The Wooden Award archives are a captivating journey through time if you have the chance to take a look. For starters, UCLA’s Marques Johnson won the first award in 1976-77 after averaging 21.4 points and 11.1 rebounds in the second season after the tenure of Coach Wooden ended.
The list of players since has included names like Larry Bird, Ralph Samson, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan, but the beauty of the list is that it also includes players for whom the college game was their peak.
Regardless of the careers that followed, many players had the season of a lifetime for their school and have their names next to some of the best players to ever play on the same list.
We looked ahead to the 2023-24 NCAA basketball campaign to preview who the top contenders to win the Wooden Award will be and make our pick for a best bet.
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Edey is the second straight award winner to return to college the following season. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe did the same last year and has since signed a two-way contract with the Pacers while attempting to catch on in the NBA.
Going back ten years before Edey and Tshiebwe, all Wooden Award-winning players entered the NBA Draft and were selected. Seven were first-round picks, including Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson going first overall, and three were second-round picks, most notably Villanova’s Jalen Brunson in 2018.
Other first-rounders in that span include Doug McDermott, Buddy Hield, and Obi Toppin, while Iowa’s Luka Garza and Kansas’ Frank Mason make up the other two second-rounders.
College hoops fans have a ton of both young and veteran players to be excited about this season. We've combed through the list and analyzed all of the numbers to bring you our 5 favorites to win the 2023-24 Wooden Award.
Edey’s fourth year in East Lafayette could be a record-setting one in multiple ways. He’s 301 rebounds away from Joe Barry Carroll’s program record, which has stood since 1980. If he repeats his scoring total from that season, he’ll be the second-leading scorer in Purdue history, trailing only Rick Mount from the late 1960s. The school has also never won a championship and not made a trip to the Final Four since Carroll’s final season in 1979-80. Their only national title appearance came in 1968-69 when they fell to UCLA in the middle of the Bruins’ 10 championships in 12 years. Edey’s legacy will be cemented in the program’s history if he can lead the Boilers to at least an appearance in Phoenix.
The sophomore center took home All-ACC honors during the regular season and conference tournament, being named the conference’s rookie of the year and tournament MVP before Duke’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament. He’s been listed as a preseason All-American, along with his peers atop the Wooden Award odds list, and represents the school’s best hope for getting to a second Final Four in three seasons and the first time under Jon Scheyer.
The multiple All-Big Ten selection and 2020-21 2nd Team All-American opted to leave Michigan after three seasons for the potentially greener pastures of Lawrence, KS. The Jayhawks are the top-ranked team in the country entering this season. Dickinson’s presence in the middle of an experienced, talented roster is essential to the program’s championship hopes in 2023-24. He’s averaged 18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game over the previous two seasons and is also a 37% three-point shooter, as if being a dominant big man wasn’t enough.
Bacot is blazing a similar trail to Edey within a historic program that’s produced some of the greatest players ever. The fifth-year forward will likely cross both the 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound thresholds this season and is in line to also set UNC records in games played and offensive rebounds after owning both the defensive and total rebounding marks for the Heels already. Bacot may need to reproduce his 2021-22 season totals to compete for the Wooden Award and simultaneously lift the Tar Heels back into the ACC championship conversation.
The All-Big East Freshman team center from a year ago, Clingan played limited but essential minutes for the national-champion Huskies. His freshman numbers, when extrapolated out per 40 minutes, are impressive: 21.1 points, 17.1 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks on 65.5% field-goal percentage. He could see his minutes possibly double from last season’s 13.9 per-game mark, and he’ll be in this award conversation if he can maintain similar production in more time on the floor.
Our next set of players may not be bonafide superstars, but each one of them is more than capable of having a stellar season. While none of these guys are considered the favorites for the Wooden, any of them can get hot and be in the conversation at year's end.
Kolek, a George Mason transfer, will be in his third year at Marquette after an impressive junior season. He was named Big East Player of the Year and 1st Team All-Big East in 2022-23, a Naismith Award Semifinalist, and MVP of the Big East Tournament. Kolek averaged 7.5 assists per game, best in the Big East and third in the NCAA.
The high-scoring Oral Roberts transfer spent four seasons there in record-setting fashion. He’s scored over 2,500 points and would finish as a top-five player all-time in points and three-pointers if he maintains that level of performance at Texas. We’ll watch his transition to major college basketball closely as the season progresses.
The former transfer from Gonzaga, stop me if you’ve noticed a theme, is entering his third season at Arizona. Ballo was 2nd on his team in points (14.2) and rebounding (8.6) last year behind Arizona's leader, Azuolas Tubelis, who is now with the 76ers in the NBA.
The first freshman on the odds list lands among talented players looking to break into the top echelon this season. Collier was the #1 recruit in the 2023 class according to ESPN's rankings and will pair with leading scorer Boogie Ellis to form the backcourt duo that Andy Enfield hopes can take the Trojans to a conference title.
The UNC transfer initially pledged to play for Michigan this offseason but changed his mind and flipped to Arizona after decommiting from the Wolverines six weeks later. Love could also become a 2,000-point scorer this season after posting 1,476 points in 101 games during three years in Chapel Hill.
Speaking of the Heels, Love’s former backcourt mate will pair with Bacot in an attempt to return the program to the tournament after a 20-13 season following their run to a national final appearance in 2021-22.
After spending his first two seasons at Northeastern, Walker will be in his third in East Lansing for a team that hopes to knock off Purdue in the Big Ten. Walker was a 2nd Team All-Big Ten selection a year ago, playing nearly 34 minutes per game and averaging 14.8 points, 2.9 assists, and 1.1 steals.
Moore is another fifth-year player on the early-season shortlist. What makes him somewhat unique compared to his peers here is that all five will have been played at Villanova. He was third on the team in per-game scoring and led them in assists per game, but only appeared in 13 games in 2022-23 after tearing his Achilles in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Moore is preparing for a full season’s workload during the program’s second year under Kyle Neptune.
Filipowski has some history on his side in this situation. Edey is the massive favorite, but only one player has ever won multiple Wooden Awards: Virginia’s Ralph Samson. The future first overall pick averaged 17.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game in the last two seasons of his college career to repeat as the winner of this prestigious honor.
Public sentiment, as it does with MVP voting in the NBA, will force Edey to improve upon his numbers from a season ago to be viewed as the best player again, and his team’s first-round exit from the tournament doesn’t help his case either.
Regardless, Filipowski is primed for a big season in Durham. We highlighted his decorated freshman season earlier and think he’s the best option to unseat Edey with an experienced cast of players around him.