The John R. Wooden Award released its Midseason Top 25 yesterday and, for the third straight year, two of Carolina's finest were named to the list. Joel Berry II and Luke Maye were both listed among the best players in college basketball through the first half of the season.
For Berry, this has become routine, having been named to the Midseason List last year along with Justin Jackson. Berry, a Preseason All-American, has overcome suffering a broken hand during preseason to average 17.6 points and 2.9 assists per game. His shooting stats suffered early in the year as his hand healed but he has improved in recent weeks. That aside, Joel is still Joel; one of the truly clutch players in the game. His game-winning shot against Wake Forest and his 2nd half explosion against Florida State served as a reminder that there are few players in college basketball that can seize the moment like Carolina's senior captain.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Maye being included on the list couldn't be more of a surprise. That is, if you were going by preseason expectations. The junior's breakout campaign has been well-documented, with his 32-point, 18-rebound explosion against Boston College this week being the latest in a series of brilliant performances. Maye is averaging 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game on 50% FG and 49% 3-pt. Berry may be the closer, but Maye has been UNC's best performer through the first 17 games of the season.
Several other schools also have multiple players on the list. Arizona has Alonzo Trier and the expected #1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. Villanova's Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges also make the list and each is making a strong case for Big East Player of the Year. Finally, Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen represent that private school in Durham. Besides the Tar Heels and the Dookies, the only other ACC player included is Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson, who’s sidelined with a broken foot.
But let's not kid ourselves: The Wooden Award winner is Trae Young. It's still nice to see our Tar Heels getting some love.