Naismith Award Watch
As the end of February fast approaches, players are vying for position for the most coveted award in college basketball. Here are the top five candidates for the Naismith Award.
1. Trae Young Fr. 6’2” Oklahoma 28.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 9.2 apg
The freshman sensation from Oklahoma struggled mightily against Devonte’ Graham and Kansas as he went 3-13 from the floor and scored 11 points. His nine assists looked good, but he coughed the ball up five times and seemed to be disinterested when the Sooners got down big early.
Young has been phenomenal all year as he still leads the nation in points and assists, something that has never been done before in the history of the NCAA. The only problem for him is Oklahoma has lost its six games and needs to get back on track to make the NCAA Tournament. If Young continues to struggle, he might not hold the Naismith at the end of the year.
2. Deandre Ayton Fr. 7’1” Arizona 19.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Ayton entered the season with a ton of hype as the potential number one pick and he’s starting to live up to that hype after his performance against rival Arizona State. His 25-point, 16-rebound performance proved that he was capable of dominating frontcourts that are unable to handle his unique blend of size and skill.
Ayton’s ability to impact the game on the defensive end has grown since the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Arizona has been inconsistent throughout the year, but the play of Ayton could propel the Wildcats to a Pac-12 championship.
3. Jalen Brunson Jr. 6’3” Villanova 19.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.9 apg
With Young stealing all the national headlines for his play, Villanova’s Brunson has flown under the radar. The junior out of Lincolnshire, Illinois leads the Wildcats in points, assists and is shooting 53.7% from the floor, a good number for a perimeter player.
Brunson has been the driving force for the third-ranked Wildcats even with them dealing with injuries to Phil Booth and Jermaine Samuels. The downside of Young has allowed for Brunson to catch up and his ability to get into the paint could see the junior finish ahead of the Oklahoma guard.
4. Marvin Bagley III Fr. 6’11” Duke 21.4 ppg, 11.4 ppg, 1.7 apg
One of nation’s top recruits, Bagley III has proven this year that he is one of the nation’s premier players. The Duke freshman leads the ACC in points and rebounding, which no freshman in ACC history has ever done.
His energy and athleticism have given nightmares for opposing defenses, but his knee sprain on February 8 has halted his momentum as he hasn’t played since the North Carolina game. Bagley III has been a terrific player, but he can only win the Naismith if he plays in the games.
5. Jock Landale Sr. 6’11” St. Mary’s 21.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.1 apg
It seems like every year there is one player from a mid-major conference that does not get the national respect that he deserves. Landale is this year’s example as he leads the West Coast Conference in points, rebounds and field percentage.
He has been one of the nation’s best forwards but does not get recognition for playing in a small conference like the West Coast Conference.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.