Wooden Watch: Week 1

Story posted November 25, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Jeremy Ganes

It’s been far too long since college basketball fans have gotten to see their favorite teams battle it out, as the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, there has been uncertainty about scheduling, and many games set for the opening day of Nov. 25 have already been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Other teams will continue to play on though, and if we make it through the season, the John R. Wooden Award will be given to the best player in college basketball. Let’s take a look at the top contenders for college basketball’s most prestigious trophy heading into this season.

Luka Garza, C, Iowa

Garza returns to the Hawkeyes for his senior season with lofty championship aspirations. The 2020 Big Ten Player of the Year was a scoring machine in college basketball’s deepest conference last season. There’s not much this force in the middle can’t do. He has an excellent shot, physical dominance on the boards, and shot-blocking ability to match a high basketball IQ. Last year’s Iowa team was going places had it not been for the pandemic, so it’s clear that the program wants to rack up some trophies this season, and doing so would bolster a Wooden Award case for their star player.

Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

The Big Ten was indeed deep in 2019-20, and that was due in part to the emergence of Dosunmu. Dosunmu has a penchant for playmaking in a variety of ways, as his game became very well rounded to the tune of 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. The preseason poll suggests that Dosunmu’s squad is expected to make some noise in the conference and college basketball at large. A surprise run in the big dance could really put him on the map as a player leading a program without the national profile of other top teams. Some see Dosunmu as the best guard in the country. If he can prove that to be true, he will have a shot at making plenty of Wooden Award ballots.

Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State

Cunningham arrives at Oklahoma State with an immense amount of hype. There is already serious talk that the top-ranked high school recruit in his class will be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NBA draft. This 6-foot-8-inch prospect has the size to dominate opposing guards and potentially guard the other five positions as well. His effortless movement around the court makes him an ever-present threat to score, and scouts rave about his smart decision-making with the basketball. It’s hard to tell where this Cowboys team will fit into the Big 12 equation, with powers like Kansas and Baylor looming, but Cunningham’s playmaking ability will help elevate the rest of his team. The biggest question about his candidacy will be if the freshman can transition to the college game quickly enough and whether he can consistently lift his team to victories.

Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jlg6097@psu.edu.