Picking the Player of the Year in college basketball this season wasn’t the easiest thing to do, not when there were a handful of candidates that put together deserving seasons, but for us at NBC Sports, Frank Mason III wasn’t just the obvious pick, it was the consensus pick.
Mason’s numbers speak on their own. He averaged 20.5 points, which was tops in the Big 12, top 30 nationally and fourth — behind Markelle Fultz, Malik Monk and Sindarius Thornwell — among players in one of the top seven conferences, what are commonly known as high-major leagues. He finished fourth in the Big 12 in assists at 5.1 per game while also averaging 4.2 boards and shooting 49.3 percent from three, which, again, topped the conference and ranks him fourth nationally among players that averaged more than four threes attempted per game.
That, alone, puts him into the All-American conversation, particularly when you consider that he’s doing that for the team currently ranked No. 1 in the country that won the best conference in college basketball, according to KenPom, but four games.
But there’s more to it than that.
Kansas isn’t as dominant as Kansas teams in the past have been. They’ve actually had some struggles this season, too often finding themselves trailing by double-figures in games they shouldn’t be trailing by double-figures. Ask people around that program, however, and what they’ll tell you is that Mason is probably the biggest reason why they were able to win some of the games that they won. He led the charge in the two biggest Kansas comebacks this season — coming from 14 points down in the final three minutes against West Virginia, or six points down in the final two minutes at Baylor — and was the guy who had the ball in his hands on the biggest possessions of a close game.
He was great in the biggest games of the year. He’s had his ‘Player of the Year Moments,’ whether it be the game-winning bucket against Duke, or the 21 points he had at Kentucky, or the 23 points and eight assists he had at Baylor.
There are, without question, better NBA prospects in college basketball this season.
But I don’t think there are any better college basketball players.