Even though the season is over, there are still some awards to give out. The NCAA announced the five finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, and it’s a talented five, to say the least.
It will be hard to pick a winner, but let’s take a look at who the favorite is.
Finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year
The Naismith Player of the Year Award is giving out to the best player in college basketball. The first award was given out in 1969 and expanded to female players in 1983. This year, five of the NCAA’s best players will have a chance to call themselves the best player in college basketball. Here are the five finalists.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
Coming off a freshman year in which he was crowned Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year, the sophomore forward was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year this season, becoming the first Dayton player to win the award. Now, he has an opportunity to add another award to his impressive resume. Toppin was the only player in the country to average 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and shot 63.3 percent from the field. The 6’9 forward also recorded 107 dunks and 234 rebounds this season.
Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
The big man from Kansas led the Division I in field goal percentage at 74.8 percent. Azubuike finished with a career average of 74.4 percent, which broke the all-time Division I record, which was held by Tacko Fall (74.0 percent). Azubuike helped lead Kansas to a No.1 ranking going into the end of the season, and he led the Big 12 in rebounding (10.5 rpg) and double-doubles (15).
Luka Garza, Iowa
Garza was Iowa’s best player throughout the season, averaging 23.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. His 740 points this season broke the Iowa record for most points in a single season. The 6’11 center became the first Iowa player to win the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Myles Powell, Seton Hall
The Big East Player of the Year finished second in the conference in scoring at 20.9 ppg. Powell was the leader on that Seton Hall team for the last two seniors, and he did not disappoint in his final year. Powell led his team to a 21-9 record during his senior year.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon
The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Player of the Year was the heart and soul of that team. The 6’2 guard started in 140 straight games for Oregon, which led the nation. He is the only player in conference history with more than 1,900 career points, 600 career assists, and 500 career rebounds.
A tough decision
Looking at each player, there’s not a clear favorite. Last year Zion Williamson was everyone’s pick to win the award. But this year it’s a different story.
It will be a hard decision, but whoever wins the award earned it. If you take a look at each player and look at the career they had at their respected schools, you will see that they had a huge impact. All five of these players can play at the next level, and you might see most of their names called in the upcoming draft.
But, there’s only one award, and someone has to win it.
The favorite to win the Naismith Player of the Year
Looking at the numbers and what each player did for their team, Obi Toppin is the frontrunner. Here you have a player at a mid-major school who helped them reach a top-three ranking at the end of the season.
Toppin was a fan favorite at the beginning of the season and continued to show why he was one of the best players in the country throughout the college season. His physical presence on the court does not go unnoticed, and he can score, rebound, and defend at a high level. It’s a shame that the NCAA had to cancel the tournament because Dayton could have made a run to the Final Four.
His game will translate well into the NBA, and he will only get better as he works on his game. Looking at his college stats and what he did at Dayton, it won’t be a surprise if he does win the award.