No. 2 options can help Wooden favorites take their teams to No. 1
Even in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, Robin made an appearance in the third act. Heroes need their sidekicks, and the same is true in college basketball. Great players can take their teams deep into the NCAA tournament, but not without significant help from their friends. Since we've already established that Doug McDermott is walking away with every postseason player of the year award -- including the Wooden -- here's a look at the sidekick that will help each Wooden candidate try to cut down the nets.
After Doug McDermott and his 26 points per game, the second-leading scorer for the Bluejays is Ethan Wragge with 11.2. That's the biggest disparity of any duo on this list, and it isn't surprising. McDermott is Creighton's most used (32.6 percent of the team's possessions) and most effective offensive weapon (123.5 offensive rating, second in the country). But every once in a while, say while he's being quintuple-teamed, McDermott needs to pass. When he does, he can kick it out to #wraggebombs, who has the highest effective field goal percentage in the country and is connecting on nearly 50 percent of his three-pointers. Devin Brooks actually has a higher offensive rating and is more used than Wragge, but he's yet to show the consistency that a superstar needs from his sidekick.
Outside of C.J. Fair for Tyler Ennis, Rodney Hood may be the best sidekick on this list. When Parker went through his mini-slump in early January, shooting 30 percent from the floor and scoring just 42 points in a four-game stretch, Hood stepped up. Duke lost two of those four games (at Notre Dame and at Clemson), but it wasn't for a lack of effort on Hood's part: He shot 59.6 percent from the floor and scored 22.8 point per game. As a freshman at Mississippi State two years ago, Hood was primarily a jump shooter, but in his first season since transferring to Durham he's shown the ability to get into the lane and shoot short floaters this season. If the Blue Devils need someone to score and Parker is unavailable or ineffective, Hood is an excellent second option.
Smith is Louisville's leading scorer, but his passing is the reason he's climbed this list and it's what the Cardinals miss most when he leaves the floor. Smith not only leads the team with 4.5 assists per game, he ranks third among Wooden candidates in assist rate at 30.7.
Smith can't do everything by himself, though, so when Louisville needs a basket inside or a rebound its best option is Montrezl Harrell. At 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Harrell is the Cardinals' second-leading scorer (13.7 points per game) and leading rebounder (8.2 boards per game). He actually has a higher offensive rating and true shooting percentage than Smith, but that's because he takes fewer long-range shots, going just 2-for-3 from beyond the arc this season.
Nick Johnson has the best group of complementary players of any person on this list. Should his sidekick be underrated fab freshman Aaron Gordon? Ken Pomeroy ranks him ninth among his player of the year candidates, making Arizona the only team with two guys on that list. Should his sidekick be Kaleb Tarczewski? The 7-footer is the Wildcats' leading rebounder.
Both players are viable options, but let's go with the man who would also be the leading candidate as Johnson's real-life sidekick. McConnell is the purest point guard Sean Miller has had at Arizona, and his 5.5 assists per game are good for 30th in the nation. McConnell averages just 8.4 points per game, but his ability to distribute the ball to the many Wildcats who can score will be critical if Johnson is shut down in a tournament game.
Cincinnati has thrived this season in part because Jackson has been the perfect complement to Kilpatrick on offense. Kilpatrick, whose game relies heavily on mid-range jump shots, benefits from the paint presence of Jackson, who is most effective around the rim. The biggest drawback of Jackson's game is his proclivity for fouls. Although he is averaging one fewer foul per 40 minutes played compared to last season (5.5 to 4.5), he has a tendency to get in trouble early. In the Bearcats' loss to Louisville, he picked up two in the first few minutes and wasn't able to play for much of the first half. But when Jackson is on the court, there is no doubt he is Cincinnati's No. 2 option.
6. Shabazz Napier, UConn
Sidekick: None listed
Every player in the trio that was supposed to revive UConn basketball this season is averaging double-digit points: Napier (17.8), Ryan Boatright (12.4) and DeAndre Daniels (12.3). But only Napier is living up to expectations. Daniels is the most likely of the three to get a look in the NBA, but at 6-9, he's been outrebounded all season by "6-1" Napier. Napier also leads UConn in assists and steals per game. To put it plainly: It's possible that Daniels or Boatright could step up and help UConn win a tournament game, but this team is only going as far as Shabazz Napier can carry it.
7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Sidekick: C.J. Fair
It's doubtful that C.J. Fair would appreciate being labeled a sidekick. Based on the raw numbers, he'd have an argument to be listed here in place of Ennis: Fair averages 4.2 more points and 2.7 more rebounds per game than Ennis. But although Fair uses a higher percentage of Syracuse's possessions (26.2% to 21.9%), their effective field goal rates are within a decimal of each other, Ennis' true shooting percentage is higher, and he dominates Fair in assist rate, steal percentage and free-throw rate. The fact that both players are battling for this spot on the list bodes well for Syracuse, even amid its recent struggles.
First, about Brogdon, because this is his first appearance in the top 10 of Wooden Watch: Virginia's defense is the reason it is has an outright ACC championship for the first time in 33 years, but the Cavaliers' offensive balance is underrated. The Cavs are 31st in the country in offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com. Brogdon, who leads the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game and shoots better than 90 percent from the line and nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, is the centerpiece of that offense. He uses the highest percentage of minutes with the highest offensive rating on the team, and his game-winner at then-No. 18 Pittsburgh gave Virginia its first win over a top 25 team.
Picking a sidekick is tricky: Six players (Brogdon, Harris, Justin Anderson, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and Darion Atkins) use between 20 and 24 percent of the Cavs' possessions, and five players take between 19 and 24.4 percent of the team's shots. In other words, almost anyone could be Brogdon's backup during any given game. Harris takes the top spot here because he has the highest offensive rating of any of his competition.
Thames was No. 3 on this list last week, but he has dropped because of a serious five-game offensive slump starting in SDSU's loss to Wyoming and through its win against San Jose State. During that time, Thames shot 12-of-56 (21 percent) and scored just 45 points. Winston Shepard uses a higher percentage of possessions than Thames -- or any other teammate -- but he is a less effective scorer than Polee, Thames and even role players like Josh Davis and J.J. O'Brien. Polee only uses 23.3 percent of SDSU's possessions, but his effective field goal rate is tops on the team, and his true shooting percentage is second only to Thames. Without a solid second option, San Diego State could be in trouble if Thames' play dips in the tournament.
First, let us praise whatever sidekick helped Cameron Bairstow escape Australia alive. Even swimming in the ocean is a bad idea Down Under, unless you like box jellyfish (Will Smith does not), cone snails (which have a detachable, poisonous tooth) and stone fish (which are covered in poisonous needles). And land is no better -- even the plants are trying to kill you. Since arriving safely in the United States, Bairstow has developed his own killer instinct: Among players on this list who use 28 percent or more of their team's possessions, Bairstow ranks second to McDermott in offensive efficiency. And Kendall Williams has an even higher offensive rating than Bairstow. That duo combines to score 37.2 points per game, or 49.4 percent of New Mexico's average.