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  • Writer's pictureKyle Flannery

5 Dark Horse Wooden Award Candidates for the 2023-24 College Basketball Season

Villanova Guard Lucy Olsen dribbles up the court

Villanova Athletics

With college move-in underway for schools across the country, we're right around the corner from one of the best parts of the year: college basketball season.

The John R. Wooden Award is given to the most outstanding college basketball player on both the women's and men's side. After dominating the regular season and carrying the Iowa Hawkeyes to their first national championship for the women's team in school history, the Wooden Award is undoubtedly Caitlin Clark's to lose. However, let's take a look at those who may dethrone her this year by not only leading their team to success, but also reaching personal milestones along the way. For the sake of this article, a dark horse is considered to be a player who has not been nominated for the Wooden Award in the past.


Ohio State forward Cotie McMahon flexes on the court

Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Cotie McMahon, Ohio State F

The youngest player on this list, what McMahon lacks in experience she more than makes up for in raw talent. Averaging over 15 points, 5 boards, and 2 assists as a true freshman last season, McMahon led the Buckeyes to their first Elite Eight appearance in 30 years. That tournament run included a 23-point performance against UConn and a game where she was a rebound shy of a double-double against North Carolina. With last year's leading scorer Taylor Mikesell leaving for the WNBA, the young star is poised for a breakout season offensively.

Virginia Tech guard Georgia Amoore celebrates

Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech G

A projected first round pick in the WNBA draft, the 5'6" Aussie is out for revenge after losing in the Final Four last year to the eventual champion LSU. Despite not hoisting the national championship trophy in April, Amoore had one of the most impressive tournament showings in recent memory, including a 29-6-5 outing against Tennessee in which she played all 40 minutes. Although a gifted facilitator, the Hokies point guard struggles with efficiency: Amoore shot under 38% from the field last year and has never eclipsed 41% in a season for her career. Even with an improved shooting season next year, she will still have to outperform her teammate Liz Kitley, who was a Wooden Award finalist in 2023.

UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards directs her teammate

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Aaliyah Edwards, UConn F

In a season plagued by injuries for UConn, Aaliyah Edwards was the Huskies' most consistent player. Edwards lead UConn in scoring at 16 ppg and added another 9 rebounds per game on top of that, all on her way to winning Big East Most Improved Player and the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. If Edwards can continue her upward trajectory through 2024, she has the chance to carve out the title of the best player in college basketball despite the return of former Wooden Award winner Paige Bueckers to the UConn squad.

Villanova guard Lucy Olsen races by her defender

Villanova Athletics

Lucy Olsen, Villanova G

Although the biggest reach on this list based on last season, Olsen has the most room to improve in the entire country this season. Olsen played Robin to Maddy Siegrist's Batman for the Wildcats in 2022-23, but Siegrist's departure to the WNBA's Dallas Wings leaves the largest scoring hole in college basketball to be filled. The PA native has improved her shooting splits significantly in her two years playing for Villanova, and she's capable of an offensive outburst, as evidenced by her 23-10-7 showing against Florida Gulf Coast in last year's tournament. One of the most versatile guards in the nation, Olsen will force voters to consider her as a Wooden Award candidate if she can improve her numbers while being the focal point of Villanova's offense.

South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso goes up for a shot against the Miami Hurricanes

Associated Press

Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina C

With the departure of Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, and Brea Beal, the South Carolina dynasty has officially entered a new chapter, one that will be ushered in by the dominance of Kamilla Cardoso. The senior from Brazil will plug into Boston's role on offense, highlighted by a 56% mark from the field and some of the best post footwork in the entire country. In addition to being an efficient scorer, Cardoso is known as one of the most intimidating defenders in all of college basketball. In her freshman year at Syracuse, she took home ACC co-Defensive player of the year honors in a season that saw her block nearly 3 shots per game. If any player can make defense the centerpiece of a Wooden Award campaign, it's 6'7" Kamilla Cardoso.

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