Wooden Watch: Week 12

Story posted February 12, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Max Ralph

As the 2020-21 college basketball season marches on, the nation’s landscape has largely been dominated by big men, and that trend is reflected in lists of the top candidates for the 2021 Wooden Award.

A month away from the NCAA tournament, one name stands alone from other candidates. But in a year full of twists, turns and program shutdowns, a late-season dark horse winner is not out of the question.

Here’s a look at a few of the frontrunners to take home the hardware.

Luka Garza, C, Iowa

Garza’s senior campaign has taken a step up from his impressive junior year where he finished as the runner up for the Wooden Award.

Averaging 25.3 points per game and 8.5 rebounds, Garza is widely regarded as the clear-cut favorite to win the award.

However, a pedestrian (by Garza’s standards) 18 points and two rebounds in a loss to Indiana may have shortly brought him back down to Earth.

Garza’s spot at the top of the watch list likely isn’t in danger, but a late-season collapse from Iowa in a tight Big Ten conference could open the door for another candidate.

Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois

Sticking with big men in the Big Ten, Cockburn has been a key piece to a red-hot Fighting Illini team that sits just half of a game out of first place in the conference.

The 7-foot sophomore is averaging a double-double with 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds as his team is currently on a four-game win streak.

A Wooden Award candidate is often more attractive if they are leading a high-ranked team. If Illinois can close out the season strongly in one of the nation’s tougher conferences, Cockburn’s Wooden stock could be on the rise.

Jared Butler, G, Baylor

Just like Cockburn could benefit from being on a top team, Butler could be in the same boat, having been a spark plug for the undefeated No. 2 Bears all season long.

Butler is averaging 17 points per game and 5.2 assists while shooting an efficient 44.6 percent from beyond the arc in his junior year.

However, Baylor has been forced to postpone a number of games in February, including marquee matchups against the likes of No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 12 Oklahoma.

The extended break could be an interesting situation to monitor in regard to Baylor’s ranking and Butler’s chances at taking home the Wooden Award.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, F, Indiana

Jackson-Davis may be overlooked as one of the top candidates this season, but he’s nearly averaging a double-double while shooting a 52 percent clip from the field.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore is putting up 19.4 points per game for a surging Indiana team and has led the Hoosiers to a season-sweep of Iowa and Wooden-favorite Garza.

Just like Cockburn and Illinois, a strong finish from Indiana could result in Jackson-Davis’ name circling around more in the discussion for the honor.

Even if he misses out in 2021, his name should be atop a number of Wooden Award watch lists should he stay in Bloomington for 2021-22.

 

Max Ralph is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mdr5616@psu.edu.

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