Paige Bueckers, Cade Cunningham Headline Women's, Men's Wooden Award Finalists

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 26, 2021

UConn guard Paige Bueckers drives during the first half of a college basketball game against Syracuse in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, which is given to the most outstanding women's and men's college basketball players, were announced Friday.

UConn guard Paige Bueckers, South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston, Louisville guard Dana Evans, Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith and Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard are the five women's finalists.

On the men's side, Baylor guard Jared Butler, Iowa big man Luka Garza, Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham and Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu made up the top five.

No first-year player has ever won the women's accolade, but Bueckers can be the first. She has a great case, averaging 19.9 points on 53.9 percent shooting, 6.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game for 26-1 UConn, which is awaiting Iowa in the Sweet 16.

Bueckers figures to be the favorite as the best player on the top team, though Boston (14.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks) and Smith (18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds) are having great seasons in their own rights.

Cunningham is the lone first-year player up for the honor on the men's side. The likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft is an underdog, though, as Kispert figures to win it. His 19.2 points per game lead the 28-0 Bulldogs.

Garza's incredible production (24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds) should have him in the mix, but Kispert's performance is coupled with Gonzaga's chance to go undefeated.