Iowa’s Luka Garza Opens as +375 Favorite to Win 2021 Wooden Player of the Year

Luka Garza grabs rebound

Luka Garza is the preseason favorite to win the Wooden Player of the Year honors. Photo from @IowaHoops (Twitter).

  • Iowa’s Luka Garza opens as the favorite to win the John R. Wooden Award this season at +375
  • Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu leads a talented field of others looking to beat him out as the selection
  • Read below for odds on the top contenders and who to choose before the season tips off

When the Iowa Men’s Basketball Team opens its season on December 8 against No. 16 North Carolina, Luka Garza will have his first chance to show why he’s the best player in the country.

The Hawkeyes forward opens as the favorite to win the John R. Wooden Award this year after a breakout junior season. Garza is also the top contender to win the Naismith College Player of the Year Award, in an equally tight race with Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu.

John R. Wooden Award Odds

Player Odds
Luka Garza (Iowa) +375
Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) +500
Jared Butler (Baylor) +600
Marcus Garrett (Kansas) +1000
Corey Kispert (Gonzaga) +1000
Remy Martin (Arizona State) +1000
Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State) +1500
Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga) +2000
Marcus Zegarowski (Creighton) +2000
Kihei Clark (Virginia) +3000
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) +3000
Collin Gillespie (Villanova) +3000
Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) +4000
MaCio Teague (Baylor) +4000

Odds from November 13

College basketball has two player-of-the-year honors presented by two independent entities each season. The Wooden Award has been chosen by the Los Angeles Athletic Club since 1977, while the Naismith College Player of the Year has been selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club beginning in 1969.

Both typically choose the same player – the last time the awards differed was in 1995, when Maryland’s Joe Smith won the Naismith and UCLA’s Ed O’Bannon won the Wooden.

The Case For Garza

Garza’s position as the frontrunner for both awards makes sense, as he is the top scorer on an Iowa team that pushes the pace of play and can run up point totals. Last season, he essentially doubled his offensive output from his first two seasons and was the Hawkeyes’ top rebounder. At 6-11 and 265 pounds, Garza is an incredibly difficult player to defend, with a patient post game and fluid outside jump shot.

Garza shot over 55% from the field last year, but his efficiency should also see an uptick with the return of guard Jordan Bohannon, who was granted a medical redshirt last season after surgeries to both hips. Bohannon’s presence should allow for more spacing and fewer double-teams on Garza, who was also the team’s second-best three-point shooter.

Challengers From The Field

The Illini became a bit of a trendy pick to win the NCAA Men’s Tournament after Dosunmu announced that he planned to come back for a third season. He returns with Jamaican center Kofi Cockburn to give Illinois a formidable inside-out combination in a competitive Big Ten. Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points per game last year — a far cry from Garza’s 23.9 — but also saw a dip in his three-point and defensive production.

Marcus Garrett will get plenty of chances this season to impress on a national stage with Kansas, however, he is better known as one of the nation’s top defenders. While that’s a nice distinction, it doesn’t typically yield player of the year recognition over prolific scorers.

Perhaps the most interesting player in the top group outside of Garza is Baylor guard Jared Butler at +600. The junior guard finished with similar numbers to Dosunmu last season, but was a better three-point shooter and created more turnovers. Baylor has a challenging schedule this year, and Butler will be pushed to step up his game in numerous big-time matchups.

Making The Pick

Although both the Wooden and Naismith Awards are for players of the year, the winners are usually chosen with respect given to their total body of work. Garza’s totals in his first two years weren’t too far off of what some of the other contenders for this season’s awards finished with in 2019-20. As the lead candidate for both with a nice career résumé, Garza is a sound bet now in the preseason.

The nation’s top prospect last year, Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, opened third in the odds for the Naismith at +550. However, as a freshman, he faces a tougher path to win either award against Garza’s longevity. If bettors are looking to play someone other than Garza, Butler offers the best combination of value and potential.

The Pick: Garza (+375)

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Nick Krueger