With barely more than a month remaining until Selection Sunday (March 13), the nation’s best college basketball players have started to separate themselves from the rest of the field.
As a result, the Wooden Award released its top 20 remaining candidates Wednesday. ESPN College Basketball shared the list:
The Wooden Award was founded in 1976 and is “presented annually to the outstanding collegiate basketball Player of the Year,” per the award’s official website.
While many hold to the popular narrative that freshmen dominate college basketball since the NBA instituted a one-and-done rule that forced the top prospects to be a year removed from high school graduation before entering the draft, the seniors have proved otherwise this season. ESPN College Basketball shared the details with this list:
In fact, four of the past six Wooden Award winners were upperclassmen, per the award’s website:
|2010||Evan Turner||Ohio State||Junior|
Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield is the name that immediately jumps out of the freshly released Top 20. He is the closest thing college hoops has to Stephen Curry in terms of must-watch excitement on the perimeter, and ESPN Stats & Info compared the two playmakers:
Stephen Curry and Buddy Hield are having two of the best shooting seasons in the history of their respective sports pic.twitter.com/CJ5quIUAON— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 11, 2016
Hield is second in the nation with 25.7 points a night and is shooting a ridiculous 50 percent from three-point range, despite the fact he attempts more than eight a contest. The 6’4” guard also averages 5.6 rebounds a game and is shooting 90.2 percent from the charity stripe as the go-to option for the No. 3 Sooners.
He is fresh off a game-winning shot in the final seconds to knock off archrival Texas, as SportsCenter shared:
Buddy Hield hits the game-winning three in the final seconds to lift No. 3 Oklahoma over No. 24 Texas. https://t.co/Gdv7ZAK3Ye— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 9, 2016
The Top 20 list is not all seniors, and LSU freshman Ben Simmons could very well be on his way to becoming the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Coming into Wednesday’s game against South Carolina, Simmons was averaging 19.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, five assists, 1.9 steals and one block a night as a smooth all-around superstar. He also had the Tigers atop the SEC standings at 8-2 before Wednesday’s contest as a team that looks like a dangerous threat with the NCAA tournament approaching.
Louisville’s Damion Lee and SMU’s Nic Moore also stand out because they will not be allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament because of postseason bans at their respective schools.
The Cardinals announced their self-imposed ban Friday, and thoughts immediately turned to graduate transfers Lee and Trey Lewis. Lee transferred to Louisville from Drexel with the hope of finally playing in the Big Dance and said, per Eric Crawford of WDRB in Louisville, “Trey and I were truly devastated. For us to come from where we came from, to put ourselves in this position...once we heard the news.”
Moore is also a senior for the Mustangs and will end his college career in a tournament-less season.
While both would likely trade individual accolades for the opportunity to challenge for a Final Four in March, at least their inclusion in the Wooden Award Top 20 list gives them something more than just pride to play for in the season’s final month.