College Basketball Wooden Award Watch | Take These 2 Long Shots & More

College Basketball Wooden Award Watch | Take These 2 Long Shots & More article feature image

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: KJ Simpson (Colorado)

As the college basketball season unfolds, the race for the prestigious John Wooden Award intensifies. The accolade, named after the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, is presented annually to the most outstanding player in college basketball.

Let’s explore the players who may stand out as betting opportunities as conference play revs up across the country.

The Clear Favorite

Zach Edey (-240)

At 7-foot-4, last year’s Wooden Award winner has maintained — and potentially even improved — his form from last season.

The continued development of Purdue’s young backcourt — Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer — has truly helped Edey become a more dangerous threat.

Edey is a willing passer out of the post, allowing Smith, Loyer, Mason Gillis and others many opportunities to score when their defenders sag off to double Edey.

And if defenses choose to allow Edey to go one-on-one, the big man has been a consistent finisher off post-touches and second-chance opportunities.

Edey’s free-throw prowess also prevents defenses from being able to simply foul him when he catches a pass inside. There's simply no easy answer to defending Purdue effectively because of the stress Edey puts on any opponent.

Had Edey not won the award last season, he’d be a virtual lock to win the award this year. Bettors will rely on the potential voter fatigue many may have.

Barring injury, Edey seems deserving of the recognition.

All-Americans With Plenty of Spotlight

Kyle Filipowski (+2500)

Duke's Filipowski chose to return to Durham and forego the NBA draft in the offseason. Blue Devil fans were thrilled to see him return as part of Jon Scheyer’s roster, and he's taken a further step as one of the most dominant players in college hoops this season.

The sophomore forward had offseason surgery and appears to be back at full health.

Filipowski brings a combination of strength, skill and basketball IQ that's made him an integral part of the Blue Devils' recent surge.

Filipowski's ability to score in the post, facilitate for teammates and impact the game defensively has done nothing but aid his draft prospects.

If “Flip” can help lead Scheyer and Duke to an ACC title, he'll surely have enough national exposure to earn some Wooden Award votes.

Kevin McCullar Jr. (+2000)

As a senior wing for the Kansas Jayhawks, McCullar has been an equally valuable piece on both the offensive and defensive end for Bill Self.

Previously, McCullar wasn't known for his scoring prowess. He's taken a gigantic step forward as the alpha in key situations for Kansas, though.

Much in the mold of Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson in the previous two years, McCullar chose to return to Lawrence, despite giving a senior speech last year and going through the NBA draft evaluation.

McCullar is a much improved shooter from range and is playing with a freedom he hasn’t previously had. Even on his off nights, McCullar is getting to the foul line and converting at above 80% from the stripe.

Kansas appears to be on track for another potential Big 12 title and a No. 1 overall seed. McCullar is a winner and a leader for Kansas, often being asked to play 35+ minutes given the lack of depth on its roster.

If he continues to lead Kansas to victories and puts up impressive numbers in the process, McCullar could find himself in the conversation for the award.

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Hunter Dickinson (+1000)

Another standout player for Kansas, Dickinson, has been a key contributor to the Jayhawks' success.

Dickinson's scoring ability in the post, rebounding and ability to start Kansas in transition via impressive outlet passes make him a vital asset for Kansas.

With McCullar’s return, Dickinson hasn't been forced into quite the same spotlight as he faced at Michigan. Consequently, Dickinson has been able to play with slightly less pressure and anxiety and seems less emotionally volatile this year.

Self is known for emphasizing a style that plays through the post, especially in the most crucial situations. On a team with Christian Braun, Agbaji, Wilson and Remy Martin, it was David McCormack who got the final two touches to seal a National Championship for Kansas in 2022.

Given Dickinson’s offensive skill far outweighs McCormack's, Dickinson could put up gaudy numbers for Self if given his expected volume.

As long as Dickinson and McCullar don’t split votes, both could challenge Edey.

Take a Flier

KJ Simpson (+12000) & Tamin Lipsey (+15000)

Both Simpson and Lipsey are guards and leaders for their respective teams. Neither are likely winners of the award, yet both feel slightly undervalued at their current price.

Simpson should put up better scoring numbers of the two, as he's a better shooter and plays in the weaker conference, comparatively.

In contrast, Lipsey plays on the better team and could lead Iowa State to be a surprise contender in the Big 12 with his efforts on both ends.

Don’t get crazy, but taking a flier on Simpson and Lipsey seems like a reasonable decision in early January.

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