The NCAA recently released a list of finalists who are in contention to win this year's Wooden Award. The list originally started with 50 players but has now been cut down to just 20.
However, even with the shortened list, some candidates stand out more than others. This article will take a look at five players who are most likely to win this year's most prestigious college basketball award.
NCAA College Basketball: Top 5 players most likely to win the John Wooden Award
In an unprecedented college basketball season, the winner of this year's John R. Wooden Award will not only be awarded for his impeccable basketball skills but also for having the mental toughness to withstand a season that was filled with unpredictability.
#1 Luka Garza
Averaging a nation-leading 24.5 points to go with 8.64rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 blocks per game, Luka Garza is undoubtedly the favorite to win this year's Wooden Award. He finished second in last year's votes for the award.
Instead of declaring for the NBA draft, he returned for his senior year with the Iowa Hawkeye and has been the favorite to win the Wooden Award ever since.
The only thing that could hamper Garza's chances of winning the award are the Iowa Hawkeyes' current struggles. If you consider that Dayton would have been a number one seed last season, 20 of the last 30 Wooden Award winners were on teams that received a number one seed in the Match Madness tournament.
According to Bleacher Report, only one of the 30 played for a team that received worse than a No. 4 seed— Andrew Bogut with Utah, who was given the sixth seed in 2005.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently in fourth place in the Big Ten conference and are more than likely to miss out on a top seed. Bracket Matrix has the Hawkeyes projected for a No. 3 seed.
#2 Jared Butler
Jared Bulter has been praised for his great overall play this season and has shown huge development in his junior season at Baylor. He has increased in every major statistical category this season, averaging 17 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
Butler has improved his defensive ability the most and is arguably the best wing defender in college basketball. He has the ability to lock down anybody on the perimeter and can hold his own against anyone in the post. Baylor is currently ranked number four for defensive efficiency in Division I, allowing just 88 points per 100 possessions, via Kenpom.com.
However, what is hurting Jared Butler's chances of winning the College Basketball Wooden Award is the fact that his team hasn’t played since February 2nd due to COVID-19-related issues. While his other competitors are improving their statistics, Butler is stuck watching from the sidelines.
#3 Ayo Dosunmu
Ayo Dosunmu currently has the Illinois Fighting Illini steamrolling through the second half of their conference schedule. They have won five straight games, including an 80-75 win over Luka Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes, and are now in second place in the Big Ten with a 10-3 record.
Dosunmu averaged 20 points during the five-game winning streak and produced his sixth triple-double of the season against the Wisconsin Badgers.
If Dosunmu can continue his high-level play and help Illinois run the table in the Big Ten, he will have a great chance of surpassing Jared Bulter and Luka Garza as the favorite for the Wooden Award.
#4 Corey Kispert
Corey Kispert is the leader of the number one team in the nation, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The senior wing is averaging 19.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2 assists on 55.8% shooting.
He is one of the country's best shooters, leading the WCC in three-pointers, converting three shots from outside the perimeter per game at a 48.6% rate, which is sixth-best in the nation.
Kispert is also efficient from inside the arc. He has a two-point percentage of 67.3% and knocks down 90% of his free-throws.
#5 Trayce Jackson-Davis
Trayce Jackson-Davis of the Indiana Hoosiers closes out the list of players most likely to win the Wooden Award this season. Averaging 19.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game this season, Jackson-Davis has single-handedly kept the Hoosiers in contention to earn a bid for this year's March Madness tournament.
In addition to his impressive 53% shooting from the field, Jackson-Davis has been extremely aggressive while driving to the rim this season. He is sixth in the country in free throws made (104) and is second in the nation in free throws attempted (166).
Jackson-Davis shines the most when the lights are the brightest. He is averaging 19.8 points against teams ranked in the AP Top-25 Poll.
It will be tough for Trayce Jackson-Davis to catch the aforementioned players. Still, if he finishes conference play on a high note and knocks off the Michigan Wolverines in the second-to-last game of the regular season, the sophomore guard will have a case to be in the top three vote-getters for the 2020-21 Wooden Award.
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