The Final Four's Most Outstanding Player has been awarded every year going back to 1939. From Jimmy Hull that first year to UCLA's Bill Walton and Kentucky's Anthony Davis, many big-name players have earned the honor.
Find a list of all of the Most Outstanding Player winners below for each NCAA tournament.
Final Four Most Outstanding Players from 1939 to present
Here is the complete history of the Final Four's Most Outstanding Players:
|2017||Joel Berry II||Junior||North Carolina|
|2009||Wayne Ellington||Junior||North Carolina|
|2005||Sean May||Junior||North Carolina|
|2000||Mateen Cleaves||Senior||Michigan State|
|1993||Donald Williams||Sophomore||North Carolina|
|1982||James Worthy||Junior||North Carolina|
|1979||Magic Johnson||Sophomore||Michigan State|
|1974||David Thompson||Sophomore||NC State|
|1973||Bill Walton %||Junior||UCLA|
|1969||Lew Alcindor %||N/A||UCLA|
|1968||Lew Alcindor %||N/A||UCLA|
|1966||Jerry Chambers **||N/A||Utah|
|1965||Bill Bradley **||N/A||Princeton|
|1963||Art Heyman **||N/A||Duke|
|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|
|1949||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***|
|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
2022: Ochai Agbaji — Kansas
After scoring only 5 points against Providence, Agbaji heated up in the last three games. He posted 18 against Miami (Fla.) in the Elite Eight, 21 vs. Villanova in the Final Four and then 12 in the title game against North Carolina. Agbaji made six of his seven 3-point attempts against Villanova.
2021: Jared Butler — Baylor
Butler averaged 15.2 points per game in the NCAA tournament, capped off by a 22-point performance against Gonzaga in the national championship game.
2019: Kyle Guy — Virginia
Kyle Guy averaged 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game throughout the 2019 NCAA tournament. In the national championship game against Texas Tech, Guy scored 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He also added three rebounds and one steal as Virginia won its first title.
2018: Donte DiVincenzo — Villanova
Donte DiVincenzo never started a game during the 2018 NCAA tournament. Yet he still managed to average 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. DiVincenzo shined in the national championship against Michigan, leading all scorers with 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
2017: Joel Berry II — North Carolina
Joel Berry II averaged 13.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game during the 2017 NCAA tournament. He led all scorers in the national championship against Gonzaga with 22 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Berry also added six assists, three rebounds, two steals and one block.
2016: Ryan Arcidiacono — Villanova
Ryan Arcidiacono averaged 15.8 points, 3.0 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game throughout the 2016 NCAA tournament. In the national championship against North Carolina, he finished with 16 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal. Arcidiacono's most memorable play was setting up teammate Kris Jenkins for a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
2015: Tyus Jones — Duke
Tyus Jones became the fifth, and most recent, freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player in 2015. He averaged 13.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game during the NCAA tournament. Jones led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting and also added five rebounds and one assist in Duke's 68-63 victory against Wisconsin to win the title.
2014: Shabazz Napier — UConn
Shabazz Napier averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game in the 2014 NCAA tournament. In the national championship, he led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Napier also added six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
2013: Luke Hancock — Louisville
Luke Hancock never started a game during the 2013 NCAA tournament. But he put up big numbers off the bench in the Final Four, scoring 20 and 22 points in the national semifinals and national championship, respectively. Hancock made 11 of his 17 field-goal attempts and eight of his 10 3-point attempts in the Final Four. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the title game against Michigan.
2012: Anthony Davis — Kentucky
Anthony Davis became just the fourth freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player in 2012. He averaged 13.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 3.2 assists per game throughout the NCAA tournament. While he struggled offensively in the national championship (six points on 1-of-10 shooting), Davis still made his presence known with 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals.
2011: Kemba Walker — UConn
Kemba Walker averaged 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game during the 2011 NCAA tournament. He led all scorers with 18 points in a nail-biting victory over Kentucky in the national semifinals. Walker added seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and one block as the Huskies won 56-55.
2010: Kyle Singler — Duke
Kyle Singler averaged 18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game throughout the the 2010 NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals against West Virginia, Singler posted 21 points (8-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds and five assists.
2009: Wayne Ellington — North Carolina
Wayne Ellington averaged 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in the 2009 NCAA tournament. He finished with 20 points (7-of-14 shooting), nine rebounds and four assists in the national semifinals against Villanova.
2008: Mario Chalmers — Kansas
Mario Chalmers averaged 14.8 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 steals per game during the 2008 NCAA tournament. In the national championship against Memphis, he finished with 18 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds. But Chalmers is best remembered for his game-tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play in regulation. Kansas would win in overtime 75-68.
2007: Corey Brewer — Florida
Corey Brewer averaged 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game in the 2007 NCAA tournament. Brewer recorded 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block in the national championship game against Ohio State.
2006: Joakim Noah — Florida
Joakim Noah averaged 16.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game throughout the 2006 NCAA tournament. In the national championship against UCLA, Noah finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, six blocks, three assists and one steal.
2005: Sean May — North Carolina
Sean May averaged 22.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game during the 2005 NCAA tournament. May led all scorers with 26 points (9-of-10 shooting) and 10 rebounds in the national championship against Illinois. His Tar Heels hung on for a 75-70 victory.
2004: Emeka Okafor — UConn
Emeka Okafor averaged 13.5 points and a tournament-high 11.3 rebounds in 2004. In the national championship against Georgia Tech, Okafor recorded a 24-point, 15-rebound double-double that clinched UConn's second title in five years. He was named Most Outstanding Player at the conclusion of the NCAA tournament.
2003: Carmelo Anthony — Syracuse
Carmelo Anthony became just the third freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player in 2003. Anthony averaged 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game during the NCAA tournament. He posted 33 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and one assists in the national semifinals against Texas.
2002: Juan Dixon — Maryland
Juan Dixon averaged 25.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game throughout the 2002 NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals against Kansas, Dixon scored a game-high 33 points (10-of-18 shooting) while adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
2001: Shane Battier — Duke
Shane Battier was a serious two-way threat during the 2001 NCAA tournament. He averaged 22.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.0 steals per game. Battier posted 25 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in the national semifinals against Maryland.
2000: Mateen Cleaves — Michigan State
Mateen Cleaves averaged 14.2 points, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game in the 2000 NCAA tournament. Cleaves scored 18 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting in the national championship against Florida. He also went 3-for-4 from the 3-point line and dished out four assists.
1999: Richard Hamilton — UConn
Richard Hamilton averaged 24.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 1999 NCAA tournament. In the Final Four alone, Hamilton averaged 25.5 points and 6.0 rebounds as he led the Huskies to their first national championship.
1998: Jeff Sheppard — Kentucky
Jeff Sheppard averaged 16.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game throughout the 1998 NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals against Stanford, he finished with 27 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals as Kentucky topped the Cardinal 86-85.
1997: Miles Simon — Arizona
Miles Simon averaged 22.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in the 1997 NCAA tournament. He scored a game-high 30 points in the national championship against Kentucky.
1996: Tony Delk — Kentucky
Tony Delk averaged 18.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game during the 1996 NCAA tournament. He led all Kentucky scorers with 24 points in the national championship against Syracuse, while also adding seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block.
1995: Ed O'Bannon — UCLA
Ed O'Bannon led all scorers with 30 points in the national championship game against Arkansas. He also finished with 17 rebounds, three assists and three steals, as UCLA won its first title in 20 years. O'Bannon averaged 19.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game during the 1995 NCAA tournament.
1994: Corliss Williamson — Arkansas
Corliss Williamson averaged 21.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game throughout the 1994 NCAA tournament. His run was highlighted by a 29-point, 13-rebound double-double against Arizona in the national semifinals. Williamson also added five assists, two steals and a block in the Razorbacks' 91-82 win.
1993: Donald Williams — North Carolina
Donald Williams averaged 19.7 points per game during the 1993 NCAA tournament. In the Final Four, Williams made 15 of his 23 field-goal attempts (65.1 percent) and 10 of his 14 3-point attempts (71.4 percent). His efficient shooting helped the Tar Heels capture their first title in 11 years.
1992: Bobby Hurley — Duke
Bobby Hurley averaged 13.9 points and 7.8 assists per game in the 1992 NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals against Indiana, he led all scorers with 26 points and shot 6-for-9 from the 3-point line. Hurley also added four assists and two steals in the Duke victory.
1991: Christian Laettner — Duke
Christian Laettner averaged 20.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the 1991 NCAA tournament. He led all Duke players with 28 points as the Blue Devils upset defending champion UNLV 79-77 in the national semifinals. Duke would then defeat Kansas 72-65 in the title game.
1990: Anderson Hunt — UNLV
Anderson Hunt averaged 17.2 points and 5.0 assists per game during the 1990 NCAA tournament. Hunt led all scorers with 29 points in the title game when UNLV steamrolled Duke 103-73. The 30-point drubbing set a record for the largest margin of victory in the championship game.
1989: Glen Rice — Michigan
Glen Rice was the leading scorer of the 1989 NCAA tournament, averaging 30.7 points per game. He also guided Michigan to an 80-79 overtime victory against Seton Hall in the national championship. Rice finished with 31 points (12-of-25 shooting) and 11 rebounds as the Wolverines won their first title.
1988: Danny Manning — Kansas
Danny Manning was the leading scorer of the 1988 NCAA tournament with an average of 27.2 points per game. His 31-point, 18-rebound double-double in the national championship against Oklahoma carried the Jayhawks to their first title in 36 years.
1987: Keith Smart — Indiana
Keith Smart averaged 15.0 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game during the 1987 NCAA tournament. But it was his 21 points and game-winning shot in the national championship against Syracuse that solidified Smart's Most Outstanding Player recognition.
1986: Pervis Ellison — Louisville
Pervis Ellison became the second freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player, and the first since Arnie Ferrin 42 years earlier. He averaged 15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in the 1986 NCAA tournament. Ellison's 25-point, 11-rebound double-double against Duke in the title game led the Cardinals to a 72-69 victory.
1985: Ed Pinckney — Villanova
Ed Pinckney averaged 14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocker per game during the 1985 NCAA tournament. His top performance came when it mattered most: Villanova's 66-64 win over Georgetown in the national championship. Pinckney finished with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
1984: Patrick Ewing — Georgetown
Patrick Ewing averaged 11.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game throughout the 1984 NCAA tournament. In the regional finals against Dayton, he posted 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
1983: Akeem Olajuwon — Houston
Akeem Olajuwon averaged 18.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game in the 1983 NCAA tournament. In the Final Four alone, Olajuwon averaged 20.5 points, 20.0 rebounds and 7.5 blocks. But his Houston Cougars were upset in the title game against NC State 54-52. As of 2020, Olajuwon remains the last person to be named Most Outstanding Player without winning the national championship.
1982: James Worthy — North Carolina
James Worthy led all scorers with 28 points (13-of-17 shooting) in the title game while adding four rebounds and three steals. North Carolina held off Georgetown 63-62 to win the national championship. Worthy averaged 17.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during the 1982 NCAA tournament.
1981: Isiah Thomas — Indiana
Isiah Thomas averaged 18.2 points, 8.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the 1981 NCAA tournament. He finished with 23 points, five assists, four steals and two rebounds in the national championship against North Carolina. The Hoosiers won 63-50.
1980: Darrell Griffith — Louisville
Darrell Griffith averaged 23.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in the 1980 NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals against Iowa, he posted 34 points (14-of-21 shooting), six assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
1979: Magic Johnson — Michigan State
Magic Johnson averaged 21.8 points, 10.0 assists and 8.8 rebounds and recorded two triple-doubles during the 1979 NCAA tournament. Johnson finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one steal as the Spartans defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State in the national championship game.
1978: Jack Givens — Kentucky
Jack Givens exploded for 41 points on 18-of-27 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists in the national championship game against Duke. Givens led all scorers as the Wildcats held on for a 94-88 victory. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in the 1978 NCAA tournament.
1977: Butch Lee — Marquette
Butch Lee averaged 17.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game during the 1977 NCAA tournament. He finished with 19 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists in Marquette's 67-59 victory over North Carolina in the national championship.
1976: Kent Benson — Indiana
Kent Benson averaged 18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game throughout the 1976 NCAA tournament. In the national championship against Michigan, Benson finished with 25 points (11-of-20 shooting), nine rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
1975: Richard Washington — UCLA
Richard Washington averaged 21.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game during the 1975 NCAA tournament. Washington finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in the national championship against Kentucky. He played the entire game.
1974: David Thompson — NC State
David Thompson averaged 24.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during the 1974 NCAA tournament. His 28-point, 10-rebound performance in the national semifinals helped NC State end UCLA's streak of seven consecutive national championships. The Wolfpack would then defeat Marquette in the title game, led by Thompson's 21 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and one block.
1973: Bill Walton — UCLA
UCLA won the last of its seven straight national championships, and was once again led by Bill Walton in the 1973 NCAA tournament. His 44 points (21-of-22 shooting) in the title game set a record for the most points scored by a player in the national final. The Bruins easily dispatched Memphis 87-66.
1972: Bill Walton — UCLA
Bill Walton averaged 20.0 points and 16.0 rebounds per game during the 1972 NCAA tournament. But he truly flipped the switch in the Final Four, averaging 28.5 points and 20.5 rebounds in those two games. With UCLA winning its sixth straight title and Walton leading the way, he was named Most Outstanding Player.
1971: Vacated — N/A
1970: Sidney Wicks — UCLA
Sidney Wicks averaged 21.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game for the UCLA Bruins in the 1970 NCAA tournament. In the national championship against Artis Gilmore and Jacksonville, Wicks finished with 18 rebounds, 17 points and three assists to help UCLA win its fourth straight title.
1969: Lew Alcindor — UCLA
Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) made history as the only person to be named Most Outstanding Player three different times. He led the Bruins to their third consecutive national championship. Alcindor averaged 23.8 points and 16.0 rebounds per game during the 1969 NCAA tournament. He scored 37 points and grabbed 20 boards in the title game against Purdue. As of 2020, Alcindor remains the only player to be named MOP more than twice.
1968: Lew Alcindor — UCLA
Lew Alcindor averaged 25.8 points and 18.8 rebounds per game in the 1968 NCAA tournament. But it was his 34-point, 16-rebound outing against North Carolina in the title game that not only solidified Alcindor's second-straight Most Outstanding Player award, but back-to-back national championships for UCLA as well.
1967: Lew Alcindor — UCLA
Lew Alcindor had the highest scoring average of the 1967 NCAA tournament at 26.5 points per game. His best performance was a 38-point, 14-rebound double-double against Pacific in the regional finals. Alcindor made 13 of his 20 field-goal attempts and shot 12-for-14 from the free-throw line.
1966: Jerry Chambers — Utah
Despite losing in the national semifinals and the national third place game, Utah's Jerry Chambers was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1966 NCAA tournament. Chambers was the tournament's leading scorer with 143 points. His scoring average of 35.8 was also a tournament-high.
1965: Bill Bradley — Princeton
Bill Bradley guided Princeton from the first round to the national semifinals, and scored a tournament-high 177 points in the process. His scoring average of 35.4 was also the highest for any player in the 1965 NCAA tournament.
1964: Walt Hazzard — UCLA
Walt Hazzard averaged 19.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in the 1964 NCAA tournament. His most dominant showing came in UCLA's 90-84 win over Kansas State in the national semifinals. Hazzard finished with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
1963: Art Heyman — Duke
Art Heyman averaged 22.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during the 1963 NCAA tournament. While Duke finished third, Heyman was named the Most Outstanding Player.
1962: Paul Hogue — Cincinnati
Paul Hogue led the Bearcats to their second-straight national championship, averaging 26.0 points and 17.3 rebounds per game in the 1962 NCAA tournament. Hogue erupted for 36 points (12-of-18-shooting) and 19 rebounds in the national semifinals against UCLA.
1961: Jerry Lucas — Ohio State
While Ohio State fell short of repeating as champions, Jerry Lucas became the third person to be named Most Outstanding Player in back-to-back seasons. His signature game came in the regionals finals against Kentucky, when Lucas scored 33 points (14-of-18 shooting) and snagged 30 rebounds en route to an 87-74 victory. His 18.3 rebounds per game led all players during the 1961 NCAA tournament.
1960: Jerry Lucas — Ohio State
Jerry Lucas led the Buckeyes to their first national championship while averaging 24.0 points and 16.0 rebounds per game in the 1960 NCAA tournament. In the title game against California, all five Buckeyes finished in double figures with Lucas scoring a team-high 16 points.
1959: Jerry West — West Virginia
Jerry West led all scorers with 32.0 points per game in the 1959 NCAA tournament. West's Mountaineers made it to the title game but narrowly lost to California 71-70. West was brilliant in defeat, scoring a game-high 28 points while grabbing 11 rebounds.
1958: Elgin Baylor — Seattle
Elgin Baylor averaged 27.0 points and a tournament-high 18.2 rebounds per game during the 1958 NCAA tournament. Baylor recorded a double-double in all five games, and took the Redhawks to the national championship. Seattle lost to Kentucky 84-72, but Baylor was named Most Outstanding Player.
1957: Wilt Chamberlain — Kansas
Wilt Chamberlain finished with the highest scoring average (30.3 points per game) of the 1957 NCAA tournament. He also averaged 15.5 rebounds and recorded a double-double in all four games. His most dominant performance was a 36-point, 22-rebound double-double in the regional semifinals against SMU. Chamberlain made 14 of his 26 field-goal attempts. But his Jayhawks lost to North Carolina 54-53 in triple-overtime of the national championship game.
1956: Hal Lear — Temple
Hal Lear averaged 32.0 points per game during the 1956 NCAA tournament. His 48 points against SMU in the national third place game set a then-record for most points in an NCAA tournament game. The Owls fell to Iowa in the national semifinals, but Lear was still named Most Outstanding Player.
1955: Bill Russell — San Francisco
Bill Russell averaged 23.6 points per game during the 1955 NCAA tournament, and led all scorers with 118 total points. Russell also dominated on the glass, averaging 14.0 rebounds per game. His 25 boards in the national championship against La Salle helped the Dons win their first title.
1954: Tom Gola — La Salle
Tom Gola was the leading scorer of the 1954 NCAA tournament, finishing with 114 points over five games. He capped off an impressive run with a 19-point, 19-rebound outing in the national championship game as his Explorers defeated Bradley.
1953: B.H. Born — Kansas
B.H. Born and the Kansas Jayhawks were one point away from repeating as national champions. But they fell to Indiana 69-68 in the title game. Still, Born averaged 20.0 points per game in the 1953 NCAA tournament and recorded a triple-double (26 points, 15 rebounds, 13 blocks) against the Hoosiers.
1952: Clyde Lovellette — Kansas
Clyde Lovellette was leading scorer of the 1952 NCAA tournament with 141 total points over four games. He dominated in the national championship against St. John's (N.Y.), scoring 33 points (12-of-25 shooting) and grabbing 17 rebounds to clinch the Jayhawks' first title.
1951: Bill Spivey — Kentucky
Bill Spivey averaged 18.0 points and 16.3 rebounds over four games and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1951 NCAA tournament. Spivey's 22-point, 21-rebound performance in the national championship game helped the Wildcats defeat Kansas State 68-58.
1950: Irwin Dambrot — CCNY
Irwin Dambrot (No. 5 in the picture above) was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1950 NCAA tournament, as CCNY won both the NCAA and NIT tournaments that year — the only team to ever accomplish that feat. Dambrot only scored 36 points in the NCAA tournament. But he finished with a team-high 15 in the championship game against Bradley.
1949: Alex Groza — Kentucky
Groza became the second person to repeat as Most Outstanding Player in 1949. Once again, he finished with more points in the NCAA tournament (82) than any other player. His Wildcats also became the second men's basketball program to win back-to-back titles.
1948: Alex Groza — Kentucky
Alex Groza was the leading scorer of the 1948 NCAA tournament, finishing with 54 points over three games. He also posted a game-high 14 points in the championship game against Baylor.
1947: George Kaftan — Holy Cross
Thanks to a tournament-high 63 points and a national championship, George Kaftan of Holy Cross was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1947 NCAA tournament. Kaftan scored a team-high 18 points in the championship game against Oklahoma.
1946: Bob Kurland — Oklahoma A&M
Kuralnd and the Aggies made history in the 1946 NCAA tournament. Not only was Oklahoma A&M the first school to win back-to-back men's basketball championships, Kurland was the first person to be named Most Outstanding Player in consecutive seasons. He was also the tournament's leading scorer yet again, this time finishing with 72 points.
1945: Bob Kurland — Oklahoma A&M
Bob Kurland (No. 90 in the picture above) led Oklahoma A&M, now known as Oklahoma State, to its first national championship in 1945. He was the leading scorer of the NCAA tournament with 65 points, 22 of which came in the title game against NYU. He's also responsible for the first known dunk in college basketball history.
1944: Arnie Ferrin — Utah
Utah's Arnie Ferrin (seen with the ball in the image above) became the first freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player after the 1944 NCAA tournament. Ferrin scored 22 of Utah's 41 points in the title game against Dartmouth. The Utes needed every last bucket too, winning 42-40.
1943: Ken Sailors — Wyoming
Ken Sailors, who helped popularize the jump shot, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1943 NCAA tournament. Sailors' 16 points in the championship game against Georgetown easily led all scorers. No other player finished in double figures.
1942: Howie Dallmar — Stanford
Howie Dallmar (pictured during his tenure as Stanford's head coach) led all scorers with 15 points in the championship game, as Stanford took care of Dartmouth 53-38. Dallmar was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1942 NCAA tournament.
1941: John Kotz — Wisconsin
John Kotz (No. 40 in the picture above) averaged 12.3 points per game during the 1941 NCAA tournament and posted double figures in all three contests. He scored 12 points in the championship game as the Badgers narrowly beat Washington State 39-34.
1940: Marvin Huffman — Indiana
Indiana's Marvin Huffman scored just 24 points in three games during the 1940 NCAA tournament. But his team-high 12 points (Jay McCreary also scored 12) against Kansas in the title game helped the Hoosiers win their first national championship. Huffman was the first Most Outstanding Player from the team that won the title. This trend would continue for the next 12 years.
1939: Jimmy Hull — Ohio State
While his Buckeyes lost to Oregon 46-33 in the championship game, Jimmy Hull was named the Most Outstanding Player of the inaugural NCAA tournament. He was the tournament's leading scorer, finishing with 58 points over three games and a scoring average of 19.3.
Final Four Most Outstanding Player: Facts, figures and trends
Bob Kurland became the first player to win the award twice when he guided what's now known as Oklahoma State to back-to-back titles in 1945 and 1946. 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).
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.
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.