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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

College basketball year-end awards predictions

Sports opinion
Zach+Edey+is+the+favorite+to+repeat+as+Naismith+Player+of+the+Year.
COURTESY
Zach Edey is the favorite to repeat as Naismith Player of the Year.

The 2023-2024 college basketball season has been nothing less than an exciting watch. Teams like UConn, Houston and Purdue showcased dominant seasons once again, while Iowa State, Arizona and Dayton surprised us all with successful seasons so far. The regular season is coming to an end, which means it’s time to hand out awards to each individual who dominated their particular role. 

Nasmith Player of the year: Zach Edey, Purdue

After winning this award in the 2022-2023 season, I think Zach Edey defends his title and claims it once again. This would be the first back-to-back Nasmith winner since Ralph Sampson won it three times in a row from 1981-1983. Edey is averaging a double double with 23.3 points per game along with 11.7 rebounds. The Purdue offense runs through him, as his  7’4” height is almost impossible to stop as a defender. When opponents try to double team him it creates wide open shots for his teammates. Edey has led Purdue to a 24-3 record on the season, and will likely hear their name called as a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. It’s safe to say, without Edey the entire landscape of this Purdue team is different. He’s a true difference maker on the court and will be looking to get Purdue its first ever National championship this upcoming March. 

Coach of the Year: TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State

After missing out on the tournament last season with a 19-14 record, Iowa State head coach TJ Otzelberger has led his team to a 20-5 record and is currently ranked No. 6 in the entire country. Iowa State is averaging around 78 points per game with four players averaging more than 10 points per game. Otzelberger has his team playing fundamentally sound basketball, averaging the second fewest turnovers in the Big 12. They have two marquee victories at home this season beating both No. 2 ranked Houston and No. 7 ranked Kansas. Iowa State is currently sitting second in the Big 12 and is looking to capture its first conference title since 2019. Title or not, Iowa State will be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. A year ago right now the Cyclones season was basically over. Now they are National Championship contenders, in large part due to head coach TJ Otzelberger. An ecstatic turnaround in Ames. 

Transfer of the year: Hunter Dickinson, Kansas

In this day and age of college basketball, acquiring transfers through the portal is essential for teams. Many acquired new players, but no addition was bigger than Hunter Dickinson transferring to Kansas from Michigan. Dickinson averaged 18.5 points per game in his junior year at Michigan, but a disappointing season and NIL opportunities led to his departure. This season for the Jayhawks he is averaging 18.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Dickinson doesn’t have a great 3-point jump shot or a whole lot of quickness. He’s a true old-school big man that dominates in the post offensively and defensively. The best part of his game is his craftiness with his post moves that makes it hard for defenders to guard him. He’s a big reason why Kansas is 21-6 on the year and ranked 9th in the country. It’s hard to imagine the Jayhawks having the kind of season they’re having without Dickinson. 

Freshman of the year: Rob Dillingham, Kentucky

No surprise the freshman of the year comes from the university known for its famous “one and done” slogan. Rob Dillingham has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wildcats this season. He currently averages 15 minutes per game and is the second leading scorer for the Wildcats. Dillingham has a smooth 3-point shot and the ability to get to the rim and finish. Along with that, he does a great job creating his own shots, and is a solid defender as well. We could very well see Dillingham go one-and-done to the NBA, but for now he’s helped the Wildcats to a 19-8 season and 6th place in the SEC. Kentucky will participate in the NCAA Tournament once again, in large part due to the contributions of Dillingham. 

Fanbase of the year: Duke Blue Devils

No surprise here. The group known as “The Cameron Crazies” named after its stadium somehow makes a capacity gym of just over 9,000 one of the loudest places to play in college basketball. The record backs it up, as Duke holds a 15-1 record at home this year. Duke fans are on a different level when it comes to cheering on their program. Students have to enter a weekly lottery in hopes to get into the stadium. It sometimes gets to the extreme of camping out in tents in order to get tickets. Not every basketball program can say their fans are part of the reason their team is successful. If you’re a part of the Duke basketball program, you can say it proudly. 

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MICHAEL SPAHN, Sports Writer

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