WE are down to just three! Another aspiring Wooden Award winner bites the dust this week as we draw towards the grand finale and announcing a winner. Frank Mason, Josh Hart and Caleb Swanigan are all out of the NCAA tournament and for the three studs likely to declare for the NBA Draft their college careers are kaput.
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I was pretty happy with my efforts in getting most of the finalists right for the Wooden Award. The five finalists that were announced earlier last week were the three discussed in this article alongside Lonzo Ball (eliminated last week) and Nigel Williams-Goss (eliminated in week four). Clearly I valued Malik Monk individually higher than Williams-Goss, but that being said you can see why a member of the 36-1 Gonzaga team is in the player of the year discussion.
Image from bleacherreport.com
THE FINALISTS’ 2016/17 SEASON
Josh Hart – 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG
HART led the reigning champs to another impressive season in school history. A triple double against St. Joe’s announced himself as a Wooden contender and a career high 37 points two games later confirmed his place as the early favourite. The Big East Player of the Year remained in the conversation all year despite slowing up slightly as the season wore on. Hart scored in double figures in every game and was willing to play a variety of roles to contribute to Villanova’s overall success.
Frank Mason III – 20.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.2 APG
FRANKLY (pun intended) Mason deserves to be the favourite heading into the last week of the season. He opened the season with a lazy 30/7/9 in 40 minutes of court time against Indiana and didn’t slow up all season. As Kansas emerged as the best team in the country Mason’s heroics continued, scoring over 20 points in eight of his last ten regular season/conference tournament games and helping the Jayhawks be a #1 seed in the Mid-West.
Caleb Swanigan 18.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.1 APG
IF this award simply went to the most deserving player my vote would be for Caleb Swanigan. His well documented battle from obese teenager to future NBA player is inspiring to say the least. Swanigan announced himself to the college basketball world with a 23 points 20 rebound performance in Purdue’s first game of the season and he clocked 20+ rebounds another three times throughout the year. Throw in another four games of 15 or more boards and 28 double doubles (from 35 games) and you can see why he is a Wooden favourite.
Image from espn.com
YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK…
ALL three players were announced as All-Americans on Wednesday as well, confirming their elite talent and every mock draft I have read has the three players being drafted. I was super tempted to allow Caleb Swanigan to advance to the final Weekly Wooden Weakest Link, but you can’t go against Josh Hart and Frank Mason III to the duel it out. Hart was the consensus favourite for most of the early going and he deserved to be so. It’s tough to define who was more important to their teams success, but Hart’s leadership and veteran savvy helped the Wildcats stay the course early on in the season, single handedly steering them to victory. Swanigan deserves all the credit he is receiving and it pains me to eliminate him, but there were small inconsistencies and night’s that he went missing on the scoring or rebounding front for Purdue, which ultimately knocks him out on the eve of the Finals.
Banner from woodenaward.com