On Wednesday, the NCAA revealed its 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy, which is given to the top men's college basketball player in the nation.
Here is the full list of candidates, courtesy of NCAA.com:
|2016 Naismith Trophy Semifinalists|
|Brice Johnson||North Carolina||Senior|
|Denzel Valentine||Michigan State||Senior|
The list will be whittled down to four players March 20 before a winner is selected during the Final Four on April 3.
This year's crop of semifinalists appears to be strong on paper, but it can be argued that Oklahoma's Buddy Hield is the favorite, thanks to his scoring average of 25.3 points per game.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Bahamas native has been a dominant force in the Big 12 this season for one of the nation's top teams:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Buddy Hield has his Big 12-leading 13th game this season with at least 20 points and 5 rebounds. It’s not even halftime.2/27/2016, 7:54:36 PM
It is far from a runaway, though, as essentially every player on the list has a fairly strong case for why he should be considered for the award.
There is a significant veteran presence, with five seniors and one junior, while just one freshman made the cut—LSU's Ben Simmons.
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It may be tough for Simmons to become the first freshman to win the award since Kentucky's Anthony Davis in 2012, given LSU's inconsistency as a team, but he has been remarkable from an individual perspective, with 19.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per contest.
According to SportsCenter, no major conference player has more double-doubles than Simmons during the 2015-16 campaign:
Ben Simmons posts his 21st double-double of the season leading all major conference players in that category. https://t.co/b19Z6YgBa73/2/2016, 3:57:22 AM
The remainder of the regular season and the conference tournaments could change the Naismith landscape significantly, and there is still plenty of time for any of the semifinalists to emerge as a clear front-runner.
Parity has been the theme of this college basketball season from a team perspective, but based on the competitiveness of the Naismith race, that can be said about the top players as well.
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