2016 Naismith Trophy: Full List of Finalists Announced

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - MARCH 18:  Buddy Hield #24 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts in the second half while taking on the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 18, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The four finalists for the 2016 Naismith Trophy, given to the top player in men's college basketball, were announced Sunday, courtesy of NCAA.com's Brian Mull

Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine, Kentucky's Tyler Ulis and Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon were selected out of a pool of 10 semifinalists. 

Few players have made a bigger impact on the offensive end of the court than Hield. 

All the senior did this season was average 25.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for Oklahoma, leading the team to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Only James Daniel of Howard University scored more points per game (27.1) than Hield in 2015-16.

Of course, few players made a bigger impact in every facet of the game than Valentine.

The Michigan State star and senior averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds this season, leading the Spartans to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. They were upset in the opening round by Middle Tennessee, though Valentine contributed 13 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in the loss. 

He became the first player since the NCAA began tabulating assists as an official statistic in 1983-84 to average 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in a season, per the Wooden Award (via ESPN's Jay Bilas).

When asked what he would say to Valentine after his career ended with the first-round loss, coach Tom Izzo was emotional in his response, per Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports:

Thank you, I love you man. Did everything you could do for me. He gave… some people give the program, some people give the team. He gave the program, the team, the university, the city. He gave us everything we could ask in every way, shape, and form. I may be in it a long time, and never have another Denzel. That's what I said to Denzel.

Kentucky point guard Ulis couldn't lead the Wildcats to the second weekend in the NCAA tournament, but he nonetheless did his part this season, averaging 17.3 points, 7.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The diminutive point guard played big all season and was named the SEC Player of the Year and SEC tournament's Most Valuable Player.

As for Brogdon, he isn't one of the bigger names on the list, but he certainly has the game to warrant his place among the finalists. The Virginia senior and ACC Defensive Player of the Year did it on both ends of the court, averaging 18.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while leading the Cavaliers to the Sweet 16.

In a season marked by parity, it's tough to pick a front-runner out of the four finalists. One factor may be the upcoming tournament games, as a big performance or two may be enough for one player to separate himself from the pack.

Nonetheless, it would be hard to argue with any of the four finalists ultimately being the winner. Nobody in college basketball rose above the rest, though that's in part because so many players were truly excellent in 2015-16.


Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.

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