College Basketball Wooden Award Watch: 2 Value Candidates to Topple Oscar Tshiebwe

College Basketball Wooden Award Watch: 2 Value Candidates to Topple Oscar Tshiebwe article feature image

Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: E.J. Liddell (Ohio State)

In a dramatic shift of the odds for the Wooden Award, Oscar Tshiebwe of the University of Kentucky has now overtaken first place. He's the heavy favorite for the award, and rightfully so.

Per KenPom, Tshiebwe is the Player of the Year by a wide margin. However, given how short this number is (+140) and how little value falls with a wager on him, bettors will have to look elsewhere to decipher any type of value for this award.

More than likely, you need to look at a team that is capable of a successful postseason — similar to Kentucky — or those players who seem undervalued given their contributions to their team.

There are two names who stand out to me who seem priced incorrectly. This is especially true given their contributions to their respective teams.

First, we'll look at the current favorites below:

Odds as of February 17 and via DraftKings

Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky)+140
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois)+600
Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)+850
Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)+1200
Keegan Murray (Iowa)+1200

2022 Wooden Award Value Bets

E.J. Liddell (+2000)

Liddell is a strong candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. He's right up there with two Wooden Award favorites mentioned above: Keegan Murray and Johnny Davis.

Maybe Liddell doesn't get as much love because his game isn't flashy and he doesn't fit the typical profile of an NBA player.

He's a 6-foot-7 power forward in possibly the best basketball conference in the country. He has to contend with the likes of Purdue's Zach Edey and Illinois' Kofi Cockburn, who tower over him.

However, he can hold his own. When OSU played Purdue, Liddell lacked the rebounding numbers (only three), but he still managed to put up 20 points, four assists and two blocks.

In conference play, he has been consistent across all categories. One area stands out for him, though, and places him in a category with another Wooden Award contender in Chet Holmgren.

Liddell can shoot 3s.

He's 21-of-51 in Big Ten play. This puts him at 41.2% and eighth in the conference overall. This is astounding, considering his abilities on the interior, as well.

Here's an example of what he can do:

E.J. Liddell with the back-to-back clutch three for the tie.

— Francesco Semprucci (@fra_sempru) January 30, 2022

In addition, Liddell has shown versatility on the defensive end. He ranks sixth in block percentage in the Big Ten. His defense in the post is solid and he has the versatility and speed to occasionally defend on the perimeter.

Here's a view of what he can do on defense:

This E.J. Liddell sequence 😵@EasyE2432 //

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 12, 2022

Finally, it does not stop there. Liddell can also run a fast break and dish the ball when needed. He's averaging almost three assists per game on the season, and is 18th in the Big Ten in assist rate, which is solid for a big man.

E.J. Liddell gets the steal and the dime‼️


— ESPN (@espn) January 28, 2022

As of February 17, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Ohio State as a 5-seed. Obviously, a 5-seed can be a dreaded position in the Big Dance, but Ohio State could propel itself up the ranks with a couple of distinguished wins to round out the regular season.

This should showcase to Big Ten fans and the rest of the country that Liddell deserves to be talked about with the highest-profile names in college basketball this season.

After all, KenPom has him right behind Tshiebwe for this award, so if the Kentucky star falters whatsoever, Liddell is there to jump ahead of him.

Chet Holmgren (+2000)

I have been raving about Holmgren being the best player on Gonzaga — above Drew Timme — for some time. In my latest State of the West Coast Conference article, I did the same.

It finally seems like the market is catching up to his abilities on the basketball court. I got this number at +6000, and saw it around +4000 in early January.

Holmgren now finds himself amongst the top names for the Wooden Award, but not up there with the favorites — just yet.

Obviously, Gonzaga could make at least the Final Four, and is easily the favorite in the WCC. In fact, the Zags haven't come close to being tested in the WCC, which should have four teams headed to the NCAA Tournament.

Holmgren has some uncanny abilities for a seven-foot center. He shoots 46.2% on the season from 3-point land and 56.1% from 3 in conference play. The closest comparison as a college player for Holmgren is Kevin Durant, who also shot over 40% during his lone campaign with Texas.

Not only that, but Holmgren can play a traditional big man role. His block percentage is 11.9%, which ranks 18th in the country.

Here's a quick glimpse of what he can do on both sides of the ball:


Chet Holmgren is doing it all tonight for

— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 28, 2022

Considering how KenPom has Holmgren at third for the award — behind Tshiebwe and Liddell — and how far Gonzaga is likely to go in the NCAA Tournament, a small bet at this number should be plausible.

Picks: E.J. Liddell (+2000) | Chet Holmgren (+2000)

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