ESPN.com has released their latest Player of the Year straw poll, and not surprisingly, Trey Burke of Michigan is still leading the way.
But all of a sudden, Burke has real competition, and not just for National Player of the Year.
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is making a serious push up the rankings. And deservedly so. Tom Crean’s do-it-all guard has put together just a sensational season, turning himself into not only one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, but also into Indiana’s most dangerous offensive weapon on the perimeter.
Oladipo received 18 of the 51 first place votes, and while that was two behind Burke’s tally of 20, once you factor in Cody Zeller’s two first-place votes — which he got despite not even being the Player of the Year on his own team — this race is getting tighter at the top.
Which is a weird thing to say given the fact that this is as wide-open as I can remember a Player of the Year race being.
Burke and Oladipo are the top two contenders right now, but neither of them have taken the kind of control of the race that Anthony Davis had last season or that the combination of Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker and Nolan Smith had in 2011.
Five other players — Doug McDermott, Kelly Olynyk, Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee and Marcus Smart — received at least one first place vote. The next four on the list — Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Shane Larkin and Erick Green — all deserve heavy consideration for the top three. And there are even a couple of players — Jeff Withey and Deshaun Thomas, to name a few — who didn’t even make the list in this vote.
(Full disclosure: I had a vote, and may ballot went Burke, Oladipo and Smart, but that was submitted before last night’s performance.)
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out, because if Michigan can’t right their ship and if Cody Zeller comes on strong down the stretch, this whole race will get turned on its head.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.