College basketball National Player of the Year nominees: Purdue’s Zack Eddy leads a tight race

Sunday’s selection for the 2023 NCAA Tournament is just two months away as the college basketball season reaches its halfway point with the national landscape beginning to take shape. While the passion for team play is still ahead, we’ve seen enough action to find out contenders for some of the sport’s individual accolades, including National Player of the Year.

Much like the Heisman Trophy in college football, the MVP in college basketball often ends up as something of a team award. It is not uncommon to see a winner come from a program that was not among the top programs in the country during the season. While this may be unfair to some of the goalscorers in the game such as Antoine Davis Detroit Or Jordan “Jelly” Walker Off uabIt is the truth.

The realities of the team-oriented nature of the award also have some high profile candidates from power conference programs stumbling across the race. Oscar Chibuy KentuckyArmando Pacote North CarolinaTrace Jackson Davis Indiana Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson was ranked among the best in college basketball preseason top 100 and 1 The best players. However, each of their teams has been frustrated, and that may need to change before any of them can really sniff out the Player of the Year conversation.

So who are the front runners to win the prize? Let’s take a look at the five most obvious candidates.

PPG: 21.9 | RPG: 13.2 | FG PCT: 63.1%

The 7-foot-4 Purdue center is in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The No. 3 Boilermakers are off to a surprising 15-1 start after not being ranked to start the season. Having played just 19 minutes per game last season while splitting time with Trevion Williams, the youngster has seamlessly translated his proficiency into a much larger workload. Now averaging 31.3 minutes per game, Edey ranks first in the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding and second in blocks.

Eddie shoots 63.1% from the field and makes a career-best 74.5% of his free throws, making his defense a nightmare. He also fouled less—despite playing far more minutes—than he did during his first two seasons in college basketball. What’s scary for Big Ten and college basketball is that Edey can play at least one more season of college basketball after this one. With his lack of outside shooting and defensive limitations on the perimeter, it’s easy to imagine Eddie walking away from the pro game to return to Purdue. At the moment, he is in an excellent position to be the Athlete of the Year.

PPG: 20.6 | RPG: 9.1 | FG PCT: 57.4%

Arizona lost three NBA Draft picks from last season’s squad, which earned them the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. But the No. 9 Wildcats hardly missed a win due to Tubelis’ stellar offensive play. The 6-11 junior leads the Pac-12 in scoring with 20.6 points per game and in rebounding with 9.1 boards per game. He plays more minutes than at any time in his career but he shoots a career-best 57.4% from the field and a career-best 79.3% from the free throw line. He even showed some outside touch by making 8 of 18 attempts from 3-point range.

Since the Wildcats often play as a big second man alongside Tubelis on Oumar Ballo, Tubelis’ ability to stretch the ground and lure defenders away from the basket with a perimeter shot was a nice touch. He’s reached double figures per game and turns the basketball less often than in his first two seasons, despite the increased workload. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Tubelis’ season so far is the fact that he hit at least six shots from the field in every game. Regardless of the opposition, Tubelis finds a way to get buckets for one of the best teams in the country.

PPG: 20.0 | RPG: 8.8 | FG PCT: 40.7%

How did No. 2 Kansas keep its course at the championship level after losing stars like Remy Martin, Ochai Agbaje, Christian Brown and David McCormack from last year’s lineup? There are many answers, but none stand out more than Wilson. The redshirt junior leads the Big 12 in scoring with 20 points per game and ranks second in rebounding with 8.8 boards per game.

He shoots a career-best 34% from 3-point range and has reached double figures per game this season. Wilson averages a best 2.7 assists per game and shoots 76.4% from the free throw line. He also hits the charity bar with 5.6 tries per game. In the undersized Kansas rotation, Wilson’s versatility at 6-8 makes him an ideal starter for coach Bill Self’s team.

PPG: 21.8 | RPG: 7.9 | FG PCT: 61.5%

Much to the dismay of Gonzaga’s rival in the West Coast Conference, Timme is back and better than ever. Senior forward Chet Holmgren doesn’t share the spotlight on the front court this season and enjoys averaging 21.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He’s also putting up a career-best 3.5 assists and a career-best 1.1 blocked shots per game now that he’s logged more minutes in the position after Holmgren’s departure. The most statistically impressive component of Timme’s game this season has been his offensive prowess. He shoots 61.5% from the floor on 14.1 shots per game.

No. 8 Gonzaga isn’t quite as dominant as he has been for most of his career, and Timme still hasn’t developed much outside shooting, but there’s no question he’s still one of the country’s best players. The Zags quietly returned to the top 10 with nine straight wins after a relatively disappointing 5-3 start. Timme and the Zags feed off opposition to their convention, as usual, and you can bet we’ll hear from them in March.

PPG: 18.8 | RPG: 8.2 | FG PCT: 43.9%

The last freshman to win the Naismith Player of the Year Award was Zion Williamson in the 2018-19 season. Williamson averaged 22.6 points on a ridiculous 68% shooting percentage, and was ranked first overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Miller isn’t quite that Producer, but he was elite to a seemingly SEC No. 4 Alabama team. A slender 6-9 forward, he digs 44.5% of his 3-point attempts and proves to be a versatile all-around weapon who can help the tide even on the rare days his shot doesn’t fall.

He leads the SEC in scoring at 19.1 points and is fourth in rebounding at 8.2 boards per contest. He is also the Crimson Tide’s second in the defensive rankings behind Charles Pediaco who was pitching at just seven feet. Of the players on this list, Miller is the MVP, and his Black Horse National Player of the Year nomination will only gain traction if the Crimson Tide continues to dismantle everyone in their path.

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