We’re nearing the midway point of the college basketball season, which means its time for the next round of watch list updates. Two were released on Wednesday, and Nebraska senior James Palmer Jr. was on both.
The Wooden Award committee released its midseason top 25 while the Lute Olson Award committee released its 30-man midseason list. Both awards honor the top player in Division I college basketball annually.
Palmer has led the Huskers to a 11-4 start while averaging 20.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals and shooting 40.8 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from 3 and a career-high 81.0 percent from the free-throw line. He is second in the Big Ten in scoring, first in free throws made and fourth in steals per game.
Palmer has reached double figures in every game but one this season and has cracked 20 points eight times with a season-high of 30 in Nebraska’s first win over Creighton since 2010. Palmer’s been streaky from deep this season — shooting 7-of-39 in his first six games, 21-of-39 over his next seven and just 3-of-15 in his last two — but he is also getting toe the foul line at a career-best rate of just over eight attempts per game and has taken a big step forward defensively.
During ESPN’s Wooden Award list release show on Wednesday, analyst Sean Farnam declared that Nebraska is going to win its first NCAA Tournament game and that Palmer will be the reason for it. Palmer was also a preseason All-Big Ten pick and was on the Jerry West Award preseason watch list.
Purdue junior guard Carsen Edwards, Wisconsin senior center Ethan Happ and Michigan State junior Palmer as Big Ten players on both teams. Michigan freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, Minnesota senior forward Jordan Murphy and Indiana freshman guard Romeo Langford were also on the Wooden list while the Olson list also included Michigan senior wing Charles Matthews.
The Wooden Award committee will narrow down the list to 15 names at the end of the season and nearly 1,000 voters will select their top-10 players in order to determine the winner. The Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced during the week of the Elite Eight. The Wooden Award winner will be announced at the ESPN College Basketball Awards on April 12. The Lute Olson Award will be presented at the national championship in Minneapolis in April.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.