Has there been anyone better than Duke's Mason Plumlee in college basketball this year? The short answer—no.
Plumlee has been making a case for National Player of the Year honors since the beginning of the season, and he deserves to take home the hardware.
Coming off being named the United States Basketball Writers' Association's National Player of the Week last week, Plumlee continues to show just how dominant he is at this level.
As the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week, Plumlee was nominated for the weekly award, which was chosen by a representative of the USBWA board of directors from a list of Division I conference players of the week. Plumlee, a 6-11 forward from Warsaw, Ind., averaged 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks while leading the Blue Devils to conference wins over N.C. State and Boston College. For the week, he was 15-22 (.682) from the field and 19-26 (.731) from the free throw line in the two games.
These are not unheard of numbers for Plumlee. He is averaging 17.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 blocks per game on the season, despite playing against some of the best big men in the country.
However, Plumlee is not considered the favorite for NPoY honors. As of Feb. 7, he ranked just third in ESPN's straw poll behind Michigan's Trey Burke and Creighton's Doug McDermott.
While Burke and McDermott are both making strong cases as well, Plumlee should have an edge at this point.
Burke leads the field with his 18.6 points, 6.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. However, his numbers and Plumlee's numbers are not that far apart, and Burke has been much less efficient, shooting just 48.9 percent from the floor compared to Plumlee's 59.5 percent.
McDermott sits at No. 2, but he may be riding some of his momentum from last year, when he was a finalist for Player of the Year. This season, he is averaging the same number of points (22.9), rebounding less (7.8) and shooting nearly five percent worse from the field (55.4).
McDermott might have the edge on Plumlee by a handful of points, but Mason tops McDermott in almost every other major category.
However, what really sets Plumlee apart is that he is getting very little help from his teammates inside. He has become a one-man frontcourt since Ryan Kelly got hurt, and we've frequently seen him as the only big man in a four-guard lineup.
Opposing teams typically put two guys on Plumlee, but he still manages to press on and average a double-double (one of just four players in the six major conferences to do so).
Burke has help in the backcourt in the form of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas, while McDermott has 15 teammates to help him out. Plumlee, however, is currently the only healthy big man who consistently makes an impact.
You can definitely make a case for Burke or McDermott, but when you take into account how often Plumlee has to do it all by himself, you can see why he is deserving of National Player of the Year.
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