Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason is the 2016-17 CBS Sports National Player of the Year.
With Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield earning the honor last season, the Big 12 can boast the nation’s best player in consecutive seasons. Mason earns the honor largely because of his consistency and clutch play. He was more fun to watch, more statistically valuable to his team and more dependable on an every-game basis than any other player in the country.
Kansas won 31 games, some in dramatic comeback fashion, with Mason as the catalyst. The Big 12 rated, per multiple computer metrics, as the toughest conference in the country. Yet Kansas won it by four games, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made the Elite Eight.
The senior from Petersburg, Virginia, averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He upped his points average by eight compared to last season, improved from 43 percent to 49 percent from the floor and jumped from 38 percent to 47 percent from beyond the arc. Even with teammate Josh Jackson performing as one of the top two freshmen in America, Mason rates POY honors over Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, Villanova’s Josh Hart and South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder played 89.4 percent of Kansas’ minutes, making him one of the nation’s biggest minutes-getters, yet with no dropoff in efficiency. Mason had an impressive offensive rating of 125.2 points per 100 possessions, per KenPom, and shot 47.1 percent from 3-point range. According to KenPom.com’s Game MVP tracker, Mason was the most statistically influential player on the floor 16 times, second only to Thornwell, who missed six games for the Gamecocks because of suspension and injury.
Mason set the tone for his POY campaign with his winner against Duke on Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden. Kansas won that game 77-75, then won 17 more in a row to earn the No. 1 ranking.
Mason scored 22 or more points 14 times. In winning multiple traditional Player of the Year honors, Mason becomes the first Kansas player since Danny Manning in 1988 with that distinction. They are the only Jayhawks to win at least one of the six traditional National Player of the Year honors.
“I love the kid and I think he knows how I feel about him, but I’ve never been more proud -- not that he’s won a postseason award -- but he’s done everything that he’s supposed to do,” Kansas coach Bill Self told the Associated Press. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s been tough as nails, he’s worked his butt off, he’s loved by everyone in the academic departments, graduated, and to see him reap these benefits after putting in so much time is an unbelievable honor.”
On Tuesday, Mason was announced as the only unanimous selection to the 2016-17 Associated Press All-America first team. He received a vote from all 65 members. He’s the first All-American from Kansas since Thomas Robinson in 2011-12. And he’s now, without question, among the best players in Jayhawks history.