Wooden Watch: Week 15

Story posted March 6, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

As teams start to gear up for their conference tournaments, the Wooden Award candidates look to fight for their teams as they try to earn a spot in Indianapolis.

Last month, 20 players across the country were added to an exclusive list for a chance to be named the most outstanding player in college basketball. These players range from the Big Ten to Conference USA.

Let’s take a look at some of these candidates and their latest performances.

Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State

Cade Cunningham’s latest performances against Oklahoma showed why he is the top prospect for the upcoming NBA Draft. He put up 40 points and 11 rebounds against the seventh-ranked Sooners, to which he followed up with a 15-point performance against the same Oklahoma team two days later

Averaging 19.5 points per game on the year, Cunningham has racked up numerous Big 12 Freshman of the Week awards. Against Baylor, he took on a lockdown defender in Jared Butler and managed to put up 24 points, four assists and seven rebounds.

As a freshman, Cunningham is taking the conference and the nation by storm. He has proven time and time again as to why he deserves to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois

With star player Ayo Dosunmu sitting out with an injury, most people thought that Illinois would fail to stay prosperous against teams like Wisconsin and Michigan. Cockburn, alongside rising key pieces Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo, have put those rumors to rest.

Over the past three games in which Dosunmu sat out, Cockburn averaged 18.3 points, 0.6 blocks and seven rebounds per game. His big presence in the paint neutralized center Hunter Dickinson of Michigan and Micah Potter of Wisconsin.

The big man has been a constant force underneath the hoop for head coach Brad Underwood. His dominance can help carry Illinois to a deep tournament run, especially with Dosunmu coming back for the Big Ten Tournament.

Luka Garza, C, Iowa

Luka Garza has been praised as one of the best players in the sport today, and the numbers do not lie. Against fourth-ranked Ohio State, Garza had a field day, putting up 24 points and 11 rebounds in a dominating win at Value City Arena.

Garza is second in the nation in scoring, averaging 24.3 points per game, which comes off a 55.1 shooting percentage. Against Nebraska, Garza had an “off” day with 14 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks in the 104-62 win.

As the Hawkeyes look to rest up with a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament, Garza needs to prepare for a tough slate of games ahead, especially with the power that the conference wields. Any game in the Big Ten is not an easy game to win.

Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga

Corey Kispert has been one of head coach Mark Few’s key assets down the stretch of the season. He is one of the few Bulldogs to be a huge contributor to their undefeated season thus far.

The forward averages 19.5 points per game on 55.6% shooting from the field. Against the Loyola Marymount Lions, Kispert managed to shoot lights out from behind the arc, hitting 60% of his 3’s. He ended the night with 24 points, five rebounds and two steals.

With the help of center Drew Timme and guard Jalen Suggs, Kispert has flourished as a top player in all of college basketball. With their help, opposing defenses will have to pick their poison with Gonzaga, and they’ll need to find an answer quickly as the Bulldogs get some much-deserved rest before the WCC tournament.

As more conferences start to crown their champions, the rest of the field looks to rise to the occasion and make a name for themselves in March. The days leading up to the big dance will prove crucial to teams, as some look to solidify their status as a champion and a Wooden Award winner.

 

Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.