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Frank Mason’s case for national player of year gaining momentum

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks back to the cameras after hitting a three over UMKC guard Dashawn King (1) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks back to the cameras after hitting a three over UMKC guard Dashawn King (1) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Nearly every time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self fields questions from the media, someone will bring up Jayhawks senior point guard Frank Mason III and the impact he has made this season.

“How good has Frank been?”

“What has Mason meant to your team?”

“Did you think when you were recruiting him Frank would turn out this good?”

Without hesitation, Self will highlight Mason’s toughness, driving, shooting, passing, rebounding, etc., and share his opinion that his senior point guard has been as good as any player in the country at this juncture.

Self isn’t the type to campaign for his players to win national awards, but such statements are his way of doing so in a low-key fashion. When Self talks, people around the college basketball world listen.

Anyone who has watched No. 2 Kansas (17-1 overall, 6-0 Big 12) play this year knows where the team would be without Mason, who is averaging a team-best 20.3 points per game, while also contributing 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The 5-foot-11 senior from Petersburg, Virginia, is even shooting 52.4% from the field and connecting more often from 3-point range, where he is 42-for-78 (53.8%).

As KU keeps on winning and Mason continues to carry the team, it boosts his case for national player of the year honors. At CBSSports.com, Gary Parrish ranked the top 25 candidates for the ultimate individual award gave Mason No. 1 billing, edging out the heart and soul of defending national champion Villanova, senior guard Josh Hart.

Neither Mason nor Hart are going to be NBA lottery picks the way past Wooden Award winners such as Buddy Hield, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin were, but both are integral parts of two of the nation’s best teams, so Parrish ranks them ahead of UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, who many expect to have a long, successful NBA career.

As can be found on sports-reference.com, Hart’s player efficiency rating of 29.5 is one of the best in the country, ranking sixth overall. But Mason isn’t too far behind, with a PER of 26.1 (27th nationally).

Villanova guard Josh Hart (3) hangs on the rim before Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) and guard Frank Mason III (0) after a dunk during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Villanova guard Josh Hart (3) hangs on the rim before Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) and guard Frank Mason III (0) after a dunk during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

Likewise, the debate between Hart and Mason, Parrish wrote, is close:

“I’ve had Josh Hart atop these Player of the Year rankings, and it's reasonable to keep the Villanova senior there. He's still fabulous and leading a team ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 (and one). But Frank Mason has never been far behind. And he's playing better than Hart lately. So now the Kansas senior is the headliner.”

The top 10 players in the running, according to Parrish, also includes one of Mason’s teammates, freshman Josh Jackson.

No. 1: Frank Mason III, Kansas

No. 2: Josh Hart, Villanova

No. 3: Lonzo Ball, UCLA

No. 4: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

No. 5: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky

No. 6: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga

No. 7: Johnathan Motley, Baylor

No. 8: TJ Leaf, UCLA

No. 9: Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

No. 10: Josh Jackson, Kansas

— See the complete list: KU’s Frank Mason moves to No. 1

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