THE time has come to eliminate another aspiring Wooden Award winner. I’m pretty happy that I picked the same four finalists as the selection committee, so let’s see if I can nail my winning pick too. All four of these guys stood out in the first two tournament games, with one now rostered to the couch for the rest of March Madness. Which of the four is this week’s weakest link though?

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Lonzo Ball – UCLA

THE freshman phenom has been highly touted through his Bruins career and will be one of the top picks in this year’s draft. He has led UCLA to two tournament victories this week, missing just one shot en route to 15 points in round one, followed by a 18/7/9 stat line against Cincinnati.

Frank Mason – Kansas

SENIOR guard Frank Mason is leaving it all on the line as he plays his last few games of his college career. Combining for 42 points in W’s over UC Davis and Michigan State last week has seen his name become more popular with NBA GM’s and he remains a favourite for the National Player of the Year award.

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Josh Hart – Villanova

POPULAR early pick for the Wooden trophy Josh Hart and the Villanova Wildcats are watching the rest of the tournament from the couch. A Nigel Hayes layup was the difference between them and Wisconsin in round two, ending their dreams of being back to back champs. The 6’6 senior and reigning Big East player of the year ends his collegiate career with a decorated resume and a path that will probably see him drafted into the NBA fraternity.

Caleb Swanigan – Purdue

CALEB Swanigan’s story has him universally loved in the college basketball world, even before he and Purdue surged into the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilermakers have become everyone’s second favourite team as Swanigan hopefully steers them deeper into March Madness after his 16/14 in round one and a dominant 20/12/7 performance to defeat Iowa State.

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ALL of the finalists have cases that can be made for them to be a worthy Wooden Award winner. I do feel as though Lonzo Ball is clearly the fourth most ‘deserving’ winner in this category. While there is no denying that Ball is the best player in this group, that doesn’t mean he is this years award recipient. He was definitely assisted by having some other respectable players around him and still showcasing his supreme talent level that will see him be a top three draft pick. Even though he led the nation in assists per game, his 14.7 PPG don’t exactly scream offensive dominance. He had plenty of great stat lines throughout the season, but had a habit to coast and go largely unnoticed in a few games too. He still facilitated to a high level, but the lack of those killer, mind boggling numbers hampered his case. He had five games where he scored single digits (the other three finalists combined for just two such games) and that probably cost him the award.

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