Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero Headline 2022 Wooden Award Finalists

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMarch 5, 2022

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe, Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Wisconsin's Johnny Davis are among the finalists for the 2021-22 John Wooden Award.

The 15 players who will appear on the ballot were announced Saturday:

Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
Paolo Banchero (Duke)
Kofi Cockburn (Illinois)
Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
Collin Gillespie (Villanova)
Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
Walker Kessler (Auburn)
E.J. Liddell (Ohio State)
Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
Keegan Murray (Iowa)
Jabari Smith (Auburn)
Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky)

Tshiebwe is considered the overwhelming favorite as he's broken out as a two-way menace during his junior season. The Congo-born forward is averaging 16.9 points, 15.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks to lead seventh-ranked Kentucky to a 24-6 record.

DraftKings lists Tshiebwe as a -300 favorite, with Davis (+700) the only other player within relative striking distance.

Gonzaga and Auburn are the only teams with two Wooden Award finalists.

Holmgren and Drew Timme have emerged as arguably best big-man duo in the country for the top-ranked Bulldogs. Timme, a preseason favorite for the award, has seen his numbers slightly dip from last season as he's worked alongside Holmgren to share the load on both ends of the floor. Gonzaga closed its regular season with a 24-3 record and are a mortal lock for a No. 1 seed.

Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler are the only pair of bigs who can compete with Holmgren and Timme. Smith has soared up draft boards as the season has progressed thanks to his combination of three-point shooting, athleticism and versatility on the defensive end. Kessler, a late addition to the finalists list, has emerged as the most intimidating center in college basketball with 4.6 blocks per game. 

Holmgren, Smith and Duke's Paolo Banchero are the only three freshmen to make the final list. That trio will also likely compete for the top spot in the 2022 NBA draft as well.

A freshman has won the Wooden Award only three times in history. 


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