College basketball expert roundtable: Is Purdue’s Zach Edey a lock for player of the year?

The Athletic‘s Eamonn Brennan, Seth Davis, Brian Hamilton, Brendan Marks and Justin Williams contributed to this story.

With men’s college basketball seven weeks from the start of the NCAA Tournament, The Athletic is taking stock of the 2022-23 season and predicting what’s to come. With that in mind, a panel of five experts will debate different topics every week. Up next is a question that might already be settled, but…

Who else than Purdue’s Zach Edey can win the national player of the year?

Eamonn Brennan: Um, no one? OK, OK, fine, I realize I have to give a name here; there is a prompt and I must satisfy it. And, momentarily, I will. But let’s be real: Barring injury or an extremely unlikely individual collapse down the stretch, Zach Edey is going to win the national player of the year award, and frankly the voting should not be very close. The guy is averaging 21.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 31.5 minutes per game, while shooting 61.4 percent from the field, for a 19-1 team with arguably the best offense in college basketball. This is the best player in the country, and it’s not much of a debate.


How do you stop Zach Edey? Prayer might be a good place to start

That said… Brandon Miller? Alabama is going about as well as anyone right now, and Miller is as smoothly beautiful a scorer as anyone in the country. The five-star freshman was very good from the moment he stepped on the floor this season, but he has also been growing into his early stardom game-by-game, and the Crimson Tide have been getting more and more ominous with every performance. It stands to reason Miller will continue to improve and has a high enough ceiling to at least push the big fella in West Lafayette down the stretch.

Brian Hamilton: This thought exercise assumes a massive Purdue dropoff, let’s stipulate that. While watching Jalen Wilson go supernova for a while there against TCU, it did occur to me: Wait, is Kansas good enough and are Wilson’s numbers big enough to leap the Big Maple? (Not actually, of course. Unless you have a pressure suit handy.) Then Kansas lost again and, for now, Kansas is not good enough. But it can be! And that could give Wilson a bit of a narrative boost, if he’s stacking 25-point games while leading the Jayhawks away from the canyon’s edge and reigniting repeat championship hopes.

Miller, meanwhile, might be the still bigger threat. It’ll take a lot of highlights that create Milhouse-playing-“Bonestorm” reactions to turn everyone’s attention away from Edey. This much Miller can do. The back-to-back 30-point games looked like the start of something, but then he lost the invincibility star against Missouri. If that’s only a blip, look out.

Justin Williams: I’m with Eammon: I doubt it. I suppose if Gonzaga gets back on track after a couple shaky games and finishes the season on a heater, knocking off Saint Mary’s a couple times in the process to run away with the WCC, perhaps Drew Timme has a shot. Naismith voters love to give the award to upperclassmen — Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson are the only freshmen to win since 2008 — as good as Miller has been, that would surprise me. Timme (and his facial hair) is a known quantity at a top program, is having an All-America-caliber season (22 points 7.6 rebounds, 61.3 percent shooting), and fits a similar mold to recent winners such as Luka Garza, Jalen Brunson, Frank Mason III, Frank Kaminsky, Doug McDermott, etc.

That said, Edey is still the heavy favourite, and would have to get hurt or really fall off for someone playing as well as Timme to sneak in at the 11th hour.

Brendan Marks: Eamonn said it: no one. Edey is straight lapping the field right now, in the sort of dominant fashion we probably haven’t seen since Zion Williamson in 2019. (The other Naismith finalists that season? Yes Morant, Grant Williams and Rui Hachimura.) And, look, much like in 2018-19, there are other great players this season, others deserving of recognition and inclusion… but the 7-foot-4 dude no one can cover is gonna win it. Purdue is the No. 1 team in the country, and Edey has been the Boilermakers’ MVP in 15 of his 19 games, per KenPom. Start engraving.

Now, all that said, let’s give Miller a little more love. The Crimson Tide are one of a handful of true national title contenders this season, and largely so because of Miller’s shot-making ability and overall gravitas. He’s the SEC leader in true shooting percentage while also being second in the conference (and top-50 nationally) in 3-point percentage. Oats’ team is stacked, but Miller’s scoring — and his ability to rain in a contested 3 with no time on the shot clock — is the reason to buy Bama stock come March.

Seth Davis: It’s obviously going to be Edey, barring injury or something else unforeseen, but I still think the clear 1A in this conversation is Timme. It’s funny to me that Gonzaga is considered to be “struggling” even though it’s 14th in the AP poll, but to the degree that this team is challenged, that will only enhance Timme’s candidacy. The Pacific game was a great example. Gonzaga was on the verge of losing its second in a row, and Timme bailed the Zags out by scoring 24 of his career-high 38 points in the second half. Most players can’t even do that in practice. But that’s the thing about Timme — when the team needs him most, that’s when he’s at his best. That’s how POY’s roll.

(Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images)


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