The Wooden Award is given annually to the “outstanding collegiate basketball Player of the Year.” Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe won the Wooden Award last year, but the NCAAB preseason odds have somebody else favored this year. And there are several others who could make a big push.
The Big Two
The NCAAB preseason odds have two clear cut favorites in the race for the Wooden Award.
Armando Bacot, Senior, North Carolina (+600): After giving glimpses of what he was capable of as a freshman and sophomore, Bacot exploded with 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-11 forward hit 56.9% from the field and 67% of his free throws. Bacot and Caleb Love give the Tar Heels a strong inside-outside tandem. The pair can make it hard for opposing coaches to get the best of college basketball matchups against UNC.
Oscar Tshiebwe, Senior, Kentucky (+650): Tshiebwe looks to join Ralph Sampson as the only repeat winner of the Wooden Award. It’s tough to bet against him, but he is banged up a little right now. Coach John Calipari doesn’t expect him to play in the college basketball team’s opener. His status could change some NCAAB picks and parlays opening night but the Wildcats are more concerned with his status in March. He averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 points last season.
Best of the Rest
Drew Timme, Senior, Gonzaga (+750): Timme isn’t nearly the athlete Bacot or Tshiebwe are. But he’ll also get to pad his stats against weaker competition for much of the season. Timme scored 18.4 points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game last year. He might be a little over-valued, as the NCAAB preseason odds have him at +750. Timme scored 25 or more points on eight occasions last year. Timme played 28 minutes a game and could play more, but the Zags are usually playing their bench in the second half of conference games.
Marcus Sasser, Senior, Houston (+850): Sasser is a deadly outside shooter, hitting 43.7% of his 3-point attempts last year. He plays tough defense, which helps his team, but doesn’t help much for individual awards. The NCAAB preseason odds have him at +850, which is fair after he scored 17.7 points per game a year ago. He averaged 2.2 steals per game and 2.6 assists.
Caleb Love, Junior, North Carolina (+1200): Caleb Love is nearly everything you want in a basketball player. He’s quick, explosive, a great athlete and intense. The one thing he isn’t – at least not yet – is a great shooter. And that’s the one reason why his NCAAB preseason odds are +1200. Love averaged 15.9 points per game last year but shot just 37.1% from the field. Love did hit 36% of his 3-point shots, which is acceptable, but he has to improve from 2-point range.
Julian Strawther, Junior, Gonzaga (+1200): Strawther made big strides last season but will need to take another to be in contention for the Wooden Award. He averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game a year ago in less than 27 minutes per game. But with the Zags frequently blowing out WCC foes, his playing time could be diminished, much like Timme. His NCAAB preseason odds of +1200 indicate the sportsbooks are expecting continued improvement.Follow us on Twitter