Want to give the author direct feedback? Follow @pippenain on Twitter for more insight.
After a long season, we are finally arriving to March Madness. Through the season, multiple stars such as Zion Williamson, Cassius Winston, and others have caught our attention. With that, here are 5 candidates for the NCAA Player of the Year award:
1. Zion Williamson, Duke (22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 69.3% FG%)
Duke held their head above water with the help of R.J. Barrett, but went 4-3 in games Williamson missed. When Williamson returned to the ACC quarterfinals, he went 13/13 from the field with a line of 29/14 in a win over UNC.
Earning the ACC Tourney Most Outstanding Player Award, Williamson averaged 27/10 on a blistering 77% from the field (33/43). The only downfall for Williamson included his 57% from the free throw line. Outside of that hiccup, Williamson is a large factor in why Duke is the #1 seed heading into March Madness.
2. Cassius Winston, Michigan State (19.0 points, 7.5 assists, 40.8% 3P%)
Although Zion Williamson holds a commanding lead, Cassius Winston has had an amazing year for Michigan State. During the course of the campaign, the Spartans beat Michigan on 3 occasions in 22 days and entered the tournament as a #2 seed.
The drastic improvement from Winston in comparison to 2018 saw his scoring take almost a 40% leap. He hit nearly 41% of his threes while taking nearly 6 attempts per game, which bodes well for the next level.
3. Grant Williams, Tennessee (19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds)
Had it not been for the tough stretch to end the year for the Volunteers, Grant Williams would of had a chance to take home this award. Tennessee got pasted by Auburn in the SEC Title game in a 20-point loss. Nonetheless, Williams had a 43-point outing, ending 23-23 from the line against Vanderbilt.
With the ability to ball off-the-ball, Williams has potential as an NBA prospect. Tennessee enters the tourney as a #2 seed. We will see how far Williams can carry Tennessee before he jumps to the next chapter of his career.
4. Ja Morant, Murray State (24.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 10 assists)
The consensus #2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft lit up the latter half of the NCAA season. Ja Morant led Murray State to 11 consecutive wins, as well as an Ohio Valley Regular Season and Conference Tourney title. In addition, Morant dropped 36 points and took home the OVC Conference Tourney MOP award while averaging 31/6/8 on 49% from the floor in the tournament.
In comparison to his freshman season, Morant’s scoring nearly doubled from 12.7 to 24.6. The last prospect to average similar figures would be Trae Young, who was a top 5 pick in 2018.
5. Markus Howard: Marquette (25 points, 40.8% 3P%)
Marquette stumbled down the stretch, losing 5 of their last 6 to end the season. Without Markus Howard, Marquette would be in a far worse position. As of late, Howard has posted point totals of 36, 37, 38, 45 (x2), and 53 against Creighton.
Howard was the clear #2 option until the recent rough patch. Against Seton Hall, Howard shot 1-15 from the field and 1-9 from 3-point range. Going up against Murray State’s Ja Morant in the first round of the tournament, this should be a very telling matchup.
Featured Image: ESPN Images