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Harding deserves NPOY for contributions to Duke

In women's basketball this year, there is no need to even have a conversation over the sport's most prestigious honor.

Put simply, the National Player of the Year award should be given to the best player on the best team in the country.

And this season, Lindsey Harding is clearly that person.

The senior has led Duke to its first perfect regular season in school history, while leading the team in points and assists. And the ACC's two-time Defensive Player of the Year has gotten it done on the other end of the court again this season as well.

The Blue Devils have gone 10-0 against ranked teams, including a record of 5-0 against teams ranked in the nation's top six. And on the biggest stage, Harding has played her best basketball, proving her resiliency, leadership and toughness.

She eclipsed the 20-point plateau in Duke's win at Tennessee and established new career highs in points in both games against defending national champion Maryland. In the Blue Devils' two victories over North Carolina, not only did Harding score at least 15 points, but she also combined to hand out 10 assists, while turning the ball over just twice. To top it all off, Harding has also averaged more than six rebounds in those five games despite being the shortest player on the Blue Devil roster.

When the Blue Devils have needed a basket, Harding has demonstrated an incredible ability to either create her own shot or find one of her teammates for an open look. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the country better at that this year.

On the defensive end, Harding has routinely shut down some of the nation's best guards, including UNC's All-American Ivory Latta, who combined to shoot 9-for-37 in her two games against Duke this year.

Harding's superb play has earned her the praise of her opponents, who have tried to devise ways to stop the lightning-quick guard-only to fall short.

"If Lindsey Harding isn't player of the year, I don't know who will be," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said after Harding scored 29 points in Duke's 69-57 victory at the Comcast Center. "She has stepped up big against every opponent they have played. We had a game plan to contain her, but she did a tremendous job."

Some might argue that Tennessee sophomore Candace Parker is more talented than Harding and has put up more impressive statistics. This may be true.

But it doesn't account for Harding's intangibles. She took a team that had lost three seniors and began the preseason ranked sixth, and led it to its best regular season in school history in the toughest conference in America and a (nearly) unanimous No. 1 ranking.

In a year like this one, when one team clearly separates itself from the rest of the country as the nation's best, choosing a national player of the year is easy. There should be no debate-Harding is the NPOY.

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