The beginning of March brought a little too much madness to Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. On Thursday, Valentine was voted as college basketball’s AP player of the year over Buddy Hield. However, Valentine is not satisfied.
All season long, Valentine and Oklahoma’s Hield seemed to separate themselves from the rest of college basketball’s elite players. Therefore, it was no surprise that the senior guards received every vote. Valentine received 34 of the 65 votes, edging out Hield by three votes in this spectacular race. It’s a little consolation prize for Valentine, but he’s not competing for the big prize.
When the NCAA Tournament started three weeks ago, Valentine had every intention of participating in the 2016 Final Four. Instead of having a long tourney run, the Spartans were knocked out of the first round by Middle Tennessee. In a span of a week, the Spartans went from Big Ten champions, and a possible one seed to out of the tournament as a No. 2 seed. Some called it the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, but it shouldn’t take away from what Valentine did as a player this season.
First of all, he led the Spartans to a (29-6) record, despite missing four games with a knee injury. Still, the Spartans finished in second place of the Big Ten regular season, before winning the conference tournament title. Valentine was the ultimate team player, and a dynamic leader for the Spartans. He was even more spectacular as a performer.
Valentine averaged 19.5 points, 7.6 rebounds. And 7.6 assists. Still, the numbers don’t do him justice. Valentine also became a knockdown shooter from 3-point range, connecting on 44.7 percent of his shots.
Even with the player of the year award, Valentine would trade it for a shot at the Final Four. That’s what makes him such a special player. “You want to get here,” Valentine said. “You talk about it all season and it’s what every team plays for.”
Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.