Rankings: 2021 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Corey Kispert #24 and Drew Timme #2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs react after a play in the second half against the Norfolk State Spartans in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

In leading Houston to four wins in the 1984 NCAA Tournament and a second straight appearance in the national championship game, Hakeen Olajuwon averaged 20.5 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. If the Cougars beat Georgetown for their first championship, Olajuwon was all but guaranteed to win Most Outstanding Player. 

Houston didn’t beat Georgetown, but Olajuwon still won Most Outstanding Player, becoming the 11th winner in the award’s 45-year history who didn’t play on the championship team. While the Cougars’ center was the first non-champion winner since Utah’s Jerry Chambers in 1966, it was still commonplace for a non-champion to be honored. It’s no longer commonplace; there hasn’t been a non-champion winner since Olajuwon 37 years ago.

Through two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, several players have put themselves in position to win Most Outstanding Player. However, barring a dramatic shift from three decades of precedent, some of those players have little or no chance without an improbable continuation of their Cinderella run. Oral Roberts forward Kevin Obanor has been more outstanding in the Golden Eagles’ two wins than Jalen Suggs in Gonzaga’s two wins. But, Gonzaga is a national championship favorite in college basketball odds, while Oral Roberts ranks dead last. 

These aren’t predictive rankings. If they were, Suggs and his Gonzaga teammates, Drew Timme and Corey Kispert might occupy the top three spots. Instead, these are players most deserving of Most Outstanding Player based on their play, not national championship odds:

Updated rankings (through the Second Round):

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM