College basketball season may still be more than a month away, but that hasn't stopped some national outlets from talking National Player of the Year. To the surprise of few, included in all those discussions is Villanova senior Josh Hart, who has been pegged as one of the top contenders for the Wooden Award.
Hart, who elected to return for his senior season after throwing his name into the NBA draft mix, was the leading scorer for last season's national champion. Here's what media outlets are saying about his Player of the Year chances:
Despite the penchant for team ball, Hart was the best at putting the ball in the basket. He averaged a team-leading 15.5 points per game, failing to reach double figures just three times all season. His game is more blue-collar than flashy, making him seem almost sneaky good, but he's got a nose for getting to the rim as well as the ability to drain 3-pointers.
Villanova's Josh Hart has to be firmly in the conversation after averaging 15.5 points and 6.8 boards for the defending national champion. In fact, he could be right there with Allen as the preseason favorite.
Good sophomore year mushroomed into a terrific junior campaign (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Had a memorable 23-point effort in the Final Four vs Oklahoma.
Hart has gone from being a supporting player on a team headlined by James Bell, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston to being very much "the man." certainly deserves partial credit here; Villanova's system churns out insanely efficient 6-foot-5 or so scorers like nobody's business. But Hart brings his own talents and horsepower to that system, and the result is rather impressive. Just ask Oklahoma.
Hart, though, will have a deep field to contend with for the Wooden Award. Here's a quick look at some of the other top candidates:
Grayson Allen, Duke: Probably the odds on favorite at this point, Allen has name recognition and is the potential leading scorer for what should be the preseason No. 1 team. His dirty style of play and Duke's depth might hurt him. Allen, though, will likely be among the most-talked about players in the country all season long.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: A very versatile player, Brooks should earn plenty of buzz playing for the PAC-12 favorites. But he's recovering from a foot injury, and it remains to be seen if he can play at the level he did last season. When he is healthy, he's someone who could push towards 20-5-5 averages.
Thomas Bryant, Indiana: One of the top returning talents in the country, Bryant could have a breakout sophomore season for the Hoosiers. But he'll need to greatly improve on his 11.9 pig and 5.8 rpg to have a legit chance. His personality coupled with a strong Indiana team could earn him headlines all season long.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Of all the freshmen, Jackson probably has the best shot as he could lead the Jayhawks in scoring. Still, only one of the last nine winners has been a freshman. As for other freshmen, keep an eye on Michigan State's Miles Bridges.