Garza odds-on favorite to win Wooden Award, but don’t overlook Dosunmu
The Wooden Award is presented annually to the most outstanding player in college basketball. In the 2020-21 season, we have a clear front-runner in Iowa big man Luke Garza. The 6’11” senior center leads the nation in points per game, but with a tumultuous season and plenty of Big Ten play to go, there are a few longshots worth considering.
Prior to doing so, however, it is important to consider that no player West of the Rockies has won the award since BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette in 2010. Only two players from the West have won the award in the last 24 years, a stat that leaves me with very little interest in the talented contingent of players from Gonzaga, Arizona State, and USC.
Dosunmu has come into his own in 2021
The underdog that yields the greatest opportunity at cashing in is Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu is a 6’5” junior guard out of Chicago that is positively electric on the court. He's averaging 22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, and is shooting an efficient 42% from three. Dosunmu is in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, and along with Garza, is one of the few power conference players to find himself on that list.
If anyone is to supplant Garza, the likeliest challenger will come from within the same conference. If Dosunmu and Illinois can win in dominating fashion over Iowa on Jan. 29, it will help his cause tremendously.
Illinois is keeping pace with Iowa
Furthermore, while Iowa sits second in the conference at 5-1, Illinois is just a half-game back at 5-2. Just or not, individual awards are often given to the best players on top teams. With Illinois in striking distance of the Big Ten title, team success will certainly help Dosunmu’s chances as the challenger.
The last 12 months have taught us that anything can happen
It’s hard to see Garza slipping enough to lose the massive lead he has in the Wooden Award odds, but this is a wild year. COVID-19, irregular schedules, and rapid turmoil have defined our experiences and corresponding perceptions. While you want long odds on a player to overtake Garza, the one that clearly shows the best opportunity is the playmaking Dosunmu.