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Can DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow win Player of the Year?

(Rebecca Gratz/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Aneesah Morrow’s numbers are astounding.

The sophomore forward is averaging a double-double per game. She leads her team in points per game (26.1) and rebounds per game (12.1). She paces the team in steals (33) and blocks (12) so far this season.

Morrow has posted two 40-plus point games and one 35-point game. She has scored less than 22 points just twice in 11 contests.

Those numbers place her among the best in the country – her points average is fourth in the NCAA, while her rebound mark is sixth. On paper, Morrow is a clear player of the year candidate. In reality, she looks like one, too.

But Morrow finds herself overshadowed by players like Aliyah Boston of South Carolina and Caitlin Clark of Iowa.

Last season, her numbers were similar, and she led the country in rebounds. But her problem then is her problem now. The Bostons, Clarks, Cameron Brinks and Azzi Fudds of the world – all of whom have a shot at the POY award – play for national powerhouses, or at least programs who are in the spotlight.

Morrow plays for DePaul. And that is why her name is rarely brought up as a legitimate contender for the ultimate college basketball award. Fair or not, that is the reality of the basketball landscape.

Just look at the last 10 Naismith winners. UConn appears four times, South Carolina twice, and Oregon, Baylor and Iowa once each. The only school that may come as a surprise is Washington, thanks to 2017 winner and Huskies great Kelsey Plum.

Circumstances would have to align in a very specific way for Morrow to win the award, but there is a path. Morrow is good enough, but her circumstances may not be – at least not right now.

For starters, each winner since the trophy’s creation in 1983 has come from a ranked team – generally one in at least the top 10. The same is true of the Associated Press POY award, which was first handed out in 1995.

The path for Morrow to gain traction in the POY race starts in the team rankings

No matter how strong a player may be – even if they are 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game good – if their team isn’t winning against top competition, then they will not secure major awards. And that’s fair. The objective of basketball, after all, is to win games.

DePaul is not in the AP Top 25, and the Blue Demons received just two votes in the most recent poll. The team did creep into the national conversation with a win over Maryland on Nov. 25, in which Morrow recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead her team to victory.

But the Blue Demons followed that game with a loss to Towson. And making matters worse for Morrow, the sophomore finished with just 16 points, fouling out and committing six turnovers, though she did still grab 16 rebounds for a double-double.

Luckily for DePaul, and for the Morrow for POY campaign, the Blue Demons have plenty of big-name opponents on their schedule. They play a struggling Louisville on Dec. 21, and though unranked, the Cardinals have name recognition, which DePaul needs. Then comes Big East play, where the Blue Demons will have cracks at No. 16 Creighton, Marquette, No. 9 UConn and No. 25 Villanova. 

For Morrow to have a real shot at the POY award, she will have to continue at her current pace – posting double-doubles game after game.

The Blue Demon star went down with an injury against Howard on Dec. 12, which could impact her chances. But if she returns quickly and has a few big games – one of those 40-pointers would do the trick – against some of those teams, and DePaul is able to secure upsets, then she would transform from a long shot to a true POY contender.