The college basketball season is starting to wind down. With about six weeks left in the regular season, I look at the leading candidates for conference Player of the Year. This article will look at the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 (Players are listed in no particular order).
Armando Bacot, UNC :
While the Tar Heels have struggled, Bacot has thrived and is having a stronger senior campaign than last year. The 6-10 big man has upped his offensive production by 1.3 points to 17.6 points per game and has been slightly more efficient. He has also gotten to the line a little more often but is shooting 65.7% compared to 67.0% a season ago.
Bacot per game rebound numbers are down from 13.6, but he still tops the conference with 11.2 rebounds as he increased his offensive rebounding to 4.4 a contest. Bacot also leads the conference in PER, fifth in blocks (1.2), 3rd in win shares, and 7th in offensive rating. He has posted 11 double-doubles and has scored 20+ points on nine occasions.
Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest:
The 6th-year senior guard has made the most of his extra year and first season with the Deamon Deacons. Appleby is compiling a career year nearly across the board, averaging 18.1 points, 6.3 assists, 2.1 treys, and 3.1 rebounds with a shooting slash line of .470/.426/.824.
Appleby ranks first or second in scoring, assists, scoring, free throw makes, free throw attempts, win shares, and turnovers. He has scored in double-figures in 17 of 19 appearances, topping the 20-point mark eight times.
Terquavion Smith, NC State:
The 2021-22 ACC All-Freshman selection is a high-volume scorer who has improved his playmaking and defense. He leads the ACC with 19.1 points, fourth with 4.2 assists, and third in steals at 1.8.
While his PER (20.7) is up slightly from a year ago, he struggles to shoot the ball. Smith has produced an effective field goal percentage of 48.4% and a true shooting percentage of 51.4%. He has scored in double-figures in all 19 appearances, tallying 20 or more points eight times.
Jalen Wilson, Kansas: 20.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.6 APG; 47.9 EFG, 52.2 TS%, 22.1 PER
Wilson has made huge strides in his development this year. The two-way forward can score on all three levels and is an outstanding physical defender. Shot selection and ball handling are areas of improvement.
Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State: 18.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.4 APG; 60.2 EFG, 63.4 TS%; 23.0 PER
It is nice to see Johnson healthy, let alone playing the best basketball of his career after his health scare in 2020. The athletic 6-5 forward is one of the best two-way players in college basketball and an excellent shooter who takes great shots.
Markquis Nowell, Kansas State: 16.4 PPG, 8.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 2.9 TO; 23.2 PER, 50.5% EFG,
The 5-7 diminutive and quick point guard has developed into one of the best lead guards in the nation. He has scored in double-figures in 15 of 18 appearances while producing five double-doubles.
Marcus Carr, Texas: 17.1 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.8 RPG, .451/.409/.810
After a disappointing first season with the Longhorns, Carr is playing some of the best basketball of his career. Carr is an electric scorer who needs to get to the free-throw line more often, though he doesn’t turn the ball over much.
Mike Miles, TCU: 19.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.1 RPG .520/.286/.693
Adam Flagler, Baylor: 16.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.5 RPG .447/.452/.804
Zach Edey, Purdue:
Edey has really come to age in year three. The 7-4 mammoth center averages 21.3 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks while posting an incredible PER of over 40. He is not only the leading candidate for conference POY but likely the top contender for national POY.
To be fair, Michigan’s big man Hunter Dickinson (17.8 PPg, 8.9 RPG, 28.0 PER) is also having an excellent season. Penn State guard Jalen Pickett, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Iowa’s Kris Murray also deserve consideration.
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