Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

Award season in all major American sports should wait for at least some of the postseason to play out. And that's why, for years now, we've done it this way. Put a lot of emphasis on regular-season performance, but don't ignore the significance of what happens when the games mean the most. So we wait for all the conference tournaments to wrap-up, and then we wait for the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament to play out before casting our ballots for All-America teams, in addition to our three major/singular awards. 

This year? None of our three big awards would have been altered had we ended voting two or three weeks ago. But it never hurts to wait. 

It's been a magnificent season, and now we're guaranteed to have a historic ending no matter which team winds up winning it all. 

As we prepare for the Final Four stage on Saturday night, here are CBS Sports' awards for National Player, Coach and Freshman of the Year in men's college basketball.

Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

2023-24 CBS Sports Player of the Year

Zach Edey, Purdue

Edey cemented his place as one of college basketball's all-time great centers by upping his production during his senior season while repeating as CBS Sports Player of the Year. The 7-foot-4 star is the nation's leading scorer entering the Final Four at 25 points per game and is second in rebounds per game at 12.2. He's reached double figures in every game this season and has recorded 28 double-doubles.

With Purdue in search of redemption following a first round loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, Edey came up huge in the 2024 Big Dance, scoring a career-high 40 points in the Boilermakers' 72-66 Elite Eight victory over Tennessee. The performance made Edey the first player since 1990 to finish with 40 points and 15 or more rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.

In many respects, it was no surprise. Edey has been the game's preeminent force over the past two seasons, proving nearly impossible for opposing teams to defend once he establishes position on the block. No other player in Division I men's basketball has finished with 900 points and 450 rebounds in the same season since Larry Bird did it in 1978-79. Given the rare nature of Edey's achievements and Purdue's team success, it's no surprise he was a unanimous pick for this honor.

Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

CBS Sports Coach of the Year

Dan Hurley, UConn

In a strong year for COY candidates, Hurley stands a notch above all others. He's the best coach in college basketball right now. There's not really a debate against it, even if UConn somehow gets knocked off Saturday or Monday night. Hurley's Huskies sit at 35-3 in the lead-up to the national semifinal matchup vs. Alabama on Saturday night. They were the No. 1 overall seed for the first time in history. They swept the Big East titles for the first time since the 1990s. They're the first reigning national champion to make the Final Four since Florida did it 17 years ago. They have a First Team All-American and a Third Team All-American and a First Team All-Watchable coach in Hurley. He has not restored glory to Connecticut — he has upped the standard in Storrs to levels heretofore never seen; UConn's previous national championship seasons were followed up by let-down campaigns. 

This group got better. Hurley lost his three most important pieces off a title-winning team and managed to come back stronger. This team, with two more wins, will have a case to be registered alongside some of the very best teams in college basketball history. That starts with Hurley. 

It would have been acceptable (to most everyone except those in the UConn program) if the Huskies followed up a championship season with 25 wins, maybe a Sweet 16 run and No. 3 seed. Something like that. Not good enough for Hurley, who comes from a family of ultimate winners. He's punched up, down, left and right his whole life. He's made it to the mountaintop and is still searching for another rock to step higher. No coach did a better job this season than him. 

Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

Freshman of the Year

Reed Sheppard, Kentucky 

One of the most efficient players in college basketball is also the best in his respective class. Sheppard averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 steals in 28.9 minutes of action per night off the bench. Sheppard made only five starts in 33 games but had an impact whenever he stepped onto the court. Sheppard finished the season shooting 53.6% from the floor, 51.1% on 3-pointers (on 4.4 attempts), and 83.1% from the charity stripe. Sheppard finished five steals shy (82) of breaking the single-season record set by Rajon Rondo during the 2004-05 season.

Sheppard comes from Kentucky royalty. His parents, Stacey and Jeff, both played at the school. The younger Sheppard helped elevate the Wildcats' offense to new heights. Kentucky finished with the second-ranked scoring offense in the country because Sheppard emerged from a four-star prospect to the best first-year player in the country.