doesn't have a realistic chance to win.
If nothing else, I will never have to buy a non-alcoholic or non-caffeinated drink should I ever visit Provo, Utah. Such was the excitement from Cougars fans that somebody recognized their hero outside the Rocky Mountain region.
So now that the time has come to fill out my ballot for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-America team, Fredette obviously gets one of the five spots. The junior guard is averaging 20.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 30.4 minutes a game for a team that is 27-4. Fredette also continues to be all over the Pomeroy tempo-free statistics leader board as he is 13th in fouls called per 40 minutes (1.4), 21st in percentage of possessions (31.0), 60th in offensive rating (121.5), 68th in assist rate (31.0), 69th in true shooting percentage (62.1) and 81st in percentage of shots (30.6)
Next on my list is Ohio State junior forward Evan Turner, the favorite to win player of the year. Turner missed a month early the season when he suffered a broken bone in his lower back yet has put up a 19.5/9.4/5.8/34.5 line while ranking fifth in percentage of possessions (34.2), sixth in assist rate (38.7), 29th in defensive rebounding percentage (25.1) and 87th in percentage of shots (30.4). Throw in that the Buckeyes have also clinched a share of the Big Ten title and it only enhances Turner's resume.
John Wall, Kentucky's fabulous freshman, deserves a spot on the team as he one-and-dones his way on to the NBA. Wall is a big reason why the Wildcats are 28-2 in John Calipari's first season as he is averaging 17.1/4.0/6.0/34.7. Though he only is in the top 100 in one tempo-free stat as his 32.8 assist rate is 42nd, the buzz he has brought to Lexington is undeniable.
Kansas, in this humble observer's estimation, is the best team in the country even if the 28-2 Jayhawks do not sit atop the national polls. Senior guard Sherron Collins' statistics aren't gaudy with a 15.4/2.0/4.3/32.9 line but he is Kansas' leader and the best team deserves representation on the All-America team.
My final pick came down to Oklahoma State's James Anderson, Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins, Syracuse's Wesley Johnson, Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and Duke's Jon Scheyer. After much deliberation, I decided to go with Scheyer as the senior guard ranks sixth in offensive rating (129.9), 18th in percentage of minutes (91.1) and has 18.8/3.4/5.1/36.5 averages for the 25-5 Blue Devils.
And for the second team: Anderson, Cousins, Johnson, Reynolds and Notre Dame's Luke Harangody.
Purdue Moves On Without Hummel
Purdue suffered a huge blow to its dream of playing in a Final Four less than an hour away from West Lafayette when junior forward Robbie Hummel suffered a season-ending knee injury nine days ago during a victory at Minnesota. Yet Purdue (25-4, 13-4) is still in position to win a share of the Big Ten title Saturday when it finishes the regular season at Penn State (11-18, 3-14). Ohio State (24-7, 14-4) has clinched a share and Michigan State (23-7, 13-4) can also grab its part when it hosts Michigan (14-15, 7-10) on Sunday.
Purdue also continues to have its sights set higher than just part of a regular-season conference championship. The Boilermakers have not given on the idea of cutting down the nets in Indianapolis, even without Hummel, who averaged 15.7/6.9/ 2.1/30.3 this season while ranking 11th in the nation in turnover rate (8.7) and 44th in offensive rating (123.7).
"You can't make excuses and you can't just give up," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "It's life. Things happen at times that aren't fair. Why are we any different than anyone else? Everyone else is going to have to step up and make and plays. We have guys very capable of doing that."
Junior guard E'Twaun Moore has a 16.9/3.5/2.9/31.0 line and his 30.2 percentage of shots ranks 90th in the nation, illustrating his importance to Purdue's offense. Junior center JaJuan Johnson is averaging 14.7/7.2/0.7/31.0
"I've always believed you fit your players into your defensive system but you tailor your offensive system according to the strengths and weaknesses of your players," Painter said. "We don't have an offense that is centered on one player. We still have two players to circle the wagons around in E'Twaun and JaJuan, though other guys are going to have to definitely pick it up without going outside the box and doing things that aren't capable of doing. Where I think we're really going to miss Robbie is with rebounding. Losing him leaves us a little thin on the front line."
Pac-10 Hoping for a Second NCAA Bid
The Pacific-10's chances of getting a second team into the NCAA Tournament took a hit last Saturday when California convincingly kept sole possession of first place and won a share of the conference championship with a 62-46 home victory over second-place Arizona State. It seems the Pac-10's best shot at gaining multiple berths is by someone other than the Golden Bears winning the conference tournament or Arizona State managing to finish in a tie for first.
California (20-9, 12-5) can clinch the title outright by winning at Stanford (13-16, 7-10) on Saturday. Arizona State (21-9, 11-6) can get a share of the championship only if it beats UCLA (13-15, 8-8) on Saturday and California loses.
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek won't even venture a guess on how his conference will fare on Selection Sunday.
"I am not in the case-making business, to be honest with you," he said. "I do believe that our league is a great better now than it was at the beginning of the year and probably much better than we are perceived nationally. But having said that, I think the committee is going to have a challenging job because there is so much balance and parity around the country."
MAC Title on the Line
One of the biggest mid-major games of the season will be played tonight when Kent State visits next-door neighbor and archrival Akron with the Mid-American Conference regular-season championship on the line. Both teams are 22-8 overall and 12-3 in the MAC, the game is a sellout.
"As a player, it doesn't get more fun than this," Zips junior guard Steve McNees told the Akron Beacon-Journal's Tom Gaffney. "Both us and Kent have put ourselves in position to play for this. It should be fun and intense. It should be rockin'."
Kent State won this season's first meeting 87-70 at home on Jan. 23 in a 71-possession game as Justin Greene had 25 effective points and 13 rebounds. Akron got 13 effective points each from Chris McKnight and Nikola Cyetinovic.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic 10 race is also coming down to the season's finale weekend, though there is no dramatic head-to-head matchup like in the MAC. Temple and Xavier are both 13-2 while Richmond is 12-3 and still has faint hopes of winning a tri-championship. All three play Saturday as Temple (25-5) hosts George Washington (16-12, 6-9), Xavier (22-7) is at home against St Bonaventure (14-14, 7-8) and Richmond (23-7) visits Charlotte (19-10, 9-6).
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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