WHorse Racing online Bookiesooden Watch – making a case for Kansas Jayhawks Devonte Graham

Wooden Watch: Making the case for Devonte Graham

A tiny oral history: Michigans one shining team manager moment

Wooden Watch: Making the case for Devonte Graham

Dalen Cuff and Tom Crean make the case for Saint Marys Jock Landale and St. Bonaventures Jaylen Adams for the Wooden Award. (1:38)

For most of the season, the talk of the Big 12 was centered on the true freshman point guard at Oklahoma drawing Stephen Curry comparisons.

Trae Youngis fun to watch and, for many, he became appointment viewing. Hes surely going to finish the season as the nations leader in both scoring and assists. If someone wants to argue his case for the Wooden Award as the best player in the country, they would have a lot of valid reasons to work with.

Except, at this point, Young probably shouldnt be the favorite to be named the player of the year in his own conference. With only one Big 12 game left — against last-place Iowa State — Youngs Sooners are guaranteed to finish conference play with a losing record. His season is worth celebrating for a lot of reasons, but individual accolades should be given to players on teams that at least challenge for their conference title.

That was part of the draw for Young early. Could he lead Oklahoma to a conference title and end Kansas 13-year reign as Big 12 champions?

When the Sooners dropped out of contention rather quickly, Texas TechsKeenan Evansturned into that guy. Would he be the key player on the team that endedthe streak? It was really tempting to bet against gravity.

In hindsight, though, it seems so, so silly. For the 14th straight year, Kansas is the Big 12 champion, and at 24-6 is on course back to the 1-line in the NCAA tournament. It should have never been in question.

Credit should be spread around, of course, but the jobDevonte Grahamhas done as the Jayhawks leader deserves the most praise. Graham is not quite on the same level Frank Mason III was a year ago when he won the Wooden Award, but hes not far behind and has played himself into the thick of the conversation a year after finishing as the Jayhawks third-leading scorer behind Mason and Josh Jackson, the NBA drafts No. 4 overall pick.

Graham ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring (17.7 points per game), second in assists (7.2), fifth in steals (1.6), tied for the first with a 2.7-1 assists-to-turnover ratio. Add what he has brought to a championship team as a senior leader and youve got a candidate for national player of the year. That candidacy isnt built because hes the best NBA prospect — if that were the case, it would be a two-man race between ArizonasDeandre Aytonand DukesMarvin Bagley III– or because he has the most eye-popping stats (that would be Young). Whats working in his favor is arguably the best combination of individual and team success in the country.

All thats left is for the Jayhawks to make some noise in March.

Bagley didnt necessarily have his two most impressive performances of the season upon his return from injury in the past week, but the key is that hes back. Even though Duke was 4-0 while he was out, it would have been worrisome if he remained sidelined closer to the tournament. He has been the most talented player on the floor in every game he has played this season.

Red Raiders fans will undoubtedly look back at this season and wonder what could have been had Evans not suffered a late-season foot injury. After averaging nearly 20 points per game this season, Evans, obviously limited, managed just 12 total points in three straight losses to fall out of the title race — and sat out in another loss on Monday. If he can get healthy by the NCAA tournament, Texas Tech still has the makings of a team that could make a deep run.

Ohio State begins play in the Big Ten tournament on Friday against the winner of Northwestern-Penn State. If Bates-Diop guides the Buckeyes to the conference title, hell see his stock continue to rise.

Others to watch:Trevon Bluiett, Xavier;Miles Bridges, Michigan State;Jalen Brunson, Villanova;Jock Landale, Saint Marys.

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