Michigan‘s junior point guard Zavier Simpson has been named a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award the team announced Thursday.
Junior @Xaviersimpson3 has been named a semifinalist for the 2019 Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year Award presented by Bona!
— Michigan Men's Basketball (@umichbball) February 21, 2019
The Wolverines have been one of the top-five defenses in the nation throughout the season, and Simpson has been their anchor. Defensive stats can be a little tricky to quantify at the college level, but there is no denying that Simpson has put up some solid numbers. Simpson is currently tied for 3rd in the Big Ten with 41 steals, 12th overall in the conference and the top guard with 126 defensive rebounds, and a defensive rating of 81.2 according to CBS Sports.
Simpson’s impact goes well beyond the box score, as more often than not he has been going toe to toe with some of the nation’s top point guards and coming out on top. Back on December 14th, Purdue point guard and likely All-American Carsen Edwards was able to score 19 points but missed 14 shots and turned the ball over five times. In other matchups with top point guards like Villanova‘s Phil Booth, Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, Illinois’ Trent Frazier, and Rutgers’ Geo Baker, Zavier Simpson helped hold them to fewer made shots than turnovers.
Zavier Simpson’s next challenge will be when he matches up with point guard Cassius Winston during Sunday’s showdown with the rival Michigan State Spartans. Winston is the Big Ten’s fourth-leading scorer averaging 18.9 points a game. He also leads the conference in assists (200 total) and assists per game (7.4). Simpson was able to get the better of Winston last season, holding him to 35.3% (6-for-17) shooting from the field, including 16.7& (1-for-6) from 3-point range, and 22 total points in a pair of Michigan victories.
Simpson is one of 10 semifinalists for the award and is the only Big Ten player on the list. The award, in just its second year, is “presented annually to the most outstanding men’s and women’s defensive basketball player who achieves tremendous on-court success.” Last year, West Virginia’s Jevon Carter won the award. A list of the nominees can be found below:
Semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year
Barry Brown Jr., G, Kansas State
Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga
Ashton Hagans, G Kentucky
De’Andre Hunter, G, Virginia
Tre Jones, G, Duke
Tariq Owens, F, Texas Tech
Zavier Simpson, G, Michigan
Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington
Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
Zion Williamson, F, Duke
The four finalists for the award will be announced on March 14th and the Naismith Award Defensive Player of the Year will be announced on April 7th.