Garza, Cunningham among finalists for Wooden
The national ballot for the John R. Wooden Award — awarded to college basketball’s top player — was revealed Saturday, with 15 players including Iowa’s Luka Garza and Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham among those featured on the list.
Garza, the runner-up for the Wooden Award last season to Obi Toppin, has delivered on his status as the Wooden front-runner throughout the 2020-21 campaign. The 6-foot-11 center enters the final weekend of the regular season averaging 23.9 points per game, best in the Big Ten, to go along with 8.4 rebounds per contest. Garza’s fifth-ranked Hawkeyes have spent most of the season in the AP top 10 and are a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent NCAA tournament projection heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale with Wisconsin.
Also in the mix for the award is Cunningham, whose sensational freshman season has helped establish him as a prime candidate for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. The 6-foot-8 point guard is averaging 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for a 17-7 Cowboys team that appears set on reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.
Other notables on the Wooden ballot include Villanova guard Collin Gillespie, who retained his spot on the list despite suffering a season-ending knee injury in a win over Creighton on Wednesday. Gillespie averaged 14.0 points and 4.6 assists for the season for a Villanova team that claimed the Big East regular-season title.
Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell was the lone player on the final ballot who did not appear on the previous Wooden watch list announced in early February. Liddell is averaging 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for an Ohio State squad that is holding down a No. 2 seed in Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology update.
Dropped from the list since the February update were UConn’s James Bouknight, Minnesota’s Marcus Carr, Pittsburgh’s Justin Champagnie, Houston’s Quentin Grimes, Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. and Louisville’s Carlik Jones.
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