2. Josh Hart, Villanova
Villanova’s Josh Hart led the defending national champions to a 32-3 record, including Big East regular season and conference tournament championships, before they were upset in the round of 32 by Wisconsin. He averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists during his senior season.
Hart’s National Player of the Year candidacy rests on his ability to do everything well. His 59.0 effective field goal percentage ranks in the top 100 nationally. He’s developed into a consistent outside shooter who made 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts this season. Hart had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, drew fouls at a high rate and created 1.8 steals per 40 minutes.
Hart’s shooting wasn’t the only part of his game that evolved in his final season. The senior improved as a pick-and-roll ball-handler as well, giving the Wildcats a second offensive initiator alongside point guard Jalen Brunson.
He also deserves recognition for his defensive work that doesn’t show up in the box score. Yes, Hart created a number of steals, but he was also a versatile defender who could switch onto both smaller and larger players in Villanova’s defensive scheme. Few players competed like Hart did on every single possession.
Villanova’s loss to Wisconsin certainly mares what could have been a very special season, but one defeat shouldn’t define the season-long contributions that Hart made.