Why the Wooden Award Isn’t “In The Bag” Just Yet

Tournament time means awards time, and following this weekend we will be one step closer to learning who is still in the running for one of the most coveted awards on the collegiate hoops calendar.

This Saturday, the Wooden Award late season watch list will be trimmed down from 20 players to 15 as part of College Game Day. At this point in the season, we have a pretty good idea of who will survive the list and move closer towards the big event–the unveiling of the Wooden Award winner down in Los Angeles on April 11. However, jumping past the 15-player list marker–a la an article published to ESPN.com this morning–seems a bit premature.

Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky has been a lock for weeks as the No.6 Badgers have continued to roll over pretty much every team that steps in their way. The argument is that the senior has surpassed second-ranked Jalil Okafor from Duke–which is true to an extent–and that he’s a dead-lock to win the award.

Now, let’s take that foot off the gas pedal real quick and remember that the list is comprised of more than two players.  Yes, Kaminsky is the senior stud with all the fixin’s while frosh Okafor isn’t “the guy” in close-game, clutch-y situations.

But to narrow the argument down to thes two and dismiss other award hopefuls is rather silly. No.3-ranked Delon Wright is still very much in the running, and when it is referenced that he played well in Utah’s loss last weekend to Arizona, that should count towards his case for the Wooden, not against it. Speaking of AZ, leaving the Pac-12 bunch out of the mix–such as Wildcat Stanley Johnson and Chasson Randle from Stanford–is a little like turning a blind eye; they might not be Kaminsky but they should not be swept under the rug. And slotting Ohio States D’Angelo Russell as a No.4-5 guy is, while more appropriate, not indicitive of his assisting prowess, or taking into consideration that he could come up huge in the Buckeyes-Badgers duel on Sunday.

Which brings us back to Kaminsky. Both players will be under the microscope, playing a day after the Wooden list cuts. It should add some extra zest to a rivalry game that is already pretty tense.

Sure, we have a pretty good idea of who will survive the list of Wooden Award finalists come Saturday afternoon. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and proclaim that the race is over already.

*Section Photo credit to Ethan Miller, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Gene Sweeney Jr., Getty Images