The College Basketball season is dwindling down. The Final Four is starting on Saturday, and yes, only one of the finalists for the Naismith Award, or the award given to the best college basketball player in the country for the 2016-2017 season.
I will break down every finalists, why they should win the award, why the shouldn’t win the award and finally I’ll give my prediction on who actually will win the award.
Lonzo Ball has had an incredible year for a Freshman at UCLA. Ball put up big numbers averaging 14.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 7.6 apg. For a Freshman and a point guard those are incredible numbers. Ball is already headed to the NBA draft but he is still a favorite to win the award.
Ball will win the award because he is simply one of the best players in the country. Ball led UCLA to a Sweet 16 berth, and single handily put UCLA back on the map. UCLA has always been a powerhouse, but in years past they floundered a little bit. Ball revolutionized and brought excitement back into the program. There aren’t many games you can point to and say “Wow Lonzo really struggled in this game.” He was so consistent all year. His numbers speak for himself and he probably got the most hype from any college player in the country.
Ball won’t win this award because Freshman rarely actually win. There have only been 2 freshman that actually won this award and their names are Kevin Durant (Texas, 2007) and Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2012). Ummmmmm, yeah those are two of the best players in the world right now. If you’re a freshman, you have to duplicate or do better than Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant did in college and that’s pretty impossible. Don’t get me wrong, Lonzo had a great season, but nothing like Durant and Davis.
Nigel Williams Goss
Goss is one of the most underrated players in the country. The Junior from Gonzaga has put his team on his back. Goss originally played 2 years at Washington, decided to transfer to the Zags and became a National Player of the year candidate.
Goss will win this award because of how well he carried Gonzaga this year. Goss was the anchor and the ignition to the Zags first ever appearance in the Final Four. He is heavily underrated even though he averaged 16.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 4.9 apg. Those are really good stats for a player of the year candidate. Also, Goss is the only one on this list that is still playing this season. The rest of the players seasons are over.
Goss won’t win this award because he plays for Gonzaga, and yes that’s garbage but it’s true. Not a lot of people watch Gonzaga basketball, 1) because they’re not in a power 5 conference and 2) they play on the West Coast. Now I’m not saying if he played in a power 5 conference and played on the East Coast he would win the award, but he’s definitely at a major disadvantage for playing at Gonzaga. But he gets the last laugh because he’s playing in the Final Four.
Josh Hart, the only National Champion on this list, as Villanova won the title last year. That has a factor in why Hart will win this award. Hart had major expectations this year to repeat what he did last year and he answered it and excelled. If you’re going to give this award to the best player on the best team, you probably give it to Hart. Yes, Nova lost in the Round of 32 to Wisconsin but that’s because they had a terrible draw. Hart was phenomenal this year, averaging 18.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg. He was the heart and soul for this Wildcats team and lead them to a fantastic year.
Hart won’t win this award because, in truth, he was a little inconsistent for a National Player of the Year. There were too many games this year where you wondered why he didn’t play up to Josh Hart level. There were too many games where he didn’t put up 15 points or more and that could hurt him when it comes down to voting.
Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan was an absolute beast this year. He was definitely one of the most improved players in the country this year. Biggie averaged 18.5 ppg and 12.5 rpg. He is the only one on this list to average a double-double. He carried Purdue to a Big Ten regular season title and led Purdue all the way to the Sweet 16. He became a very good 3 point shooter and dominated down low. On the offensive end, you won’t find anybody much better than Biggie.
The reason Biggie won’t win this award is, he is just not a very complete player. He can score at ease, rebound with no problem, but Biggie has a problem of turning the ball over, making the wrong passes and not playing very good defense. That will hurt his stock in getting vote for National Player of the Year.
Frank “BIFM” Mason III. Mason carried his Jayhawks squad. You can also make the argument that if you were to give this award to the best player on the best team, you give it to Frank as the Jayhawks were definitely one of the best teams in the country, if not the best. Frank Mason had the best season ever in a Kansas uniform. Mason averaged 20.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 5.2 apg. He was absolutely phenomenal. Mason was already awarded the AP Player of the Year. All you had to do was watch one Kansas game and realize why he is the best player in college basketball this year. He was by far the most consistent player in the country and when you have the greatest single season in Kansas Basketball history? That’s pretty damn impressive. Take the Elite 8 loss to Oregon for example.. No one on Kansas could make a shot, except Frank. He scored 15 straight points for the Jayhawks just to keep them in it. I never saw another player carry a team and a program like Frank Mason did this year. His game improved in every aspect and became an absolute legend.
I don’t have a reason why Frank shouldn’t win this award. He was the best player in the country doing it on both ends of the floor.
Ranking the Finalists
- Frank Mason III
- Josh Hart
- Caleb Swanigan
- Lonzo Ball
- Nigel Williams Goss
-all statistics were used from ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.