After watching Jared Butler play his best basketball of the season the past few weeks, it’s hard to imagine that there is anybody playing better in the country. If you keep up with national college basketball analysis you would think that the Naismith award, given to college basketball’s best player, was already a forgone conclusion. For good reason commentators and pundits have projected that Iowa center, Luka Garza, will take home the coveted prize. In short, Garza is having a monstrous offensive season, including, scoring over 30 pts six times this year. In addition, he is over 60% from the floor, and is averaging 26.9 pts. Garza is a dominant player. But Jared Butler is starting to close the gap.
First, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player as on fire from 3-pt land as Butler the last couple of games - he’s 13-16 in the last two. And Butler is starting to play at an elite level as competition has picked up. Against TCU it seemed like nobody could defend him taking it to the rack. On the road in Lubbock it was Butler who made back-to-back clutch 3s to give the Bears the edge. And against Kansas and Oklahoma State he was just sensational. As has been mentioned before, what makes Butler fun to watch is his ability to score on all three levels of the floor. It doesn’t make sense that Butler has a realistic shot at the Naismith award. He’s not somebody that has to have a touch on every possession; he defers to his teammates at times. And it’s not like he has a coach that feels forced to play him for 40-minutes either; Scott Drew will pull Butler when he is struggling. Simply put, Jared Butler is a huge reason why the Bears are the #2 ranked team in the nation, but the team could win without him. I’m not sure the same could be said about Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but I think Butler has closed the gap on the Naismith award. At the very least he should be considered the clear No. 2 behind Garza. The Baylor season is just now starting to get really fun. And if Butler keeps up the trend of playing his best as competition increases, he will make it a difficult decision for whoever determines the best college basketball player of the 2020-2021 season.