Naismith Watch: 10 semifinalists revealed for Naismith Trophy
First there were 50 players, then 30 remained. These are the 10 still standing, the semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded annually to the best college basketball player in the nation.
The list will be trimmed to four finalists on March 20 and the winner will be announced April 3 in Houston, during the Final Four.
Grayson Allen, Duke, 6-5, So.
PPG: 21.2, RPG: 4.6, APG: 3.5
The powerful, athletic Blue Devils guard flashed a glimpse of his potential during the second half of the 2015 national championship game, providing a spark off the bench to his struggling team in a comeback victory.
This season, he’s been a key figure in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s offense, rarely leaving the floor (played 93.8 percent of available minutes in ACC games) and scoring on hard drives to the rim, 3-pointers and free throws.
Allen has scored at least 25 points in 10 games this season, including 30 last night in Duke’s win over Wake Forest.
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia, 6-5, Sr.
PPG: 18.5 RPG: 4.3
A perfect piece in coach Tony Bennett’s deliberate, precise attack, Brogdon has put the offense on his shoulders at times this season and carried the Cavaliers to victory. Automatic at the free throw line (61 of 66 in ACC games), the versatile wing has shot 50 percent or better from the field in 13 of Virginia’s 28 games.
He reached his season-high of 28 points in three road games and Brogdon’s scoring (20.3 ppg) and shooting percentages improved as he’s pushed the Cavaliers to a 12-5 record in the nation’s second-strongest conference (per KenPom.com),
Kris Dunn, Providence, 6-4, Jr.
PPG: 16.4 APG: 6.3 RPG: 5.7
A point guard who makes all of his teammates better, by delivering pinpoint passes and penetrating the lane. Dunn is extremely versatile as well. In addition to scoring in double figures in 23 games, he’s also produced eight games with eight assists or more and seven games with eight rebounds or more.
His Naismith moment came on Dec. 31 in an 81-73 win over Butler. Dunn recorded 20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals to lift the Friars over the Bulldogs.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, 6-4, Sr.
PPG: 25.3, RPG: 5.4
The fun-loving native of the Bahamas is having a shooting season beyond compare in recent college basketball history.
After a strong opening six weeks, Hield soared to another stratosphere with a ridiculous 46 points on 23 shots in the Sooners’ triple overtime loss at Kansas on Jan. 4th. He also grabbed eight rebounds and handed out seven assists in that game, and his play helped keep Oklahoma in the top five in the national polls throughout the season.
Hield made at least five 3-pointers in 12 games this season - shooting 45.5 percent or better beyond-the-arc in each game.
RELATED: Meet Buddy Hield, the Bahamas Baller
Brice Johnson, North Carolina, 6-10, Sr.
PPG: 16.8, RPG: 10.6
The smooth, slender forward has been a steady hand on the nation’s fifth most efficient offense as the Tar Heels enter Saturday’s regular season finale at Duke holding a share of the ACC lead (13-4).
Johnson erupted for 39 points and 23 rebounds in UNC’s win at Florida State on Jan. 4th, sending historians digging through the record books to see where such a performance ranked among other Tar Heel greats.
That’s one of Johnson’s 18 double-doubles this season, which is 10th in the nation.
Jakob Poeltl, Utah, 7-0, So.
PPG: 17.6, RPG: 9.0
Poeltl would not allow Utah to take a step back this season as it moved on without dynamic point guard Delon Wright. His dominant inside scoring and rebounding has driven Utah to six consecutive victories entering Saturday’s finale against Colorado, and within a half-game of Pac-12 leader Oregon.
Poeltl has 11 20-point games and 10 double-doubles, none more impressive than Feb. 21 at Southern Cal when he generated 29 points (on 13 shots), 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Ben Simmons, LSU, 6-10, Fr.
PPG: 19.6, RPG: 11.8, APG: 5.0
Such a refined combination of power and finesse for Simmons, who at 6-10 can impact the game with his ballhandling, passing and scoring.
What’s remarkable is the consistency for a first-year player. He’s scored in double figures in all but one game. He’s had 20 double-figure rebounding games. And, he’s dished at least five assists in 18 games.
The best? Probably 36 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a win at Vanderbilt on Jan. 2nd.
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky, 5-9, So.
PPG: 16.6 APG: 7.1, RPG: 3.2
Hard to find a floor general who has operated better than Ulis in the second half of the season. He’s had four double-doubles with points and assists since Feb. 6th, averaged 18.6 points per game and 7.9 assists per game in Southeastern Conference action, leading the Wildcats to a share of first place entering Saturday’s finale against visiting LSU.
On Feb. 13th, Ulis elevated his game even higher - 27 points, 12 assists and one turnover in 38 minutes as Kentucky shellacked host South Carolina 89-62.
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa, 6-9, Sr.
PPG: 18.5, RPG, 6.4
A skilled forward who hurts opponents inside and outside, Uthoff has been remarkably consistent for the Hawkeyes. He’s scored in double figures in all but one game (Maryland held him to nine points on Jan. 28th).
Uthoff also leads the Big Ten in blocked shots (2.7 per game) and has been the lone bright spot in the Hawekeys four-game losing skid, averaging 16 points per game.
His best performance came against rival Iowa State on Dec. 10th - 32 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State, 6-5, Sr.
PPG: 19.6 APG: 7.6 RPG: 7.2
Minor knee surgery around Christmas forced Valentine to miss four games and hampered his production for a game or two after he returned. But once he regained stamina, Valentine continued assembling a season that had folks whispering ‘Magic Johnson’ in comparison.
The stat lines between Valentine and the former Michigan State legend sure are similar. There are plenty of amazing games from which to choose, but the best probably came on Nov. 17th in a six-point win over now No. 1 Kansas. Valentine had 29 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds - and one turnover. It's one of two triple-doubles he's recorded this season.