It’s finally March, when all eyes will be on college basketball. But before we can speak about the obvious (March Madness), automatic bids must be handed down to the teams who win their respective conference tournaments. Every team has a chance to live the dream moment of lifting the trophy, but these players are a luxury for their teams, increasing the possibility of being the ones to cut the net down.
Lonzo Ball (Freshman, UCLA, Pac-12)
Lonzo Ball is the type of superstar you want on your team because he is the epitome of team first. He runs the offense and is one of the best when it comes to setting up his teammates with quality looks and distributing the ball beautifully. And when it’s time for him to take over the game, he goes ahead and hits those daggering shots, just like he did against a top-five opponent such as Oregon. The quiet demeanor he shows is dangerous because it tells you there’s a killer instinct on the inside and one can only imagine how aggressive he will be during this week with the Pac-12 title on the line.
Malik Monk (Freshman, Kentucky, SEC)
Highlights are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Monk because of his explosive tendencies. He set the record for most points in a game by a Kentucky freshman with 47 against North Carolina back in December, setting the tone for the type of player he has become. It’s ridiculous to think that a freshman could keep up with an average of 21.2 points per game. He is an elite scorer with dunks and moves that will get you out of your seat, and this week should be no different.
Luke Kennard (Sophomore, Duke, ACC)
Duke star junior Grayson Allen has been completely obnoxious with all of the antics he has displayed on the floor, and that has opened up the spotlight for Kennard. He has been the solid rock for Duke not just with his consistency but his longevity, managing to play 35.6 minutes per game. This undoubtedly makes him a valuable asset in carrying the load for a team that has had a tumultuous season. Blue Devils fans should appreciate having a player of his caliber, as he will be putting everything he has into trying and willing his team to a conference championship.
Caleb Swanigan (Sophomore, Purdue, Big 10)
Caleb Swanigan has one of those great stories of someone who found himself through basketball. Once fighting obesity and moving from homeless shelter to homeless shelter, the forward from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is now the face of the Big 10. He is averaging a double-double per game with 18.7 points and 12.6 rebounds per game, while leading Purdue to a regular-season conference title. He is not only a threat down low but also has a long range jump shot in his arsenal that can terrorize opposing teams from beyond the arc. Swanigan is one of the main reasons Purdue is headed into the Big 10 tournament as a clear favorite.
Frank Mason III (Senior, Kansas, Big 12)
It is rare nowadays that a star player uses all four years of eligibility but Frank Mason III is just that unique. Leadership is what separates him from the rest on this list because at 5’11 he is small in stature, but plays bigger than his size would tell you. His season averages of 20.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists landed him the recognition of being named the Big 12 Player of the Year. After all of these years, this is finally his team, and he’ll hope to take Kansas to a repeat coronation in the Big 12 Tournament.