The college basketball season came to an emphatic, dramatic end with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. The dream of playing under the bright lights of March Madness, of possibly hoisting a national championship trophy, wiped out by the coronavirus.
For a handful of players, earning a postseason honor offers a glimmer of happiness amid the uncertainty.
“I never could have envisioned this,” Garza said. “It’s honestly crazy, but it’s what I did all the work for and what I’m going to continue to strive for. It kind of adds motivation for me just knowing that putting in the hard work, it can all pay off and makes me grateful for the situation I’m in and the program I’m at.”
Garza added to his load Friday when he joined Dayton’s Obi Toppin, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, Marquette’s Markus Howard and Oregon’s Payton Pritchard on The Associated Press All-America first team.
Garza blossomed into one of college basketball’s best players as a junior. A 6-11 forward, he increased his scoring average more than 10 points from a year ago to 23.9 per game, averaged 9.8 rebounds and shot 54 percent from the floor.
Garza set Iowa’s single-season scoring record with 740 points and is the first Big Ten player since Ohio State’s Dennis Hopson in 1987 to have at least 20 points in 16 straight conference games. He is Iowa’s first first-team All-American since Chuck Darling in 1952.
Toppin was the lone unanimous choice, receiving 65 votes from a nationwide media panel after averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 63 percent in a breakout season. The 6-foot-9 sophomore helped the third-ranked Flyers match the program’s highest ranking. He is Dayton’s first first-team AP All-American.
Howard was a second-team AP All-American as a junior last season after finishing fifth nationally in scoring at 25 points per game. The 5-11 senior upped his scoring average to 27.8 points to lead the nation in 2019-20 and finished seventh in NCAA history with 434 career 3-pointers.
Powell bypassed a shot at the NBA to return for his senior season. A preseason AP All-American, the 6-2 guard averaged 21 points per game, 17th nationally, with 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Pritchard was the first player in Pac-12 history to have 1,900 points, 500 rebounds and 600 assists during his career. The 6-2 guard also was the fourth player in conference history to lead in scoring (20.5 points) and assists (5.5).
Kansas’ Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike both received more than 20 first-team votes, but were second teamers after taking votes from each other by playing for the same team.