College Basketball Awards: Who won the NBC Sports Player of the Year?
Who was the college basketball Player of the Year? Which coach was named NBC Sports college basketball Coach of the Year? Who was the best defensive player in the country? The best freshman?
Today, we are unveiling the college basketball postseason awards.
National Player of the Year was, in the end, much easier than I thought that it was going to be to pick.
College basketball Coach of the Year, however, was tough. There were at least four candidates that deserved the award.
Tomorrow, we will be unveiling the NBC Sports All-America teams.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Obi Toppin, Dayton
For my money, this was an easy decision.
Obi Toppin is the clear-cut college basketball National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9 Toppin exploded onto the national scene with a mammoth performance during Dayton’s run to the title game of the Maui Invitational, and he hasn’t slowed down since. He’s averaging 20.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.2 apg while shooting 63.3 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three this season, but it’s not just his numbers that make him the NBC Sports National Player of the Year.
It’s not just the dunks, either, although those are pretty damn impressive as well.
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What makes Toppin so special is that it is his unique combination of skills that allows Dayton to be able to play the way that they want to play. He has the size, strength and athleticism to be able to guard basically any position on the floor, giving the Flyers the ability to play a switching defense. Then combine that with the way that he can play on the perimeter, his ability as a passer and playmaker, his elite floor-running and the fact that he is the most dangerous player in college basketball rolling to the rim after a ball-screen, and what you get is the nation’s most dangerous offense.
The reason why the Flyers have a shot at being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday and have a very real chance to get to a Final Four and win a national title is because Toppin is the absolute best player in the sport in the role that he is asked to play, and that makes Dayton simply unguardable.
Oh, and he can big boy Atlantic 10 players in a way that seems almost unfair:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Scott Drew, Baylor
Baylor has absolutely no business being as good as they have been this season.
Think about it like this: The Bears spent roughy half the season as the undisputed No. 1 team in college basketball despite the fact that they do not have a top 50 prospect on their roster. They are going to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament despite the fact that their starting center is a Division III transfer; that he is only starting because their best player from last season has no knees; that their starting four-man should be playing tight end for the football team; that they have four quality guards, none of whom are taller than 6-foot-2; that their offense can go through stretches where it looks as dangerous as a middle school team.
Don’t let a sluggish end to the season let you forget that this team won 23 straight games and will enter the NCAA tournament with, at the absolute most, five loss on the season. That is Coach of the Year material.
I guess Scott Drew can coach after all.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
I honestly never thought that I would be saying this about Doke.
When he was a sophomore, when was carrying an extra 30 pounds of weight, Doke was exposed. Kansas went up against Villanova in the 2018 Final Four, and it was Azubuike’s inability to get out on the perimeter and deal with the likes of Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall that allowed the Wildcats to beat the Jayhawks by roughly 100 points that night in San Antonio.
Fast forward two years, and Azubuike is arguably the most competent center at defending ball-screens in college basketball. It’s never going to be an ideal matchup when he is facing off with someone like Obi Toppin, but we saw in Maui that he can, at the very least, keep things respectable in a matchup like that.
The reason why the Jayhawks are the best team in college basketball is because of their defense, and as good as Marcus Garrett is on that end of the floor, the reason that Kansas is a juggernaut defensively is their big fella.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Vernon Carey Jr., Duke
Duke is a top ten team in college basketball. Vernon Carey Jr. is a five-star prospect that was rated in the top five of his recruiting class. He’s averaging 17.8 points and 8.8 boards for a team that has a shot at getting a No. 2 seed if they win the ACC tournament, and it feels like no one actually realizes this.
In any other season with any other Duke star, a guy putting up those numbers would be a massive deal. But since Carey’s NBA upside is somewhat limited, so is the hype surrounding him this season.
So we’re going to ignore that here. He’s been absolutely dominant for long stretches this season and deserves the recognition as such.
Vernon Carey Jr., college basketball Freshman of the Year.
How about that?