College Basketball Player of the Year Updated Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/9/2012
Back on Nov. 8 here at Doc’s, my predictions story for the 2011-12 NCAA Basketball Player of the Year was unveiled. It’s time to do a revisit of this story as there is only about a month left in the regular season and Bovada has re-posted updated odds on this college basketball prop.
The preseason favorite was North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes, who had spurned the NBA Draft, at 7/4. Barnes was last season’s ACC Freshman of the Year and really came on in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Heels in 2010-11. It made sense that Barnes was the preseason favorite considering North Carolina was the preseason National Championship favorite and Barnes was the centerpiece of the team.
And Barnes has been good this year, raising his average points per game to 17.7. His rebounds and assists are slightly down but his field-goal percentages (including three-pointers) are both significantly up. But I recommended against Barnes back in November and I still do – he is now down to 18/1. The Heels are still a title contender but have been a bit of a disappointment only in that they have been overshadowed by a few other teams.
My one long-shot pick a few months ago was Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers at 40/1. And Rivers has the signature shot of this season, that stunning three-pointer on Wednesday night to win at North Carolina. You have probably already seen it 10 times on ESPN. Rivers has been very good at times this season, averaging 15.1 points per game, and probably will be the ACC Freshman of the Year. But Rivers has had the typical ups-and-downs of a freshman and isn’t winning this (he’s now at 60/1).
One guy I really liked back then was UConn’s Jeremy Lamb at 19/4. Lamb was brilliant behind Kemba Walker in last season’s NCAA Tournament and was the best player on the U.S. Under-19 national team this summer. I was loving this pick early on as UConn started 5-0 and Lamb averaged close to 23 points in those games. But once the competition level increased, Lamb wasn’t quite as good. In fact, since UConn’s sixth game of the year, Lamb has scored at least 20 points only three times.
And the wheels are coming off the Huskies as they have lost coach Jim Calhoun for an indefinite period and have dropped five of six to fall to the NCAA Tournament bubble. Lamb was a non-factor in Monday’s embarrassing blowout loss at Louisville with just seven points. He’s not winning this award – Lamb is now 30/1.
New at the Top
The current favorite is Kansas forward Thomas Robinson at 3/1. The Jayhawks were supposed to be rebuilding a bit, but thanks to Robinson they are in position for an eighth straight Big 12 regular-season title. Robinson will win Big 12 Player of the Year honors as he is currently the only player in the conference averaging a double-double on the season with 17.8 points and 12 rebounds per game (latter is No. 2 in nation). His 16 double-doubles are the most in the Big 12 and rank second nationally. He had KU’s first 30-point, 20-board game earlier this season since 1961. Robinson wasn’t on Bovada’s preseason odds.
Next is a guy who also wasn’t a betting option in the preseason: Creighton’s Doug McDermott at 4/1. McDermott is third in the nation in scoring at 23.3 points per game and leads a very good Bluejays team in rebounding at 8.4. McDermott is a lock to win Missouri Valley Player of the Year honors, but he won’t be National Player of the Year.
The next favorite is Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger at 5/1 – he was just behind Barnes in the preseason odds. Sullinger has been terrific, averaging 17.4 points and 9.0 rebounds a game for the No. 3 Buckeyes. Sullinger will win Big Ten Player of the Year honors but it doesn’t seem he has been quite as dominant as when he was a freshman – KU’s Robinson has been much more dominant this season (in fairness, OSU is deeper than Kansas so Sullinger doesn’t always have to do as much).
The player I like to win the award is Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis (11/2), who has the longest wingspan I have ever seen. The No. 1 Cats are easily the nation’s most talented team and their interior defense is impenetrable because of Davis’ uncanny ability to block shots. The lanky 6-foot-10, 222-pounder from Chicago leads the country in blocks with 120 (4.8 per game) and ranks seventh in field goal percentage (.660; shooting .806 in past four games).
Davis already has broken Shaquille O’Neal’s SEC freshman record for blocks and has more swats than eight other teams in that conference. Davis also leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.0 ppg), rebounding (10.0 rpg) and steals (38).
The Wildcats are a buzzer-beater loss at Indiana from being unbeaten and are the “it” team this year. Thus, Davis is getting all the media publicity he would need to attract votes for the Player of the Year Award.
The only worry is that freshmen don’t win this award – the only one to do so was Texas’ Kevin Durant in 2007. But things have changed when it comes to freshmen in college basketball. Davis is the choice and then he’s off to make his millions as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
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