With the NCAA basketball season winding down to its glorious conclusion, the NCAA has revealed its four finalists for the 2016 Naismith Trophy.
The four finalists for the most prestigious individual honor in men’s basketball are Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield, Kentucky sophomore Tyler Ulis, Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine and Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2016
Hield was second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25 points per game. With a strong shooting finish in the NCAA Tournament, he can put himself in the elite 50-40-90 club, as he’s made just under 50 percent of his field goals, 90 percent of his free throws, and is well over 40 percent on three-point shots.
Ulis ran the Kentucky offense, averaging 17 points and 7 assists per game. His shooting was not as precise as Hield’s, but it was very good. He finished the year at 43 percent from the field, 34 percent from on threes and 86 percent at the charity stripe
Valentine had similar success for the Spartans. He averaged 19 points and 8 assists per game and also threw in eight rebounds for the Big 10 champions — a huge total for a guard. He was extremely efficient, making 46 percent of his shots, 44 percent of his threes, and 85 percent of his free throws.
Brogdon averaged nearly 19 points per game, complimenting his scoring nicely with four boards and three assists. He shot 47 percent on field goals, 40 percent on threes and 89 percent on free throws.
Recent history would tend to favor Hield, Valentine, or Brogdon as the last two winners, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, were both seniors.
Still, over the last 10 years, the award has been won been split pretty evenly between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis both won as freshmen, Blake Griffin and Trey Burke both took the honors home as sophomores, Tyler Hansbrough and Evan Turner were both juniors. In addition to McDermott and Kaminsky, J.J. Reddick and Jimmer Fredette both won the Naismith Trophy in their senior seasons.
The smart money in 2016 is on Hield. While all of these players had great seasons, none matched his statistical dominance and overall efficiency. He also came up huge in what will likely be considered the game of the year, scoring 46 points in a triple overtime loss against Kansas.