By: Isabel Smith ~Staff Writer~
It’s difficult to dispute that Buddy Hield deserves the top spot in the list of Player of the Year candidates.
Following the close victory over a team with the best freshman player in the country, LSU, Hield’s average points per game increased to 26 for the 2015-16 season. The Oklahoma senior guard had a rock star performance with 32 points and seven rebounds. Hield helped carry his team back from a double-digit deficit to a win, and he did it in a way that exuded comfort and confidence.
In the second half of the LSU matchup, Hield knocked in seven of his eight three-pointer attempts. Earlier in the season against No. 1 ranked Kansas, Hield posted an inspiring 46 points through the triple overtime game.
Hield deserves the top spot because he consistently performs at a high level, especially under pressure.
The rest of the playing field isn’t as clear. Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield’s opposing force of power in the Jan. 30 matchup between Oklahoma and LSU, is a definite candidate.
In his inaugural college season, LSU forward Simmons has averaged 19.5 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game. While he didn’t post a double-double in the Jan. 23 road game against Alabama, the Australian native put up a key 23 points that helped decide the crucial victory.
Though Simmons’s team hasn’t proven to be a top contender this season, the freshman still shows his power and ability to attack on the court.
Providence’s Kris Dunn is a Player of the Year contender as well. The junior point guard averages 17.4 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
A key game for Dunn was the Jan. 24 matchup against Big East rival Villanova. The No. 19 ranked Friars went up against No. 4 Villanova. Dunn wasn’t the highest scorer of the game (Ben Bentil had 31), but the guard showed his strength in how he supported his team. Dunn tied his career-high 14 assists in the victory.
The Wildcats focused heavily on the team’s biggest threat, and Dunn used this to his advantage, aiding his teammates.
Despite his surgery and missing four of this season’s games, Denzel Valentine deserves consideration. Michigan State’s senior guard had much to prove after missing so much action and taking time to get back up to speed. He’s certainly working his way back to putting on Player of the Year performances. Valentine posted 19 points and an impressive 14 rebounds in a key win over No. 7 Maryland.
If Valentine’s stat line continues to improve for the remainder of the season, his place on the list should go unchallenged.