Winter is coming. And if everything goes according to plan, it will be the Winter of Garza. Iowa has lofty preseason expectations as a team, and the main source of those sky-high hopes is the presence of one Luka Garza, returning to dominate the painted area (and beyond!) for another season.
Earlier this week the Big Ten named Garza the unanimous Preseason Player of the Year:
Obviously, this move doesn't exactly come as a shock. That tends to happen when the returning Big Ten Player of the Year decides to return to terrorize Big Ten teams for another season. Garza led the Big Ten in scoring -- by almost four points per game. He averaged 23.9 ppg last year; the next-highest scorer in the Big Ten was Minnesota's Daniel Oturu, who averaged 20.0 ppg. Garza's 740 points were 141 more than any other player in the Big Ten. In league play -- again playing in the toughest league in the country, while facing the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation, and dealing with a non-stop parade of quality big men -- Garza's scoring average rose to 26.2 ppg, the highest conference scoring average for a Big Ten player since 1994. Against the best teams on Iowa's schedule, Garza was at his best -- he averaged 26.7 ppg and 11.1 rpg in Iowa's 12 games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. He scored 20 or more points in 16 consecutive games, an Iowa record and the most by any Big Ten player since Dennis Hopson put together a similar streak for Ohio State in 1987.
Garza did more than just put the ball through the bucket, too. He was fourth in rebounding in the Big Ten, averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, and he was particularly effective on the offensive glass, where his 3.6 offensive boards per game ranked second in the league (just behind Oturu at 3.8 per game). And he was also seventh in the Big Ten in blocks per game (1.8), despite his reputation as a defensive non-factor. Pretty good season!
Garza also earned some big-time preseason honors on a national level as well, earning preseason first-team All-American honors earlier today:
The AP Preseason All-America team for college hoops is out. Kispert and Martin tied for final spot, making it a six-man squad.— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) November 11, 2020
Luka Garza, Iowa
Jared Butler, Baylor
Cade Cunningham, OSU
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
Remy Martin, ASU
This is new territory for Iowa hoops -- Garza is the first Hawkeye to ever earn preseason first-team All-America honors.
Iowa center Luka Garza became the first preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press in the school's 120-year men's basketball history.— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) November 11, 2020
Garza, who was a consensus first-team All-American as a junior, was the only unanimous selection and received all 64 votes.
Of course, last season Garza became just the third Iowa player ever to earn consensus first-team All-America honors, alongside Murray Weir and Charles Darling. He's been doing things no Iowa player has done in 70 years; what's one more historic accomplishment?
And, oh yeah, Garza was also named the top returning player in college basketball this season by CBS Sports:
Top 100 And 1 College Basketball Players: Top 5— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 11, 2020
1. Luka Garza, Iowa
2. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
3. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
4. Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton
5. Jared Butler, Baylor pic.twitter.com/xKXPxvLPCk
The full list is available here.
The hype -- and the expectations -- for Garza this season are going to be as high as any Iowa player has ever faced. But after everything he's done over the last few years, after all the improvement he's shown, after the relentless dominance he displayed game after game... are you really going to doubt him now? In Luka We Trust.
And if everything goes according to plan, maybe we will really will just think "Luka" when we think about Iowa basketball.