The Los Angeles Athletic Club on Monday announced the watch list for this year’s Wooden Award. Compiled with a poll of national college basketball experts, the list is based on players’ performance during the first half of the season and aims to identify the front-runners for the Wooden Award, college basketball’s highest individual honor, as well as the John R. Wooden Award All-American Team.
Making the list are Udoka Azubuike (Kansas), Saddiq Bey (Villanova), Jared Butler (Baylor), Vernon Carey Jr (Duke), Anthony Cowan Jr (Maryland), Devon Dotson (Kansas), Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Malachi Flynn (San Diego State), Luke Garza (Iowa), Markus Howard (Marquette), Tre Jones (Duke), Jordan Nwora (Louisville), Daniel Oturu (Minnesota), Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga), Myles Powell (Seton Hall), Payton Pritchard (Oregon), Jalen Smith (Maryland), Lamar Stevens (Penn State), Obi Toppin (Dayton), and Cassius Winston (Michigan State).
Duke (Carey Jr. and Jones), Kansas (Azubuike and Dotson), and Maryland (Cowan Jr. and Smith) are the only schools with two players named, while the Big Ten leads all conferences with six players. The Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced during the Elite Eight round of March Madness, while the winner of the 2020 John R. Wooden Award will be presented by during ESPN’s College Basketball Awards on April 10.
The Wooden Award used to be a great predictor of NBA success. The first nine winners were Marques Johnson, Phil Ford, Larry Bird, Darrell Griffith, Danny Ainge, Ralph Sampson (twice), Michael Jordan and Chris Mullin, all of whom played at least 8 years in the NBA, most of them with distinguished pro careers. Going forward there were still more hits (David Robinson, Larry Johnson) than misses (Walter Berry), but in 2002, the tide turned.
First Jay Williams’ pro career was cut short by a motorcycle accident, starting a stretch of six selections during which JJ Reddick was easily the most successful pro player, but tied for the award in 2006 with Adam Morrison, one of the biggest busts in NBA history. The award enjoyed a brief rebound, selecting Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis over the next six years, but then came the big slide: Trey Burke, Doug McDermott, Frank Kaminsky, Buddy Hield, Frank Mason, and last year’s winner, Jalen Brunson. Of that last group, only Hield is a starter, albeit for the 19-31 Kings.
Where did it all go wrong for the Wooden Award? Did they start overthinking things or lose sight of something fundamental about the game? It’s impossible to say, but don’t bet on the winner of this year’s award making any kind of noise in the pros. Onto this week’s slate of games…
Tuesday, February 4
#7 Duke Blue Devils (18-3) vs Boston College Eagles (11-11)
7pm ET on ESPN
Vernon Carey Jr. led the charge on Saturday with 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Blue Devils beat Syracuse 97-88. The Eagles have lost 6 of 9 since conference play started, but notched a rare 71-70 win over North Carolina on Saturday. Jared Hamilton came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, including a pair of free throws with 17 seconds to play that provided the winning margin.
Wednesday, February 5
#10 Villanova Wildcats (17-4) vs #19 Butler Bulldogs (17-5)
6:30pm ET on FS1
‘Nova suffered a 76-61 loss at home to the Creighton on Saturday, as Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore each scored 18, but only four other ‘Cats put the biscuit in the basket, none of them scoring in double digits. Speaking of which, all five Butler starters scored in double digits on Saturday, but the team made just 1-of-14 3-point attempts as they lost 65-61 to Providence.
Thursday, February 6
Cal Bears (10-11) vs #24 Colorado Buffaloes (17-5)
8pm ET on PAC12
Cal survived a seesaw battle with Oregon State on Saturday, winning 69-67 behind Matt Bradley’s 23 points and 6 rebounds. The Buffaloes crushed the USC Trojans 78-57 on Saturday, hitting 9-of-19 shots from beyond the arc and 15-of-17 from the charity stripe.
Friday, February 7
#9 Maryland Terrapins (17-4) vs #20 Illinois Fighting Illini (16-6)
8pm ET on FS1
The Terps won their fourth straight Big Ten game on Thursday, beating #18 Iowa 82-72 with Anthony Cowan Jr scoring 31 and Jalen Smith putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds. The Illini had no such luck against Iowa on Sunday, losing 72-65 despite Andres Feliz scoring 17 points off the bench.
Saturday, February 8
#12 Seton Hall Pirates (16-5) vs #10 Villanova Wildcats (17-4)
2:30pm ET on FOX
Seton Hall took their first Big East loss on Saturday, falling 74-62 to Xavier, with point guard Quincy McKnight scoring 15 points but suffering a knee injury that has him listed as day-to-day. A win would move Villanova into a tie with Seton Hall for first place in the Big East.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-11) vs #1 Baylor Bears (20-1)
6pm ET on ESPN2
With Saturday’s 82-69 loss on Saturday to Oklahoma, the Cowboys are now 0-8 in Big 12 play after starting the season 9-3. Baylor beat Kansas State 73-67 on Monday, with Jared Butler scoring a team-high 20 points, as they held onto the top spot for another week.
Sunday, February 9
Wichita State Shockers (17-4) vs #25 Houston Cougars (17-5)
3pm ET on ESPN
The Shockers escorted themselves out of the top 25 on Saturday with their 54-51 loss to Tulsa, as they hit just 6-of-31 3-pointers and only made it to the line 7 times. The Cougars blew a 10-point halftime lead on Saturday to lose 64-62 to Cincinnati. Adding injury to insult, Houston’s DeJon Jarreau earned himself a one-game suspension from coach Kelvin Sampson for biting the leg of Mamoudou Diarra during a fight for loose ball.