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Iowa Basketball: Luka Garza Named Naismith Trophy Finalist

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It was merely a formality, but it’s great to get some positive sports news given recent events.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa
Luka Garza deserves to be the National Player of the Year.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In a time when sports fans around the world are starved for any and all things sports, there remains very limited opportunities for live events or even news. Thankfully for Iowa fans, we got a bit of the latter on Tuesday.

There are no surprises here, but Iowa’s Luka Garza was named one of five finalists for the Naismith Trophy Tuesday morning.

The semifinalists were announced based on regular season play, largely unchanged from the format we would have seen without all the cancellations of last week. The announcement comes on the same date originally planned, but without the benefit of additional information from conference tournaments that were cancelled last week.

Garza is joined as a finalist for the National Player of the Year by some familiar names, which include Dayton’s Obi Toppin, Udoka Azbuike of Kansas, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, and Oregon’s Payton Pritchard.

While all are tremendous players, it’s been thought for some time that the award will come down to Iowa’s Garza and Dayton’s Toppin. It’s difficult to truly compare a player from the Big Ten and a player from the Atlantic 10, we covered the case for the two players a week ago.

Garza averaged 23.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 32 minutes per game this season to Toppin’s 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Garza played against vastly superior competition in the most difficult conference in America. With 740 points and 305 rebounds, Garza is one of three Big Ten players to ever total 740+ points and 300+ rebounds in a single-season, joining Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994 and Joe Barry Carroll in 1979. Garza averaged 26.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 12 games against ranked opponents, including recording 11 straight 20-point games. He became Iowa’s all-time single season scoring leader with 704 points.

Put simply, Luka Garza had perhaps the most impressive single season we’ve ever seen from a Hawkeye and one of the best ever in the Big Ten. He is the national player of the year. The Sporting News and ESPN have already named him the player of the year in the country and he’s already been named the Big Ten and USBWA District VI player of the year. Now, it’s your job to ensure he receives the national recognition he deserves as the Naismith Player of the Year.

Hawkeye fans can vote for Garza from March 20-April 1, by visiting naismithfanvote.com. You may also vote at @NaismithTrophy from March 25-April 1. Fan votes will account for five percent of the overall vote.