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Oscar Tshiebwe: The Best Player in College Basketball

Oscar Tshiebwe

Every year in college basketball, there is one player who stands out over the rest. In the past, it has been Buddy Hield, Josh Hart, Trae Young, Zion Williamson and Luka Garza. This season, Oscar Tshiebwe is the best player in college basketball.

The best player doesn’t mean the same as the best NBA Draft prospect (although Williamson and Young were great prospects). It also doesn’t mean that it is the player just putting up stats, even if that is a part of it. For someone to be known as the best player in college basketball, they have to truly stand out above the rest and be an integral part of their team succeeding.

Pre-2021-2022 Oscar Tshiebwe

Tshiebwe was a highly-touted recruit out of high school and signed on to play for Bob Huggins at West Virginia. As a freshman, he immediately made an impact. Tshiebwe averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team for his play. The Mountaineers went 21-10, but unfortunately, the NCAA Tournament was canceled that season due to COVID-19.

For the 2020-2021 season, Tshiebwe played in 10 games for West Virginia. He averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. It seemed that he fell out of favor with Huggins, which has later been commented on by both parties. After the 10 games, he transferred mid-season to Kentucky. While he was ineligible for the rest of the season, he practiced with the team throughout the rest of the season and the offseason.

Kentucky’s 2021-2022 Season

Kentucky needed an inside presence badly after a bad season in 2020-2021. The Wildcats went 9-16 and totally revamped the roster for the 2021-2022 season, which included the addition of Tshiebwe.

The Wildcats played a tough non-conference schedule and suffered losses to Duke and Notre Dame. They were able to defeat North Carolina before revving up for conference play, while they won at Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which happens during the conference schedule.

In conference play so far, the Wildcats are 12-4. The SEC is a tough conference, which has afforded the Wildcats the chance to get a lot of big wins. They have defeated Alabama (twice), Tennessee, LSU and Florida. The losses all came to solid teams as well (Auburn, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas) and Kentucky hasn’t been 100 percent healthy for any of them, although all players were active against Arkansas in their latest loss.

Overall the Wildcats look like they are in play for a very good seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. They currently are 8-6 in quadrant 1 and have no other losses on their resume. Not only have they set themselves up well for the tournament, but they are tied for the second-best odds to win the 2022 NCAA Tournament. 

The Numbers

Tshiebwe has made a huge jump statistically this season. He is averaging 16.9 points, 15.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. To go with his traditional stats, he has a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 35, which registers as an all-time great season by NBA standards.

There are so many impressive numbers to go over, that a quick rundown is probably the best way to go over his accomplishments this season. He has 23 double-doubles in the Wildcats’ 29 games played. His 15.3 rebounds per game lead the country. The Wildcats have one player who leads them in points, rebounds, blocks and steals: Tshiebwe. His 445 rebounds, which is the third most a Kentucky player has ever registered in a season (with at least four games left).

He has stepped up against tough competition this season. Tshiebwe has a double-double against Duke, UNC, Auburn, Kansas, Alabama (twice), Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas. In the latest game against Arkansas, he had 30 points and 18 rebounds for one of his best games yet.

The Competition

There are a few competitors who could give Tshiebwe a run for his money when national awards are handed out.

Johnny Davis has been a star for Wisconsin this season. He is averaging 20.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, as the Badgers sit in first place in the Big Ten. His defense is an underrated aspect of his game as well. There is no doubt that Davis will be an All-American, but Tshiebwe’s advanced stats and double-doubles speak for themselves. Davis has a PER of 25.4 and 4.2 win shares, which both fall short of Tshiebwe.

Another Big Ten contender is Kofi Cockburn. He has been a great inside presence for the Fighting Illini with 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Cockburn has missed five of Illinois’ games this season, but still has a solid PER of 25.2 and 4.4 win shares. While the traditional numbers do stack up well, Cockburn’s advanced stats don’t. In addition, he only has three double-digit rebound games since January 14 and he has about half the blocks per game that he had in previous years at 0.7. Like Davis, he will be an All-American, but will likely come up short in National Player of the Year conversations.

Keegan Murray, Ochai Agbaji and Chet Holmgren fall behind Tshiebwe, Davis and Cockburn in National Player of the Year odds, but will likely receive some votes. While the first two are great scorers, Tshiebwe has a better overall game than either. Holmgren is a unicorn of a draft prospect as a tall, lanky, big who can handle and shoot, but his stats don’t match up with other players who will be considered.

Conclusion

There are better draft prospects in college basketball and some players may score more points than Tshiebwe. What no one can match is Tshiebwe’s tenacity as a rebounder. His historic season rebounding the basketball, scoring in the post and leading Kentucky in numerous statistical categories have helped the Wildcats become National Championship contenders. Tshiebwe has earned the credit he is getting as college basketball’s best player.

 

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