Wooden Watch: Kansas' Mason overtakes top spot

A big change happened at the top of this week's Wooden Watch. After Kansas guard Frank Mason III saved the Jayhawks in yet another close game, this time a 67-65 win at Baylor, he has been elevated to frontrunner status over Villanova's Josh Hart.Mason had...

Wooden Watch: Kansas' Mason overtakes top spot

A big change happened at the top of this week's Wooden Watch. After Kansas guard Frank Mason III saved the Jayhawks in yet another close game, this time a 67-65 win at Baylor, he has been elevated to frontrunner status over Villanova's Josh Hart.

Mason had 23 points and eight assists against the Bears, and most importantly went a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line to deliver the win.

The John R. Wooden Award is presented annually to the most outstanding men's college basketball player.

Wooden Award Top 20

It should be noted that Hart hasn't seen a dip in his play. Mason has simply played in, and performed well in, more marquee games during conference play.

Stopping a guy like the five listed in this week's Watch is no small task. We asked coaches who have faced each player this season for their scouting report:

1. Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks

"With the minutes that he logs, I think he's pound-for-pound physically and mentally one of the toughest guards in college basketball. He's a lot more athletic than people give him credit for. He's able to finish at the rim, and his accuracy with his 3-point shot has improved. We were trying to take away his penetration. We didn't give him enough credit for how well he shot the ball. He has really good vision. If there's [a concern] I would say, going on to the next level I would say his size, but other than that I don't think he's got many weaknesses. He's usually guarding the best guard, and then he's going down and scoring 20 a game and dishing out five assists."

2. Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats

"He's so talented. You really can't take anything away from him, you just have to make it hard for him. He can make long jump shots. He's got an in-between game. He finishes at the rim, so he scores on all three levels. He can use a pick to go get something, but he doesn't need a pick. He can operate in tight spaces, so the thing that you try to do is you try to stay in front of him. But at that point, he might put a shoulder on you and create a bit of separation to get his shot off. He's a handful without question."

3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers

"I haven't seen everybody in college basketball, but I think he's the best player that I've seen to this point. The main thing we tried to stress is he's excellent when he gets deep position, especially in transition. What we told our bigs was anytime he's running the floor we wanted them to meet him early -- nothing below the free throw line. We wanted to body him early. He was shooting like high 70 percent range when he gets the ball within a foot of the basket. Second thing was, we sent someone to double him immediately when he faced up to the rim. We wanted to make him a passer. If he got into the paint and got an angle, he'll either get fouled or score."

4. Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins

"He's a streaky shooter, but he's a deep 3-point shooter. Because of his release point, it looks like he's throwing a pass, but it's a shot. He brings it from his left hip to his right thigh. If your hand is not constantly over his left hip, he can get his shot off any time he wants because at the end of the day, he's 6-foot-5. With him you almost want to try to crawl up on him and guard him to see if he'll play you one-on-one rather than give him opportunities to slice it up and mix it. What you want from him is a 16[-point] and six[-assist] night instead of a 12-and-12 night because those assists he gives are daggers. They're back-breakers."

5. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga Bulldogs

"Athletically, he's not as gifted as everyone else, but he's strong and competes. He overcomes his lack of foot speed by being way more competitive, and he always has the highest basketball IQ out there. ... He's going to compete defensively, but a good college guard can get him one-on-one. But if you're not tough, I don't care how quick you are, he's going to be able to guard you because he's going to bully you. He's going to be physical. Your best deal with Nigel is to go at him, especially in transition because he's not as quick. He's more of a game-is-on-the-line shooter than a big-time shooter, so you can challenge him to make several 3s to beat you."

Honorable mentions

Melo Trimble, Maryland Terrapins

Dillon Brooks, Oregon Ducks

Marcus Keene, Central Michigan Chippewas

Lauri Markkanen, Arizona Wildcats

Johnathan Motley, Baylor Bears

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