The finalists for the 2020 Naismith Men’s and Women’s Player of The Year Awards will soon learn who will win the prestigious awards given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The winners will be announced live Friday at noon ET on CBS Sports HQ.
Each of the finalists captained programs that were on track to compete for championships before the coronavirus pandemic cut the season short. Still, they each reached impressive heights that have earned them consideration for college basketball’s most prestigious honor.
Here’s the breakdown on those in the running for the awards given to the best player in men’s and women’s college basketball.
Naismith Men’s Player of the Year finalists
Udoka Azuibuike, Kansas: Azubuike led Division I in field goal percentage at 74.8% and came up big offensively when it mattered most, like when he led the Jayhawks to a win at then-No. 1 Baylor in February. The 7-footer scored 23 points on 11 of 13 shooting that day. But as dominant as he was offensively, his defense may have been even better. The senior blocked 2.6 shots per game, and his 10.5 rebounds per game led the Big 12.
Myles Powell, Seton Hall: It was going to take a special season for someone to dethrone Marquette’s Markus Howard as Big East Player of the Year. Powell did it by leading Seton Hall to a share of the league’s regular-season title while averaging 20.9 points and 1.4 steals per game. His all-around contributions helped Seton Hall rise into the top-10 for the first time since 2000.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon: The Ducks revamped their roster for the 2019-20 season, but one staple remained. Pritchard upped his productivity in nearly every facet as a senior, and Oregon benefitted from his increased role. The senior guard led the Pac-12 with 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game while hitting a career-best 41.5% of his 3-pointers and coming up clutch numerous times for the Pac-12 champions.
Luka Garza, Iowa: Arguably the nation’s most-improved player, Garza helped the Hawkeyes navigate the treacherous Big Ten with an 11-9 record by averaging 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The 6-11 junior broke Iowa’s single-season scoring record with 740 points without the benefit of postseason games. He also improved his 3-point accuracy to 35.8% while taking more 3-pointers per game than he did as a freshman or sophomore.
Obi Toppin, Dayton: The CBS Sports Player of The Year and AP Player of The Year led the Flyers to arguably their best regular season in program history. Toppin averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1 steal per game. The 6-9 forward made 63.3% of his shot attempts, including an incredibly efficient 69.8% of his 2-point attempts. That percentage was buoyed by 107 dunks, many of which were highlight-reel finishes.
Naismith Women’s Player of the Year finalists
Lauren Cox, Baylor: Cox returned from a knee injury suffered in last season’s national title game to lead Baylor to a 10th straight Big 12 regular-season title. The 6-4 senior forward averaged 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 blocks per game. She finished her career with a 70-2 record in Big 12 games and capped it off by earning the Big 12 Player of The Year award.
Tyasha Harris, South Carolina: Harris capped a stellar career by taking her game to the next level as a senior and helping the Gamecocks to a 32-1 record and No. 1 final ranking in the AP Top 25. The senior guard averaged 12 points, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals with a sterling 2.78 assist-to-turnover ratio. She finished her time at South Carolina as the program’s all-time assists leader
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky: It was obvious last season that Howard would be a force in the SEC throughout her career as she earned SEC Freshman of The Year honors. But the 6-2 wing took a huge leap as a sophomore, averaging 23.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals on her way to winning SEC Player of The The Year. Howard’s 84 3-pointers set a single-season school record. At one point, she scored 25 or more in eight straight games.
Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon: The NCAA’s all-time scoring leader capped her college career with a record-shattering senior season as she became the first player in NCAA history to amass 2,000 career points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a career. She also added another eight double-doubles to bring her NCAA-record total to 26 as she led the Ducks to a 31-2 season and a final No. 2 ranking. In total, the 5-foot-11 guard averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds in her farewell tour.