Posted: Thursday October 7, 2010 1:21PM ; Updated: Thursday October 7, 2010 6:02PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Naismith Award Watch List long on candidates, but short on star power

Story Highlights

LaceDarius Dunn was suspended after being charged with aggravated assault

Dunn's troubles cloud a class of Naismith candidates with few established stars

Duke's deep talent will make it hard for Kyle Singler to produce eye-opening stats

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LaceDarius Dunn
LaceDarius Dunn's legal troubles may widen what is already shaping up to be a heavily-populated race for the Naismith Award.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The request for my Naismith Award Preseason Watch List came in at 4:08 p.m. Tuesday, give or take 20 minutes after news spread that Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn was suspended, maybe six minutes before we found out he was charged with aggravated assault against his girlfriend, and maybe 40 minutes before her lawyer and family began to do damage control and temper down talk of a second-degree felony. It's not clear yet where the case is going -- the police report says the woman's jaw was fractured; the woman says she doesn't want to press charges -- but it should merit a significant in-season suspension.

How does that relate to the awards watch? Well, there appears to be a paucity of star power in the 2010-11 season, and Dunn is one of the few electrifying scorers -- a lock for any player-of-the year short list. Now he'll have to appear with an ugly asterisk. He has yet to defend or explain himself, but my enthusiasm for watching him has diminished.

In an attempt to be as transparent as possible with the building of the rest of my Naismith list, what follows is the step-by-step process of building up a watch list of 100, and whittling it down to a final 50. The overarching goal is to not leave the eventual Naismith winner off this list, because that would be embarrassing. Due to the nature of college basketball -- a level where players are still developing -- my criteria has combine statistics and speculation about potential.

My preferred method is to build pools of players, starting with the "Untouchables," a group of All-America-candidate upperclassmen that have to be included in the final 50.

Pool One: Obvious, All-America Candidate Upperclassmen Shortlist
Jimmer Fredette 6-2 Sr. G Brigham Young
Jacob Pullen 6-0 Sr. G Kansas State
Kyle Singler 6-8 Sr. F Duke
LaceDarius Dunn* 6-4 Sr. G Baylor
Shelvin Mack 6-3 Jr. G Butler
Kalin Lucas 6-1 Sr. F Michigan State
Nolan Smith 6-2 Sr. G Duke
Corey Fisher 6-1 Sr. G Villanova
Robbie Hummel 6-8 Sr. F Purdue
Marcus Morris 6-9 Jr. F Kansas

And thus the first 10 spots are taken, although Dunn, as previously mentioned, is asterisked due to a possible suspension.

I've listed the above names in a Player-of-the-Year pecking order; although Duke's Kyle Singler is the biggest name to pull out of the NBA draft, the Blue Devils' roster is so loaded that it'll be difficult for him to put up the numbers of a Jimmer Fredette or Jacob Pullen. Those two guards have the offensive ability to wage a solid battle (along with Dunn) for the national scoring title.

The next pool is purely speculative: the small group of freshmen whom I believe are also All-America candidates, and therefore must make the watch list.

Pool Two: Fab Frosh
Harrison Barnes 6-8 Fr. F North Carolina
Kyrie Irving 6-2 Fr. G Duke
Enes Kanter* 6-11 Fr. C Kentucky
Jared Sullinger 6-9 Fr. F Ohio State

That brings my list to 14. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes has the best shot at winning the Naismith, since he'll be the focal point of the Heels' offense, and is more than capable of being a 20-points-per-game scorer. Kyrie Irving could very well lead Duke to its second straight national championship before becoming a lottery pick, and Enes Kanter and Jared Sullinger already have the frames -- and talent -- to be formidable post presences. Kanter needs to be asterisked due to the fact that he may not be deemed eligible by the NCAA.

The third pool is also somewhat speculative: the elite group of sophomores who stayed out of the draft and could blossom into major college stars.

Pool Three: Super Sophs
Derrick Williams 6-8 So. F Arizona
Alec Burks 6-6 So. G Colorado
Elias Harris 6-7 So. F Gonzaga
Kawhi Leonard 6-7 So. F San Diego State
Kenny Boynton 6-2 So. G Florida

They bring my list to 19. I'm especially interested in Arizona's Derrick Williams, who could emerge as the best player in the Pac-10 this season. Alec Burks was a huge sleeper prospect at Colorado who has caught the NBA's attention, and Gonzaga's Elias Harris is currently the top foreign import in college hoops.

The fourth pool is a select group of elite players from outside the BCS conferences, Atlantic 10, Mountain West and Conference USA. It's important to diversify the list with mid-major talents who don't get enough national attention, and these four are worthy:

Pool Four: Obscure, but Elite
Kenneth Faried 6-8 Sr. F Morehead State
Keith Benson 6-11 Sr. C Oakland
Adrian Oliver 6-4 Sr. G San Jose State
Charles Jenkins 6-3 Sr. G Hofstra

They expand my list to 23. Kenneth Faried is really the one to watch here; he's the nation's best overall rebounder (16.2 OR%, 36.7 DR%), and has the chance to become a first-round draft pick despite being relatively hidden in the Ohio Valley Conference.

That leaves us with 27 more spots, a number of which need to go to my second tier of the "Establishment" -- high-quality, major-conference upperclassmen.

Pool Five: Second-Tier Establishment
Malcolm Delaney 6-3 Sr. G Virginia Tech
Jon Leuer 6-10 Sr. F Wisconsin
Klay Thompson 6-6 Jr. G Washington State
Kim English 6-6 Jr. G Missouri
Ashton Gibbs 6-2 Jr. G Pittsburgh
JaJuan Johnson 6-10 Sr. C Purdue
Demetri McCamey 6-3 Sr. G Illinois
E'Twaun Moore 6-4 Sr. G Purdue
Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr. G Connecticut
Isaiah Thomas 5-9 Jr. G Washington
Kevin Anderson 6-0 Sr. G Richmond
Trey Thompkins 6-10 Jr. F Georgia

The 12 players above all have some star power and are capable of putting up numbers at a similar level their peers in Pool 1. They're necessary inclusions. Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, Wisconsin's Jon Leuer and Washington State's Klay Thompson could all very well be their conference's players of the year.

They bring our list to 35, meaning only 15 spots remain. The problem is that I have a massive pool of candidates -- 65 in all -- for those final positions. Here's who's under consideration:

Pool Six: Also Under Consideration -- Upperclassmen
Chris Singleton 6-9 Jr. F Florida State
Cory Higgins 6-5 Sr. G Colorado
Chris Warren 5-10 Sr. G Ole Miss
Talor Battle 6-0 Sr. G Penn State
William Buford 6-5 Jr. G Ohio State
Austin Freeman 6-4 Sr. G Georgetown
Jeremy Hazell 6-5 Sr. G Seton Hall
John Shurna 6-8 Jr. F Northwestern
Lavoy Allen 6-9 Sr. F Temple
Kevin Jones 6-8 Jr. F West Virginia
Tracy Smith 6-8 Sr. F North Carolina State
Jeffery Taylor 6-7 Jr. F Vanderbilt
Kris Joseph 6-7 Jr. F Syracuse
Durrell Summers 6-5 Sr. G Michigan State
Chris Wright 6-1 Sr. G Georgetown
Jimmy Butler 6-7 Sr. G/F Marquette
Scotty Hopson 6-7 Jr. G Tennessee
Tre'Von Willis 6-4 Sr. G UNLV (Suspended)
Randy Culpepper 6-0 Sr. G UTEP
Tu Holloway 6-0 Jr. G Xavier
Chris Wright 6-8 Sr. F Dayton
More: Curtis Kelly, Kansas State; Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb; Tai Wesley, Utah State; Ty Abbott, Arizona State; Joe Trapani, Boston College; Nikola Vucevic, USC; Reggie Jackson, Boston College; Travis Leslie, Georgia; Chandler Parsons, Florida; Orlando Johnson, UC-Santa Barbara; Matt Howard, Butler; Steven Gray, Gonzaga; Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette; Draymond Green, Michigan State; Mike Singletary, Texas Tech; Jeremy Green, Stanford; Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis; Juan Fernandez, Temple; Damian Lillard, Weber State; Dairese Gary, G, New Mexico; Donald Sims, Appalachian State; Damian Saunders, Duquesne; Noah Dahlman, Wofford; Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac
Freshmen
Josh Selby* 6-2 Fr. G Kansas
Perry Jones 6-10 Fr. F Baylor
Brandon Knight 6-3 Fr. G Kentucky
Patric Young 6-9 Fr. F Florida
Will Barton 6-6 Fr. G Memphis
Fab Melo 7-0 Fr. C Syracuse
Jereme Richmond 6-7 Fr. F Illinois
Joe Jackson 6-0 Fr. G Memphis
Terrence Jones 6-8 Fr. F Kentucky
Sophomores
Jordan Hamilton 6-7 So. G/F Texas
John Jenkins 6-4 So. G Vanderbilt
Jordan Williams 6-10 So. F Maryland
Brandon Triche 6-4 So. G Syracuse
Reeves Nelson 6-8 So. F UCLA
Durand Scott 6-3 So. G Miami (Fla.)
Karon Abraham 5-9 So. G Robert Morris
Christian Standhardinger 6-8 So. F Nebraska
John Henson 6-10 So. F North Carolina
Transfers/Previously Ineligible Players
Seth Curry 6-2 So. G Duke
Renardo Sidney 6-10 So. F Mississippi State

How does one go about narrowing down this list? I'll start with the freshmen, including the only two that I feel have a chance to make a Naismith-level impact:

Naismith-level impact -- Freshmen
Josh Selby* 6-2 Fr. G Kansas
Perry Jones 6-10 Fr. F Baylor

The list is now at 37, although Selby needs to be asterisked because he, like Kanter, has yet to be deemed eligible. I think he has a much better shot than Kanter at gaining eligibility, but we're still awaiting word from the NCAA.

Moving on to the upperclassmen, I feel that a talent line can be drawn after the first nine on the "also under consideration list," so I'll include them as well:

Naismith-level impact -- Upperclassmen
Chris Singleton 6-9 Jr. F Florida State
Cory Higgins 6-5 Sr. G Colorado
Chris Warren 5-10 Sr. G Ole Miss
Talor Battle 6-0 Sr. G Penn State
William Buford 6-5 Jr. G Ohio State
Austin Freeman 6-4 Sr. G Georgetown
Jeremy Hazell 6-5 Sr. G Seton Hall
John Shurna 6-8 Jr. F Northwestern
Lavoy Allen 6-9 Sr. F Temple

That brings the list to 46. Four spots remain, but I also need three more provisional picks in case Dunn, Kanter and Selby don't play.

The two players on the transfer/ineligible list from last season aren't going to make the cut. I love Seth Curry, but he may not even start at Duke this year; and Renardo Sidney, although he has loads of potential, has to sit out the first nine games of the season. There's plenty of talent on the remaining list of sophomores, but none seems like a must-include on the final list, so I'll pick exclusively from the upperclassmen:

Naismith-level impact -- Sophomore
Kevin Jones 6-8 Jr. F West Virginia
Kris Joseph 6-7 Jr. F Syracuse
Jeffery Taylor 6-7 Jr. F Vanderbilt
Tracy Smith 6-8 Sr. F North Carolina State
Durrell Summers^ 6-5 Sr. G Michigan State
Jimmy Butler^ 6-7 Sr. G/F Marquette
Chris Wright^ 6-1 Sr. G Georgetown

Past statistics don't necessarily support West Virginia's Kevin Jones, Syracuse's Kris Joseph, or Vandy's Jeffery Taylor, but all three players should grow into major roles for their teams this season after stars departed for the NBA. Tracy Smith has been an underappreciated force on the interior for N.C. State. He earns the last spot before my "provisional group" of (in this order) Durrell Summers, Jimmy Butler and Chris Wright -- quality players who are longer shots for All-America status.

That brings us to the final list of 53, which was e-mailed to the Naismith folks on Thursday morning, and will be a part of the group voting results released in late October or early November:

(The three players with asterisks are potentially ineligible; their fill-ins are marked with ^s)

Naismith Candidates -- Final List
Lavoy Allen 6-9 Sr. F Temple
Kevin Anderson 6-0 Sr. G Richmond
Harrison Barnes 6-8 Fr. F North Carolina
Talor Battle 6-0 Sr. G Penn State
Keith Benson 6-11 Sr. C Oakland
William Buford 6-5 Jr. G Ohio State
Alec Burks 6-6 So. G Colorado
Jimmy Butler^ 6-7 Sr. G/F Marquette
Kenny Boynton 6-2 So. G Florida
Malcolm Delaney 6-3 Sr. G Virginia Tech
LaceDarius Dunn* 6-4 Sr. G Baylor
Kim English 6-6 Jr. G Missouri
Kenneth Faried 6-8 Sr. F Morehead State
Corey Fisher 6-1 Sr. G Villanova
Jimmer Fredette 6-2 Sr. G Brigham Young
Austin Freeman 6-4 Sr. G Georgetown
Ashton Gibbs 6-2 Jr. G Pittsburgh
Elias Harris 6-7 So. F Gonzaga
Jeremy Hazell 6-5 Sr. G Seton Hall
Cory Higgins 6-5 Sr. G Colorado
Robbie Hummel 6-8 Sr. F Purdue
Kyrie Irving 6-2 Fr. G Duke
Charles Jenkins 6-3 Sr. G Hofstra
JaJuan Johnson 6-10 Sr. C Purdue
Kevin Jones 6-8 Jr. F West Virginia
Perry Jones 6-10 Fr. F Baylor
Kris Joseph 6-7 Jr. F Syracuse
Enes Kanter* 6-11 Fr. C Kentucky
Kawhi Leonard 6-7 So. F San Diego State
Jon Leuer 6-10 Sr. F Wisconsin
Kalin Lucas 6-1 Sr. F Michigan State
Shelvin Mack 6-3 Jr. G Butler
Demetri McCamey 6-3 Sr. G Illinois
E'Twaun Moore 6-4 Sr. G Purdue
Marcus Morris 6-9 Jr. F Kansas
Adrian Oliver 6-4 Sr. G San Jose State
Jacob Pullen 6-0 Sr. G Kansas State
Josh Selby* 6-2 Fr. G Kansas
John Shurna 6-8 Jr. F Northwestern
Kyle Singler 6-8 Sr. F Duke
Chris Singleton 6-9 Jr. F Florida State
Nolan Smith 6-2 Sr. G Duke
Tracy Smith 6-8 Sr. F North Carolina State
Jared Sullinger 6-9 Fr. F Ohio State
Durrell Summers^ 6-5 Sr. G Michigan State
Jeffery Taylor 6-7 Jr. F Vanderbilt
Isaiah Thomas 5-9 Jr. G Washington
Trey Thompkins 6-10 Jr. F Georgia
Klay Thompson 6-6 Jr. G Washington State
Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr. G Connecticut
Chris Warren 5-10 Sr. G Ole Miss
Derrick Williams 6-8 So. F Arizona
Chris Wright^ 6-1 Sr. G Georgetown

 
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