College Basketball: National Player of the Year Favorites
The bulk of conference play is heating up, and many of College Basketball’s biggest stars are stepping into the spotlight and trying to stake their claim for the National Player of the Year. From smaller school players making a big impact, which has become a common theme year in and year out, to arguably the best Conference in basketball having multiple stars across all five positions. Upsets have been a big theme of the non-conference part of the season, but now it is time for the stars to rise to the top. Let’s dive into the top candidates for National Player of the Year in College Basketball.
Obi Toppin-PF Dayton Flyers
Toppin has been a huge story throughout College Basketball so far this season, and he showcased his abilities during the Maui Tournament leading the Flyers to a runner-up finish back in November. He is a tough and gritty forward who is valuable in almost every facet of the game. Toppin looks like the leading candidate for Player of the Year thus far. Toppin averages 19.5 points per game, adding in 7.7 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game. He can also stretch the floor knocking down around 36 percent from the three-point line.
Payton Pritchard- G Oregon Ducks
The senior guard came back for a reason and he has been the floor leader for the Ducks this season. He not only scores but he directs the team on the floor, setting up teammates and he makes big shots. He might have had his biggest moment in Oregon’s win at Michigan in overtime. Pritchard finished with 23 points in that game. He has struggled in recent games, however, including a five-point performance against Alabama State to end the 2019 portion of the season. He averages 18.7 points per game, along with 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has a chance in PAC-12 play to make his claim.
Markus Howard- G Marquette Golden Eagles
Howard can score at will, and could easily go off for 40 points in a game every time he takes to the floor. As the leading scorer in the country, Howard belongs in the National Player of the Year conversation. He is knocking threes down at 45 percent this season, even with every opponent’s defense trying to lock him down. Howard has scored 19 or more points in each of his last five games. His numbers are 25.8 points per game, and around three rebounds and three assists per game. His recent 29-point performance against Villanova led the Golden Eagles to an 11-point win. If he can continue leading his team to wins, he will be in the conversation all the way to March Madness.
Myles Powell – G Seton Hall Pirates
Powell has dealt with injuries throughout the season, but he has been one tough player, leading his team no matter what. Even though the Pirates ultimately lost a home game against Michigan State earlier this season, Powell was still able to go off for 37 points. He added a stellar 27-point performance in a key conference win over Depaul back on December 30th. If Powell can stay healthy and averaging 21.2 points per game, then he will stay in the player of the year conversation the rest of the season and is most likely an All-American caliber player.
Cassius Winston – G Michigan State Spartans
Cassius Winston started slowly while dealing with the passing of his younger brother, but Winston has quickly flipped a switch since December started and is beginning to look like the player most picked as the Preseason Player of the Year. He was able to go off for 32-points and 9 assists in a big rivalry win over Michigan. It also marked Winston’s fourth straight game with at least 21 points. He currently stands 14 assists away from tying Mateen Cleaves all-time assist record, not only at Michigan State but also in Big Ten History. Winston is also the only player in College Basketball history to have at least 1,600 points and 800 assists in a career. He is definitely proving he is among one of the greatest point guards in college basketball history.
Luka Garza – C Iowa Hawkeyes
Garza is having a huge start to his Junior season, as he has turned into a legitimate star almost overnight. He has made a huge jump from last season, as he has nearly doubled his production. Luka Garza has put himself into the conversation for not only Big Ten Player of the Year, but also at a national stage as he ranks top 10 nationally in scoring and top 20 in rebounding. Garza averages 22.5 points per game and 10.1 rebounds. His signature moment so far was his 44-point performance at Michigan in early December. He will need a few more of those moments, and the Hawkeyes must start winning the close games if he wants to stay in the conversation. He like Toppin has kind of come out of nowhere this season.