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Zach Pekale | NCAA.com | January 25, 2020

Final Four Most Outstanding Players from 1939 to present

Every Final Four logo since 1985

Confetti rains as adrenaline carries a team onto a stage. Reality begins to set in for newly minted national champions. Before a ladder is raised, nets are cut or "One Shining Moment" is played, one individual will experience a final wave of emotion after being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

A variation of the honor has been awarded since 1939, beginning with the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. That year, Jimmy Hull of Ohio State — the national runner-up — was chosen as the recipient.

Seven years later, Bob Kurland won the award for a second consecutive year in guiding what's now known as Oklahoma State to back-to-back titles. Kurland is one of five players to win the accolade multiple times. The others are Alex Groza (Kentucky, 1948-49), Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1960-61), Lew Alcindor (UCLA, 1967-69) and Bill Walton (UCLA, 1972-73).

Throwback Thursday: Bill Walton

Walton's second time winning the award in 1973 bares significance both in his performance and in the year itself. The Bruins' big man put together one of the best performances in college basketball tournament history, hitting 21-of-22 shots and finishing with 44 points to lead UCLA to the title. Additionally, that season was the the last of of the Bruins' seven consecutive championships and was also the first year in which freshmen were granted varsity status in college basketball.

HISTORY: Every NCAA DI men's basketball champion since 1939

Following the NCAA rule change on the athletic status of freshmen, it'd be another 13 years before one would be named Most Outstanding Player of a Men's Final Four. Louisville's Pervis Ellison took home the honor in 1986, just the second freshman to do so at that point — Arnie Ferrin (Utah, 1944).

Since then, a number of star freshman have captivated college basketball audiences with show-stopping highlights and deep NCAA tournament runs. However, only three other first-year players have been named Most Outstanding Player:

  • Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2003)
  • Anthony Davis, Kentucky (2012)
  • Tyus Jones, Duke (2015)

To this day, freshmen remain the least-represented demographic overall. But in the last 20 years, sophomores have produced the fewest winners. Joakim Noah is the sole sophomore on the list this century. He was named the 2006 recipient after the first of Florida's back-to-back titles.

It's been 13 seasons since a sophomore was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. The two streaks longer than that are players winning multiple times (see above) and the award going to a non-champion. Hull was the first of a dozen players to be named Most Outstanding Player despite not winning a national championship. Hakeem Olajuwon is the last to do it, claiming the honor for Houston after the Cougars finished as national runner-up in 1983. 

Here is the complete history of the Final Four's Most Outstanding Players:

YEAR NAME CLASS SCHOOL
2019 Kyle Guy Junior Virginia
2018 Donte DiVincenzo Junior Villanova
2017 Joel Berry II Junior North Carolina
2016 Ryan Arcidiacano Senior Villanova
2015 Tyus Jones Freshman Duke
2014 Shabazz Napier Senior UConn
2013 Luke Hancock Senior Louisville*
2012 Anthony Davis Freshman Kentucky
2011 Kemba Walker Junior UConn
2010 Kyler Singler Junior Duke
2009 Wayne Ellington Junior North Carolina
2008 Mario Chalmers Junior Kansas
2007 Corey Brewer Junior Florida
2006 Joakim Noah Sophomore Florida
2005 Sean May Junior North Carolina
2004 Emeka Okafor Junior UConn
2003 Carmelo Anthony Freshman Syracuse
2002 Juan Dixon Senior Maryland
2001 Shane Battier Senior Duke
2000 Mateen Cleaves Senior Michigan State
1999 Richard Hamilton Junior UConn
1998 Jeff Sheppard Senior Kentucky
1997 Miles Simon Junior Arizona
1996 Tony Delk Senior Kentucky
1995 Ed O'Bannon Senior UCLA
1994 Corliss Williamson Junior Arkansas
1993 Donald Williams Sophomore North Carolina
1992 Bobby Hurley Junior Duke
1991 Christian Laettner Junior Duke
1990 Anderson Hunt Sophomore UNLV
1989 Glen Rice Senior Michigan
1988 Danny Manning Senior Kansas
1987 Keith Smart Junior Indiana
1986 Pervis Ellison Freshman Louisville
1985 Ed Pinckney Senior Villanova
1984 Patrick Ewing Junior Georgetown
1983 Akeem Olajuwon** Sophomore Houston
1982 James Worthy Junior North Carolina
1981 Isiah Thomas Sophomore Indiana
1980 Darrell Griffith Senior Louisville
1979 Magic Johnson Sophomore Michigan State
1978 Jack Givens Senior Kentucky
1977 Butch Lee Junior Marquette
1976 Kent Benson Junior Indiana
1975 Richard Washington Sophomore UCLA
1974 David Thompson Sophomore NC State
1973 Bill Walton % Junior UCLA
1972 Bill Walton N/A UCLA
1971 Vacated N/A N/A
1970 Sidney Wicks N/A UCLA
1969 Lew Alcindor % N/A UCLA
1968 Lew Alcindor % N/A UCLA
1967 Lew Alcindor N/A UCLA
1966 Jerry Chambers ** N/A Utah
1965 Bill Bradley ** N/A Princeton
1964 Walt Hazzard N/A UCLA
1963 Art Heyman ** N/A Duke
1962 Paul Hogue ** N/A Cincinnati
1961 Jerry Lucas **% N/A Ohio State
1960 Jerry Lucas N/A Ohio State
1959 Jerry West ** N/A West Virginia
1958 Elgin Baylor ** N/A Seattle
1957 Wilt Chamberlain ** N/A Kansas
1956 Hal Lear ** N/A Temple
1955 Bill Russell N/A San Francisco
1954 Tom Gola N/A La Salle
1953 B.H. Born** N/A Kansas
1952 Clyde Lovellette N/A Kansas
1951 Bill Spivey N/A Kentucky
1950 Irwin Dambrot N/A CCNY
1949 Alex Groza % N/A Kentucky 
1948 Alex Groza N/A Kentucky
1947 George Kaftan N/A Holy Cross
1946 Bob Kurland N/A Oklahoma A&M***
1945 Bob Kurland N/A Oklahoma A&M***
1944 Arnie Ferrin N/A Utah
1943 Ken Sailors N/A Wyoming
1942 Howie Dallmar N/A Stanford
1941 John Kotz N/A Wisconsin
1940 Marvin Huffman N/A Indiana
1939 Jimmy Hull** N/A Ohio State

* – Louisville's participation in the 2013 NCAA tournament was later vacated
** – Indicates player named MOP without winning national championship
*** – Now known as Oklahoma State
% – Repeat winner

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