A year ago, Victor Oladipo finished second in the Wooden Award voting at the end of the season despite not appearing on the 25-man midseason watch list.
It's possible another player might follow in the Indiana star's path this season because the Wooden Award midseason list again omitted a few very strong candidates.
The most high-profile snub is Kansas freshman Joel Embiid, the chief catalyst behind the Jayhawks' ascendance to the top of the Big 12 standings and the NBA prospect rising fastest up mock drafts the past few weeks. Embiid headlines my list below of the four best players left off the midseason list.
1. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (11.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks): His stats may not leap off the page like other Wooden Award contenders, but Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg didn't label Embiid the best player in college basketball for nothing. Not only does the 7 footer protect the rim better than any big man in the nation, his footwork, post moves and passing ability on offense are improving every day. He had 13 points, 11 boards and eight blocks in a win against Oklahoma State last Saturday.
2. Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan (18.8 points, 3.8 assists, 44.0 3P%): Merely an elite spot-up shooter as a freshman, Stauskas has blossomed into a far more complete offensive player as a sophomore. He has showcased the ability to create off the dribble both for himself and his teammates, a critical development for Michigan with Mitch McGary out for the season with a back injury, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the NBA and Glenn Robinson III not quite ready to assume the role of go-to scorer.
3. Gary Harris, G, Michigan State (18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals): What makes Harris a potential All-American candidate and lottery pick is that he can score from every part of the floor. He can catch-and-shoot, sink a pull-up mid-range jumper or finish through contact in the paint. An ankle injury sidelined Harris for three non-league games, but he has scored 19 or more in six of his nine games since then. That includes his 24-point performance against hometown Indiana on Tuesday night with Adreian Payne sidelined and Keith Appling nursing a sore wrist.
4. Xavier Thames, G, San Diego State (17.0 points, 2.6 assists, 46.7 3P%): It was a foregone conclusion San Diego State would boast an elite defense this season, but the question was whether the Aztecs could generate enough offense to contend in the Mountain West. Enter Thames, who has bounced back from an injury-plagued junior season and has emerged as the elite shooter and scorer San Diego State desperately needed. The result is the Aztecs are ranked in the top 10 and are the clear favorite to win the Mountain West.
Here's a look at the full list of 25 players who did make the Wooden Award midseason watch list:
- Kyle Anderson, UCLA
- Keith Appling, Michigan State
- Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
- Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
- Aaron Craft, Ohio State
- Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
- Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
- Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
- C.J. Fair, Syracuse
- Aaron Gordon, Arizona
- Rodney Hood, Duke
- Nick Johnson, Arizona
- DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
- Doug McDermott, Creighton
- Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
- Jabari Parker, Duke
- Adreian Payne, Michigan State
- Casey Prather, Florida
- Julius Randle, Kentucky
- Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
- Russ Smith, Louisville
- T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
- Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
- Chaz Williams, Massachusetts
- Joseph Young, Oregon