It is tough to decide who is worthy of recognition in college basketball as being the most valuable player. But that is what the John R. Wooden Award tries to do every year. Somehow voters sift through the hundreds of players that compete for the 353 Division I schools so that they can recognize just one as the best.
When you consider the enormity of the task, it is hard not to wonder if it is truly the best player that is recognized every year or the most marketable? Do voters select candidates based on their own observations and research?
Or do they lean on highlights and stories they see in the media and online? Handing out such awards can often be a tricky proposition for just that reason. But it is also something that will always be done because we like to recognize excellence.
This season, there are undoubtedly many excellent players taking the court in the NCAA. But who’s the best?
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Wooden Award Odds: Who’s Going To Make a Move On Cassius Winston?
With roughly two and a half months of the regular season done and over with, it is safe to say that some players have distinguished themselves as elite players. From those elite players, we will
eventually crown one the Wooden Award winner as the most valuable player in college basketball.
Right now, there is a clear favorite (according to DraftKings Wooden Award odds)—Michigan State’s Cassius Winston (sr.).
When you are the best player on the team many (well, most) deem the best in the country when the season starts, you are going to be considered for awards such as the Wooden. At the start of the season, many books had his odds of winning as short as +130.
Fast forward to Week 11, and the Spartans are 13-4 and ranked No. 15 in the country (AP). Winston is still the favorite to win the Wooden (+450), but the competition is hot on his tail:
Jordan Nwora (jr.), Louisville (+650): He had a stinker against Kentucky but has otherwise been one of the better offensive players in the country. To win, it would help if his defense could be better down the stretch. An offensive tear may do the trick as well, but playing better defense can’t hurt.
Obi Toppin (soph.), Dayton (+650): Casual college basketball fans probably haven’t heard of him. But the big forward is averaging a solid 19.5 points a game and is looking poised and ready to lead the Dayton Flyers on a deep run in the tournament this year.
Markus Howard (sr.), Marquette (+700): In a day and time where production is all that matters to some, the nation’s leading scorer (26.8 points/game) is going to get MVP-type consideration. Along with making it rain from three-point range (44 percent), he is hitting 86 percent of his foul shots.
But what could hold him back are his struggles inside the arc.
Vernon Carey (fresh.), Duke (+750): When you can star on one of Coach K’s teams, then you must be doing something right—and Carey is. However, what could sink him is Coach K’s reliance on Carey to carry the team. Because of that, if the Blue Devils falter, he could be blamed.
These aren’t the only players worth watching, of course. Payton Pritchard (+1500) is having a great year, as is Devon Dotson, Jared Butler, and Luka Garza (+1800). Other names that bear watching include Udoka Azubuike (+5000), Precious Achiuwa, Anthony Cowan Jr. (+3000), Anthony Edwards (+4000), Malachi Flynn (+2500), Kaleb Wesson (+2500), and Isaiah Stewart (+4000), to name a few.
So—who’s going to win? For now, it is too soon to tell. There is a lot of basketball left to be played, plenty of time for someone’s star to rise or fall. But one thing to keep in mind before putting your hard-earned money down is this.
Before Zion Williamson winning it last year, the previous five winners had all been upperclassmen (one junior and four seniors). Cassius Winston and Markus Howard are seniors.