Five reasons Trae Young won’t win national Player of the Year

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Trae Young /

Trae Young’s college career appears to be over, and so too are his chances to be national player of the year.

Earlier this season, the Oklahoma freshman sensation was the best thing going on the biggest surprise team in college basketball. He took the hardwood by storm from the season-opening tip. He was so unworldly over the first half of the season that all the analysts and pundits and media types were declaring that the Division I player of the year award(s) was Young’s to lose.

Young continued to be the best thing going on the men’s Oklahoma team, although his numbers declined slightly as the season wore on, but the Sooner team collectively managed to turn its season completely around, going from the biggest surprise to the sorriest finish to the once promising 2017-18 campaign.

Oklahoma was two different teams on the two different sides of the calendar, and you could easily make the argument that Young was two different players over that same time span.

On the 2017 side of the ledger, OU was 11-1; after Jan. 1, the Sooners went 7-13 the rest of the way. Young provided almost 40 percent of the offense on both sides of Oklahoma’s diabolical season.

That stat alone should send shock waves throughout the Sooner Nation when looking ahead to next basketball season. Who is going to make up that lost production and replace a player you can’t really replace?

That will be the subject of a subsequent article. The question for now is: Will Oklahoma’s classic second-half collapse knock the Sooners’ one-man-band superstar completely out of the running for POY consideration?

OU’s Young is definitely out of the running for the Naismith Award. The finalist list for that prestigious honor was announced a week ago, and it is down to a battle between four players: Devonte Graham of Kansas, Deandre Ayton of Arizona, Marvin Bagley III of Duke and Jalen Brunson of Villanova.

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

Young is also a long shot at best to win the other prized college Player of the Year award, the Wooden Award, although he is among the candidates on the final ballot.

Both awards will be announced next week during the Final Four. Oklahoma has won both awards twice in the last nine years, with Blake Griffin taking home both trophies in 2009 and Buddy Hield repeating the honor two years ago. Had the two awards been conferred in January instead of April, we probably would be looking at yet another Sooner double winner.

No one, at the beginning of the college season, expected Young to be toting home Player of the Year trophies, anyway. They probably didn’t expect him to become the first player in 35 years to lead the nation in both scoring and assists, either.

Young finished the season averaging 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game. That included four games of more than 40 points, nine of 30-plus points and only seven of 32 games in which he scored under 20 points.

Not winning college basketball’s version of the Heisman Trophy – and as a freshman, no less – does not take away from all the thrills Young provided for Sooner fans and all he accomplished personally in perhaps the greatest freshman season of anyone who has played basketball for Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, here are five reasons Young will have to settle for All-America and All-Freshman Team honors instead of joining Blake Griffin and Buddy Hield as Naismith and Wooden winners:

  • Young was a great player on a very good team through the first half of the season. Over the second half, though, he was just a very good player on a team that was playing exceptionally bad, losing nine of its final 11 games.
  • The Sooner super freshman had nine games in the first 16 in which he dished out double-digit assists. Over the second half of the season, when his teammates were missing many more shots than they were making, Young reached double-digit assists just twice.
  • When teams learned how to defend Young, denying him the ball and forcing to shoot more difficult shots, his shooting percentage tailed off precipitously from the first half to the second half of the season. His three-point efficiency took a big hit later in the season.
  • As prolific a scorer and distributor of the ball as Young was this season, he also was among the NCAA leaders in turnovers.
  • Young wasn’t the only freshman that was high on the season-long watch list for both the Naismith and Wooden Awards, but he was the only one whose team finished barely above .500.