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Spencer Parlier | | November 17, 2020

13 contenders for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the nation's best center

Top 13 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award contenders for 2020-21

Iowa star Luka Garza will look to win back-to-back Kareem Abdul-Jabbar awards this season as the nation's best center. Garza and other high-profile big men highlight this year's loaded field in the front-court, which Andy Katz breaks down in the latest episode of March Madness 365. 

This episode also features a Big Ten discussion with ESPN and Big Ten Network analyst Robbie Hummel, Indiana head coach Archie Miller and Michigan's head coach Juwan Howard. Chad "March Chadness" Aycock also joined the pod to discuss impact seniors heading into this season. 

Here are the players who have won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award in past seasons:

2020 Luka Garza Iowa
2019 Ethan Happ Wisconsin
2018 Ángel Delgado  Seton Hall
2017 Przemek Karnowski Gonzaga
2016 Jakob Pöltl Utah
2015  Frank Kaminsky Wisconsin

Here are some of the top contenders for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award, according to Katz: 

13. Liam Robbins — Minnesota, Junior

Robbins will make his Big 10 debut after transferring from Drake to Minnesota this season. The 7-footer out of Iowa improved from his freshman season to his sophomore year, increasing his points per game average by 10 points and rebounds per game average by about 4.6 boards. 

12. Grant Golden — Richmond, Senior

Golden enters his fifth season with Richmond. The 6'10" big man had his best year in 2018-2019 when he averaged 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for the Spiders. Golden is poised for another big season with Richmond, one of Andy Katz's sleepers to make the Final Four.

11. Jay Huff — Virginia, Senior

Huff's workload increased substantially this past season. His minutes per game went from 9.3 per game during the 2018-2019 season to 25 minutes per game during the 2019-2020 season. And with Virginia ranked in the top five in the preseason AP Poll, Huff should expect to play even more minutes as the Cavs are potential favorites to win the ACC. 

SMALL FORWARDS: 15 contenders for the Julius Erving Award as the nation's best small forward

10. Evan Mobley — Southern Cal, Freshman 

Mobley is one of the most highly-anticipated freshmen to take the court this season and Katz is confident that a lot of the Trojan offense will be funneled through the young big man. Mobley stands at 6'11" and is joined on the team by his brother Isaiah Mobley and his dad Eric Mobley, an assistant coach.

9. Derek Culver — West Virginia, Junior

Culver was stellar during both his freshman and sophomore campaigns for Bob Huggins. He averaged 11.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game his freshman year, and 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.  

8. Cameron Krutwig — Loyola-Chicago, Senior

You may remember Cameron Krutwig's name from Loyola-Chicago's magical run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in the 2018 NCAA tournament. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game that season and has only gotten better. Krutwig improved his numbers to 15.1 points, 8.1 boards and 4.1 assists per game last season.

7. Neemias Queta — Utah State, Junior

Utah State and Neemias Queta enter this season on a high note. Back in March, prior to the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament, Utah State won the Mountain West Championship on a last-second shot by Sam Merrill. With Merrill gone, Queeta will need to fill a bigger role for the Aggies, as he is the leading returning scorer with 13 points per game last season. 

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6. Matt Haarms — BYU, Senior

After spending three season with Purdue in the Big Ten, Matt Haarms took his talents to Salt Lake City and joined the BYU Cougars. The 7'3" Dutch big man will look to make a statement in the West Coast Conference and improve his Boilermaker stats of 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

5. Charles Bassey — Western Kentucky, Junior

There's a reason Charles Bassey is on this list — he knows how to put up numbers. The 6'10" Hilltopper averaged a double-double his freshman year at WKU (14.6 points and 10 rebounds per game) and almost did it again during his sophomore campaign (15.3 points and 9.2 boards). Another season like the first two would solidify him as a serious Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award contender. 

4. Drew Timme — Gonzaga, Sophomore

Drew Timme is poised to be the next great big man out of Gonzaga. He is expected to get a big boost in minutes with Killian Tille and Fillip Petrusev no longer with the Bulldog program. Timme averaged 20.5 minutes with 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season.

3. Garrison Brooks — North Carolina, Senior

If there was a bright spot in North Carolina's 14-19 season last year, it was the development of Garrison Brooks. The 6'9" 235-pound big man had a break-out junior season averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 boards per game. With freshman guard Caleb Love leading the point, Brooks may get even more touches than he did last season and star in Chapel Hill.

BEST OF THE BEST: 10 Player of the Year contenders for the 2020-2021 college basketball season

2. Kofi Cockburn — Illinois, Sophomore

One of the best big men in the country will play with one of the best guards in the country this season in Illinois' Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Donsunmu. Cockburn is coming off of a season where he averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, and if him and Donsunmu can balance each other out on the offensive end, there is a good chance he will be able to improve upon those numbers and help the Fighting Illini compete for a Big Ten title. 

1. Luka Garza — Iowa, Senior 

If there is one player keeping Kofi Cockburn away from being the best center in college basketball, it is Luka Garza. The former National Player of the Year Finalist is looked at as college basketball's biggest stars this season, as he looks to build on his 23.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. 

The March Madness 365 podcast is a weekly podcast covering all things college basketball. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast here, on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.

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