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Projecting the Big 12’s Wooden Award Prospects

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at West Virginia

Getting to the Wooden Award Top 15 would be a big deal for any Big 12 player. But what are the chances of the three Big 12 players on the Wooden Award Top 25 midseason list reaching the Top 15?

We’ll examine that here. Once the Wooden Award sets its Top 15 players, then the more than 1,000 Wooden Award voters will vote for their Top 10, which takes place before the NCAA Tournament. We won’t know the winner until April.

The Big 12 has three players on the Top 25 list — Baylor’s Jared Butler, Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and West Virginia’s Derek Culver.

So let’s assess their Top 15 chances here:

 

G Jared Butler, Baylor

Butler has been the big dog in Baylor’s offense all season, averaging more than 17 points per game. But he’s also averaged more than five assists, three rebounds and two steals per game this season. The 6-foot-3 junior is on the minds of plenty of NBA scouts, and the assumption is that he’ll make the move toward fully declaring for the NBA Draft after this season (he dipped his toe in the water after last season, but just to get his report card from the league). Butler is surrounded by great guards on this Baylor team. But he’s clearly the best — able to shoot, able to drive, able to pass and able to defend. He’s the catalyst for one of the most efficient teams on both sides of the floor.

Projection: He’s a lock for the Top 15. After that, I believe the vast majority of voters will put him in their Top 10 (the ranking that determines the winner). Butler will be in the Top 5 of the voting, but he’ll have a hard time winning over the likes of Iowa’s Luka Garza or one of Gonzaga’s triumvirate of nominees.

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G Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

The No. 1 recruit in the 2020 Class has lived up to the hype. The expectation is that Cunningham is a one-and-done player, but he doesn’t play like one. In fact, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton says he doesn’t act like it. But with many NBA scouts considering him the No. 1 overall player in the 2021 NBA Draft, he’s probably leaving Stillwater after this season. But, right now, Cunningham is averaging nearly 18 points per game. He’s also averaging better than six rebounds per game and more than two assists per game. Heck, toss in his one steal and one blocked shot per game and you have one of the most complete players in the college game.

Projection: He will likely get into the Top 15. I think he’ll be on the majority of Top 10 ballots, too. But he won’t be ranked as high as Butler and, ultimately, he’ll end up being a Top 10 vote-getter.

F Derek Culver, West Virginia

With the departure of Oscar Tshiebwe, Culver’s play shot up. But he’s spent most of the season averaging a double-double, with more than 13 points and more than 10 rebounds per game. He’s also put up more than an assist per game and more than a blocked shot per game. He’s an under-the-radar NBA prospect as a junior. But within the Big 12 he’s the best interior player in the league.

Projection: I think Culver will miss the Top 15. The Mountaineers’ COVID pause robbed him of three games to impress voters, though some of them will get made up. But he and the Mountaineers may tire down the stretch having to play all of those additional games (including four in a nine-day stretch, with three of them on the road). The frontcourt players in this Top 25 are loaded. But he will probably end up outside of the Top 15 on most voters’ ballots.

Wooden Award 2020-21 Men’s Midseason Top 25 Watch List

G Scottie Barnes, Florida State

F Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

G James Bouknight, Connecticut

F Garrison Brooks, North Carolina

G Jared Butler, Baylor

G Marcus Carr, Minnesota

C Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

F Derek Culver, West Virginia

G Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

G Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

F John Fulkerson, Tennessee

C Luka Garza*

G Collin Gillespie, Villanova

G/F Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers

F Sam Hauser

F Matthew Hurt, Duke

F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

G Carlik Jones, Louisville

F Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

G Remy Martin, Arizona State

F Evan Mobley, USC

F Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

G Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

F Drew Timme, Gonzaga

G Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton

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