As the calendar turns to March Madness, college basketball begins to hand out awards and All-American nominations before the start of the Big Dance.
Tuesday, two conference Player of the Year awards got handed out in the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, and Dillon Brooks from Oregon and Caleb Swanigan from Purdue were the recipients.
Brooks, a junior, is having the best season of his career leading the 27-4 Oregon squad and could find his way into the National Player of the Year conversation. In 27 games, Brooks averaged 16 points on an incredible 52.6 percent clip from the field which includes 41.6 percent from three. On top of that, he’s pitched in 2.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 23.7 minutes a night.
If you adjusted those numbers to per 40 minutes, there’s a huge inflation across the board: 27 points, 4.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He doesn’t waver in big moments, either, and there have been two instances this year where he’s nailed game-winning threes this year.
Brooks is the second player in three seasons to bring home the honor, joining Joe Young who won it back in 2015.
In the Midwest, Swanigan spent the entire season cementing himself as one of college basketball’s most dominant bigs. The 6-9 sophomore hauled in 12.6 rebounds a night, a rate that’s better than anyone in his conference and one that was bested by just one player in all of the NCAA — Angel Delgado, 13.1. Swanigan added 18.7 points for safe measure, a mark that shattered what he set as a freshman by 8.5 points.
He connected on 54 percent of his field goals and, despite being an uncontrollable force in the paint, Swanigan connected on 31-of-69 threes this year. The Boilermakers put together a 25-6 record on Swanigan’s shoulders and finished atop the conference for the first time since 1995.
The most impressive stat for the All-American is that he’s recorded double-digit rebounds in all but five games this year, and he’s got twice as many 20-rebound games (four) as the second closest player, according to Sports-Reference.
As April approaches, look for Brooks and Swanigan to have tunnel vision as they gun for a possible NCAA Tournament title.
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