By Drew Galloway
The college basketball regular season is winding down. The John R. Wooden Award (College Basketball Player of the Year) announced their late season top 20 on Feb. 10.
Buddy Hield from Oklahoma is the likely winner of the award. Hield is from the Bahamas and went to high school at Kansas basketball powerhouse Sunrise Christian Academy. Hield has the nickname “Buddy Buckets” and it’s for good reason, Buddy gets buckets.
Hield is 2nd in the NCAA in points per game at 25.4 points per game and shoots a scorching 48.7 percent from three. Hield is almost automatic from the wing when he relocates after an offensive rebound. He is the perfect player for the new “freedom of movement” rules implied by the NCAA this year.
He is constantly moving and coming off of screens and you can not put his hands on him or else it’s a foul. An amazing stat about Hield is that he only shot 23.8 percent from three in his freshman year and only averaged seven points per game.
There are two players who could potentially steal the award from Hield, Ben Simmons and Denzel Valentine. Both of those players are more complete and well rounded players than Hield.
Valentine leads Michigan State in points (19.7 per game), second in rebounds (7.7 per game), first in assists (7.3 per game) and first in steals (1 per game). Valentine has also recorded two triple doubles this season. If it was not for a knee injury, he would likely be closer to catching Hield for the award.
Valentine, like Hield, is a senior who has gotten dramatically better with his time at Michigan State. He only averaged five points his freshman year and is now one of the best guards in the country.
Ben Simmons will likely be the number one pick in the NBA draft this June. Simmons, just a freshman, was compared to LeBron James when he committed to LSU and he has not disappointed. He is averaging 19.4 points per game, 11.9 rebounds and five assists this season.
The one knock in him this year is that LSU might not make the NCAA tournament and if they do not, can he still be Player of the Year?
In a year where most of the freshman class has disappointed, Simmons has been unbelievable this year. Simmons is third in the SEC in points, first in rebounds, fifth in assists and first in steals.
An under the radar player who should be higher on the Wooden Award watch list is Oakland guard, Kahlil Felder. Felder has an opportunity to become the first player in NCAA history to lead the country in points per game and assists.
As of Feb. 21, Felder is fourth in points at 24.4 per game and first in assists at nine. Felder shined in a game versus Michigan State, posting 37 points and nine assists. However, like Simmons, Felder is on a team who might not make it to the NCAA tournament.
The award will be announced the week of the Final Four.