Be leery – very, very leery – of
any preseason Player of the Year candidates’ list you come across that is topped
by anything but the following name:
The 6-foot-11 junior at the
Florida wasn’t the best player in the
country last regular season – Brandon Roy of the University of
Washington was, although Duke’s J.J. Redick bagged all of the POY
hardware, including the John R. Wooden Award.
Heck, Noah wasn’t even the
Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year last season. That honor went to
another prime 2007 National POY candidate, Glen Davis of LSU.
But from March 1 on, there wasn’t
anyone – Redick, Roy . . . take your choice – who was any better than
*The Gators were 11-0 in that
stretch, including victories over South
Carolina and UCLA in the Southeastern Conference
Tournament final and NCAA championship game, respectively.
*Noah averaged 16.5 points, 9.5
rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3.3 blocked shots per game.
*And in regional and Final Four
victories over Georgetown,
Villanova, George Mason and the Bruins, respectively, those averages read 16.0,
10.5, 1.5 and 5.0.
Had he been so inclined, Noah
almost certainly would have been the first choice in June’s NBA
Instead, his presence – and that of
Billy Donovan’s other starters from
last season, forwards Al Horford and
Corey Brewer, and guards Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey – makes
the Gators solid favorites to become the first program to win back to back
national titles since Duke did the trick in 1991-92.
And the impact – as a rebounder and
defender, a scorer (even minus anything remotely resembling a fluid jump shot)
and passer/ball handler – that Noah is expected to have on each game he plays
this season makes him the POY frontrunner.
Who has the best opportunity to
overtake Noah in POY balloting come March?
Here we go . . .
*Tyler Hansbrough (6-8 ½, So.,
Why he could be POY: He was the
consensus national Freshman of the Year (18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game)
and turned in some dazzling performances in nationally televised
And the Tar Heels are the guys
given the best chance at keeping
Florida from repeating as the
Strong performances in games
State (especially if Greg Oden is
healthy and in the lineup for the Buckeyes) on Nov. 29 and Kentucky three days
later could level the POY playing field with Noah – as could productive efforts
in Atlantic Coast Conference battles with Duke.
What could hurt his chances: This is
also something that could hamper Noah’s chances – there is so much talent around him.
Senior forward Reyshawn Terry is one of the most
underrated players in the country (if it’s possible to play at one of three or
four most high profile programs in America and still be considered “underrated”)
and some talent evaluators like him even better than Hansbrough as an NBA
It’s possible that Terry and even
freshmen such as Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright might steal
some of Hansbrough’s national thunder because they are so good themselves – even
if Hansbrough has improved as much over last season as we probably can expect he
*Glen Davis (6-8, Jr., LSU)
Why he could be POY: “Big Baby” (who
looked in July like he’d shed 30-plus pounds of that Big Baby fat he lugged
around during his first two seasons with the Tigers) was the Southeastern
Conference’s Player of the Year and helped his John Brady’s club get to the
That, in itself, makes for a pretty
slick preseason POY resume.
He might be the most gregarious
player in the country and, with the things he does at his bulk while playing on
the perimeter and handling the basketball, might leave more of an impact on
voters’ minds than might, for example, the almost machine-like precision of
Hansbrough around the basket.
And, even outside of SEC play,
there will be no shortage of games that will garner attention in which
Davis could pick up POY support:
Wichita State (Nov. 25),
Texas A&M (Dec. 5),
Texas (Dec. 10),
Washington (Dec. 20) and
Connecticut (Jan. 6).
By the way . . . pencil this game
under the “can’t miss watching it” category:
Florida at LSU (Feb.
What could hurt his chances: Minus Darrel Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas, it’s possible that the
Tigers will not be nearly as solid a team as they were last season.
How much did the presence of Thomas
(now with the Chicago Bulls) keep teams from collapsing around
Rounding out the Top 10 POY
*From the Big East: Dominic James (5-11,
So., Marquette), Jeff Green (6-9,
Jr., Georgetown) and Aaron Gray (7-0, Sr.,
Pittsburgh): James has a chance to
be considered the top point guard in the country by the end of the season. If he
plays like it, and Marquette is
ranked in the Top 10-15 range all season, James will make a POY push. Green
doesn’t figure to have the kind of stats that James and Gray will collect but
could be the front-runner for conference POY.
*From the Big Ten: Alando Tucker (6-5,
Sr., Wisconsin) and Greg Oden (7-0, Fr.,
Tucker is the top returnee in the
conference and plays for a team that will be a consensus preseason Top 10. He
could be a 20 point-plus per game scorer as well. Oden’s POY chances will depend
on how quickly he recovers from his wrist surgery of June. If he is healthy and
demonstrating (say, by his team’s game with North
Carolina on Nov. 29) very early on why he is the most
hyped freshman in a marvelous national freshmen class, there could be a
groundswell movement for his candidacy.
*Two more guards: Ronald Steele (6-3,
Jr., Alabama) and Arron Afflalo (6-5, Jr., UCLA): For the
time being, Steele is our choice as the top point guard in the country. And he’s
playing on a team that has definite Final Four potential – which can’t hurt, can
it? Some might wonder about Afflalo’s effectiveness, minus Jordan Farmar (now with the Los Angeles Lakers). They shouldn’t. Darren
Collison should help make the Bruins even more effective in transition and
Afflalo, the best all-around player in the Pac 10, will be even more dangerous
because of it.
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is
also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at
email@example.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at