Iowa basketball fans have been absurdly spoiled over the last several years. More specifically, we’ve grown incredibly spoiled over the last four years. Over that time, a Hawkeye has been named the Big Ten Player of the year for either men’s or women’s basketball every year. First it was Megan Gustafson winning the honors in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 for the women, then it was Luka Garza repeating in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 on the men’s side.
Now, with the 2021-2022 college basketball season coming down the home stretch, the Hawkeyes have not one, but two Player of the Year candidates in Caitlin Clark and Keegan Murray. On the women’s side, Clark has taken the nation by storm and is becoming a genuine phenomenon. She leads the nation in scoring at 27.1 points per game and is averaging as close to a triple-double as just about anyone has over the course of a season. Despite being a guard, Clark is averaging 8.1 rebounds per game and despite all the scoring, she’s also leading the nation in assists at 8.0. Put simply, Caitlin Clark is hands down the best women’s player in the country.
On the men’s side, Keegan Murray is also entering uncharted territory. Iowa has only had one player in program history score more than 700 points in a single season: Luka Garza. Garza did it in back-to-back seasons, scoring 740 as a junior and 747 a season ago in 31 games. Through 23 games this season (recall he missed Iowa’s road loss to Purdue), Murray has put up 537 points, leading the Big Ten with 23.3 points per game. With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule and at least two coming in the postseason, Murray needs to average just over 18 points per game from here on out to become only the second play to ever score 700 points in a season at Iowa and the third in three years. Moreover, if Murray just keeps his season average for the remaining guaranteed games (or manages to get in any games beyond that number) he’ll set a new single-season record, topping Garza’s 747 points.
Like Clark, Murray isn’t just pouring in the points. He’s also averaging 8.4 rebounds per game (good enough for third in the Big Ten conference) and 2.0 blocks per game (fourth in conference), making him the only player in the conference to be top-5 in three major categories and the only player in the country to average 23 points and 8 rebounds.
Keegan Murray is the only player in the country to average 23+ points and 8+ rebounds this season. pic.twitter.com/OIDO2pVF79— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) February 15, 2022
Despite all the stats, the Hawkeyes enter the home stretch at 17-7 and outside the top-25 in the AP poll. The lack of high end team success has Murray behind the proverbial 8-ball when it comes to consideration for National Player of the Year.
#KatzRankz: Top NPOY Candidates from @TheAndyKatz!— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 15, 2022
1. Oscar Tshiebwe
2. Johnny Davis
3. Ochai Agbaji
4. Kofi Cockburn
5. E.J. Liddell
6. Keegan Murray
7. Jabari Smith
8. Drew Timme
9. Jaden Ivey
10. Bennedict Mathurin
But perhaps more interesting than the NPOY conversation is the Big Ten Player of the Year race. As you can see above, there are several Big Ten players having tremendous seasons. In addition to Murray, Illinois’s Kofi Cockburn, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, Ohio State’s EJ Liddell and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey are all garnering attention as NPOY candidates.
Not only are they garnering the national attention, but they’re all polling above Murray (with the exception of Liddell, who was not listed as an option) in the most recent SB Nation Reacts poll for Big Ten Player of the Year. This despite Murray being the clear statistical leader as noted above.
So we want to know from Hawkeye fans, does Keegan Murray actually have a shot to be the Big Ten Player of the Year, taking Iowa’s streak to three straight seasons on the men’s side?
And beyond Murray, can his success and the recent uptick in defensive performance finally propel the Hawkeyes beyond the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament this season?
Click here to vote if viewing on a mobile device.
Be sure to check back later this week to see the results. Keegan Murray and the Hawkeyes are back inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena looking to build their resumes against the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday, February 17th. That game will tip at 6pm CT on ESPN.