Luka Garza and teammates on the Iowa Hawkeyes bench

Luka Garza is filling up the stat sheet early in the season, but is it too early to lay a short price on the Iowa center to win POY? Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire.

  • Luka Garza started the year around +375 to win college basketball’s major Player of the Year awards
  • The Iowa center is an odds-on favorite across the board and as short as -305
  • Sascha Paruk sets out the latest POY odds and analyzes the betting value

Iowa center Luka Garza won multiple Player of the Year honors last season, including the POY awards handed out by the Sporting News, ESPN, The Athletic, and Bleacher Report.

However, Dayton star Obi Toppin swept the most prestigious awards, winning the Wooden Award, Naismith Award, and AP Player of the Year.

With Toppin off to the NBA – and no Kevin Durant-level freshman entering the college ranks – Garza entered the 2020-21 season as a consensus POY favorite.

Less than a month in, his Wooden Award odds have shortened from around +375 to an average of -228. The oddsmakers at DraftKings appear to be particularly confident in Garza, shortening his odds to -305 this week.

2021 Wooden Award Odds

Player Odds
Luka Garza (Iowa) -305
Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) +300
Drew Timme (Gonzaga) +600
Jared Butler (Baylor) +800
Corey Kispert (Gonzaga) +1000
Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State) +1200
Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana) +1500
Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) +2000
Matt Coleman III (Texas) +3000
Collin Gillespie (Villanova) +3000
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova) +3000
  Marcus Zegarowski (Creighton) +3000
Garrison Brooks (UNC) +5000
Nate Reuvers (Wisconsin) +5000
  Matthew Hurt (Duke) +8000
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) +8000
 Remy Martin (Arizona State) +10000
Brandon Boston (Kentucky) +10000
 Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) +10000

Odds as of December 9th at DraftKings.

Garza’s Early-Season Performance

Garza’s first three games of the season were monstrosities – in a good way. The senior averaged 34.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks during Iowa’s routs of NC Central, Southern, and Western Illinois. He shot 76% from the floor and 62.5% from three against the three overmatched front courts.

His first real test of the season was more of a mixed bag. His Hawkeyes, as a whole, were impressive while dusting aside North Carolina 93-80 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Garza only scored 16 points on 6-20 shooting from the field, though he did contribute 14 rebounds, four blocks, and a couple dimes while playing a season-high 35 minutes.

Despite the relatively low output against UNC, Garza remains the nation’s leading scorer at 29.5 PPG.

Should bettors be worried that Garza’s numbers will drop off further against the quality competition in the Big Ten?

While the UNC game wasn’t a rousing confidence-builder, the entire 2019-20 season was. Garza averaged just over 25 PPG and collected nearly 10 RPG during Iowa’s incredibly difficult Big Ten schedule. According to KenPom, the 2019-20 Hawkeyes played the fourth-hardest schedule in the entire nation and, as mentioned, that didn’t stop Garza from collecting a ton of hardware at the end of the year.

Is Dosunmu the Biggest Threat to Garza?

The odds suggest that Illinois point guard Ayo Dosunmu (+300), the second-favorite entering the season, still has second-best chance to win the Wooden Award. He has been excellent through five games, averaging  22.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG.

He played one of his best games of the year on the road against Duke on Tuesday, scoring 18 points on 6-11 shooting with 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block. His big primetime performance helped the Illini crush the Blue Devils 83-68 at Cameron Indoor.

Like Garza, Dosunmu will face stiff Big Ten competition all year, which is both a blessing and a curse. It will put him in the national spotlight but lower his scoring average. Every single team in the Big Ten is currently among the top 100 teams in terms of defensive efficiency. All except Nebraska (93rd) and Iowa (73rd) are in the top 65.

But some of the other top contenders have it even worse. Baylor’s Jared Butler (16.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.0 APG) will have to go against seven top-50 defenses during Big 12 conference play, which means 14 total games in the Big 12’s double-round-robin format. Butler’s Bears already own a head-to-head win over Dosunmu’s Illini, but that will mean little to voters four months from now.

Betting Advice

It’s far too early to be laying a price like -305 on any player to win the end-of-year POY, especially in the age of COVID-19. There are far too many uncertainties and a far too massive field.

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme is the leading scorer on the best team in the country. At +600, he would be intriguing. But the Zags already had to pause all basketball activities for two weeks due to positive COVID tests.

This is a year to watch and wait.

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