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College Basketball 2021-22 Wooden Award Watch: 2 Big Men to Eye & Rising Candidates

College Basketball 2021-22 Wooden Award Watch: 2 Big Men to Eye & Rising Candidates article feature image
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Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kofi Cockburn (Illinois)

In our third edition of the College Basketball Wooden Award Watch, we discuss the favorites, rising candidates in the Big Ten and the best value currently on the board.

In addition, I made three current selections for the award, including two players in the Big Ten and one talent in the WCC.

All odds via DraftKings


The Favorites

Drew Timme (Gonzaga) +700
Paolo Banchero (Duke) +800
E.J. Liddell (Ohio State) +800

These three names have been floating around the college basketball sphere for much of the season.

Timme has been the favorite for most of the year. Banchero closely follows him, while Liddell has climbed up the Wooden Award odds board consistently.

All three are perfectly valued at the moment, and any one of them could win the award with little backlash.

Timme is the best player on Gonzaga right now. He is far more developed than freshman phenom Chet Holmgren and has taken on the role as the Bulldogs’ leader with Jalen Suggs off to the NBA.

He has tapered off a bit in the last few games, though. Against North Alabama he only scored 12 points. Against Northern Arizona, he only posted 14 and against Texas Tech, he only notched seven.

This is an unfortunate trend that he will have to straighten out if Gonzaga wants to make an NCAA Tournament run and if he wants a shot at this award. This is something to keep in mind when judging this market.

Banchero is Duke’s rock, averaging 17.1 points and 7.5 boards per game with strong defense. This number may have dropped a little bit, but it is pretty fair judging the talent he possesses.

It will be interesting to see how he propels Duke in the postseason, but for now, there is not much to say. The number is about right.

Liddell is interesting. All of the value on Liddell has been deflated, as he has skyrocketed to the top of this watchlist. He began the season hovering around +2000 to win this award, so if this number were to drop below +1200, it definitely deserves another look.

Here is the reason: Liddell registers 75% of Ohio State’s minutes, so he will be on the floor plenty. He is also a rebounding machine (7.3 RPG), so even if he is getting inconsistent looks in Big Ten play, he will still fill the stat sheet, much like Banchero and Timme.


The Next Tier

Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) +1000
Johnny Davis (Wisconsin) +1000
Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky) +1200
Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona) +1600
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) +1800

Agbaji is one of the most prolific scorers in college hoops. Although he fell off a bit — only averaging 14.3 points per game in his last three games — he will bounce back in Big 12 play.

This number is about right, and he will likely be the conference’s leading scorer by season’s end. He could even lead the Kansas Jayhawks to their first title in 14 years.

Davis — like Liddell — has shot himself up the Wooden odds list. He had an amazing week, putting the Wisconsin Badgers on his back to defeat Purdue in Mackey Arena. This was a tall task, knowing the talent on the Boilermakers’ squad.

Davis should be a lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft, but at the moment, this would be buying high on the Wisconsin guard.

Tshiebwe may be one of the most consistent bets on this list. He will never miss a rebound. Seriously, he is first in both offensive and defensive rebounding, so even if he is absent otherwise, he dramatically makes an impact on the game.

Averages of 15 points and 15 rebounds is outrageous, and these numbers do not seem to be falling off anytime soon.

Mathurin could be the best pure shooter on the list of Wooden favorites. He shoots 38.6% from distance and a notably efficient 50.6% overall, averaging 18.9 points per game.

Even in Arizona’s rough performances against Tennessee and Washington, he put up monster numbers with 55 combined points. These numbers should stay consistent because he shot over 40% from downtown in his freshman campaign last year, as well.

Cockburn has similar rebounding abilities to Tshiebwe, but has more of an offensive touch. The big man has stabilized what was unquestionably a rough start to Illinois’ season by averaging 22.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

He ranks third — behind Liddell and Tshiebwe — in the KenPom Player of the Year standings, and his numbers could improve, much like his free throw shooting (70.4% in 2021-2022 vs. 55.3% in 2020-2021) and knowledge to kick the ball out to the Illinois guards.

There is still value on his number. If games against Rutgers, Iowa and Minnesota were any indicator, he should be able to provide massive contributions throughout Big Ten play.

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Up-and-Coming

Keegan Murray (Iowa) +2200

Murray is college basketball’s leading scorer at 24.5 points per game. He is also hauling in over eight boards each game.

Much like Davis, the Big Ten sophomore has climbed his way into the Wooden Award notice, but the one thing holding him back could be the success of the rest of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Sure, this is an individual award, but being on a great team helps.


Best Value

Jaden Ivey (Purdue) +1800
Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) +4000

Ivey finds himself in a nice buy-low spot for those interested. The Boilermakers have started off the Big Ten season with a 1-2 record, dropping their last game to Wisconsin.

He looked to take a few off-balance looks, so it might be wise to see how he plays in a few more Big Ten matchups before laying down this number.

Holmgren is close to his value with these odds. However, with Timme struggling in his last few outings, putting a sprinkle on the freshman could be good value heading into WCC play.

Picks As of Today: Holmgren +4000 | Cockburn +1800 | Ivey if it reaches +1900 or better

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