The college basketball season is just getting started, but with a full week done, some players have begun to receive national attention and make an imprint on the season. Which players are the favorites to snag each of the major individual player college basketball awards next spring? Here are the five which stand out:
Most Improved: Temple Gibbs, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
With the departures of V.J. Beachem and Kevin Vasturia, Notre Dame has an alarming need for quality minutes and production on the wing. When a player has a chance to get a lot of playing time yet also meet a specific and urgent need on the roster, that is the perfect recipe for a player who will win the Most Improved Player Award. Temple Gibbs checks both of those boxes. What’s more is that he is playing with a point guard, Matt Ferrell, and an elite post player, Bonzie Colson, who will get him the ball in good spots and draw so much defensive attention that Gibbs will have plenty of space in which to operate. He has teammates who will put him in a position to succeed. It is clear that Gibbs has a lot of reasons to recommend him more than others as the Most Improved Player favorite this season.
Sixth Man of the Year: Derryck Thornton, USC Trojans
The transfer from Duke is joining a loaded roster, which feeds into a Sixth Man candidacy. Thornton won’t be asked to do too much, but he will still have a significant role to play on a deep and experienced roster whose players have well-defined roles. This is part of a college basketball Sixth Man candidacy: When a sixth man comes into the game off the bench, he knows that at least three of the players he is playing with on the floor will be starters. USC has good starters, not just average starters. They will make it easier for Thornton to be highly productive and efficient. The stars line up for Thornton to thrive.
National Player Of The Year: Miles Bridges, Michigan State Spartans
When a lottery pick-level NBA draftee comes back for a sophomore season, it makes news and conveys a powerful message. Bridges is not a one-note player. He is smart, rangy, compact in his middle and upper body, able to guard multiple positions, able to post up and face up, score from the perimeter and in the paint. Michigan State is a popular pick to win the national title, and Tom Izzo is a coach who can make the most of Bridges’ talent. There are few more attractive options for Player of the Year.
Sparty has had a so-so start to the year as they easily handled North Florida but then lost 88-81 to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils at home.
Freshman Of The Year: Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri Tigers
Think of Ben Simmons, only someone who is not nearly as good a passer but who is a much better perimeter shooter. Porter might not fit that description to the letter, but he is at least in the neighborhood. If the hype is real and the player is not a bust, this is the best freshman in the country.
Porter has had a slow start to the year as he played just two minutes in the season-opener against Iowa State and then suffered a leg injury. He has since missed the teams last two games against Wagner and at Utah.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Reggie Lynch, Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers have a team full of rugged defenders, but Lynch is the linchpin of the group. Precisely because his teammates are quality defenders, Lynch won’t be helplessly out of position on plays, trying to cover for everyone else on the floor. He will be in defensive positions where he can wall off big men or cut off penetrators on dribble drives. Lynch should enjoy playing defense on a team full of hard workers. He will be the college basketball Defensive Player of the Year.
The 2018 March Madness futures are out. There has been plenty of news to keep up with in the offseason but keep an eye on the betting lines as they move around at Diamond Sportsbook! Get the latest college basketball betting lines right here.
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