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The 5 Most Likely Candidates for College Basketball’s National Player of the Year

Player of the Year Candidates

 

College Basketball’s biggest stars spend all season battling with one award in mind, the Naismith Award. Named after the inventor of the sport, basketball’s “Heisman” winners will forever be known for this achievement. It is the type of award that can kick start a career or, define one. Past winners include the likes of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Larry Bird, David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and more recently, Kevin Durant. With conference tournament weekend upon us, five contenders remain, fighting for College Basketball’s ultimate award. Let’s meet our combatants:

Trae Young: Oklahoma

Class: Freshman

Position: Point Guard

Stats: 27.5 pts, 3.9 reb, 8.9 ast, 42.4 fg%, and 36.1 3fg%

Although Trae Young’s prospects at the next level consistently come into question, what doesn’t is how fantastic he has been as a freshman this season for Oklahoma. To lead the nation in scoring for anyone is impressive but, to also lead it in assists is something that has NEVER been done before. Doing all of this as a freshman is simply unimaginable or, at least it was until Young arrived in Norman. The only thing holding Young back from already having the award is his team’s success. A successful Big 12 tournament would all but lock up the award for Sooner Nation’s freshman phenom.

Jalen Brunson: Villanova

Class: Junior

Position: Point Guard

Stats: 19.0 pts, 3.0 reb, 4.8 ast, 52.8 fg%, and 40.5 3fg%

When Jay Wright brought Rick Brunson’s (former NBA player) son into his program, there is no possible way he could’ve predicted the type of career Jalen would have. The younger Brunson plays with phenomenal poise, leadership and of course, skill. He is set to graduate in three years and the only thing more efficient than that is his shooting splits on the court for the Wildcats. Brunson has been the best player on one of the best teams in the country and, a Big East tournament title could solidify his place as the Wildcat’s first Naismith Award winner.

DeAndre Ayton: Arizona

Class: Freshman

Position: Center

Stats: 19.9 pts, 11.4 reb, 1.9 blk, 61.6 fg%, and 34.4 3fg%

The only question about DeAnre Ayton is if there’s anything the superstar center cannot do on a basketball court.  He scores at all three levels, plays fantastic defense, rebounds and even makes his free throws. After a senior season full of questions of his work ethic and lack of improvement in high school, Ayton has absolutely dominated college basketball for the Wildcats. If Ayton’s team can pull off a Pac-12 tournament win, a Naismith Award could join his mantle along with a likely number one selection in this June’s draft.

Devonte’ Graham: Kansas

Class: Senior

Position: Point Guard

Stats: 17.6 pts, 4.0 reb, 7.2 ast, 40.5 fg%, and 42.3 3fg%

When Frank Mason III graduated after last season and left Lawrence with his Naismith Award, many wondered how Devonte’ Graham would handle having his own team. The answer, as he has proven all season, is with ease. The senior lead Kansas to its’ thirteenth straight regular season conference title and, took home the conference player of the year award. Now, Graham and his Jayhawks have their sights set on redemption in March after years of disappointments both in the Big 12 Tournament and, the NCAA tournament.  Redemption in the conference tournament could lead Graham to bring Naismith’s trophy back home.

Trevon Bluiett: Xavier

Class: Senior

Position: Shooting Guard

Stats: 19.4 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.6 ast, 45.2 fg%, and 43.4 3fg%

Chris Mack continued the best run in program history in 2017-18 with undoubtedly the best player he has ever had at Xavier. Trevon Bluiett has had a senior season to remember averaging over 19 points a game while leading Xavier to a regular season conference title. All of this coming off of leading Xavier to their first Elite Eight since 2008 last season. A strong Big East tournament with a little revenge against Nova’ at the Garden, could give Bluiett Xavier’s first ever Naismith award winner.

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