Of course, you need to be ranked even higher than the top 10 after this tournament to have a chance at AOY. As each event goes into the books, another angler — or two or five — gets eliminated from serious contention. It's a battle of attrition at this point. Everyone starts out even, but as anglers have bad tournaments, they get eliminated — practically, if not mathematically.
From a purely historical perspective, you need to be ranked in the top three in points at the halfway mark to win AOY. That's not a typo — I said the top three. The odds of being outside the top five and winning it are too high to seriously consider.
Looking at the anglers who are in the hunt right now, you have to like VanDam's chances. He's in a good position (third, but essentially tied for second), and he's been here many times before. Can he take down his eighth AOY title, becoming the oldest angler in history to do it at nearly 46? Well, of course he can!
I also like Evers and Scroggins in this race because they've been close before and are in a strong position right now. No one else in the group — other than two-time AOY Gary Klein — has ever finished in the top five before. To me, that labels them as "untested."
Jason Christie is the wild card. He's a "rookie," but he's also very experienced and the hottest angler on the planet right now as he comes off wins on both of the major circuits.
One thing's for sure: a couple of those anglers in the top 10 are going to struggle at West Point and take themselves right out of the AOY race. Watch it happen. We'll get a pretty good idea of who it's going to be at today's weigh-in.