Naismith Trophy

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Brian Mull | | January 27, 2016

Naismith Watch: Oklahoma's Hield holds tight at the top

  Oklahoma's Buddy Hield is making a strong push for college basketball's biggest individual honor.

What a season.

Remarkable individual performances are the new normal. Sprinkled among the unpredictable results from night-to-night are incredible shooting displays and near triple-doubles. Four or five players are having seasons that in prior years would probably be good enough to earn the top spot on this list. Now, they have a month or so to battle each other for the Naismith Trophy, the longest running individual award in college basketball.

First, a reminder: The initial 50-man watch list was released in December.

The list will be pared to 30 players on Feb. 11th, the 10 semifinalists will be announced March 2nd and four finalists will be revealed on March 20th. The winner receives the award on the first weekend of April during the Final Four in Houston.

Each Monday for the remainder of the regular season we’ll publish a nine-man watch list, ranking the favorites to win the award if the season ended today.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (25.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 51.7 3PFG pct.)

Last week, we gave an update on Hield’s quest for membership in that rarest of shooters’ clubs, 50-50-90 - as in field goal percentage - 3-point percentage - free throw percentage. What makes his season even more remarkable is the top-ranked Sooners have faced the nation’s third most difficult schedule, per KenPom. So hats off to Hield, who leads the nation in 3-pointers per game (4.1) and is one of the best players - and best stories - in college basketball in recent memory. If he maintains his current shooting percentages, he’ll not only become the third to join the 50-50-90 club since 1995, but also earn VIP membership status.




FG Pct.

3Pt pct.

FT pct.

Hield, ‘15-16






Salim Stoudamire

Arizona ‘04-05






Matt Kennedy

Charleston Southern ‘13-14






Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (18.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.6 apg)

The Spartans’ versatile leader lost stamina while missing four games over three weeks in late December and early January, according to coach Tom Izzo. Well, suffice it to say Maryland doesn’t want to face him when he’s returned to peak conditioning. Valentine tortured the Terps with 19 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a key Big Ten victory on Saturday night.

“We went back to our roots,” Valentine told reporters. “That’s what we were winning with at first. Playing tough, running in transition, wearing the other team down, being smart at the end of games, coming up with big-time plays at the end. You know, all those things. It was a must-win. We were determined. We refused to lose that game.”

Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa (18.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 bpg)

The Hawkeyes’ slender 6-9 forward has a statistical profile that advanced metrics gurus adore. He converts 75 percent of his shots at the rim, drills 48.3 percent of 3-pointers (making more than two per game), draws nearly five fouls per 40 minutes and converts 84.3 percent of his free throw attempts.

Uthoff has been on a tear of late, also, helping the Hawkeyes win nine consecutive games. His 22-point effort in Sunday’s win over Purdue was his fifth 20-point outing in the last six games.

Check out No. 3 Iowa on Thursday night in a pivotal Big Ten tilt at No. 8 Maryland.

Georges Niang, Iowa State (19.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.2 apg)

The Cyclones are 15-4 and No. 14 in the latest AP Top 25 because the super skilled forward Niang is playing like a first-team All-American.

Niang has an offensive rating of 119.9 against a schedule rated 17th most difficult in the nation per KenPom. His splits look even stronger in the Cyclones’ six games against the stiffest competition - 22.2 ppg, 60.6 percent on 2-pointers and 42.9 percent on 3-pointers, leading Iowa State to a 4-2 record in those games.  

Kris Dunn, Providence (17.0 ppg, 7.1 apg, 6.2 rpg)

We love the Friars’ point guard, and admire him for driving his squad to a 17-3 record despite being the primary target on the scouting report each and every night.

The Providence athletic communications staff believes in the 6-4 junior also, and is promoting their potential Player of the Year with a “Get it Dunn campaign” featured prominently on the university’s athletics website.

"He's about as impressive of a point guard as I've seen in a long, long time,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said earlier this season. “The last guy I think I've seen on film that startles you at that position was (current Charlotte Hornets point guard) Kemba Walker. He's so dominating in the game on both ends of the floor. The ball hits people's hands on time like I've never seen it before.”

Dunn continues to lead the nation in assist rate, helping on 47.1 percent of the Friars’ baskets. He dropped 14 assists and nailed a clutch 3-pointer as Providence stunned Villanova on Sunday.

Ben Simmons, LSU (19.6 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 5.1 apg)

There’s a tendency to take Simmons’ size, skill and IQ for granted at times, perhaps because the Tigers have sputtered to a 12-7 record this season. Or maybe it’s because expectations around him hover at an unrealistic level. Then, Simmons drains a 15-foot jumper, sinks a nifty reverse layup, grabs a defensive rebound to start the fastbreak and delivers a pinpoint pass over the span of three minutes as he did midway through the first half of LSU’s two-point win over Alabama on Saturday. And it’s easy to remember why folks make such a fuss about a 6-10 forward.  

And, although he’s 22 hours in an airplane away, Simmons hasn’t forgotten his friends at home either:

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (17.1 ppg, 6.1 apg, 4.3 rpg)

On the season, Ferrell is shooting 44.7 percent on 3-pointers and 50.0 percent on 2-pointers, both of which are career highs.

In Big 10 action, his long-range touch has been hotter still (20 of 39) and he’s been a sure and steady ballhandler, assisting on one-third of the Hoosiers' buckets for the second most efficient offense in conference action (1.16 points / possession).

Ferrell played all but 17 minutes in the last three games as Indiana stretched its winning streak to 12. He dished out 22 assists in that span and committed five turnovers.

Grayson Allen, Duke (20.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg)

The Blue Devils’ 6-5, 200 pound wing also understands the keys to efficient scoring. Almost unstoppable driving to his dominant right hand or in the open court, 76 percent of Allen’s shot attempts occur at the rim or beyond-the-arc, per

He finishes 67 percent of those shots at the rim, and buries 40 percent from deep, a lethal combination that forces defenders to decide whether to pressure tight on the perimeter or sag off and clog driving lanes.

Despite its recent struggles, Duke remains second in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (122.1) and Allen leads the nation in offensive rating (131.6) among players who use at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah (16.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg. 63.7 FG pct.)

The silky 7-footer had a monster week as the Utes hit the road and swept the two Pac-12 schools in Washington to remain a contender in a jumbled regular season race. Poeltl was 15 of 25 from the field and 13 of 16 from the line in the two victories, hauled down 15 rebounds and handed out nine assists.

He’s drawing 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes in Pac-12 play, and making opponents pay by sinking 77.6 percent - an incredible improvement over his 35.9 percent Pac 12 free throw shooting last season.

At this rate, Poeltl is on the fast track to becoming the third most famous Austrian, trailing only Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wolfgang Mozart.

The next nine: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia; Perry Ellis, Kansas; Jack Gibbs, Davidson; Josh Hart, Villanova; Brice Johnson, North Carolina; Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame; Gary Payton, Oregon State; Kevin Punter, Tennessee; Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga;


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