2019-20 CBS Sports college basketball awards: Our Player, Coach and Freshman of the Year
It was still a wild year for the sport even without the year-end tournament in play
Something important to remember in the wake of this season cut short: it was the postseason that was cut short.
All 353 college basketball teams played every scheduled game of their respective regular seasons, more than 5,600 in total. So as we unveil the CBS Sports postseason honors, it's reassuring to know that these awards were considered based on sample sizes for teams that all played 30 games or more.
Because of the gratifying and inherent unpredictable nature of sports, writers and pundits often like to say something to the effect of, "It's been a season unlike any other." That has never been more true; college basketball won't have an NCAA Tournament for the first time in 82 years. But the regular season was pretty great. It was not short on stars, reliably emerging plot lines and, in the first half of the season, unpredictability at the top of the rankings.
Though the players and coaches below will never have the chance to achieve March greatness in 2020, they will be collecting hardware -- both here and elsewhere. The 2019-20 season will be memorable for reasons. It will be memorable because certain players and coaches provided special seasons and put their teams in place for what would have been -- maybe -- a magical March run.
2019-20 CBS Sports Player of the Year
Obi Toppin | Dayton | F | Redshirt Sophomore
The Dayton Flyers could well be remembered as an analog to the 1994 Montreal Expos, a squad that was in the midst of its best season in school history before its season was abruptly severed. Dayton went 29-2 and the one fact that will be attached to this team that's destined to be remembered forever: it was undefeated in regulation. You couldn't say that about any other team in college basketball this season. Toppin became a star, and it speaks to his effectiveness, efficiency and watchability that in the closing couple of weeks of the season he found a little separation in what was one of the most wide open player of the year races in modern college hoops history.
Toppin's incredible sophomore season included a stat line of 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game and a player efficiency rating of 32.5. Most entertainingly, he led the nation in dunks -- and was he ever so wowing at that.
Toppin's 107 slams bested a fellow POY candidate, Kansas' Udoka Azubuike, by four. In fact, Toppin's 107 dunks are second most in the past decade in a single season in the sport (Azubuike's 122 two seasons ago is best). Dayton's dynamic, multifaceted power forward led the Atlantic 10 in 2-point shooting percentage (70.1%) and was fourth nationally with a 69.8% field-goal clip. It's uncommon for the best player in college basketball to emerge from a league outside the power structure. Toppin is not only a special player, but he also exhibits so much of what makes college basketball great in a modern and traditional sense. He spent three years in college. He got better each year. And he proved that you can come from anywhere and take any path on your way to helping your school to its best season in history. -- Matt Norlander
2019-20 CBS Sports Freshman of the Year
Vernon Carey | Duke | C | Freshman
The list of freshmen in college basketball this season who averaged at least 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game is two-deep: James Wiseman, who played three games at Memphis, and Vernon Carey, who played 31 games for a top-10 Duke team. He was a critical post presence for the Blue Devils who brought physicality and toughness night in and night out. He looks like just the latest freshman sensation at Duke to go one-and-done after showing scouts some shooting touch and nimble feet that should translate to him carving out a nice NBA career. -- Kyle Boone
2019-20 CBS Sports Coach of the Year
Anthony Grant, Dayton
When Grant took the Dayton job in March 2017, the Flyers had been to four straight NCAA Tournaments, which was a record even for a program with a strong basketball tradition. To merely continue the success experienced under Archie Miller might have been considered a success. But even after 104 wins in the program's previous four seasons, Grant saw greater things in the future for his alma mater as he started the job exactly 30 years after his time as a Flyers player ended.
"Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one," Grant said when his hiring was announced. "But the potential is here for so much more."
Grant had to endure the growing pains that came with overhauling the roster and instilling his own style. But the "much more" that he envisioned at the start came to fruition this season. Dayton won a school-record 29 games under Grant's leadership, going 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play while positioning itself for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers reached their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since 1956, which was a decade before Grant was born. Yes, the Dayton program was successful before Grant arrived. But he took it to another level this season. -- David Cobb
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