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Zavier Simpson makes midseason Naismith Award list for nation’s best defender

The junior point guard is the only Wolverine on the 15-player list.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Zavier Simpson has upped his points, shooting percentages and assists from last year.

Defense remains his bread and butter.

The junior point guard made the midseason Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award watch list Tuesday per the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

From the press release: “The list includes 15 men’s college basketball players whose defensive efforts on the court have set them apart from the pack.”

Simpson is joined on the list by the likes of Duke’s Zion Williamson, as well as Big Ten peers such as Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ.

He stands front and center on the nation’s No. 3 efficiency defense, which allows a stingy .874 points per possession. He records nearly two steals a game.

Simpson made a lot of noise last year in shutting down Michigan State star guard Cassius Winston, who averaged just 11 points in two Wolverine victories last year. He also stifled Villanova’s Jalen Brunson — last year’s Naismith winner — into just nine points on 13 shots in the national championship game.

10 semifinalists will be announced on Feb. 20, and then five finalists on March 14. The winner will be announced on Apr. 7, the day before the national title game.