Cade Cunningham, Luka Garza Headline 2021 Naismith Men's POY Finalists

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) plays against Illinois in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Iowa's Luka Garza, Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu, Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and Gonzaga's Corey Kispert lead the finalists for the 2021 Naismith Men's Player of the Year, which were announced Friday. 

Garza is the overwhelming favorite and has been for most of the season. The senior big man averaged 23.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the regular season while leading the Hawkeyes to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Washington, D.C., native would be the first senior to win the award since Frank Mason in 2017. He's already rewritten the Iowa record books, becoming the program's all-time leading scorer earlier this season.

The program announced plans to retire Garza's No. 55 in March.

"I love this place. I love my teammates. I love my coaches and I've loved every second of being here," Garza told Sporting News earlier this month. "Obviously, this year is a little bit different in terms of having to be hyperfocused on basketball, but the family environment we have at the University of Iowa makes it so much fun. It's been truly a blessing to be on this team and play with some of the guys I do."

Dosunmu has been Garza's top competition, both in the Big Ten and arguably on a national level. The Illinois guard is one of the nation's best all-around players, averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists as the Illini ascended back to national prominence to earn a No. 1 seed. 

Garza earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors earlier this month and remains likely to wind up beating out Dosunmu for the national award as well.

Cunningham, meanwhile, starred for Oklahoma State en route to nabbing a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The freshman enters the first round of NCAA tournament averaging 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. 

Kispert, a senior, helped lift Gonzaga to a perfect regular-season record while averaging 19.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. His next step will be helping the Bulldogs try to capture their first national championship.