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KU's Joel Embiid, Wichita State's Fred VanVleet shafted by Wooden watch list


I box my ears and make the motor-boat sound every time someone gripes about an athlete being excluded from a Hall of Fame, mid-season watch list, etc., without first making room for him or her by citing who deserves to be removed. Don’t just say who belongs, say who doesn’t, then I’ll unbox my ears and stop motor-boating.

The Wooden Award released its 25-man mid-season watch list and in general did a nice job with it.

There were two egregious omissions, however. It’s time to take one out, put one in, take another out, put another in to call attention to the deserving dissed duo.

Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, just about every announcer’s favorite point guard, hustles his way to big defensive plays, crashes into basket standards, scorer’s tables, etc. According to what teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. once told me, Craft steals more than the basketball.

“I’ve seen him steal so many souls out there on the court,” Smith said two years ago, the day before Kansas faced Ohio State in a national semifinal.

OK, but he hasn’t been one of the 25 top players in the nation in the first half of his senior season.

Craft doesn’t keep defenders honest enough with his three-point shooting, which can lead to extra attention being paid to the Buckeyes’ big men. Unlike most college basketball players, Craft’s three-point shooting touch gets worse by the year: .377, .359, .300, .286.

Craft’s solid 2-to-1 assists/turnover ratio pales in comparison to that of Fred VanVleet, sophomore point guard for undefeated Wichita State. VanVleet has a 4.4 ratio, slightly more rebounds and assists than Craft, higher shooting percentages overall, on three-pointers and from the line. Craft has a slight edge in steals.

Ohio State has lost four in a row. VanVleet has been the Shockers’ best clutch performer.
Kansas basketball fans don’t need another reason to resent Missouri star Jordan Clarkson.

First, he plays for Missouri. Second, he didn’t give Danny Manning a chance to talk him into staying at Tulsa when Manning took his first job as a head coach. Clarkson transferred to Missouri and ranks second on the Tigers with an 18.7 scoring average. His free-throw touch (.804) made the trip from Tulsa, but his three-point shooting (.281) did not.

After a loss to Georgia, Clarkson’s coach, Frank Haith, said: “Jordan’s got to pass the ball more.”

Exit Clarkson, enter Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. Compare what Clarkson’s coach said about him to what Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said about KU's stellar center: “I think Embiid’s the best player in the country.”

The nice thing about mid-season watch lists: It helps the folks making them correct their mistakes by the time the next one is released.

The Wooden Award 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.


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