It seems as though Frank Mason III has had the player of the year awards locked up for some time. The Kansas senior is averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.3 percent from deep. It’s not just his eye-popping stats, Mason is guiding the most efficient offense Bill Self has ever coached while putting the team on his back on multiple occasions.
If you had to pick any college hoops player in the country to guide your team in clutch time, you’re picking Mason. He has almost single-handedly dragged the Jayhawks to comeback victories, most recently against West Virginia and Baylor.
For all these reasons, and more, Mason finds himself as a massive -500 favorite to win the Associated Press Player of the Year Award.
Josh Hart’s versatility has him with the second-best odds to win the award, as the Villanova senior leads the Wildcats in points, rebounds, field goals made and minutes. Hart has also been performing better this year compared with the 2015-16 season, when he was also in the national player of the year conversation, and his tenacity on both ends of the court makes him, potentially, more important to his team than any other player in the nation.
The rest of the field is a step below both Mason and Hart but that’s not to say they don’t have a hope. Lonzo Ball has transformed UCLA from the 15-17 pushover to a three-loss program on the verge of a No. 1 seed in March Madness. Caleb Swanigan has been a monster with 25 double-doubles, which includes four 20-20 performances. Nigel Williams-Goss has quietly been the best transfer in the country, as the guard is averaging 16.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor.
There is a very realistic chance that Frank Mason III is in the middle of the greatest season in Big 12 college basketball history. As of this writing, Mason is averaging a conference-high 20.4 points per game while shooting an absurd 51.9 percent from beyond the arc, not to mention his 5.1 assists per game is fourth in the Big 12.
Mason is currently a +250 fave to win the Associated Press Player of the Year award according to Sportsbook. This is a far cry from his Sportsbook number of +5000 that the senior started the season at.
Hot on Mason’s heels is Josh Hart of Villanova. Hart leads the Wildcats in points, assists, rebounds, shots made and shots attempted. The senior continues to be the most versatile player in the nation and has shown that he was indeed born with the clutch gene.
The biggest oversight from books is Caleb Swanigan from Purdue. The Boilermakers have hit some rough patches in conference play, but “Biggie” continues to be the most beastly double-double machine in the country. Swanigan is averaging 19.1 ppg and 12.8 rpg and has recorded a double-double in 20 of Purdue’s 24 games as of this writing. He’s also begun to show range to stretch defenses, with the big man hitting 50 percent from deep.
Grayson Allen joined the long list of hated Duke players last season after the then sophomore scored a bunch and appeared to trip players several times. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good, as the explosive guard averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.
With Duke sporting an experienced starting lineup and a thin bench, Allen has been listed as the +600 favorite to win the Associated Press Player of the Year Award. There is a very good chance that walk-on players may see some minutes for the Blue Devils, which means the team could lean on Allen even more than last season.
Second on the board is Duke teammate Jayson Tatum. The No. 4 prospect in the country has a good scoring touch and exhibits a great court IQ. Tatum sports a big frame – 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan – that has the ability to grow over the coming college basketball season. It will be interesting to see how he is utilized early in the season, as he generally operates best in the mid-range game and with Allen certainly getting the first look.
When you think about the best players in college basketball, you often think of one-and-done freshmen, but the Associated Press has a different idea. The AP has awarded its Player of the Year award to a senior each of the past three seasons and only two freshmen have ever won the prize – Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.
That makes it intriguing to see Harry Giles of Duke and Markelle Fultz of Washington as the two favorites to win the award in the 2016-17 season.
Giles could actually be sidelined for the beginning of the season, as the forward has to go under the knife for the third time since 2013. Giles is a tremendous offensive player who has impressive athleticism and length. The freshman loves to drive into the paint whether he is going for the bucket or the rebound. His limited jump shot and multiple knee injuries could potentially limit his production.
Fultz is potentially the finest point guard prospect to come around in years, as the decorated high school player is incredibly long for the position while showing great skills off the dribble. He has an excellent shooting stroke, which could develop into a deadly weapon at the collegiate level. Fultz does need some polish defensively and still needs to grow into his frame, but he is going to get every opportunity to shine in Washington.
The highest returning player is Ivan Rabb of Cal. After flip-flopping about declaring for the NBA draft last year, the 6’10” power forward decided to return to Berkeley. The sophomore – who was once regarded as the best player in the country during high school – averaged 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season for the Golden Bears. Rabb will become the focal point of the team now that Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace have left the team, so you could see him put up some monster numbers.
A dark horse who could provide value is Allonzo Trier of Arizona. The point guard had an up-and-down freshman season but seemed to struggle with court IQ and effort. Instead of declaring for the draft – and likely going in the first round – Trier decided to return to school, which could mean he has committed to fixing his shortcomings. Though scoring is clearly his calling card, rounding out his game and helping a potentially deadly Wildcats team to a Pac-12 win could put him in the voter’s minds.