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Athlon takes a conference-by-conference look at the top players
By Mitch Light
Athlon Sports is in the business of preseason prognostications, so let’s look back at who we tabbed as the preseason Player of the Year in the nation’s top conferences and who deserves the award in the postseason.
Preseason Pick: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Postseason Pick: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Barnes has been very good as a sophomore, and Virginia’s Mike Scott has been great as a senior, but Zeller has been the most impactful player in the league. The senior center is averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds and has been a force on defense for the Tar Heels. Barnes and point guard Kendall Marshall make more headlines for UNC, but Zeller has been the team’s best player.
Preseason Pick: Tu Holloway, Xavier
Postseason Pick: Ramon Moore, Temple
A senior guard from Philadelphia, Moore has been superb in his final season with the Owls. He is second in the A-10 in scoring at 17.8 points per game and is also chipping in 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per night. Moore is part of a senior class that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. St. Bonaventure big man Andew Nicholson was a close second.
Preseason Pick: Perry Jones III, Baylor
Postseason Pick: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
A role player last season as a sophomore on a star-studded Kansas roster, Robinson emerged this season as arguably the finest player in the nation. The 6'9", 247-pound power forward is averaging 18.0 points and a Big-12-best 11.9 rebounds for a Jayhawk team that won its eighth straight league championship.
Preseason Pick: Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
Postseason Pick: Jae Crowder, Marquette
West Virginia’s Kevin Jones was outstanding as a senior, but the nod goes to Crowder, whose team had a better season. The former junior college transfer is the heart & soul of the Golden Eagles, who finished in second place in the league standings. He averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting .512 from the field and .361 from 3-point range.
Preseason Pick: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Postseason Pick: Draymond Green, Michigan State
Sullinger has been very good for the Buckeyes, but Green might be the most valuable player in the country. He has been very productive on the court (16.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.5 apg), and has also provided great senior leadership for a Michigan State program that had some chemistry issues last season.
Preseason Pick: Drew Gordon, New Mexico
Postseason Pick: Drew Gordon, New Mexico
This came down to San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin and a pair of transfers from UCLA, Gordon and Mike Moser of UNLV. Gordon gets the nod for his strong play late in the year. In a four-day stretch in mid-February, he averaged 22.0 points and 18.5 rebounds as the Lobos beat MWC rivals San Diego State (by 10 points) and UNLV (by 20). Then, on the final Saturday of the regular season, Gordon scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds in a win over Air Force.
Preseason Pick: Josh Smith, UCLA
Postseason Pick: Jorge Gutierrez, CaliforniaHis stats won’t overwhelm you (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg), but Gutierrez is one of the best all-around players in college basketball. Known more for his defense earlier in his career, Gutierrez has developed into a more-than-adequate offensive weapon for the Bears, who are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.
Preseason Pick: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Postseason Pick: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis has been productive on offense as a freshman (14.4 ppg), but he has done his best work on the defensive end of the court. He leads the nation in blocked shots (4.7 bpg) and has altered countless others. He is the primary reason why Kentucky is the most feared defensive team in the nation.