As another college basketball season winds down to its penultimate conclusion, the chase for the national championship become that much more apparent as we enter the final full month of competition. Teams are finally entering conference tournaments and with March Madness is right around the corner, conversations surrounding the national player of the year should be just about reaching a mutual point of agreement.
On Wednesday morning, the NCAA announced 10 semifinalists for the Naismith College Player of the Year Award. Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, two Duke Blue Devils that have set the college basketball universe ablaze this year, highlight the list. Ironically, Duke has the most winners of the Naismith Award with seven, and if Coach K’s chances of winning another are quite high considering the success these two have had all season.
Ja Morant, an NBA first-round draft prospect and player widely declared as the best hooper in the nation, also makes an appearance on the list. A natural scorer himself, Morant has averaged 24 points a game while shooting a little under 49 percent.
Other appearances on the list are by Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, a guard that has almost single-handedly reignited optimism for a Boilermakers’ deep postseason run and Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, one of the most efficient two-way big men in the nation. Also on the 10 listed are Marquette’s Markus Howard, who is still the only D1 player in the nation to have multiple 50-point games in a season and Dedric Lawson, the Kansas Power Forward willing his Jayhawks back to what they hope is a shot at consecutive Final Four appearances.
The players finishing out the list are Kentucky’s PJ Washington, who is leading a rejuvenated Wildcats team back into the debate of who is the nation’s best team, Grant Williams who is Tennessee’s leading scorer and, arguably the best and most versatile two-way player in the country and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, who is averaging over 18 points a game while accumulating 7 assists per game as well.
Final announcements to determine this year’s winner will be made at the end of the season. Presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, this award honors both the most outstanding male and female basketball players in the nation and is named after the late James Naismith, the man who many consider being the creator of the sport.
Since Kareem Abdul Jabar was the first male recipient of the award in 1969, 42 college basketball players have earned the honor, with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson being last year’s winner as his Villanova Wildcats won the National Championship over Michigan in 2018.