There is only a handful of regular season games left in college basketball, so it’s a good time to take a look at the Wooden Award watch. From Blue Bloods to non-power programs, here are the top 5 NCAA National Player of the Year candidates as of February 28th.
Honorable Mention: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech; Zion Williamson, Duke; Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga; Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga; Markus Howard, Marquette; Ja Morant, Murray State
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin (19-9)
Stats: 17.9 ppg / 10.3 rpg / 4.6 apg / 1.2 bpg / 1.0 spg
Ethan Happ is the epitomy of a senior leader for the Wisconsin Badgers, as he leads the 19th-ranked team in the country in points, rebounds and assists. He’s also second on the team in blocks, steals and field goal percentage. He’s fifth in the Big Ten in points and third in rebounds. Most impressively, at 6-foot-10, Happ is third in the conference in assists. If the Badgers can close strong and make a splash in the Big Ten Tournament, Happ could certainly take home the award.
R.J. Barrett, Duke (24-3)
Stats: 23.3 ppg / 7.4 rpg / 4.1 apg / 0.4 bpg / 0.8 spg
Prior to Zion Williamson’s injury against UNC, R.J. Barrett would have been second on his own team in the NPOY race; however, it is still unclear if and/or when Zion will be back with the team. Even before the injury, Barrett was leading the team in scoring. He currently ranks 12th in the nation in scoring. He also ranks second on the team in rebounds and assists. He is the primary playmaker for one of the best teams in the country, and since he is shouldering the load with Zion out, he is becoming an extremely strong candidate for the Wooden Award.
Grant Williams, Tennessee (24-3)
Stats: 19.1 ppg / 7.6 rpg / 3.4 apg / 1.5 bpg / 1.2 spg
Grant Williams is the reigning SEC Player of the Year and currently leads the conference in scoring. Williams also ranks fifth in rebounding and leads the seventh-ranked Volunteers in steals. He also ranks second on the team in blocks and third in assists. The big man can stretch the floor, as well, shooting better than 33 percent from three-point range and better than 83 percent from the free throw line. More impressively, he scores the ball efficiently, ranking second in the SEC in field goal percentage (56.8). Williams is a strong favorite to win his second-straight SEC POY award and could cap it off with a Wooden Award, as well.
Dedric Lawson, Kansas (20-7)
Stats: 19.0 ppg / 10.3 rpg / 2.0 apg / 1.1 bpg / 1.1 spg
Kansas hasn’t been the same dominant team as they’ve been in the past but still rank in the top-15 in the nation. Much like Happ, Dedric Lawson averages a double-double and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. He also ranks third on the team in assists and second in blocks. The 6-foot-9 big man also shoots nearly 35 percent from three. Lawson leads the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding. In fact, he averages 2.6 more rebounds than any other player in the conference. He will likely take home the Big 12 Player of the Year award, and if the Jayhawks can climb back atop the conference standings and win their 14th consecutive regular season title, Lawson could take home the top award of the year.
Jordan Caroline, Nevada (25-2)
Stats: 18.4 ppg / 9.6 rpg / 2.1 apg / 0.3 bpg / 0.7 spg
Nevada is not one of your prototypical blue bloods, but they have a squad that can certainly make a title run this season. Former NBA coach Eric Musselman leads a team that is currently ranked 12th in the nation at 25-2. They were a lot of people’s pick to be the strongest non-power team in the country and have shown that all season long. Especially big man Jordan Caroline, who nearly averages a double-double. In fact, Caroline ranks fifth in the conference in scoring and second in rebounding. Actually, he pulls down four more rebounds than anyone else on the team. Most impressively, Caroline shoots better than 40 percent from three-point range. Playing in the Mountain West will certainly hurt his chances, but he is a solid longshot candidate to win the Wooden award.