A veteran point guard typically is a key component of any deep run through March in college basketball.
The Colorado Buffaloes certainly have that in junior McKinley Wright IV, and he arguably has played some of the best basketball of his collegiate career in recent weeks. It is a run that has drawn the attention of the folks who manage the Bob Cousy Award.
On Monday, Colorado’s floor general was named one of 10 midseason finalists for the honor, which is presented to the top point guard in the nation. After helping to lead CU’s key bounce-back win at USC on Saturday to salvage a split on a trip through Los Angeles, Wright and the Buffaloes will attempt to continue protecting their home floor when they open a home series on Thursday against Cal (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“The thing I like about this group as a coach is you can keep it real with them,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They don’t take offense when you get on them. You show them film and they accept ownership. And when your players do that, you got a chance. Then they respond the way they responded tonight, you feel like as a coach you’ve got a chance. I told them after the UCLA (loss) I love you guys, I love coaching you guys, I don’t feel any differently about you than I did before the UCLA loss. But it seems like I love them a little more after we win.”
The Buffs’ stumble at UCLA last week cost them a little bit in this week’s AP Top 25, as the Buffs tumbled four spots to No. 24. Yet it remains the fifth consecutive week the Buffs have been ranked, and it extends the program record for number of weeks ranked within a single season to 10.
Of more importance to CU is that through Sunday’s play across the nation, the Buffs began the week at No. 17 in both the NET rankings and at KenPom.com.
For Wright, getting named as one of the 10 finalists for the Cousy Award recognizes the turnaround in his game he has authored over the past 10 contests.
Over the first 12 games of the season, culminating with the Buffs’ win against Dayton in Chicago on Dec. 21, Wright posted an assist-to-turnover rate of 1.25 (45 assists, 30 turnovers). While his turnover rate has remained exactly the same in the 10 games, since, his assist total has skyrocketed, with 71 during that span for an assist-to-turnover rate of 2.37.
Wright’s eight assists Saturday in a win against USC increased his season average to 5.3 per game. That total includes an average of 6.8 assists per game in nine Pac-12 Conference games, which leads the league.
Wright has compiled six games with at least eight assists over CU’s past 10 contests, and he sports an overall assist-to-turnover rate of 1.76. Wright’s assist-to-turnover rate of 2.1 in league games also leads all Pac-12 point guards. He will go into Thursday’s game with an .838 free throw percentage in Pac-12 games, and he is 17-for-17 over the past five games.
Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard also was named one of the 10 finalists for award, as was another CU foe from this earlier season, Kansas’ Devon Dotson. The remainder of the list includes Baylor’s Jared Butler; Duke’s Tre Jones; Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton; Ashton Hagans of Kentucky; Markus Howard of Marquette; Michigan’s Cassius Winston; and San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn, who faced the Buffs during his time at Washington State.
The 10 finalists will be whittled to five in early March, with the winner announced on April 10.