Oklahoma’s Trae Young wasn’t on the betting board for College Player of the Year when the opening odds were introduced in October.
For good reason, the freshman hadn’t played a minute of collegiate basketball and he wasn’t going to supplant veteran players on established teams.
Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges was the early pick at 9/1. He was followed by highly touted Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III and Arizona junior Allonzo Trier at 11/1.
Young shot up the board as the season progressed with his incredible scoring ability. The guard is averaging 28.3 and 9.2 assists per game, both No. 1 in the country. He soon became the favorite to win the award. Bovada had him at -150, while Villanova junior Jalen Brunson is next at +150.
Distinct Disadvantage for Young
There are two factors that may hurt Young’s chances and lower his odds. The first is the fact that he is a freshman. Since the inception of the honor in 1969 only two freshmen have won it. Kevin Durant in 2007 and Anthony Davis in 2012. Both players went to the NBA and many believe that is where Young is headed after this season regardless of if he wins. Some believe he could be the No. 1 pick.
College defenses, though, have found a way to slow him down. The Sooners don’t have a lot of depth and making the defense focus on Young doesn’t give Oklahoma a lot of other options. The team has lost six straight games and nine of their last 11.
Kansas State Coach Bruce Weber told the Topeka Capital-Journal that strategy definitely helped his team defeat the Sooners.
“If somebody finds something that works, you’re going to use that,” he said. “There’s no doubt people have stayed in on Trae, made him make some tough shots, made him make tough passes.”
It is something the 19 year old has seen the last two months.
“I’m getting guarded like nobody else in the country is being guarded, scouted on like no one else in the country,” he said. “It’s a lot tougher for me to score now than it was in the beginning.”
Contenders Could Move Up
With Young being locked up by opposing defenses and Oklahoma’s chances of an NCAA Tournament invite slim, another player could come forward and claim the award.
Brunson would be the frontrunner of that group. The Wildcats guard was part of the 2016 NCAA Championship team and despite not having the gaudy numbers has led his team to a No. 2 AP Top 25 ranking.
What hurts him, though, is having so many talented players on his team. You could make a case that Mikal Bridges is a better choice for the award.
Arizona has had nothing but controversy this year, but Deandre Ayton has been the lone bright spot. He is another player mentioned as the top pick in the NBA Draft and could easily capture this honor..