Thursday saw the Naismith Player of the year award shortlist announced. Basically a top 50 preseason collection of who could win player of the year. Here is my (and your) top ten player of the year candidates, and how each of them CAN win it. Again, don’t tell me I have too many teams winning certain accolades, this isn’t a prediction of what will actually happen this year, just what will happen if your favorite wins the player of the year.
- Miles Bridges, Michigan St.:
- Pretty clear why he’s here. He was one of the best players in the NCAA last year and sent shockwaves through the NCAA when he decided to stay. He says he knew he was staying the second Kansas ousted him from the tournament last year. Clearly coming back with something to prove. He’s the first player in almost 20 years to average 16 & 8 and come back for their sophomore season. He’s going to lead the preseason #2 Michigan St. squad under the tutelage of, in my opinion, the best coach in college basketball, Tom Izzo. Bridges will dominate more this year, averaging a borderline double-double and cruise to a Big 10 title with a deep tournament run to the Championship game. Proving to scouts why he could be a top 10, maybe even top 5 pick. He’s 6’7, 230 lbs. and honestly should be playing in the NBA. But don’t complain because he’s coming back with one thing in mind, bring Michigan St. a title, and he’s going to do it averaging 19 points and 9 rebound. That’s why Miles Bridges will be your National Player of the Year.
- Grayson Allen, Duke:
It pains me to put this name on here. It takes a special kind of person to ruin a classic like “Everytime We Touch,” but the Duke captain somehow found a way. Similarly in basketballs’ darkest timeline, he will find a way to take home the Player of the Year award to college basketballs’ evil empire too. Some will say Freshman Marvin Bagley will finish ahead of him, those people would be wrong. Grayson Allen is the glue, the senior leader that holds everything together. Oh, and he’ll do it by averaging 17 points per game too. While surrounded by controversy last year and a dip in production, the new recruits will be breathing life into a Duke program that was upset by a destiny driven South Carolina team. The 6’5 combo guard will return to the form we saw two years ago, and Duke will lean on him during ACC conference play. Allen won’t blink twice and will lead another talented Duke team to the National Championship and make everyone remember why we hate Duke.
- Allonzo Trier, Arizona:
Allonzo Trier is one of the more talented upperclassmen in all of college basketball, but has had some issues away from the hardwood. One of the few cases I can remember of a player being suspended for a steroid violation in the realm of basketball. Regardless, he missed 16 games last season where his team still only lost five games. With Lauri Markkanen now putting the NBA on notice, Trier decided to stay and will be the go to guy on an Arizona team that is still loaded with talent. 18 points and 4.5 rebounds is going to get it done for this team in a PAC-12 that should pose no threat to this squad. Add in the number 3 overall recruit DeAndre Ayton to take some of the heat off of him, Trier shows NBA scouts why he can be a viable option for their team as he makes a final four run for the Wildcats. The 6’5 shooting guard will shoot over 40% from three and run teams out of the building as the leader on the best offense in the country.
- Jalen Brunson, Villinova:
Josh Hart…gone. Kris Jenkins…gone. But Jalen Brunson is still here to hold down the fort. This is not to say he is by himself. Nova will still have plenty of talent to go around, the difference is this year, Brunson will take on a lead role instead of a backseat driver. Maybe the best player hidden in plain sight last season, all eyes will be on him to help Nova get back to March Madness glory. His 15.5 points and 5 assists won’t be the flashiest, but his efficiency doing it will make it clear, like Frank Mason for Kansas the year before, that he is the most valuable player to his team. Villanova will continue to show they run the show in the Big East, and to be honest, it won’t even be that close. The lack of brand names on Nova will help Brunson’s profile especially when he comes through every single time the Wildcats need a big bucket in March.
- Coming for the Crown:
- Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
- The possible number 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Porter is the only player on my list that is, not on a top 25 preseason team and the only freshman in my top ten. A freshman hasn’t won since 2012 when Anthony Davis took it home. Before that Kevin Durrant in 2007. Michael Porter will show why he deserves to be in same sentences as those two. 6’10, 210 lbs. is no joke and he’ll average close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game with a gigantic 30% usage rate for a Missouri team that needs it. Porter will quickly put to rest the doubts lead the Tigers to the most improved win percentage in the NCAA. The entire world will be put on notice when Porter dominates the game in an upset against Kentucky’s future NBA all-stars right before the SEC tournament and cap it off with an improbable elite-8 run. Solidifying him as the number one pick and your National Player of the Year.
- Bonzi Colson, Notre Dame
Last year the Fighting Irish big man led the Notre Dame with some outstanding per game stats. 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and a 43.3 3pt percentage (seriously). This dude is only 6’5. This season it will only get better. V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia may be gone, but Colson will get better. He’ll be teetering on the edge of 18 and 19 points and adding 12 rebounds every night. Notre may struggle a bit at times in the ACC regular season but come tournament time Bonzi will shock the world in a monster game against duke and cut the nets down as ACC champs. After a surprising final four run where Bonzi ups his game to 20 and 13 during the tournament would be hard to argue against the little big man being your Player of the Year winner.
- Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Ethan Happ has come full circle. He went from the young gun supporting veterans like Nigel Hayes, Frank Kaminsky, Bronson Koenig, and Sam Dekker to now the main man. If he is going to win Player of the Year, Happ is going to set the Big Ten on fire this year. While the Badgers may not win the Big 10, Happ will lead them in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. A top ranked defender and a favorite for NABC defensive player of the year (he was ranked 4th in defensive rating last season) and you would expect that to at least stay steady. Happ has even added a new dimension to his game which makes him even scarier. Reports say he has added a midrange and even a 3-point shot to his game. There is a real chance Wisconsin doesn’t finish in the top three in the Big Ten Conference but Happ will lead the Badgers to the Sweet 16 and show the world just how good of a two-way player he is.
- Devonte Graham, Kansas:
Am I really talking about another senior guard from Kansas? Yes, yes I am. And there is a very real chance the Graham will pull this out. He was forced to play third wheel behind last year’s player of the year, Frank Mason and Freshman stud Josh Jackson. This is his team now and will he average a cool 15 points and 7 assists on a Kansas team that could spend a lot of time at the number one spot in the country. It would be the first time Kansas has pulled off back to back award winners shout out Drew Gooden and Nick Collison (Not consensus POTY). Graham will help Kansas stay on top and lead them to a net cutting late into march. While not the sexiest of picks, Graham’s poise and leadership will make the most sense to be Player of the Year.
- Trevon Blueitt, Xavier
Similar to Xavier’s in the tournament, Blueitt is one of the strongest sleepers on this list. He’s going to average a solid 16 points per game plus, whether or not he wins Player of the Year and lead Xavier to being the biggest challenger to Villanova as Big East Champs. In the world where Blueitt walks away with the Player of the Year, Xavier will do just that. He will topple the Big East favorite and average 19 points, 6 boards and 4 assists over the season. With the core of an elite-8 team back, Xavier makes its way to the final four where Blueitt averages over 20 points a game.
- Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
There is a lot that must happen for Angel Delgado to make the leap to Player of the Year. While he will continue to struggle with certain areas of his game, namely free throws and turnovers, he will more than make up for it by leading the league in rebounding for the second year in a row. Seton Hall will turn the Big East on its head by winning the regular season title over Villanova AND Xavier, and Delgado will no longer be ignored. He will dominate the low block averaging 16 points and 14 rebounds. Taller and bigger than anyone on Nova, they won’t stand a chance and Seton Hall will win the Big East Tournament too. After a successful run as a 2 seed in March Madness, Delgado will declare for the draft as a lottery pick, with a Player of the Year trophy to show for it
- There you have it. Your top ten and ten different, very possible timelines where they win Player of the Year. And while I appreciate you reading, none of the previous 1500 words matter. Why? Two WordsJustin Jackson, Maryland
- No, this has nothing to do with me being a University of Maryland alum. I swear. This is just what is going to happen. Justin Jackson is going to shock the world. 6’7, 220 lbs. on a team where he is clearly THE guy. He will jump up to 16 points per game, 8 rebounds, and shoot above 50% from the field. The Terps may not win the regular season, but they finish in second ahead of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern. They sneak their way into the Big Ten Championship game and just when everyone thinks Miles Bridges is surely going to dominate. Jackson will shine in front of the rest of the country at the Mecca of basketball. In front of the MSG crowd, he wins the Big Ten Tourney for the Terps and does the one thing my parents told me not to do growing up. He burns Bridges.