With the start of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball season coming later this month, there are lots of ways to get in on the betting action. One of my favorite ways to bet on college basketball is betting on which player is going to win the Natio0nal Player of the Year Award. The John R Wooden Award recognizes the nation’s top player, and with so many talented players across the country, the betting odds can be very attractive!

Last year, Obi Toppin, the sophomore sensation from Dayton, took home the honors for NPOY, and if you backed him, it paid off big, as he was an early season longshot before emerging as a force to be reckoned with on the college hoops hardwood. Other recent winners include Zion Williamson of Duke, Jalen Brunson of Villanova, and Buddy Hield of Oklahoma.

Who will be the next winner to join college basketball’s most exclusive club? In this article, we are going to highlight five players and tell you why you should bet on them to win the John R Wooden NCAA Men’s College Basketball National Player of the Year Award. Let’s get started!

Luka Garza – Iowa Hawkeyes (+400)

Iowa big man Luka Garza is the current betting favorite to take home the award, and rightly so, as this guy is an absolute monster. Garza was an All-American last season when he was named the Big 10 player of the year for posting a stat line of 24 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks a game. Garza is just a tad under seven feet and has elite skills for a big man.

He can stretch the floor, post up with his back to the basket, and has great touch on his hook shot. In Big 10 play last season, Garza was super consistent, as he scored at least 20 points in all but one game in what was one of the best leagues in the land. Garza had several huge games that set him above the rest of the pack in the league. He went for 25 and 17 against Penn State, 21 and 18 against Wisconsin, and dropped 44 points on the road in Ann Arbor against a then 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines team.

Garza is the best big in the country right now, at least in terms of polish and pure skill. There are other big men that have more raw athleticism or bigger bodies, but Garza has the whole package and is a lock to be a first-rounder in next year’s NBA draft.

In order to win this award, you need to be really good, and so does your team. In the last decade or so, this award has kind of morphed into the best player on the best team award. Your team doesn’t have to be undefeated and ranked number one to win, but if your squad isn’t in the top five at the end of the year, you likely aren’t getting picked.

Garza has that going for him as well, as the Hawkeyes are expected to be one of the best teams in the Big 10 this year. The Hawkeyes were voted 5th in the recently released preseason AP Poll, and Iowa has legit national championship aspirations this year. The Big 10 is loaded this season, and there are several elite bigs in the league, but at the outset of the 2020-21 season, Garza and his Hawkeyes are at the top of the pack.

Kofi Cockburn – Illinois Fighting Illini (+3000)

Speaking of Big 10 big men, Kofi Cockburn comes in at number two on my list of players that you should bet to win the John R Wooden Award. Cockburn doesn’t have the polish, soft shot, or footwork that Garza has, but what he does have is off the charts athleticism and a body that is a matchup nightmare on the college level. Cockburn is a mountain of a man at 7 feet tall and 285 pounds.

Cockburn was a highly rated recruit out of high school basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, where he played with North Carolina recruit Cole Anthony. Cockburn was thrown right into the starting lineup as a freshman for Illinois last year and announced his presence with authority when he dropped a double-double in five out of his first six games. While Cockburn had his share of ups and downs as a freshman, his talent was undeniable, and when he was at his best, it was impossible to keep him off the glass or stop him from scoring near the hoop.

Foul trouble plagued the Illinois big man last season, as he had a habit of getting into foul trouble early in games and was forced to watch long stretches of the action from the sidelines. That is what happened when he matched up with Luka Garza, as he averaged just 9 points and 7 boards in the two games against Iowa and picked up 7 fouls. But when you compare where Cockburn was last season to where Garza was as a freshman, you can start to see why I am so high on the Jamaican born behemoth.

Garza averaged just 12 points and 6 boards a game as a freshman in 2017-18. He posted similar results as a sophomore when he averaged 13 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. It wasn’t until his junior year that he exploded into a superstar. As a freshman last year, Cockburn scored 13 points and had 9 rebounds a game. He is a bit older than most guys are for their sophomore year as he just turned 21, the same age that we saw Garza fully mature.

Big men tend to take a little longer to mature than smaller guards and shooters, and it wouldn’t at all shock me to see Cockburn take a big leap forward like we saw out of Garza last year. Similar to Garza, Cockburn is going to have a great team around him, as the Illini are currently ranked 8th in the AP Poll. Illinois has one of the best duos in the nation with Cockburn and fellow player of the year candidate Ayo Dosunmu, and if they can both live up to their potential, the Illini could be the best team in the Big 10.

Remy Martin – Arizona State Sun Devils (+1000)

If this award were for the most exciting player to watch in the nation, Remy Martin would win it hands down. This guy is a blur on the court, as he is one of the quickest players in the country and a lot of fun to watch.

Martin slashes to the rim fast and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He can create his own shot, and he can facilitate his teammates as well, as he averaged over 4 dimes a game last year for Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State Sun Devils.

Martin was first-team all-Pac-12 last year, and after dipping his toes into NBA draft waters, he decided to pull out of the draft and return to school for his senior season. The committee loves to give this award to upperclassmen guards as we have seen guys like Jalen Brunson, Frank Mason III, Trey Mason, and Jimmer Fredette win the award in the last several years. Remy fills the stat sheet up with assists, rebounds, steals, and points and makes everyone around him better.

Bobby Hurley has started to build a powerhouse program out on the West Coast with Arizona State, and this might be the year that they take the next step forward with a PAC-12 title and a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games in each of the last three seasons, and had made back to back trips to the Big Dance, and would have made that three in a row last year if the tourney wasn’t canceled.

Arizona State starts the season ranked 18th in the AP Poll, just ahead of PAC-12 teams Oregon (20th) and UCLA (22nd) in what seems to be a fairly wide-open conference. If the Sun Devils are going to take charge of the PAC-12 this year, they are going to do it with Remy Martin leading the way. Martin could end up being in contention to lead the nation in scoring, as he is a high-volume shooter for a team that likes to play at a fast pace.

Most people don’t give West Coast basketball nearly as much love as it deserves. Arizona State plays a lot of their games late at night, many times running past midnight on the East Coast, and for that reason, Martin doesn’t attract nearly as much attention as he deserves. Do yourself a favor, stay up late a couple of times, and watch this kid play. He is an absolute stud and is well worth your time.

Drew Timme – Gonzaga Bulldogs (+30000)

Just like Obi Toppin wasn’t on many people’s radars heading into last season, Drew Timme isn’t a household name heading into this season. But just because you don’t know who he is, doesn’t mean he isn’t really, really good. Timme was a top-50 recruit coming out of high school and was used sparingly early in the season by Zags head coach Mark Few.

Timme shared minutes in the post with WCC player of the year, Felip Petrusev, so minutes were hard to come by. But that didn’t stop Timme from being one of the most efficient players in the country when he was on the floor. Timme has a man’s body last year as a teenager and in just 20 minutes per game he managed 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 block. This year, Petrusev is out of the picture as he bolted to the pros, and that leaves Timme as the main man in the middle for the number one ranked Bulldogs.

Timme is immensely skilled in the post and cutting through the lane, and he shot over 62% for the field last season. The crazy part about Timme’s game is that it is nearly certain to be better this year! The year of learning with the team last season is going to be invaluable, and I can see Timme being a guy that can average a double-double. We talked earlier about the best player on the best team winning this award, and that may very well be Drew Timme right now.

The only thing that scares me a little bit about Timme, is that this Zags team is so deep, he may end up splitting the vote with his teammates. No team has more players listed to win this award than Gonzaga does, as Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi are both in the top ten as far as favorites, and freshman Jalen Suggs joins Timme and the rest of the Zags crew as players you can back for player of the year right now.

The Zags seem to be mortal locks to win 30 games this season and should be a one seed in the tournament. They have a brutal non-conference schedule lined up with games against teams like Kansas, Auburn, and Baylor, but with the WCC being down this year, they are going to rack up plenty of wins to finish near the top of the nation in wins this season.

Gonzaga has the best team part of this just about nailed down, we will just have to wait and see which one of these budding stars from Spokane ends up as their best player. Whichever guy it ends up being is going to have a very real shot at taking home this award.

Collin Gillespie – Villanova Wildcats (+3000)

Similar to Remy Martin, Collin Gillespie of Villanova fits the mold of a senior leader guard perfectly. Just like Gonzaga, the Wildcats are huge favorites to win their league and will almost certainly end up being a top two or three seed, likely a one seed. Jay Wright has his team loaded up again, and Gillespie is undeniably their leader.

Gillespie fills the stat sheet all the way up with 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1 steal a game. Gillespie had a breakout season in 2019-20, and now that he has full control of this Wildcat offense, could take another big leap this year. He has a deceivingly big body at 6’3” and 190 pounds and is very skilled running the point for Villanova.

When you look at Gillespie, he reminds me a lot of recent John R Wooden Award winner Jalen Brunson. Both guys were upperclassmen guards at Villanova, on very good teams. A quick glance at Brunson’s stats the year before he won shows me that Gillespie averaged more points, rebounds, and assists than Brunson did.

Now, Brunson did manage to raise his scoring average to 19 points a game, and improved his passing and rebounding as well, but his stat line of 19 points, 4.6 assist, and 3.1 rebounds, when he won the award in 2018, look an awful lot like what Gillespie did last year for the Wildcats.

A senior leader guard for what could be the nation’s top team? What is not to like here? We just showed you that he has the stat line to get the recognition. Now he just needs to shore up his three-point shot a bit and lead his team to a Big East title. Gillespie is the least talented of each of these players, but that says a lot more about the rest of the players than it does about him. But he has a great scenario going that is going to get him a lot of visibility.

Expect a lot of wins, a lot of points, and a filled up stat sheet out of Collin Gillespie and his Villanova Wildcats this year. Jay Wright has had a long line of elite point guard in his time at Villanova. Guys like Brunson, Randy Foye, Scotty Reynolds, Josh Hart, Kyle Lowry, and Allan Ray are just some of the ball handlers that Wright has ridden to lots of wins and a couple of national titles. Now it is Gillespie’s turn to take Villanova to a Final Four, and if he does, he just might take home some personal hardware at the end of the season.

Wrap Up

The start of the NCAA Men’s Basketball season is less than two weeks away, and after losing out of March Madness last year, the pent-up demand for college hoops action is at an all-time high! Make sure that you check out TheSportsGeek’s college basketball betting page, each and every day, where we bring you free daily betting picks all season long!