Assessing Ayo Dosunmu’s national player of the year chances


Photo Courtesy of Southeastern Conference

Junior Ayo Dosunmu advances the ball during the game against Mizzou on Saturday. The Illini fell to the Tiger 81-78.

By Brandon Simberg, Staff Writer

Even in an 81-78 loss to Missouri, junior guard Ayo Dosunmu turned in a record-setting performance. His 36 points were a new career-high, as well as the most points scored in a Braggin’ Rights game by an Illinois player. Dosunmu is now up to 24.8 points per game, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on over 50% shooting from the field. Yet, Dosunmu’s path to national player of the year isn’t a clear one.

Luka Garza’s raw stats are always going to be more impressive. For Dosunmu to win, he needs to stay above that 22-7-5-40% threshold. Illinois would also have to probably win the Big Ten outright. If that happens, the media narrative surrounding Dosunmu could be enough to get him over the top; the hometown kid stays in college for one more season and takes Illinois from the bottom of the league to conference champ.

 It’s early to start looking at big picture awards, but with an already abbreviated season, and the likelihood that more games will get canceled, it’s never too early to start looking at awards. Let’s put Dosunmu’s hot start into context with other player of the year candidates.

Luka Garza – Senior – Forward – Iowa

A name Illinois fans are familiar with, Garza is on an absolute tear to start this season. He’s putting up insane, video-game-like numbers: 30.4 points per game, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 67.9 % from the field, 68.8% from three.

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Garza, who finished second in player of the year voting last season, is the odds-on favorite. While his strength of schedule has been poor, it’s still wildly impressive what he’s been able to do. Iowa will need to continue with their team success, but if these impressive numbers keep up then they don’t need to win the league. Garza also has a strong media narrative. Unless an injury or Iowa has to pause team activities, it’s going to be Garza’s award to lose.

Drew Timme – Sophomore- Forward – Gonzaga

Timme is currently the best player on the best team and that alone will keep you in contention for player of the year. After backing up Filip Petrusev last season, Timme is Mark Few’s next dominant big. Using his old-school, back to the basket game, Timme was averaging 23.3 points on 60% shooting in three games against high-major opponents.

Timme’s biggest case against him is that there are two other All-American candidates on his team in Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs, meaning Timme is not nearly as valuable. But the Zags have a real shot to run the table and go undefeated. If high-major bigs have trouble with Timme, I can’t imagine what he’ll do in the WCC. For Timme to win the award, they probably have to win every game and he has to establish himself as their best player.

Jared Butler – Junior – Guard – Baylor

Like Dosunmu, Butler forgoed the NBA to return to school. His stats haven’t been overly impressive (15.3 points, 4.8 assists) but his efficiency has increased (48% from the field, 47.4% from three).

Butler has a strong narrative, as well as the fact that he leads a top-two team. The Bears will need to keep up their winning ways and Butler will have to improve statistically, but that’s in the realm of possibility. A fun lead guard is one of the most exciting things in the sport and Butler is just that. He’s definitely trailing Dosunmu, Garza and Timme but if Baylor can run through a top-heavy Big 12, Butler has a shot.

Cade Cunningham – Freshman – Guard- Oklahoma State

The No. 1 recruit in the country has lived up to the billing thus far. He’s averaging 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists and already has a big-time moment.

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Cunningham’s raw numbers don’t show how impactful he’s truly been. He’s had some incredible passes this year that don’t get converted into assists. He also creates a ton of hockey assists that won’t show up in a box score.

The Cowboys are 6-0, in large part to Cunningham being a stud. For Cunningham to really be in the player of the year convo, he’ll need to carry his team to a top 2-3 Big 12 finish. He’s going to be productive and continue to have “wow” moments. He’s definitely a long-shot but deserves mention. If I had to pick one player to win a college basketball game tomorrow, he’s probably the first guy I pick.