Top Candidates for Wooden Award
With the NCAA tournament reaching the Final Four, 10 finalists were announced for this year’s John R. Wooden Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding college basketball player.
Similar to the March Madness field pared down to the semifinalists, this article lists only the top three players out of the entire field who are most worthy of the Wooden Award.
Interesting to note that the SportsBetting.ag Sportsbook listed North Carolina's Bryce Johnson as the favorite with +220 odds to win the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award but he is not listed among the top three of the Wooden Award. That's because the Wooden Award takes into account the total body of work during the season matched with the postseason exploits.
Here are the top three challengers for the award:
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon burst onto the scene last season as one of the nation’s best two-way players, winning ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year award and helping establish the Cavaliers as a premier defensive teams. Brogdon continued to improve this season, averaging 18.2 points and 4.1 rebounds while helping lead Virginia to one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Brogdon’s strong campaign helped him earn the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and the ACC Player of the Year award; he become a consensus First-Team All-American and received his third consecutive First-Team All-ACC selection. Brogdon also became the first player in ACC history to be the League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. He played a major part in Virginia’s success over the last couple of years.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Michigan State's Denzel Valentine is named AP Player of the Year, edging out Buddy Hield by 3 votes. pic.twitter.com/qfmFDg4BKD— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 31, 2016
In his senior season, Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine had the best all-around collegiate campaign in quite some time. He averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists, which made him the first player to notch those numbers since assists began being tracked officially in the 1983-84 season. Valentine was a force this season, scoring 20-plus points on 12 occasions and dishing out 10 or more assists nine times while hauling in 10 or more rebounds six times. In total, he had 14 double-doubles and five triple-doubles this season. Valentine’s importance to Michigan State goes far beyond the numbers as he was their unquestioned leader and the focal point of the team on both ends of the court, which helped them become one of the best teams in the country.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Following his surprising decision to return for his senior season, Buddy Hield has put together an impressive year, experiencing a significant improvement in production with career highs across the board. He’s averaged 25.4 points on 50.4 percent shooting, including 46.5 percent from three-point range, along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Hield is the best scorer in the country this season, notching 30 points 12 times, including a career-high 46 points in a 109-106 overtime loss to Kansas. He has been a major factor for the Sooners being one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks to Hield, they are in the Final Four with a chance to win the school’s first national championship. Overall, Hield’s huge improvements in his senior season makes him the obvious choice as the frontrunner to win the Wooden award.
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