ST. LOUIS (USBWA) The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected four outstanding players as finalists for its 2018-19 Oscar Robertson Trophy · two of which join a pair of freshmen as finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award · and seven coaches as finalists for the Henry Iba Award.
With nominations from the entire USBWA membership, the association's board of directors chose the finalists for the National Player of the Year, National Freshman Player of the Year and National Coach of the Year, respectively. All names will be placed on a final ballot to be sent to the membership today.
The Henry Iba Award winner will be announced on Mon., March 25, with the Wayman Tisdale Award winner announced the next day Tues., March 26. The Oscar Robertson Trophy winner will be presented by its namesake on Fri., April 5 at the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis.
All three award winners will be honored at the USBWA College Basketball Awards Dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis on Mon., April 15. Public tickets for the dinner are on sale at collegebasketballawards.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $150 per person and include dinner, drinks and parking in the MAC garage. Sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wilson at the MAC at 314-539-4488.
Three highlight-grabbing freshmen from the Atlantic Coast Conference are on the combined list of finalists Duke teammates RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson are Oscar Robertson Trophy finalists, and Coby White of North Carolina joins them as finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award. Murray State's dynamic playmaking phenom Ja Morant is also an Oscar Robertson Trophy finalist, as is Tennessee junior Grant Williams, who has kept the Vols among the nation's top-ranked teams throughout the season. Standout shooter Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy is the fourth finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award.
Barrett, a 6-7 forward from Mississauga, Ont., will extend both his Duke and ACC single-season freshman scoring records as the Blue Devils begin this week's NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East Region. His 779 points this season is the ACC record for a freshman he'll likely set both the Duke and ACC freshman scoring average marks currently held by Duke's Marvin Bagley III (21.0). He is the only major conference player to score 13 or more points in every game this season.
Williamson, a 6-7 forward from Spartanburg, S.C., is the nation's only player averaging 20-plus points and shooting 65 percent from the field, despite missing the last five games of the regular season. The ACC Player of the Year is shooting 69.3 percent from the field, which leads the ACC and is second nationally. If that holds, it would be the second-best shooting season in ACC history behind UNC's Brendan Haywood (.697 in 1999-2000). The ACC Tournament champions open the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, S.C. on Friday.
Barrett (22.9 points per game) and Williamson (22.1) are the first freshman teammates to earn USBWA first-team All-America honors and they are aiming to become the first freshman teammates in NCAA history to each average 20-plus points per game in a season.
Williams, a 6-7 forward from Charlotte, N.C., secured his second straight Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award, the first to repeat as the winner since Corliss Williamson of Arkansas in 1994 and '95 and only the 10th to ever earn it in back-to-back seasons. He is only the second Tennessee player to earn first-team All-America honors in the last 39 years. The SEC scoring leader at 19.0 points per game is also among the SEC's top 10 in field goal percentage (2nd, .565), rebounding (4th, 7.6 rpg) and free-throw percentage (7th, .826). Tennessee, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, opens NCAA Tournament play Friday against Colgate in Columbus, Ohio.
Morant, a 6-3 sophomore guard from Dalzell, S.C., is headed into the record books as well. The Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year is on track to become the first player to average 20 points and 10 assists per game since the assist became an official statistic in the 1985-86 season. He currently averages 24.6 points and 10.0 assists as the Racers enter the NCAA Tournament this week. The nation's eighth-leading scorer at 763 points, had 311 assists in the regular season and had scored 20 or more points 22 times, including five games with 30 or more points. Morant has 16 games with 10 or more assists and had 18 double-doubles this season. Morant and Murray State, the 12-seed in the West Region, take on Marquette on Thursday in Hartford, Conn.
White, a 6-5 guard from Goldsboro, N.C., makes the Wayman Tisdale Award finalists list as a member of the ACC All-Freshman team who earned second-team All-ACC honors as a five-time ACC Freshman of the Week. He is averaging 16.4 points per game, tied with Phil Ford for the fourth-most ever by a UNC freshman. He leads the team in assists (129) and free throw percentage (.823) on a team that is second nationally in assists and third in scoring. White's UNC freshman-record of 76 three-pointers have boosted his 509 points, which are the eighth-most all-time by a UNC freshman. North Carolina, the ACC regular-season co-champion, earned the top seed in the Midwest Region and faces Iona on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
Davis, a 6-1 guard from Birmingham, Ala., set an NCAA record this season for most three-pointers (132) by a freshman, breaking Davidson's Stephen Curry's record of 122 in 2006-07. He finished his season leading the Horizon League in scoring at 26.1 points per game and was ninth in the league in assists at 3.6 per game. Davis, who started the season with eight straight 20-point games, posted 23 20-point games as well as nine 30-point games. The sharpshooter twice tied the school record with 10 treys in a game, and became the Titans' first USBWA All-District honoree since 2001.
The Henry Iba Award finalists include three of the last four winners in Tony Bennett of Virginia (2018, '15, also won at Washington State in '07) and Mark Few (2017, Gonzaga), plus another former winner, Houston's Kelvin Sampson ('95 at Oklahoma), as well as Rick Barnes (Tennessee), Matt Painter (Purdue), Chris Beard (Texas Tech) and Mike Young (Wofford).
Barnes, in his fourth season at Tennessee, has the Volunteers in the NCAA Tournament for a second time and earned the 21st 20-win season of his career. Tennessee is 29-5, seeded second in the South Region, and faces Colgate on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. Barnes guided the Vols to a second-place finish in the SEC and they spent four weeks atop the Associated Press poll this season.
Beard was the Big 12 Coach of the Year after leading his Red Raiders to a 26-6 overall record and the program's first Big 12 Conference regular-season championship. He is 71-30 as Texas Tech's head coach heading into Friday's NCAA Tournament first-round matchup against Northern Kentucky. The Red Raiders are 50-5 in home games under Beard, whose intense defensive brand has the Red Raiders ranked second nationally in scoring defense (58.6 ppg).
Bennett led his Virginia team to the top of the AP rankings for multiple weeks this season, as well as its fourth ACC regular-season championship in the last six years. The three-time Henry Iba Award winner's team leads the nation in scoring defense (55.1 ppg), three-point field goal percentage defense (27.3) and fewest turnovers (289), and is in the top four nationally in six other categories.
Few extended his own West Coast Conference record, capturing his third straight and 13th overall WCC Coach of the Year honor after leading Gonzaga to a 30-3 record, a seventh straight WCC regular-season title and the top seed in the NCAA Tournament's West Region. This is Gonzaga's 12th straight season with at least 25 wins and the Bulldogs have also reached 30 wins for the fifth time in program history, with all five coming in the last seven years. The Zags sat atop the AP poll twice this season. Gonzaga opens the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Painter led Purdue to the school's 24th Big Ten championship, tied with Michigan State with 16-4 league records, and earned his fourth Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. Purdue ranks in the top 50 nationally in seven team categories and has outrebounded 24 of 31 foes this year. The Boilermakers' 45 Big Ten wins over the last three seasons are the third-most for any program in league history. Purdue, the No. 3 seed in the South Region, opens the NCAA Tournament against Old Dominion Thursday in Hartford, Conn.
Sampson has led Houston to a 31-3 record and the program's first outright regular-season conference title since 1984 as the Cougars ascended to top-10 rankings in both national polls. Houston raced to a 15-0 start with the school's third-longest win streak and followed it with a 12-game streak after that first loss. The Cougars owned the nation's longest home win streak at 33 games until three weeks ago, losing only once at home this season. The American Athletic Conference's Coach of the Year has now won six COY honors from four conferences. Houston, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, opens its NCAA Tournament against Georgia State Friday in Tulsa.
Wofford coach Mike Young led the Terriers to a program-record 29 wins, and the Southern Conference champions (29-4) enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-game win streak. The USBWA District III Coach of the Year has Wofford in the national rankings for the first time in its history and in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Young is the active leader for wins at a SoCon school. Wofford is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and faces Seton Hall Thursday in Jacksonville.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy is is the nation's oldest award and the only one named after a former player. The legendary Oscar Robertson was the USBWA's first player of the year in 1959 and was the consensus national player of the year as a sophomore in 1958, the year before USBWA started giving its player of the year award. The USBWA renamed the award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 1998.
The USBWA has chosen a national freshman of the year award since the 1988-89 season. It was named the Wayman Tisdale Award in honor of the late three-time USBWA All-American at Oklahoma, the first freshman to receive first-team All-America honors from the USBWA.
The Henry Iba Award is named in honor of the legendary coaching great at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) who won two NCAA championships and two gold medals and one silver as coach of the U S. Olympic teams.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at 314-795-6821.
Oscar Robertson Trophy Finalists
National Player of the Year
RJ Barrett, Duke
Grant Williams, Tennessee
Zion Williamson, Duke
Ja Morant, Murray State
Wayman Tisdale Award Finalists
National Freshman Player of the Year
RJ Barrett, Duke
Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy
Coby White, North Carolina
Zion Williamson, Duke
Henry Iba Award
National Coach of the Year
Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Chris Beard, Texas Tech
Tony Bennett, Virginia
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Matt Painter, Purdue
Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Mike Young, Wofford