With the 2019-20 men's college basketball regular season concluded, we dig into the excitement of tournament time, and conference award season.
There's perhaps no bigger anticipation than who will eventually be named the national Player of the Year. We've got our choices. Whether we're talking about the Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy or The Associated Press Player of the Year, here's a look at 10 candidates in the running for the honor of the nation's best college basketball performer for 2019-20.
Statistics and team records through the end of the regular season (March 8).
Udoka Azubuike, Center, Kansas, Senior
Maybe it's somewhat of a surprise that the 7-foot Azubuike (13.7 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocks per game) was tabbed the Big 12 Player of the Year. What's not surprising is that he's considered one of the best players in the country. It's been a special bounce-back senior season for Azubuike, who was limited to just nine games in 2018-29 due to a hand injury. He finished this regular season as the nation's leader in field-goal percentage (74.8).
Devon Dotson, Guard, Kansas, Sophomore
For most of the season, Dotson was considered the best player in the Big 12, but his aforementioned Jayhawks teammate Udoka Azubuike took home that honor. Still, Dotson is an elite talent, averaging 18.1 points and shooting 46.8 percent. He's also averaging 4.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals for the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, and he is arguably the most valuable player to his squad, regardless what any awards may indicate.
Malachi Flynn, Guard, San Diego State, Junior
What a stellar first season for the Washington State transfer. The Aztecs did not lose their first game of 2019-20 until Feb. 22, and Flynn is a major reason why. He was a solid player at Washington State, but the fit was not right. At SDSU, he's quickly blossomed into one of the best players in the country while averaging career highs of 17.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The 6-foot-1 Flynn is also shooting 37.3 percent from three-point range for the 30-2 Aztecs.
Luka Garza, Center, Iowa, Junior
Talk about a breakout season. The 6-foot-11 Garza did not average more than 13.1 points or 6.4 boards in his first two seasons at Iowa, but this has been an impressive progression for the Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the front-runners for national Player of the Year honors. Garza leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the country, averaging 23.9 points, and he has scored at least 20 in 16 straight contests. His 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 assists per game are also career highs this season.
Markus Howard, Guard, Marquette, Senior
Howard is the country's top scorer, averaging a career-high 27.8 points heading into the Big East tournament. Howard might have a hard time earning any of the national player of the year awards because the Golden Eagles struggled during conference play, but he's arguably the best pure scorer around. It's also important to note that Howard is Marquette's most consistent offensive option and has averaged 33.2 points on 49-percent shooting while going 24 of 48 from 3-point range over the last five games.
Tre Jones, Guard, Duke, Sophomore
Sure, freshman Vernon Carey Jr. is probably worthy of a spot on this list, but Jones is the true heart and soul of the Blue Devils. While it has not been an easy season for Duke, without Jones (16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 spg) it might just be a middling team in the ACC. The league might have thought that way when Jones was voted ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. As long as Jones is on the floor, don't count the Blue Devils out in the NCAA Tournament.
Myles Powell, Guard, Seton Hall, Senior
Another pure scorer, Powell (21.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.9 rpg) might have seen a dip in his offensive production from that fantastic junior season, but the Pirates are a better team and have their sights set on a deep NCAA Tournament run. It's easy to compare Powell to a guy like league-mate Markus Howard, and that comparison should begin with the value to one's respective team. Seton Hall has seen others step up this season, but Powell is still the engine that makes the collective unit motor.
Payton Pritchard, Guard, Oregon, Senior
An easy choice for Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pritchard helped the Ducks to the league crown during one of the most competitive seasons in recent conference history. Pritchard averaged career highs of 20.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 boards and is shooting a career-best 46.8 entering the Pac-12 tournament. However, he might be the best big-game player at the moment after scoring a career-high 38 in that thrilling overtime win at Arizona last month and 23 on 11-of-19 shooting in a win at Michigan earlier this season.
Obi Toppin, Forward, Dayton, Sophomore
Prior to the season, did anybody see the 6-foot-9 Toppin as the front-runner for national Player of the Year? Don't think so. After averaging 14.4 points and almost six rebounds per game as a freshman, Toppin busted out this season, scoring 20 and pulling down 7.5 boards. However, it's been the way Toppin has played above the rim — dunk after dominant dunk — that's been most impressive. Not to mention, he's capable of running the floor like a point guard and is also recording 1.2 blocks per contest for the surprise No. 2-ranked Flyers.
Cassius Winston, Guard, Michigan State, Senior
It's been a trying and emotional season for the Spartans star, but Winston is still standing and helped lead his team to a share of the Big Ten regular-season title while mourning the suicide death of his brother Zachary in early November. Entering the Big Ten tournament, Winston ranks third in the league, averaging 18.6 points, is second in three-point percentage (43.2), seventh in field-goal percentage (44.8) and fourth in assists (5.9). It will be fun to see what he can accomplish one last time in the NCAA Tournament.
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