BOZICH | Wooden Award race lacks frontrunner like Lamar Jackson - WDRB 41 Louisville News

  • Which player deserves to be the frontrunner for college basketball's Wooden Award as the game's best player?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Lonzo Ball, UCLA
    13%
    33 votes
    Josh Hart, Villanova
    7%
    18 votes
    Luke Kennard, Duke
    7%
    18 votes
    Frank Mason, Kansas
    22%
    54 votes
    Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
    29%
    73 votes
    Other
    22%
    54 votes

BOZICH | Wooden Award race lacks frontrunner like Lamar Jackson

Posted: Updated:
Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan is a frontrunner in a  wide-open race for the Wooden Award (AP photo). Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan is a frontrunner in a wide-open race for the Wooden Award (AP photo).

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In college football, the Heisman Trophy race was over milliseconds after Lamar Jackson high-stepped over that flailing Syracuse defender, hung 63 points on Florida State and outplayed Deshaun Watson at Clemson.

In college basketball, nobody has delivered a Lamar Jackson moment. Nobody has high-stepped to the head of the class in the John Wooden Award race.

That’s a problem because the fine folks at the Los Angeles Athletic Club who present the Wooden Award have delivered a deadline of next Monday for state chairmen to nominate the 15 finalists for 2017.

I don’t see a frontrunner.

I don’t see a consensus top five.

I certainly don’t see a firm top 15.

I see confusion. I see reasons to hold all ballots for as long as possible, which is sensible strategy every season.

Here’s a sample: Ken Pomeroy posts his list of the 10 most efficient players in college basketball, updating daily at KenPom.com. None of his top five this season are projected as Top 25 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Calm down. I realize college dominance and pro potential don’t always overlap. The Wooden Award is not based on NBA potential.

But the Wooden Winner last season was Buddy Hield of Oklahoma.

Hield ranked third in Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings. He was taken sixth in the NBA Draft.

Two seasons ago Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin beat Jahlil Okafor of Duke and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns for the trophy. They ranked 1-2-3 on Pomeroy’s list. Each was a Top 10 NBA pick.

When I think Wooden winner, I think Anthony Davis (2012), Kevin Durant (2007) and Tim Duncan (1997).

Pomeroy’s top five players this season are Villanova wing Josh Hart, Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, Saint Mary’s big man Jock Landale, Baylor big man Jonathan Motley and Wisconsin center Ethan Happ.

This is where those five guys are projected to be drafted next June by DraftExpress.com: Hart (33rd), Swanigan (26), Landale (undrafted), Motley (28) and Happ (undrafted).

Who are the guys NBA scouts like?

They’re freshmen, of course – Washington point guard Markelle Fultz; UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball; Kansas wing Josh Jackson; North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith and Duke’s Jayson Tatum.

The only guy in that group in Pomeroy’s Top 10 is Jackson, who is ranked eighth.

Guess what? Jackson isn’t considered the most efficient player on his team, ranking one spot behind guard Frank Mason, a player I’m more inclined to support.

ESPN’s C.L. Brown posted his latest Wooden national update last week. He favors Hart, Mason, Swanigan, Ball and Nigel Williams-Goss, the playmaker for top-ranked and unbeaten Gonzaga.

That, of course, was before Hart missed 11 of 18 shots with four fouls and three turnovers as Villanova lost at home to Butler by eight Wednesday.

Next man up?

I think Swanigan and his 23 double-doubles make him the player to beat.

Hart, Swanigan, Motley, Happ, Williams-Goss, Mason, Jackson and Ball are locks for my 15 finalists.

That’s eight players – and seven openings.

Donovan Mitchell of Louisville and Malik Monk of Kentucky are the obvious local candidates. Former Ballard star Kelan Martin remains Butler’s best player.

Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson and Duke guard Luke Kennard have delivered solid seasons. Monte Morris is perpetually overlooked, as critical to Iowa State’s success as Melo Trimble has been to Maryland. Morris and Trimble don’t have much help.

Pomeroy’s formula likes Sindarius Thornwell of South Carolina more than Monk. Freshman Lauri Markkanen is a primary reason that Arizona, not UCLA nor Oregon, leads the Pac-12. UCLA freshman T.J. Leaf ranks third in the nation in point per possession at 1.22.

I could go on. But I’ve got to cut the list at 15. I told you it was confusing.

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