Trying to figure out the best team in the country has proven to be a difficult task. It’s also been challenging to try and come up with the nation’s best basketball player.
But with a dozen athletes in the running, we’ve managed to handicap the National Player of the Year race. Here are the top candidates for the award as I see them.
1.) Payton Pritchard, 6-2, 190, G, Sr., Oregon
He’s done it all for the Ducks, making his teammates better and also scoring when necessary — especially with the game on the line. Pritchard is shooting 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep.
2019-20 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 4.1 rpg, 39% 3-pointers
2.) Obi Toppin, 6-9, 220, PF, RS So., Dayton
He’s been the primary reason why the Flyers have entered and risen up the rankings. Toppin showed potential last season, but has been one of the best in the country thus far this year. He’s a big, strong, athletic forward who can also step out and shoot it. Toppin had 18 points and nine boards against Kansas.
2019-20 Stats: 21.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 apg, 41% 3-pointers
3.) Jordan Nwora, 6-7, 225, F, Jr., Louisville
The skilled forward thought about leaving early after last season, but he’s taken his game to another level and ranks in the top 20 nationally in scoring. Nwora has been in double figures every game this season, has done a nice job on the glass and is an elite shooter from deep.
2019-20 Stats: 21.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 44% 3-pointers
4.) Tre Jones, 6-3, 185, PG, So., Duke
He’s still not a knock-down shooter, but Jones is an elite defender, a big-time distributor (he ranks seventh in the country in assists) and a leader. He’s also making a respectable 33 percent from deep this season. He had 15 points, seven assists and six boards in the Blue Devils’ season-opening win over Kansas and had 20 points and 12 assists in the rout at Michigan State.
2019-20 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 7.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 spg
5.) Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, PG, So., Kansas
He’s the guy who makes the Jayhawks go, and he’s been terrific since the season-opening loss to Duke. Dotson is making better decisions, and he’s also been efficient shooting the ball. He’s a blur in the open court and has improved with his ability to make plays in the half court.
2019-20 Stats: 19.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.7 rpg
6.) Luka Garza, 6-11, 260, C, Jr., Iowa
The big man has nearly doubled his production from a year ago, and has been a major reason for the Hawkeyes’ recent turnaround. Garza had 44 points and eight boards against Michigan, and is averaging 27.3 points and 9.5 boards in the last four games against Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan and Syracuse. He ranks sixth in the country in scoring and has six double-doubles.
2019-20 Stats: 22.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg
7.) Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5, 175, PG, So., Iowa State
Not regarded as a big-time scorer, the long and lanky floor-leader has stepped it up in that department while still ranking fourth in the country in assists and possessing a 3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio. Haliburton had 25 points, nine boards and five assists in a loss to Michigan.
2019-20 Stats: 16.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.9 rpg, 39% 3-pointers
8.) Markus Howard, 5-11, 180, G, Sr., Marquette
He leads the country in scoring and much of the reason is a two-game stretch in which he went for 51 in a win over USC and followed it up with 40 in a victory against Davidson.
2019-20 Stats: 25.1 ppg, 45% 3-pointers
9.) Myles Powell, 6-2, 195, G, Sr., Seton Hall
Powell ranks among the national leaders in scoring, and he doesn’t have the strongest supporting cast around him. He put up 37 in a loss to Michigan State and 32 against Oregon.
2019-20 Stats: 21.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 38% 3-pointers
10.) Paul Reed, 6-9, 220, F, Jr., DePaul
The talented Blue Demons forward is tied for the most double-doubles in the country with eight, is in the top 20 nationally in rebounding as well as the top 10 in blocks. He’s also helped put DePaul back on the national map.
2019-20 Stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg
11.) Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, 270, C, Jr., Ohio State
The Buckeyes big man has completely transformed his body and his game this season by shedding weight in the offseason. Known as a low-block scorer, Wesson is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc and is also much better on the defensive end.
2019-20 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg
12.) Tres Tinkle, 6-7, 225, F, Sr., Oregon State
The versatile forward has stuffed the stat sheet like no one else in the country. He scores, rebounds, distributes and can really shoot it. He averaged 22.5 points, 10.5 boards and 4.5 assists in games against Oklahoma and Iowa State.
2019-20 Stats: 21.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, 49% 3-pointers