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Dayton's Obi Toppin Wins 2020 Wooden Award over Luka Garza, More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2020

Dayton's Obi Toppin (1) passes the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against George Mason, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

Dayton's Obi Toppin was announced Tuesday as the winner of the 2020 John R. Wooden Award as the season's most outstanding men's college basketball player.

He beat out Marquette's Markus Howard, Kansas' UdokaΒ Azubuike, Iowa's Luka Garza and Seton Hall's Myles Powell for the honor.

Toppin, who also won the Naismith Men's Player of the Year award,Β was the driving force behind Dayton's emergence as a national title contender. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks in 31 games for the Flyers.

The 22-year-old New York native stole the spotlight with 18 points and nine boards in an overtime loss to Kansas in late November and continued to play at that high level for most of the campaign.

He joins a list of Wooden recipients that includes Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant and last year's winner, Zion Williamson.

One of the wildest college basketball campaigns in recent memory came to a premature halt in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season was made during conference tournaments before the cancellation the entire 2020 NCAA tournament.

The first four months were a treat for fans who enjoy chaos. No ranked team was safe amid a consistent barrage of upsets that led to a shake-up of the Top 25 on a weekly basis.

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It also created a wide-open race for the Wooden Award with several players making a strong case to at least deserve a spot in the conversation.

Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, the preseason favorite, remained in the discussion for a while but saw his numbers dip from his breakout junior season last year. He averaged 18.6 points, 5.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 threes while shooting 44.8 percent from the field across 30 appearances.

Winston revealed his senior campaign didn't go quite as expected, but the Spartans still finished as co-Big Ten regular-season champs.

"I went out a champion," he said on ESPN (via Kyle Austin of MLive). "It's not the season that we wanted, it's not the season that we kind of expected, but at the end we fought through a lot, we battled, and we got the chance to hoist up a trophy. My senior year, I feel like I ended with a championship."

In the end, Winston wasn't among the finalists for the season's top individual honor.