The National Player of the Year award in college basketball is one of the most highly anticipated individual awards given out in April, awarded to one of the four finalists from the final ballot. This year’s race has a lot of great faces on it, but two stars sit atop the Big Ten that have a really good shot at taking home the trophy. Those two players are Iowa’s Luka Garza and Illinois’s Ayo Dosunmu.
So, who is more likely to win the award between the two? Luka Garza looks to have an edge in this year’s race after looking like he could have won it last year over Obi Toppin.
Luka Garza’s 2020-21 season
Once the Iowa star announced he was coming back for his senior season, he became the clear frontrunner for the National Player of the Year Award. He has shown exactly why as we rapidly approach March. To start his senior campaign, Garza averaged 34 points through his first three games. He looked very impressive early as he was only held under 20 points twice in Iowa’s first 10 games of the season.
In Big 10 Conference play, Garza has only been held under 20 points six times through 16 conference games. The Hawkeyes go as far as Luka Garza takes them. The big man is so dominant, teams almost have to just let him score and force the other players to beat them when they play against Iowa. At this point in the season, Garza averages 24.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Inside conference play, Luka is averaging 22.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game.
Playing at this type of level in one of the toughest and deepest conferences in the country warrants being a National Player of the Year Finalist and possibly winning it. Against his counterpart in the conference, Ayo Dosunmu, Garza holds an edge in the award race, but Dosunmu deserves his fair share of praise.
Ayo Dosunmu’s run at National Player of the Year
Illinois received the best news of the off-season when both their star guard, Ayo Dosunmu, and dominant big man, Kofi Cockburn, announced they would be coming back to Champaign, Illinois. They became an instant favorite to cut down the nets come March.
Dosunmu started his season just as well as Garza. Dosunmu averaged 25.6 points in his first three games back in the Orange. He looked really impressive early in the season, but his National Player of the Year chances came to fruition starting in conference play. The Junior is playing at an incredibly high level in Big 10 play, and his big-shot-taker-and-maker mentality has really shown. In conference play, the points per game do not show the whole story for the star guard.
Dosunmu has earned his National Player of the Year consideration by doing other things to help Illinois win games. Dosunmu only averages 19.6 points per game inside of the Big Ten.
Why Luka Garza has the Edge on Ayo Dosunmu in National Player of the Year
Stats tend to play a large role in winning the National Player of the Year award, but it is also about the impact you have on games. The battle between these two players is really close when you look at conference play. Even though the stats might not show the whole story, Dosunmu’s impact during Big 10 play has been amazing to watch.
With that being said, the separation between these two stars came early on in the year. Garza looked like the best player in college basketball from the start. He looked completely unstoppable, and it didn’t matter how many players you threw at him.
Though it looks like Luka Garza will take the trophy home, don’t count Ayo Dosunmu out just yet.
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