This is my favorite time of the year. We just had the Super Bowl signifying the end of football, which is sad. Football was my first love, BUT the Super Bowl means that we have about a month and a half of college basketball left. We just get to watch a bunch of fantastic conference games. It also gives us an opportunity to see who the Cinderella teams for the NCAA Tournament. We are also able to put some of the best basketball players in the spotlight because of these big games down the stretch before the conference tournaments. Not sure who some of those players are? Well the Top 20 Wooden Award players have been named so go ahead and give some of these guys and their highlights a peak.
The 6 foot 5 inch, Canadian born, Sophomore guard from Virginia Tech is first on the list. As a true Freshman last season, Alexander-Walker played about 25 minutes a game and 10 points in those minutes. This season, Alexander-Walker has his Hokies ranked 11th in the country. Although a loss to Louisville will drop them slightly in the polls that won’t distract from the fact that Nickeil is balling out this season.
Alexander-Walker is averaging 17 points on a much improved shooting percentage that sits at 53% while it’s also up to 42% from behind the arc. However, he isn’t just a prolific scorer. Nickeil is averaging 4 boards, 4 assists, and 2 steals a game. He had 6 steals against Miami in late January and had 3 in the suffocating defensive game the Hokies had against North Carolina State. Although he’s not one of the biggest names on the list, expect to hear about this man come March.
One of Duke’s freshman “Big 3”, Barrett is the leading scorer. Averaging 23 points and 7 boards, Barrett has been a key part of the Blue Devils juggernaut. He hasn’t scored less than 13 points in a single game this season and has scored 20 or more in 16 of 22 games. It also so happens that 4 of those 16 games are 30+ point games. The Dukies sit at 20-2 this season and are 1st in the ACC, with a big help from Barrett. Barrett has a good shot at winning the Wooden Award especially as the leading scorer on the most talented team in the country.
The third installment on this list is another Ontario native. Brazdeikis is Michigan’s leading scorer, averaging 15 points a night. He has them ranked 7th in the country and flaunting a 21-2 record. Brazdeikis doesn’t have quite the overwhelming numbers that the other players above him have, but has been a dominant force nonetheless.
This Senior forward is having himself a season. Averaging 18 and 9.9, so essentially a double-double, and helping Nevada to their number 6 rank in the country. The 6 foot 7 inch, senior forward is shooting 43% from downtown. It’s too bad his crazy athleticism and talent isn’t more widely known. Playing in the Mountain West and showcasing talent at 10 EST/9 CST doesn’t help his cause. However, Caroline is having a fantastic season and deserves the recognition he’s getting.
P.S. As I wrote this article I just happened to check the scores (this is on 2/6) and Caroline dropped 40 points on 11 of 19 from the floor and 12 of 14 from the line and tacked on 12 boards. Wowza.
Texas Tech was one of the most exciting teams we saw late in February and into March last season. First round pick, Zhaire Smith, was electric when it came to his athleticism. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the Red Raiders got hot at the right time and were a flash in the pan. I was very wrong. Mostly in part to Culver. He has added 6 points a game to his average which is up to 17 this season.
Culver has also boosted his rebounds per game to 6.6 this season and leads the team again after he did as a true freshman last season. The Sophomore is also up to 4 assists a game and upped his shooting percentage to 50%. He also leads the country in Defensive Win Shares, and is suffocating on that end of the floor. As the Red Raiders make their push late, expect to see Culver’s play amplified by the stage and don’t be surprised to Culver as a finalist for this award.
Some of the guys on this list you may not have fully heard of, but you can look up highlights easily and see the talent the guy has. However, there is only one that might be as decorated and less heard of as Mike Daum. Averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds a game, Daum isn’t like some of the others whose numbers have gotten better since last year. He’s been doing this since his freshman year.
He has won back-to-back Summit League Player of the Year awards and is on the fast track to a third. He also has been the Summit League Tournament MVP for his first 3 years of play. Daum is also leads the NCAA in Offensive Win Shares and other major offensive stats. I’m positive that because hardly anybody outside of the Summit League Daum won’t win the Wooden Award, but he will be a first round pick and should be in the finalists when the list gets narrowed down.
A reincarnation of Vincent Johnson aka “The Microwave” standing almost exactly the same at 6 foot 1 inch and 200 pounds, that’s exactly what Edwards can do and does on a regular basis. Letting Edwards get hot is the biggest mistake a defenses can make against Purdue. Averaging 24.5 points a game, Edwards is the main reason Purdue has won 7 straight basketball games and has shot up the AP Poll during conference play. The Boilermakers are a force to be reckoned with in March and Edwards will be head lining that run.
Despite not leading his team in any of the major categories, my guy, Kyle Guy, is having a fantastic year. He is averaging 14.5 points and 4 boards. It’s more in the not so sexy stats that Guy shines. He is shooting 44% from Richmond and 85% from the charity stripe. He also is doing what Virginia does and doesn’t turn the ball over, he hardly does once a game. As Virginia continues to dominate the country and continues to be ranked in the top 5, Kyle Guy continues to shine.
Despite Hachimara not being the only foreign born player on the list, he is the only Japanese born player on the list. Averaging 20 and 6 rebounds, the 6 foot 8 inch forward has been a bully in the post. Shooting an eye popping 60% from the field, Hachimara uses every bit of that frame and athleticism to finish lobs, play a strong post game, and run the floor to get his points. It takes a lot to feed a 230 pound college kid, but this young man gets his slice and gets his fill night in and night out.
The last big man on this list is near and dear to my heart so I’m going to be a little bit biased here, so please stick through it. First, Happ is the 4th Badger to be named to the AP Preseason All-American team. Despite being 6 foot 10 inches tall, Happ plays the traditional center position as well as anybody in the country. He continues to get better and ages like a fine wine. Happ is averaging 18 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists per game. He is the only player since the ’92-’93 season to do that.
For the link above, the numbers are only compiled that far back. Where was I? Oh yeah! Elite ball handling skills and post moves make him one of the most dominant forces in the collegiate game today. Now factor in his passing ability and the fact that his defensive metrics put him in the top tier in the country and you have a player who is about as well rounded as it gets. Happ is the only player in the country so far this year who has multiple triple-doubles.
Hopefully, Happ will be the driving force behind a much improved Badger team who took the offseason to get healthy and now sits right near the top of the Big 10.
Those are just 10 of the biggest college basketball studs to this point. Start checking these bonafide ballers out and watch them tear up the last few weeks of the season! Stay tuned for the last 10 that makeup the Wooden Award late-season Top 20!