The college basketball season has come to an end, moving through the NCAA Tournament. One week before Monday night’s championship game in Arizona, the Wooden Award finalists were named.
There is a lot of debate as to who should win the award – especially since the North Carolina Tar Heels don’t have a candidate as one of the finalists. The obvious choice is taking the best player from the best team, but that’s not an option here. Instead, the voting will likely go mostly based on regular season performance. The Wildcats, Bruins, Jayhawks and Boilermakers disappointed in the NCAA Tournament, while Williams-Goss shot just 35% from the field in March Madness.
If you’re betting this college basketball prop, you’re going to want to think about their entire body of work as the Tournament is basically a wash. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of their full seasons and candidacies at the end of the road.
Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats
Last Posted Odds: +300
The NCAA Tournament went worse for Hart than for any of the other four Wooden finalists. He wasn’t able to provide enough offense to get the Wildcats past Wisconsin in the second round. Nevertheless, his tough defense, nose for the ball, and undying leadership all meant a great deal to Villanova. The Wildcats lost more because Kris Jenkins shot poorly and their frontcourt lacked the size of the 2016 team, with Daniel Ochefu being sorely missed after last season’s tremendous run. Hart’s status as an elite player this past season remains unquestioned.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins
Last Posted Odds: +500
One of the men who battled Hart for player of the year honors is Ball. He was superb in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament but then ran into a Sweet 16 game in which nothing went right for him against Kentucky. De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky shredded Ball on dribble drives, exposing the limitations of Ball’s defense. Nevertheless, Ball’s impact on UCLA in this one season reached extremely far. Ball will almost certainly be a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. His level of standing in college basketball this past season was never diminished in a way which made him look like a second-rate player.
Frank Mason, Kansas Jayhawks
Last Posted Odds: +200
The Kansas Jayhawks once again fell short of the Final Four, losing in the Elite Eight to Oregon, but don’t blame Frank Mason. He was the one player who kept KU afloat for much of that day. He took defenders on the drive, hit pull-up jumpers, and carried the Jayhawks on offense when teammates were either struggling from the field (Devonte Graham) or saddled with foul trouble (Josh Jackson). Mason is the foremost example on this list of a player who played well even when his team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. He is one of the great Kansas players of all time, even though he never made a Final Four in his career.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers
Last Posted Odds: +200
This is the bruiser in the paint, the man with the massive frame needed to clear out space and bully opposing defenders on the low block. Swanigan consistently blended that low-post power and muscle with the ability to hit threes and also 15-foot jump shots near the foul line. He displayed the full range of his skills in the NCAA Tournament, and he made it impossible to deny that Purdue would have gone nowhere without him in 2017. He was special, though Mason and Kansas dominated his Boilermakers in the Sweet 16.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Posted Odds: +1200
Williams-Goss, the transfer from the University of Washington who powered the Zags to the final game of the college basketball season on Monday night, enabled the nation to see why he joined his four more publicized fellow stars as a Wooden finalist. Williams-Goss dazzled in the national semifinals, when Gonzaga fought past South Carolina. His combination of length, ball-handling and dexterity was hard for opponents to match up against. He left the season leaving no doubt about his legitimacy on this list.
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