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Wooden Watch: Top 5 candidates' signature moments

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Where in the bracket are the brightest stars? (1:48)

The NCAA tournament field is packed with Wooden Award contenders. Duke's stars join Josh Hart in the East, while Frank Mason and Caleb Swanigan could meet in the Sweet 16. But is the South the best collection of talent in the bracket? (1:48)

While it's safe to assume there will be more shining moments in the NCAA tournament for the five players on this week's Wooden Watch, they've all had quite a few to get to this point.

But for each player there was a moment, a game in which they separated themselves from their peers and transformed into Wooden candidates. It's not about simply scoring a career-high, although some players accomplished that in the process. It's about when a player changed from being viewed as good to being viewed as special.

Conference honors and media organizations have begun handing out their awards validating regular-season accomplishments. But want to know how the Wooden Watch list got to the five players listed? Just go back and check out the signature game for each:

1. Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks

Mason served notice in the season opener, when he dropped 30 points on Indiana. He scored the last 11 points in regulation to force overtime and added nine assists and seven rebounds before fouling out in their 103-99 loss. He also played 40 minutes that game, which is indicative of his importance to the Jayhawks. In his last seven games, he's averaged 39.2 minutes per game.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats

Hart took over Nova's Dec. 10 against Notre Dame, turning a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead during a six-minute stretch of a 74-66 win. He accounted for 16 of the 18 points scored during the Wildcats' run that included a steal, a three-point play, an assist and a 3-pointer. He was the only player in double-figures for the Wildcats and finished with a career-high 37 points and 11 rebounds and was perfect from the free-throw line in 14 attempts.

3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers

What "Biggie" Swanigan has done this season can't be limited to one game. His signature stretch happened with two games in three days against Western Illinois and Norfolk State in December. Swanigan had 21 points and 21 rebounds against Western, then followed it up with 32 points and 20 rebounds against Norfolk. He also had 20-20 double-doubles against McNeese State and Minnesota, which gave him more than the rest of college basketball combined.

4. Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins

Ball's signature highlight, without question, came in the season opener in November, when he finished a one-handed alley-oop slam over Pacific's D.J. Ursery. But his best moment, however, was the second half of the Bruins' 97-92 win at Kentucky on Dec. 3. Rupp Arena isn't a kind place to visiting teams, especially ones with rookie point guards. Ball didn't flinch, scoring 11 of his 14 points and dishing four of his six assists in the second half. It was the game that said no stage was too big.

5. Luke Kennard, Duke

Kennard carried the Blue Devils before anyone really knew he was carrying them. But by their 85-83 win at Wake Forest on Jan. 28, he left no doubt. Duke had just lost three out of four games while coach Mike Krzyzewski was recovering from back surgery. Kennard made sure it didn't become four of five. He scored 30 of his game-high 34 points in the second half. He was a perfect 10-for-10 from the floor, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left.