Iowa center Luka Garza explains why his success this season could have only happened if he had attended Iowa. Listen to the Big Ten player of the year
As Luka Garza officially became Iowa’s first consensus first-team all-American men’s basketball player since 1952, the junior big man also lost a narrow vote for one of the nation’s biggest honors.
Dayton sophomore Obi Toppin was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year on Tuesday.
A national panel of 65 sportswriters and broadcasters, including the likes of Seth Davis, John Feinstein and Dick Vitale, vote on this award. Each voter provides one name, and that’s it. The Register’s Chad Leistikow, Iowa’s lone AP voter, cast his ballot for Garza. Toppin received 34 votes to Garza’s 24.
Per the AP, fellow All-Americans Markus Howard of Marquette, Payton Pritchard of Oregon and Udoka Azubuike of Kansas split the remaining seven votes.
Garza led the Big Ten Conference in scoring at 23.9 points a game and became the conference’s first player to score 20-plus points in 16 consecutive games since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987. That streak remains active and could continue if Garza opts to return for his senior year at Iowa.
The 6-foot-11 junior, despite not having a postseason game because of the COVID-19 pandemic, broke John Johnson’s single-season scoring mark at Iowa (699 points) with a total of 740 in 31 games (20-11 record). He also averaged 9.8 rebounds a game.
Toppin and Garza have both been winning national player-of-the-year awards over the past few weeks, but this was the first major one. Toppin averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds a game for Dayton, which went 29-2 (including an overtime loss to No. 1 Kansas) and was likely ticketed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Garza was trying to become Iowa’s first AP National Player of the Year. He is still a finalist for the other two major national awards: the Naismith (to be revealed April 5) and Wooden (April 10).
Earlier Tuesday, Garza was named a first-team all-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), earning him a clean sweep of the four first-team honors that determine “consensus” status: The Sporting News, AP, and United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) are the others.
Chuck Darling in 1952 was Iowa’s last consensus first-team all-American; Jarrod Uthoff was a consensus second-teamer in 2016.