Iowa basketball forward Keegan Murray named a finalist for the Naismith Trophy
Iowa sophomore forward Keegan Murray has received several accolades already this season. Could another major one be on the way?
Murray was named on Tuesday as one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, presented to college basketball's most outstanding player.
This marks the third consecutive year that Iowa men's basketball has had a finalist, Luka Garza was a finalist in 2020 and won the award in 2021. And like Garza, Murray has a résumé worthy of the honor.
Murray ended the 2021-22 season as the nation's leader in points (822) and fourth nationally in points per game (23.6), and that number is the highest among power conference players. Overall, he averaged 23.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 55% from the field and 39.8% from the 3-point line.
He also leads the nation with 8.7 win shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team throughout the season. He also leads the country with a plus-15.7 plus/minus, meaning Iowa was 15.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than with average production from another player.
His player efficiency rating — a metric that sums up a player's per-minute performance — was 37.8. That number ranks as second highest since 2010, only behind former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson of Duke in 2018-19. For his stellar play, Murray was named first team All-Big Ten and was a consensus first team All-American, being named to the first team by the Associated Press, Sporting News and the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Prior to Iowa's first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, Murray put on a historic showing at the Big Ten Conference Tournament. He broke the tournament record for points (103), was named the tournament MVP and led Iowa to their first conference championship since 2006. He also broke Garza's single-season scoring record at Iowa during a quarterfinals win over Rutgers.
"You really can't do it any better," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Murray at the tournament. "He just stays the course. He's very even tempered. You guys have seen that on the court, off the court. And then as the game goes on, he affects it in so many different ways. I think that's what people appreciate about him. Just phenomenally impressive in every aspect. Breaking down his game, but I think breaking down who he is, his demeanor on the floor, his competitive instincts and his desire to win."
Murray joins Ochai Agbaji (Kansas), Johnny Davis (Wisconsin) and Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky) on the list of Naismith finalists. It's unknown whether Murray will declare for the NBA Draft or return to Iowa for his junior season but he's firmly in the conversation an NBA lottery pick.
He's No. 5 on ESPN's best available draft prospects list and on Monday ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz released a mock draft that projected Murray as the No. 5 overall pick to the Detroit Pistons.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.