Countdown to Selection Sunday: 28 days | Sports | – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette


Before the 68-team bracket is unveiled on March 14, college basketball writer Scott Richey will weigh in on his favorite sport. Today’s topic: Four national player of the year candidates who could have their team potentially contending for a title come early April:

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Dosunmu’s last two games have simply reaffirmed his place in the player of the year race. Maybe at the top of it. A triple-double against Wisconsin. A dominant 31-point takeover against Nebraska. Dosunmu’s claim as the top overall player in college basketball is a strong one given he, and he alone, is averaging at least 21 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Jared Butler, Baylor

Butler’s overall numbers don’t quite match Dosunmu’s, but Baylor’s got a bit deeper team. What Butler is doing, however, is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. The 6-foot-3 junior guard is also shooting a career high across the board, including a 44.6 percent mark from behind the three-point line.

Luka Garza, Iowa

Turns out Garza might not have national player of the year honors quite locked up. The Hawkeyes’ senior center split the multitude of such awards with Dayton’s Obi Toppin last season, and returned to currently lead the country in scoring. But Iowa’s just 2-4 in its last six games, and Garza is scoring and rebounding less and shooting less efficiently.

Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

The “problem” with the Bulldogs is: How you pick just one player from the top team in the country? Sophomore forward Drew Timme would be as good a choice, with freshman guard Jalen Suggs not far behind. Kispert, though, has been the epitome of efficiency, leading Gonzaga in scoring at a career high 19.5 ppg with a shooting slash of 56/48/88.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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