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
|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.
Who’s ready to see this back-court duo back together? 👌
Ayo Dosunmu is returning to Champaign, per his Twitter page.@AyoDos_11 | @_Trentfrazier1 pic.twitter.com/lY6MNYLkrp
— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) August 1, 2020
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.
Jared Butler gave him the WHOLE BAG 🥶 @J_Hooper11 (via @espn) pic.twitter.com/gRAHZmH4yu
— Overtime (@overtime) May 13, 2020
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)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.