NBA Draft Feature: Luka Garza, Iowa

We’re kicking off our NBA Draft prospect series with Iowa center Luka Garza. Garza has declared for the draft while maintaining NCAA eligibility. Projected as the #1 returning player if he comes back to college, it’s very possible Garza doesn’t end up turning pro this season, but this feature will assume he does. 

Garza is definitely one of the most underrated players in this draft class, as he absolutely dominated the Big 10 this past season, putting up huge numbers on a Hawkeyes’ that lacked an additional standout talent. Despite constantly drawing the opposing teams’ top defender, and often facing double teams, Garza was unstoppable, particularly in the paint. 

Top Games

Garza started his year off with some decent, if not jaw-dropping, numbers, but he broke out in an early December contest against then #4 Michigan. Although Iowa lost the game, Garza dropped 44 points on a stiff Michigan defense, single-handedly keeping the Hawkeyes within striking distance despite the eventual loss.
A few other notable performances from Garza came in ranked wins over #19 Illinois, when he went 4-9 from three-point range and posted 25 points and 10 rebounds, and #16 Penn State, as Garza tortured the Nittany Lions to the tune of 25 points and 17 rebounds. His most impressive calling-card, however, is his consistency, as the Hawkeyes’ center scored at least twenty points in his final sixteen contests, carrying Iowa to a strong Big 10 performance. Despite his team’s struggles on the road – Iowa went 2-5 in true road games in that twenty-game stretch – Garza averaged just a touch under 25 points per game in those contests, actually higher than his season-average of 23.9 points a game. Garza is an absolute beast, and he was undoubtedly the star of a team that lacked elite talent. He repeatedly powered through top defenses, and he rarely had an off-night. 
Prospect Grade: 5.9

Projection

Despite his impressive collegiate credentials, Garza is currently ranked as the 14th ranked center in the draft class, and many rankings don’t have him even being selected in the two-round draft. Garza’s biggest knock, according to many, is his below average lateral movement, as he sometimes struggled to guard more athletic players. Despite this, Garza is a high-IQ basketball player, with decent playmaking ability, and great finishing ability. Garza could be a solid find at the back end of the second round, or even to sign after the draft, but the money will have to be worth it in order to convince Garza to give up a chance at leading Iowa to the Final Four in his senior season. The prediction below is assuming Garza goes pro, despite the real possibility he heads back to the Hawkeyes for one more ride.

Prediction: Undrafted, signs with New York Knicks
Garza would be an excellent complement for Allen Robinson in New York. Robinson excels defensively, but his offensive contributions are limited to alley-oops and put-back baskets. Garza’s playmaking ability would allow the Knicks to have a more offensive lineup on the floor, while Robinson could be a great defensive option and mentor as Garza adjusts to the pro game. 

College Kids Talking College Sports Dream League Day 2: Garza dominates, Andrew goes 2-0

In day 2 of our dream league, Andrew’s Anteaters continued their resurgence from an opening loss to dominate Cal’s Sunrise on the road, 117-100 before holding serve at home, 132-120 versus Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors, improving to 3-1 and taking sole possession of 1st place. Luka Garza continues to dominate for Andrew, averaging 22.5 points per game so far.

Cal rebounded in the nightcap by taking down Nathaniel, 128-122, as his big-man duo of Obi Toppin and John Mooney has been difficult to stop in the paint.

Below are each team’s individual stats and the leaderboard for all the major categories at the halfway point of our regular season.

NDL

PlayerPointsReboundsAssists
Jordan Nwora (112)59 323
Vernon Carey (103)56305
Markus Howard (99)81 1.071411
Anthony Lamb (87)67  1.243011
Kameron Langley (86)39 1229
Jermaine Marrow (73)44 612
Kira Lewis (59)33710
Jhivvan Jackson (68)45 1.04197
Killian Tillie (49)24 122
Xavier Tillman (52)  26 1.29347
Tre Jones (9)112
Zavier Simpson (2)011


Andrew

PlayerPointsReboundsAssists
Payton Pritchard (114)622123
Luka Garza (101)90  1.373711
Devon Dotson (113) 70   1131
Devin Vassell (83)47  208
Udoka Azubuike (85)51  1.07373
Jalen Smith (56)26233
Ayo Dosunmu (82)391520
Isaac Okoro (56)2056
Jordan Ford (20)612
Daniel Oturu (16)650
Yoeli Childs (63) 61    1.52332
Saddiq Bey (11) 031

Cal

PlayerPointsReboundsAssists
Obi Toppin (141)84  1.035011
John Mooney (129)65 1.08668
Cole Anthony (98)551212
Myles Powell (103)622117
Cassius Winston (113)50 918
Malachi Flynn (89)54 1.042118
Anthony Edwards (64)54 1.08105
Jared Butler (19)721
Elijah Hughes (41)2966
Michael Devoe (1)000
Cassius Stanley (1)000
Tyler Hagedorn (1)000

LEADERBOARD

Points

PlayerPoints
Luka Garza (Andrew’s Anteaters)90
Obi Toppin (Cal’s Sunrise)84
Markus Howard (Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors)81

Rebounds

PlayerRebounds
John Mooney (Cal’s Sunrise)66
Obi Toppin (Cal’s Sunrise)50
Luka Garza, Udoka Azubuike (Andrew’s Anteaters)37

Assists

PlayerAssists
Devon Dotson (Andrew’s Anteaters)31
Kameron Langley  (Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors)29
Payton Pritchard (Andrew’s Anteaters)23

Efficiency Rating

PlayerEfficiency Rating
Yoeli Childs (Andrew’s Anteaters)1.52
Luka Garza (Andrew’s Anteaters)1.37
Xavier Tillman (Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors)1.28
Anthony Lamb (Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors)1.24
John Mooney, Anthony Edwards (Cal’s Sunrise)1.08

Andrew DeGeorge’s College Basketball Starting 5

Each of our podcast personalities are picking a  All-Star Starting 5 for college basketball; here is Andrew DeGeorge’s team:

This task is a tough one, but ultimately, I selected a low-turnover team with some dominant inside scoring to lead the way. Here is my full squad. 

Point Guard: Payton Pritchard – Oregon

  • I said it on last weekend’s takeaways, but I fully believe Pritchard is the best point guard in the country. He’s gritty, doesn’t turn the ball over, and shoots the ball at a 46% clip. He can also distribute the ball, racking up 5.5 assists per game and turning the ball over just 2.7 times. His efficiency and ability to both pass and shoot led me to selecting Pritchard as my point guard. 

Guard: Myles Powell – Seton Hall

  • This may be a slightly surprising pick, but I believe Powell is the driving force behind Seton Hall’s surprising season. The Pirates have not been higher than a 6-seed since 1993 and haven’t made it past the opening weekend of March Madness since 2000. With Powell leading the way, the Pirates look primed to break both of those streaks this year. Their point guard is averaging 21.3 points per game – the highest of my guards – and he will be a spectacular option off of Pritchard, whose shooting prowess will draw defenses away from the Seton Hall star. 

Guard: Elijah Hughes – Syracuse

  • I’ve gotten to see Hughes several times in person and I’ve been impressed. He grabs the most rebounds (5.1 per game) and turns the ball over the least (2.3) out of all my guards. He scores 18.8 points per game, the lowest of my three guards, but Hughes is a trustworthy guy with the ball in his hand, and he will play gutsy basketball and make the right decision most of the time. He probably will not be a primary scorer for this team, but he has the toolkit to impact the game in other ways. 

Forward: Luka Garza – Iowa              

  • Garza is one of the best paint players in the country, and he could start at either forward or center for my team. I’m putting him at forward for the relatively arbitrary decision that my other big man is slightly taller, but either way, I expect Garza to be a huge factor offensively for my team. He leads my squad on 23.6 points per game while also grabbing 9.6 rebounds. He has made a relatively mediocre Iowa team relevant through his spectacular play, and with a better supporting cast, I trust the Iowa big man to be even more potent in this lineup. 

Center: Udoka Azubuike – Kansas

  • While Azubuike does not boast the same numbers as some of the premier inside scorers in the country, it is partially because his role on the Jayhawks does not require him to do so. He averages 13.4 points per game on a stunning 74.4% shooting percentage, while grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game. He’s one of just a few players to average a double-double, and he constantly gets free in the paint. His biggest downside is occasionally being limited by foul trouble, but Azubuike is an elite talent, having a 7’0, 270-pound center with his skill is too good to pass up, so he cracks my starting lineup. 

Coach: Bill Self – Kansas

  • Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. Bill Self has never missed the NCAA tournament when coaching Kansas, and he has never lost more than 10 games in a season. He’s got plenty of NCAA tournament experience, he’s been to two Final Fours, and he’s won it all once. He’s got what it takes to win, and with a lineup this talented, I’ll take Self to guide them to the finish line. 

Nathaniel Lapoint’s College Basketball All-Star Starting 5

Each of our podcast personalities discussed an all-star starting five in our most recent podcast, and so now, we’re publishing each of their respective teams. With no clear best player and a wide range of talent available, picking one starting lineup is a tough task. However, here is Nathaniel Lapoint’s best shot. 

Point Guard: Payton Pritchard – Oregon

  • When it comes to the point guard position, there is nobody in the country better at running an offense than Pritchard. He has the clutch gene, seen in his recent 38-point performance against Arizona, he can both score and distribute the ball efficiently, averaging 5.5 assists and 20.1 points per game on 46% shooting, one of the highest shooting percentages by a guard in the country. No doubt that Pritchard is quarterbacking the offense here. 

Guard: Devon Dotson – Kansas

  • The Jayhawks are the best team in the country, and Dotson makes this squad go. All due respect to Udoka Azubuike in the paint, but the Kansas big man is not nearly as relevant without Dotson drawing so much defensive attention. And even with the attention, Dotson averages 18 points per game on 46.4% shooting, turning the ball over just 2.3 times per game. Pretty good guard to help Pritchard run the show. 

Guard: Markus Howard – Marquette

  • After securing two of the most efficient shooters in Pritchard and Dotson, the third guard slot belongs to Markus Howard, who leads the nation in three-point shooting. Although he shoots at a slightly more inconsistent clip, just over 41%, Howard launches up such a volume of 3-pointers that he is averaging over 27 points per game. His large quantity of shots and points, combined with the efficient play of Dotson and Pritchard create a dynamic scoring trio around the arc. 

Forward: Vernon Carey – Duke

  • One of several Duke stars, Carey puts up a solid 17.6 points per game and grabs just under nine rebounds. He shoots at a 58% clip, mostly from inside the paint, and he provides a powerful scoring option inside, if my trio of guards are struggling to get open looks.

Center:  Luka Garza  – Iowa

  • Garza was a pretty easy pick to be my center. He’s one of the hottest players in the country right now, scoring 20+ points in all but two games of 2020. The Hawkeyes lean on their big man, who draws a ton of attention and still drops almost 24 points a game while cleaning the glass to the tune of 9.6 rebounds per game. Shooting at 55% and averaging 1.8 turnovers per game, the lowest on the team, Garza provides efficient and lethal inside scoring. Teams can’t guard Garza when he’s the best player on his team – try guarding him when he’s got three of the best guards in the country handling the ball. 

Coach: Brian Dutcher – San Diego State

Dutcher deserves loads of credit for what he has done in San Diego. He’s taken the Aztecs from a middling Mountain West squad to potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, having just made the dance just once in the past four years. San Diego State wasn’t even projected to win the Mountain West Conference before the season, yet they’ve compiled a 27-1 record and a top-5 ranking. Lots of respect for the players out there, but without Dutcher at the helm, I don’t think this team is close to where it’s at.

March Impact Player Profile: Luka Garza, Iowa

Our third March Impact Player Profile belongs to Luka Garza, the junior center for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Garza has been a three-year contributor for the Hawkeyes, and he very nearly led Iowa to a Sweet 16 berth last year. Both Garza and his squad have looked much stronger this year, and they appear to be loading for a big surge in March. Garza has averaged 23 points per game and 10.4 rebounds, while shooting at an astonishing 54.6% clip from the field. While the shooting percentage is around the same as it has been his first two seasons, Garza’s points and rebounds per game have almost doubled since last year. 

Garza made a statement in the Big 10 opener. Having played solidly to open the year, Garza torched Michigan for 44 points on 77% shooting. Although Iowa lost 103-91, their star had officially arrived on the scene, and he has barely slowed down. Recording a dozen double-doubles, Garza has also scored at least 21 points in eight straight contests, and 11 of 13 since the 44-point game. Iowa is 10-3 in that stretch with four victories over ranked opponents. 

The biggest knock on Garza was his one-dimensional game, as he rarely shot the ball from distance. #19 Illinois tried to limit Garza in the paint, and the 6’11, 260-pound center responded by knocking down four three-pointers, a career-high. Overall he is now shooting 38% for triples on the year, forcing opponents to respect his ability to drill a shot or two, opening up more room for him inside. 

Garza takes 16 shots a game and, if he keeps up his scoring average, he could be a one-man wrecking ball for the Hawkeyes come March. Watch out for this man, as after nearly single-handedly lifting the Hawkeyes to the Sweet 16 last year, he is looking better, and ready to do it again.

Big 10 Status Report: Luka Garza Is Really Good, And Other News

Much like the ACC, I don’t believe the top of the power structure in the Big 10 has changed too much. Michigan State is still the odds-on favorite, and I still regard Maryland and Ohio State as their biggest challengers. However, beyond that? Identifying favorites is a complete nightmare, as results have varied greatly. Here’s a look at who is boosting their stock, and who is struggling in the conference.

Biggest Risers: Iowa, Rutgers, Penn State

  • Iowa has soared into the national picture courtesy of the potential Big 10 player of the year in Luka Garza. Garza continues to put up monster numbers and has essentially put the Hawkeyes on his back. After a disappointing loss to Nebraska 16 days ago, Iowa has won four straight, including wins over Rutgers and Maryland. This team has the skill and star power to make a little run in March.
  • Rutgers is one of the hottest teams in the country, even with their close loss to Iowa last night. They are propelled by their 13-0 record at home, and they are extremely close to making a breakthrough on the road, having lost several tight ones to ranked opponents away from home. They’ll need to improve in that area to push themselves into true Big 10 title contention, but the Scarlet Knights are surprisingly relevant in their conference right now.
  • After a tough start to Big 10 play, Penn State is starting to get hot. They put together an impressive performance to beat Ohio State at home. The Buckeyes had beaten the Nittany Lions by 30 points earlier in the year. They then went to Ann Arbor and took down a solid Michigan squad, 72-63. After their slow start in conference games largely negated their impressive 10-1 non-conference record, the Nittany Lions are playing their way back into the Big 10 conversation.

Biggest Fallers: Purdue, Michigan

  • Last week, I was praising Purdue for their ability to win at home. After a 71-42 throttling of Michigan State, they looked like a team that could stay relevant due to their home-court advantage. However, they followed up easily their most impressive result of the year with a road loss to Maryland and then a 79-62 flop at home to Illinois. Maybe that was a blip on the radar in the big picture, but the tough loss did a lot to damage the perception of Purdue being extremely tough to beat in their own house.
  • Michigan has now lost three straight and four of five in Big 10 games, as the Wolverines seem unable to keep up with their conference foes. Last night’s home loss to Penn State was the most concerning, as the Wolverines looked extremely flat at times on their own court, outclassed by an unranked opponent. Michigan is hardly looking like a Big 10 contender, and they certainly don’t resemble the national contender they were heralded to be during the preseason.

Quick Hits

  • My current prediction is that 8 teams in the Big 10 make the NCAA Tournament field, but I could see that number fluctuating as the surprising results pour in. Currently I predict Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Rutgers to secure tournament berths.
  • I believe four Big 10 teams are still very much in the picture, and they have a lot to play for down the stretch: Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Minnesota.
  • I’m declaring 2 teams officially dead in the Big 10 picture, and those teams are Northwestern and Nebraska, who have combined for a 3-13 mark in Big 10 play.

Biggest Upcoming Games

  • #17 Maryland @ Indiana
  • #11 Michigan State @ Minnesota
  • Wisonsin @ #19 Iowa