NCAA-Basketball-Odds-and-Picks2014 College Basketball Wooden Award Power Rankings: Week 11: Conference play is heating up, and while several of the top teams have suffered losses in recent weeks, several of the top players have had poor performances along the way. As a result, the battle for the Wooden Award is getting more and more wide open, and new contenders continue to pop up as early frontrunners have fallen off. The trend shows no signs of stopping, and one of the closest battles for the Wooden Award appears to be shaping up. With that in mind, here is a look at the players that have inched ahead of the pack heading into Week 11 of the college basketball season.

1.      Doug McDermott, Power Forward, Creighton Blue Jays

With so many big names from big programs playing inconsistent ball of late, the steady, high-level production from McDermott is becoming increasingly tougher to ignore. He currently ranks second in the country in scoring at 25.0 points per game, and in addition to six games with 30-plus points, he has scored fewer than 19 points only once this season. McDermott also leads the Blue Jays with 7.9 rebounds per game, but it is his amazing offensive numbers that help him stand out. He is shooting 48.9 percent from the field, 90.2 percent from the line and 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers will win a player the Wooden Award in any conference.

2.      DeAndre Kane, Guard, Iowa State Cyclones

The Marshall transfer has blossomed in his first year for the Cyclones, and he has been stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Kane is averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game, and he ranks either first or second on the team in all four categories. He is also shooting a career-best 52.6 percent from the field. More importantly, Iowa State has climbed into the top 10 in the country thanks to a 14-1 start. The bottom line is that Kane has been doing it all for a Cyclones’ team that ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring, and if he keeps approaching triple-doubles while keeping Iowa State in the thick of the Big 12 title fight, the Wooden Award isn’t out of reach.

3.      Keith Appling, Point Guard, Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State has plenty of talent, but Appling’s improvement this year has made him the team’s unsung hero. He is averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding and assists, and his 16.4 points per game rank second on the team. Perhaps more importantly, he is shooting a career-best 50.0 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from beyond the arc while getting to the line a career-high 5.4 times per game. Appling has been running the show for an offense that ranks in the top 25 in scoring and second in assists, and his efficient play has the Spartans looking like legit national title contenders and the favorites in a loaded Big Ten.

4.      Marcus Smart, Point Guard, Oklahoma State Cowboys

While he has cooled off slightly after a scorching start, Smart has still been impressive for a Cowboys team ranked in the top 10 nationally. Smart is averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.6 steals per game, and he is shooting 46.4 percent from the field compared to 40.4 percent as a freshman. Meanwhile, his 7.1 free throw attempts per game are a testament to his combination of strength and speed that makes him nearly impossible to stop when he wants to get to the rim. He can be a bit streaky from beyond the arc, but Smart on any given night, he can score 30-plus points or put up a triple-double. More importantly, the Cowboys have been contenders in the Big 12 since he showed up on campus last season.

5.      Jabari Parker, Forward, Duke Blue Devils

Parker was the frontrunner for the Wooden Award a week or so ago, but a serious rough patch has left him with some work to do. After scoring 19 or more points in 11 of Duke’s first 12 games, Parker has scored 15 points or less in five straight games while shooting less than 40 percent from the field in all five games. By the way, the Blue Devils are just 3-2 during Parker’s rough patch. On the plus side, he is still averaging 18.8 points and 7.3 rebounds for the year and is shooting 48.5 percent from the field. If Parker can get back on track from beyond the arc, his scoring numbers will bounce back and so will his Wooden Award hopes.

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