We haven’t even handed out awards to college football players and coaches, yet it’s time to turn our gaze to the hardwood, college basketball specifically. Last year Obi Toppin won the award and took it with him when he was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The field for player of the year is wide open this year with just a couple favorites. Every Monday, Tom Bennett and I will be recording our new “94 Feet In Under 94 Minutes,” college basketball podcast. Also every Monday, we will release our official Naismith Player of the Year Watch and Coach of the Year Watch.
Obviously the Coach of the Year is hard to predict until late in the season, but we’ll give it our best shot early on. Here is our official Naismith Rankings and Coach of the Year Rankings! Feel free to comment or chime in if you think we’re missing someone, or you don’t agree with our choices. All interaction is welcome.
Naismith Power Rankings 12/28/20
- Luka Garza, F, Iowa: Last year’s runner up is off to a great start this season. Through nine games in 2020, he is averaging nearly 29 points per game and ten rebounds for the tenth ranked Hawkeyes. Team success is not as much of a key factor as it is for the Heisman in college football. However, the Hawkeyes have started 7-2 with their only losses coming to number one Gonzaga and an overtime loss at (21) Minnesota. He is putting up those numbers while also shooting over 60% from the field and 70% from deep. Those of you college basketball fans out there who were looking for a tight race this year, may be disappointed. Garza is the clear-cut favorite, with his odds sitting at -425 in Vegas. Comparison: Homeless Person’s Shaq
- Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga: With Gonzaga being the clear favorite to win the title early in the year, you had to expect at least one Bulldog in our power rankings. While Gonzaga has a couple of players worthy of mention, we’re going to stick with the freshman point guard Jalen Suggs. The Zags have started out 7-0 and Suggs’ contributions have been great on the court. The highest rated recruit to ever play at Gonzaga, the true freshman is averaging 15 points per game, with six assists, and grabbing six rebounds. His best game came against Luka Garza’s Iowa Hawkeyes. During that game he poured in 27 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He is a bit sloppy with the ball at times, he had seven turnovers against Iowa, but that can improve with time. Don’t be surprised if Suggs stays close to Garza for the Player of the Year. Comparison: Jason Kidd
- Jared Butler, G, Baylor: Butler isn’t even the highest scorer for the Bears, but watch just one Baylor game and you can see how important he is to the second ranked Bears. Butler is as steady as they come, scoring 12 or more in all six of Baylor’s first six games. The Bear’s guard averaged about 15 points per game, along with seven assists and four rebounds. Last year Butler was one of the few guards who could lead a team through the entire NCAA Tournament. However, his momentum was slowed when the tournament was cancelled. Comparison: Fred VanVleet
Players to Watch: Garrison Brooks, F, North Carolina – Collin Gillespie, G, Villanova – Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State – Marcus Garrett, G, Kansas – Caleb Love, G, North Carolina – Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga – Matthew Hurt, F, Duke – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Nova
Coach of the Year Power Rankings:
- Bob Huggins: Huggins seems to have found a home in Morgantown, West Virginia. The Mountaineers have an outside shot to make the Final Four, and if that happens, you can hand the award to Huggins on the podium. Huggins’ suffocating defensive philosophy can cause chaos for other teams, which is exactly what Huggins wants. The Mountaineers have started 7-2 and are currently ranked ninth in the latest AP Poll.
- Jay Wright, Villanova: For the past decade or so, Nova hasn’t had to rebuild, they just reload. The Wildcats are playing team basketball, as they have four players averaging over 12 points per game. This is the type of team that can flip a switch and get hot at anytime, so Wright is obviously in our power rankings.
- Kelvin Sampson, Houston: Wherever Sampson goes, he produces winners. He’s done that at Houston last year and this year so far. The Cougars are one of the only teams left undefeated, with a 7-0 record. If the Cougars can make some noise late in conference play, and during the conference tournament, don’t be surprised to see Sampson high on a lot of lists.
Coaches to Watch
Mark Few, Gonzaga – Scott Drew, Baylor – Steve Pikiell, Rutgers – Greg Gard, Wisconsin – Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Make sure to tune in tonight at 7:30 for Chapter One of the 94 Feet In Under 94 Minutes podcast. Feel free to comment, discuss, and disagree with us, it’s all good interaction. We will also be doing some cool segments like, “Who Am I?” Along with that we will be releasing a pick a day every Monday, and our weekend parlays. On top of that we will talk about our top tens, go over our Naismith Watch, and just like the Fourth & Long Podcast, we will be doing some trivia. Don’t miss out and tune in tonight!
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