The Big Blue Nation knows just how absurdly dominant Oscar Tshiebwe has been this year. From insane Wilt Chamberlain-like stat lines to his hilarious and loveable off court persona, the junior big man has already earned his way to becoming one of the most productive talents we have seen in Lexington under John Calipari.
But now, the rest of the country is starting to pick up on it as well. National college basketball reporter Jay Bilas, who was in the arena for Oscar Tshiebwe's career high 30 points last night, had quite the praise for him this morning. "The Wooden Award race is far from over, but if it ended today, Kentucky’s Oscar Tsheibwe would take it."
THE WOODEN AWARD?!?! With Anthony Davis being Kentucky's only winner of this award, it is insane to think that Oscar could be the second, considering all of the extremely talented and accomplished players that have came through this program.
Obviously, an award of this prestige will not come without great competition. So just how does Oscar stack up against the rest of college basketball's elite?
Johnny Davis - Guard, Wisconsin
Johnny Davis, from what I have seen, appears to be the consensus leader for this award among national media. And rightfully so. He has pretty much carried his team to a #13 ranking in the country, leading his team in points (22.3), rebounds (7.1), and assists (2.6) per game.
The one thing that puts him above Oscar, and other candidates, for the Wooden Award at the moment is a signature win. We have seen Oscar put up ridiculous numbers almost on a nightly basis. But Johnny Davis's 37 point performance to lead his team to a road victory over #3 Purdue sets him apart.
Luckily, Oscar has plenty of opportunities for a signature performance of his own. Just in the month of January, Kentucky will go on the road to face #4 Auburn and #9 Kansas. A win and dominant performance in either of those contests could give Oscar the bump to the top of this list.
Kofi Cockburn - Center, Illinois
We stay in the Big 10 to look at a name very familiar to the Big Blue Nation. Kofi is the only player in the country to be in the top 5 for both points (22.0) and rebounds (12.5) per game. He has also lead the Fighting Illini back into the top 25 rankings since returning from his 3 beginning of season suspension.
While the stats are comparable between Kofi and Oscar, I would give Oscar the edge over Kofi due to him playing for a better team on a bigger stage at Kentucky. If Illinois were to make a run at another Big 10 championship lead by Kofi, this could flip. But Oscar continuing to dominate the SEC at one of the biggest programs in the country takes the insane stats that he is averaging and puts them on another level.
Ochai Agbaji - Guard, Kansas
Agbaji is leading a top 10 Jayhawks team with 20 points per game, on very efficient shooting of 53.5% from the field and 45.3% from 3. He has 9 games of 20+ points, 3 of which came against currently ranked opponents: Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Iowa State.
The advantage Ochai has over Oscar right now is that his team has had more success this team. But as I previously mentioned, Kentucky will have a chance to square off against Kansas at the end of this month to give Oscar a chance to flip this narrative.
Overall, I still would give Oscar the edge over Ochai for the Wooden Award. While Ochai's performances are super impressive, a guard averaging 20 points per game is not new to college basketball. The performances Oscar is putting up in both the scoring and rebounding columns are unprecedented in modern college basketball.
There is still a ton of conference play, conference tournaments, and the NCAA tournament left to be played, which will ultimately determine who wins this award. But Oscar Tshiebwe is easily among the most qualified players to potentially take home the Wooden Award and be cemented in NCAA history.