Luka Garza and Ayo Dosunmu: Elite College Careers End on Sour Notes

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Iowa forward Luka Garza and Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu both deserved to play in the Final Four, but neither survived even the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Both the #2 seeded Hawkeyes and the #1 seeded Illini got whipped pretty badly in the round of 32, and now we won’t be treated to seeing any more basketball from these two teams that had elite regular seasons, but disastrous postseasons.

Garza and Dosunmu were both first team All-Americans, with the Illini junior taking home the USA Today National Player of the Year award and Garza a favorite to win the Naismith award.

On a team level, the way that they went out wasn’t all that different. On an individual level, however, it was like night and day. Dosunmu picked the wrong day to have his worst game since his rookie year. Illini coach Brad Underwood on how Loyola guarded Ayo Dosunmu so well: “they got up into ball screens, and made him pass out, made it tough for him to get to the rim.” With nine points and six turnovers, Sunday saw his stretch of 42 straight games in double fiugures come to an end.

Asked a question that includes the phrase “when you take the jersey off for the last time?” in his postgame media opportunity, Dosunmu gave a very long answer, but doesn’t refute the narrative/set-up, so yeah, he’s officially gone to the league now.

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Something we already knew since Dosunmu took part in the senior day ceremonies, but just to further erase any doubt, Underwood said, at the same news conference ahead of Dosunmu taking to the podium: “Ayo will take that next step and deservedly so.”

For an assessement of his NBA Draft stock, go to this link. As for Garza, he’s massive and talented in the post, with a three point shot to boot, but he lacks ideal mobility for the NBA game. He’s projected to be a second rounder, and mid-to-late second round at that. Maybe those projections will end up being wrong, maybe not, but for now, let’s reflect on all he accomplished.

His #55 will be retired at Iowa, as he’s the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,200+ points. He also collected 900+ rebounds, was a 2x Big Ten player of the year.

When he said goodbye today, it was through a lot of tears, conveying just how much the game means to him.

“I just feel heartbroken that I couldn’t,” a very emotional Garza said after scoring 36 points on 14-20 shooting, 3-4 from three, to go along with 9 reounds.

“You know with all the work that I did, I couldn’t lead this team to where it needed to go. That’s something that’s gonna haunt me for the rest of my life.”

 

So while Ayo hardly showed up for his final game, Garza brought the thunder, but didn’t have near enough of a supporting cast as Oregon beat the Hawks by 15.

“Luka Garza epitomizes everything that you want in your program,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said after the big man’s final home game.

“I can think of no one else that is more deserving of having his number retired than Luka Garza. His recognition is a reflection of his daily approach every day. You don’t accomplish what he has without preparing every day to be great and preparing every day to help your team win.”

However, life goes on, and the future looks bright for both of these guys. “The sun is going to shine tomorrow,” Dosunmu said in the presser on Sunday.

“I try to focus on the good parts of the season.”

Life is not good for big ten basketball right now though. All of that non-stop overblown hype for the league, all season long, and only one, yes one (out of nine, and it’s Michigan) is moving on to the sweet sixteen.

Be sure to click on BetQL for the odds, moneylines, point spreads, over/unders and more for every NCAA tournament game.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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  1. paulmbanks says

    how is life in Lake in the Hills, IL connecting through your Comcast account dude?
    Yeah, I know exactly who you are, so if I were you, I’d just stop now.

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