Photo courtesy of Iowa athletics
From the moment the NCAA Tournament was canceled in early March, the wheels began turning.
The coaches and athletic directors alike began devising a way for the 2020-21 college basketball season to commence. For some schools, the season will be getting underway in the coming days. The season has already started for many teams.
The college basketball season this year will be unlike any other in the history of college sports, with constant twists and turns that will, if nothing else, keep fans guessing as to what happens next. The final part of our 3-part series looks at players to watch this season.
Every year, there are countless players to watch in college basketball. Some of those are frontrunners for the Wooden Award, and some are players who can win games, but not necessarily awards.
With guys coming from mid-majors becoming national focal points, stars come out of nowhere. Recently, players like Ja Morant have made that rule more notable. There are always players like that — players who are under the radar and can put up some big numbers and lead their teams to victory.
Luka Garza, C, Iowa
Garza possesses the most experience out of anyone on the Hawkeyes’ team, and potentially even in the Big Ten. He was widely expected to enter the NBA Draft, but when he pulled his name out of the draft, it not only raised Iowa’s stock as a team, but his personal stock for the 2021 NBA Draft.
A prime candidate for the Wooden Award, Garza is looking to cement himself as the top prospect in the country. His ability is undeniable and the development of his range will be the biggest factor in this. Iowa hasn’t had expectations this high in many years. The seven-footer will have a lot of pressure bestowed upon his massive shoulders to lead the Hawkeyes to the promised land.
Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
The consensus top recruit in the nation chose to play for the Cowboys. He is mainly compared to Kevin Durant due to his ability to score at will.
Those are clearly lofty expectations, but if he is the real deal, it will be evident right off the bat. Cunningham is looking to become the next in a long line of collegiate sensations. Tasked with helping a Cowboys team that has not had much success on the hardwood in the past decade, Cunningham has a big season ahead of him.
Additionally, he will not be able to compete in the NCAA Tournament. This caused many people to wonder if he would transfer or simply enter his name into the draft and forgo college altogether. Proving that he is worth the hype and notoriety will be the main goal for Cunningham this season.
Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Dosunmu shocked many when he withdrew his name from the NBA Draft, similar to Garza. He decided to go back to Champaign where he will be returning to a Fighting Illini team that is poised to make a deep run.
A prime contender for both the Big Ten title as well as the national title, Illinois is going to be heavily relying on Dosunmu and teammate Kofi Cockburn. Dosunmu combines his ability to get into the paint at will with a marksmanship that is nearly unrivaled by anyone. The expectation is for him to shoulder the load of the scoring for Illinois and head coach Brad Underwood.
Oscar da Silva, F, Stanford
The Cardinal have themselves a good one in da Silva. The senior is looking to help carry Stanford to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career. Stanford is a team without an established history in terms of men’s basketball.
Players like da Silva, with his unreal scoring ability from anywhere on the court, can change that narrative. For the Cardinal, they have hope of winning the Pac-12 for the first time in recent memory. With da Silva, and five-star recruit Ziaire Williams, the future looks bright in Palo Alto.
Don’t be surprised if da Silva puts the Cardinal on his back and leads them into the conversation of being contenders. Considering the inconsistency of the conference as a whole, it is very attainable. Expect him to compete for the National Player of the Year award.