October 03, 2011
Among the players left off last season's Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 were Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough, Atlantic 10 player of the year Tu Holloway and NBA first-round pick Kenneth Faried.
The omissions on this year's newly released list don't appear quite so glaring, but there are definitely a few players who could make the committee feel foolish by March.
Here's my list of the five biggest snubs from this year's 50-man preseason watch list. And remember that unlike the Naismith Award, incoming freshmen are ineligible for the Wooden Award's preseason list.
1. Terrence Ross, F, Washington
With Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning all having graduated, Washington will need a new primary scorer. Enter Ross, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who averaged 15.3 points per game in the Pac-10 tournament last season and had 19 points and six rebounds in the Huskies' NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina. Ross' ability to draw fouls at the rim needs to improve, but he's a versatile scorer with a smooth stroke and a quick first step to the basket.
2. Rodney McGruder, G, Kansas State
Comment: Overshadowed by the scoring of dynamic guard Jacob Pullen and the erratic play of enigmatic big man Curtis Kelly, Rodney McGruder quietly excelled last season in a supporting role. The athletic 6-foot-4 junior will have the chance to improve on last year's 11.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 40.8 percent three-point shooting as the centerpiece of Kansas State's revamped offense next season.
3. Kyle Weems, F, Missouri State
Comment: All the well-deserved hype Creighton's Doug McDermott received this offseason makes it easy to forget that he's not the Missouri Valley Conference's reigning player of the year. That honor went to Weems, who averaged 16.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shots in leading Missouri State to the regular season conference title as a junior. It will be tough for Missouri State to achieve those same heights as a team after losing four starters and its head coach, but Weems is respected enough that Kansas, Kansas State, Oregon and Cal each tried to woo him away this past spring.
4. Jason Clark, G, Georgetown
Comment: After taking a backseat to Austin Freeman and Chris Wright in Georgetown's quality backcourt the past two years, Clark appears primed for a breakout senior season as the perimeter complement to forwards Hollis Thompson, Otto Porter and Nate Lubbick. The key will be whether his three-point shooting elevates back toward the 42.4 percent he made as a sophomore or remains at the pedestrian 34.7 percent he shot last season.
5. Yancy Gates, F, Cincinnati
Comment: It's no coincidence that Cincinnati solidified its place in the NCAA tournament last February just as Gates began to tap into his immense potential. The previously erratic 6-foot-9 senior averaged 16 points in Cincinnati's last nine regular season games and scored in double figures in all nine of those games. Projecting a significant leap from Gates is risky since he has produced similar numbers in all three seasons at Cincinnati, but if he can build on that late-season stretch, he has the talent to be as good as any big man in the Big East.
Others worthy of consideration: Kyle Casey (Harvard); Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's), Ryan Kelly (Duke), Doron Lamb (Kentucky) DeAndre Kane (Marshall); Mike Scott (Virginia); Malcolm Grant (Miami); Arsalan Kazemi (Rice); Kevin Foster (Santa Clara)