Now that we’re inching toward the start of March Madness, it’s a great time
to get acquainted with the brightest stars in the game. For example, did you
realize that a junior center in Iowa City might just be the most dominant player
in the entire country?
According to the AP National Player of the Year odds at the
college basketball betting sites, Hawkeyes big man Luka Garza is the
favorite to emerge. With that being said, there’s a handful of guys making a
case to honored as the top dog in the land.
So who are the College Basketball Player of the Year candidates? Let’s take a
look. To me, there are six standing out above the rest.
Luka Garza – Iowa Hawkeyes
Points Per Game: 23.0
Rebound Per Game: 10.0
Blocks Per Game: 1.7
Iowa is currently ranked in the top 20 and is in the thick of the Big Ten
race thanks to their center, Luka Garza. The 6’11” junior from Washington DC was
a nice player for Fran McCaffery during his first two seasons, but he’s taken a
massive leap in year three and is now the frontrunner to capture a whole bunch
Garza is shooting over 54% from the field and has toyed with his opponents
throughout Big Ten play. On top of being a force under the basket, he can even
step back and hit the three.
Luka has scored in double figures all but one game and seems to be playing
his best basketball as we wind down toward the end of the year. At this point,
you can almost pencil him in as a finalist for the AP National POY.
Obi Toppin – Dayton Flyers
Points Per Game: 19.7
Rebounds Per Game: 8.0
Field Goal Percentage: 62.8%
Dayton is surging toward snagging a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament
bracket and is no longer a March Madness sleeper. The way Obi Toppin has been
playing, the Flyers might be cutting more nets down than just the ones at the
Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in Brooklyn.
Speaking of Brooklyn, the 6’9” Brooklyn native has a sweet inside-out game
that’s going to translate tremendously at the next level. Toppin has been
rocketing up 2020 NBA mock drafts all season long, as it’s hard to spot any
weaknesses in his skill set. The 21-year-old has an array of moves, he plays
hard on both ends of the floor, and he leads his teams to victories.
What more can you ask for?
Markus Howard – Marquette Golden Eagles
Points Per Game: 27.9
Rebound Per Game: 3.2
Assists Per Game: 3.1
Based on raw ability to put the ball in the basket, it’s hard to find anyone
in college basketball better than Markus Howard. Markus dropped 51 in a game
against USC, which shouldn’t surprise anybody when you look at this dude’s
resume. The senior guard tallied 53 on the road at Creighton as a junior and
poured in 52 at Providence during his sophomore campaign.
The Golden Eagles suffered tough overtime losses against the Friars and at
Butler; otherwise, Steve Wojciechowski and his men could be staring at #3 seed
in March. Either way, Howard’s undeniable productivity is going to keep him in
the running to win several post-season accolades.
Payton Pritchard – Oregon Ducks
Points Per Game: 19.6
Rebound Per Game: 4.3
Assists Per Game: 5.8
Oregon’s senior point guard is a shoo-in to be named as the Pac-12 Player of
the Year, but he might not be done there. The Ducks are loaded with lots of
capable athletes, but Payton Pritchard is the reason Dana Altman’s squad is
poised to win their conference.
Payton has been a fixture in Eugene each and every year he’s been on campus,
but his leadership and propensity to take over a game late have been the obvious
differences in 2019/2020.
I’d tell you Payton is undoubtedly the best guard in America, but he actually
might not even be the best guard on the West Coast. On that note, let’s segue
into who has been equally — if not more — impressive.
Malachi Flynn – San Diego State Aztecs
Points Per Game: 16.5
Rebound Per Game: 3.7
Assists Per Game: 5.1
I can’t say enough good things about Malachi Flynn and the way he has
transcended the Aztecs program. San Diego State didn’t receive a single
first-place vote in the Mountain West Conference in the preseason, yet here they
are on the verge of entering the NCAA Tournament unblemished.
I’ve watched virtually every one of SDSU’s games, and it’s apparent that
Malachi is the engine that keeps the motor running. Flynn sports one of the top
assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation, he’s a terrific on-ball defender, and
he’s a lethal shooter from beyond the arc.
It’s Malachi’s knack for finishing around the rim that really sets him apart.
Simply put, he’s got no flaws in his game, and his team is a genuine threat to
win the title.
So yeah, I’d call Malachi Flynn one of the College Basketball Player of the
Year contenders for sure.
Vernon Carey Jr. – Duke Blue Devils
Points Per Game: 17.8
Rebound Per Game: 9.0
Field Goal Percentage: 58.6%
Vernon Carey Jr. was one of the most highly touted freshmen in the class of
2019, and he hasn’t disappointed during his first (and likely only) year in
Coach K’s premier post player may have started out slow in November, but he’s
turned on the jets in ACC play and has quickly evolved into one of the most
daunting big men in the country.
At 6’10” and 270 pounds, he’s the closest thing to Zion Williamson that the
Cameron Crazies will see at Duke for a long, long time. He’s the total package
when it comes to a frontcourt presence, and he’ll receive a lot of votes to win
the AP National Player of the Year.
The fact that the Blue Devils are one of the true blue bloods in college
basketball certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.
When Noah Davis first looked at the odds in November and made a
College Basketball Player of the Year prediction, names like Cassius Winston
and Jordan Nwora were sitting atop the betting sheet. Cole Anthony got hurt, and
James Wiseman left Memphis, so you could see the door start to open in the POY
Here we are in February, and a whole host of names have slid right in.
If it was up to me to hand out the award at this point in time, I’d be torn
between Obi Toppin and Malachi Flynn.
The good news is we still have a few more weeks of basketball left to see how
it all shakes out.
As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for play-casino-games-now.com on football, basketball, and baseball.
Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.