There are 15 finalists for the Wooden Award (top College Basketball player) as of right now and I think there are only about 5 that are actually deserving of the award. Right now, the finalists include: Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Keita Bates-Diop, Mo Bamba, Trevon Bluiett, Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Jevon Carter, Carsen Edwards, Keenan Evans, Devonte’ Graham, Jock Landale, Luke Maye, and Trae Young.
In my personal opinion, I think that Marvin Bagley, Devonte’ Graham, Jalen Brunson, Jevon Carter and Keenan Evans are deserving of the award. I think Trae Young and Mo Bamba are both severely overrated and their performances towards the end of the season and in the tournament proved that in my eyes.
Bagley was one of the most dominant players in all of college basketball this season and it showed in just about every game he was on the court. Not only was he able to score points seemingly at will, but he allowed Duke to spread the floor and make other teams worry about every single player on the court being a threat to score at any given time. Not only were his stats impressive, his composure and the way he carried himself on the court was very impressive for a Freshman. I’m not a fan of Duke, but Bagley made them fun to watch this year when he was pouring in points and grabbing rebounds over everyone on the court.
I personally don’t think that Graham is the best player on his own team (s/o Malik Newman), but he’s up for this award so I’m probably wrong. Graham can score at will when he’s on, but in games that he wasn’t hitting his shots, he still had a huge impact. He’s above average on the defensive side of the ball and has great court vision. Court vision is something I’ve always been fascinated by when watching basketball because it’s not something that can be taught. Graham was okay with not being the leading scorer and was very unselfish when he knew his shot wasn’t falling. He is a very self-aware basketball player and that will be important for him as he continues his career.
If he’s not the best guard in the country, he’s number 2. Brunson plays incredible defense and can light teams up on the offensive side of the ball as well. He’s a huge part of Villanova’s success this season, along with Mikal Bridges, and he was able to lead them back to the Final Four after a disappointing early exit in the tournament last season. This Villanova team is run by Brunson and it’s clear that his teammates have bought into that as well. Brunson has an extremely high motor and high basketball IQ, both very important for a guard. His work ethic is unmatched in college basketball and he gets a tremendous amount of respect from his coaching staff and teammates. He’s a great leader as well as a great player and has a chance to win the Wooden Award and National Championship.
He’s the reason I’m not sure if Brunson is ranked 1 or 2 for guards because he’s just as good if not better. Carter is the head of the West Virginia press and causes teams to turn the ball over at a high rate. He’s extremely smart about jumping passing lanes and going for steals. It seems as if he times it perfectly every time he goes for a steal and is able to avoid getting fouls called because of his timing. Carter can also light teams up from behind the arc and score points driving to the basket. He also sports great court vision and fits the ball into tight spaces when passing to Sagaba Konate to feed the big man down low. This is another guard that is a clear leader of his team and has mutual respect between himself and his teammates as well as his coaching staff. Carter is one of the few Seniors on this list and staying in college for all four years definitely paid off for him and West Virginia.
Evans presence on the court was crucial to Texas Tech having success this year. They hit a rough patch when Evans was sidelined with a foot injury, but when he came back and was 100% healthy, they made a run to the Elite 8 before running into the buzzsaw that is Villanova. Evans was the lead scorer for Tech and their offensive efficiency changed drastically when he was off the court vs when he was on the court. Evans was the glue that held the shaky Texas Tech team together this season and I think it says a lot about him that he was able to lead this team to the Elite 8.