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March 28, 2007

One man's Wooden Award Ballot

The final Wooden Award ballot has been in the hands of voters for a few weeks now.

It is composed of 22 players nine seniors, nine juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen (click here for the full list). It's only the second time in Wooden Award history that freshmen have appeared. The first was North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough a year ago.

The guys who follow him have been two of the biggest stories all season, Texas' Kevin Durant and Ohio State's Greg Oden. There's an excellent chance one will become the first to win one of college basketball's top honor.

They were 1-2 on my ballot.

I waited until the last day to fill out my ballot (I did it online on Monday) because I place great importance on postseason play. To the credit of my 1,000-plus fellow voters, only three of the 22 finalists for the Wooden Award played on teams that didn't make the NCAA Tournament. I cast a vote for just one of the three.

You won't find any Florida Gators on my ballot. While they very well may become the first team to repeat as national champion since Duke in 1992, no one individual stood out enough to me. The Gator I believe had the best season, Al Horford, didn't make the list of finalists. Teammates Taurean Green, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer did.

Here is my ballot for the 2007 Wooden Award and why I voted the way I did:

Rivals.com Basketball Editor Bob McClellan's Wooden Award ballot
1. Kevin Durant, Fr., F, Texas
The kid was sensational from start to finish. You've seen the stats. Everyone knew he was the guy you had to stop to beat Texas, and still no one could. He had 69 points in two games against Kansas. He posted 20 double-doubles and - more importantly - gave the Longhorns a chance to win every time out, no matter whom they were playing.
2. Greg Oden, Fr., C, Ohio State
He led the Big Ten in rebounding, blocked shots and field-goal percentage, and he did it at less than 100 percent after preseason wrist surgery. He also helped the Buckeyes reach the Final Four. His scoring average (15.4 ppg) might look modest, but it in no way measures his overall impact. He single-handedly made scoring against the Buckeyes a nightmare.
3. Acie Law IV, Sr., G, Texas A&M
He led the Aggies in scoring and assists and pushed them to a 27-7 mark. They finished second in the Big 12 to Kansas and battled the Jayhawks to the wire. Law was at his best on the run, penetrating defenses and getting to the basket or dropping it off for teammates. He had a 21-point, 15-assist effort in a 100-82 victory over Texas.
4. Chris Lofton, Jr., G, Tennessee
My reasoning for having Lofton so high is this: With the exception of Durant, no player meant as much to his team as the Vols sharpshooter. He led the SEC in scoring at 20.8 ppg, and he shot 48 percent - including 42 percent from 3-point range. He doesn't need a lot of room to get off a shot, and he's in range when he crosses the state line.
5. Tyler Hansbrough, So., F, North Carolina
How can you not love his work ethic? He led the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding, and he punished other centers with his strength and sheer desire. In four NCAA Tournament games he got to the free-throw line a jaw-dropping 42 times. That means he's not only scoring plenty, but he's getting opponents in foul trouble. He's invaluable.
6. Alando Tucker, Sr., F, Wisconsin
The Big Ten Player of the Year was a rock for the Badgers. This was not a high-scoring team, but Tucker got his every night. He scored in double figures in all 36 of Wisconsin's games at had at least 14 points in 32 of them. Not bad when you consider the Big Ten had six teams (not counting UW) ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense.
7. Aaron Brooks, Sr., G, Oregon
I'll admit it: I got caught up in his incredible string of clutch shots during the midseason. Then I watched him in the NCAA Tournament. He put on quite a show against Florida, riddling the Gators for 27 points. Then I checked his numbers again: 17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg. For a 6-foot guard the rebounding average seals him a spot on my ballot.
8. Arron Afflalo, Jr., G, UCLA
The Pac-10 Player of the Year is the go-to guy on a Final Four team, so he deserves some credit. He had his worst game of the season in a first-round ouster in the Pac-10 tournament (three points on 1-of-7 shooting), but he manned up against Kansas in the West Regional final with 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting.
9. Al Thornton, Sr., F, Florida State
The guy is simply explosive. He had a 30-point, 16-rebound performance at Virginia, and he followed that with 23 and 15 at Maryland. That's a pair of NCAA teams. It was in the midst of a stretch in which he scored 20 or more points in 12 of 16 games, including dropping 45 on Miami. If only his team had reached the NCAA Tournament.
10. Drew Neitzel, Jr., G, Michigan State
To look at him you'd be hard-pressed to believe he'd go early in a pickup game at the local rec center. Then he puts it on the floor or comes off a screen and is launching left-handed jumpers from all kinds of crazy angles. Among his 18.1 ppg were 53 in a pair of matchups against top-ranked Ohio State and 50 in two games against Wisconsin.

The 22 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate basketball player (listed alphabetically):
Arron Afflalo, 6-5 Jr. G UCLA A.J. Graves, 6-1 Jr. G Butler Drew Neitzel, 6-0 Jr. G Mich.St.
Mario Boggan, 6-7 Sr. F/C OKSt. Aaron Gray, 7-0 Sr. C Pittsburgh Joakim Noah, 6-11 Jr. F/C Fla.
Corey Brewer, 6-9 Jr. F Florida Taurean Green, 6-0 Jr. G Florida Greg Oden, 7-0 Fr. C Ohio State
Aaron Brooks, 6-0 Sr. G Oregon Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9 So. F UNC Brandon Rush, 6-6 So. G Kan.
Glen Davis, 6-9 Jr. F LSU Jarrius Jackson, 6-2 Sr. G TTU Sean Singletary, 6-0 Jr. G Uva
Jared Dudley, 6-7 Sr. F B.C. Acie Law, 6-3 Sr. G Texas A&M Al Thornton, 6-8 Sr. F FSU
Kevin Durant, 6-9 Fr. G/F Texas Chris Lofton, 6-2 Jr. G Tennessee Alando Tucker, 6-6 Sr. F Wisc.
Nick Fazekas, 6-11 Sr. F Nevada

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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