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Keegan Murray, Oscar Tshiebwe Headline 2022 Naismith Men's POY Award Finalists

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMarch 22, 2022

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the finalists for the 2022 Naismith Trophy men's college basketball player of the year on Tuesday.

  • Ochai Agbaji, G, Kansas
  • Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin
  • Keegan Murray, F, Iowa
  • Oscar Tshiebwe, F, Kentucky

The winner will be announced April 3.

Although the Naismith Trophy race hasn't featured a clear favorite for most of the 2021-22 season, Tshiebwe seemed to put himself at the forefront of the discussion with his dominance in the post.

The Kentucky standout, who transferred from West Virginia, averaged 17.4 points, 15.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 60.6 percent from the field in 34 games. He also recorded 28 double-doubles.

"The things that he's doing hadn't been done for 50 years," UK head coach John Calipari told reporters last week.

Tshiebwe's season came to an unexpected end when the Wildcats were shocked by 15th-seeded Saint Peter's in the first round of the NCAA tournament, though. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise terrific junior campaign.

All three of the other finalists were also standouts in their own right, though Murray likely has the best chance to beat out Tshiebwe for one of college basketball's biggest honors.

Iowa's sophomore forward transformed from a little-used reserve last season to one of the nation's most important players. He averaged 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.9 threes, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals across 35 appearances.

If it was a most valuable player award, he'd likely be the frontrunner because no player was more vital to his team's success. He recorded 22 single-game MVPs, according to KenPom, which is three more than any other player (Fresno State's Orlando Robinson, 19).

Like Tshiebwe, however, Murray's quest to help the Haweyes capture a national title came to a premature end with an upset loss to Richmond in the first round.

Among the finalists, Agbaji is the only one whose team is still active in the NCAA tournament as Kansas reached the Sweet 16 with wins over Texas Southern and Creighton.

Davis and Wisconsin were upset in the second round by Iowa State.

Fans will have a say in the award's winner with a vote taking place on the Naismith Trophy's website between Tuesday and March 29, which accounts for five percent of the final tally.

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