With college careers starting in less than two weeks, let’s take a look at some of the country’s most prominent stars and their potential cases for the men’s National Player of the Year honors. This list may seem silly in a few months – other candidates always come up – but at least a handful of these guys are expected to show up.
1. Drew Timme, junior, Gonzaga
Timme, the best returning player in what could well be the best men’s college basketball team, and his mustache return to Gonzaga with a chance to improve on 19 points and seven rebounds per game from last season, with a 65% shooting. He may not actually be Gonzaga’s best player (rookie Chet Holmgren has his own blurb here in a minute), but Timme will be the Bulldogs’ main stabilizer, providing a slick, high-energy inside game and paint score. dominant (77% in the last hoop). season, by Bart torvik data). Timme’s elite efficiency and the Zags’ focal role are not changing, and Holmgren’s presence grants him two new luxuries: a passing goal in high-low situations and true assist-side defensive coverage at the rim. , both missing last season. .
Timme has a few areas to improve – his individual defense and free throws leave a little to be desired at times, and he’s still not a consistent 3-point shooter. Also consider that Gonzaga may not have the luxury of incredible ball spacing and movement this season, with Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi missing. That means Timme will almost certainly see more double teams as opponents challenge Gonzaga’s perimeter players to take shots. But it’s fair to call him the favorite as the season progresses, with a proven track record and tons of opportunities ahead of him on a team that should be competing at the national level again.
2. Hunter Dickinson, sophomore, Michigan
Dickinson put together a stellar freshman year, averaging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds on 59.8% shooting, but he seemed to wear down a bit as the season progressed and wasn’t always the most consistent. Michigan needs him to be dominant in a conference packed with seasoned great physicists and this time they will expect more of him, funneling the pole hits in his direction to open things up for everyone else. As the best player in possibly the best team in possibly the best conference, Dickinson’s candidacy here writes itself.
We may also see a more versatile Dickinson this time around – he’s worked on his movement skills and is preparing to play double-team, and while sniper Isaiah Livers and his pick-and-roll partner Mike Smith have Gone, freshman Caleb Houstan and the DeVante ‘Jones transfer should help fill those roles. Dickinson says he will shoot more 3s this season, which may or may not be a good idea any time soon. Regardless, your expected volume of touches and value for a quality team is very important in the conversation of potential awards.
3. Paolo Banchero, freshman, Duke
Banchero will be Duke’s centerpiece, capable of generating and attacking misalignments across the court using his size, weight and ball skills. He is one of the most unique players the Blue Devils have had in this era and must unfold accordingly – he can play from the post, take on the slower greats, go out and shoot jump shots and make plays for his teammates afterward. to attract defenders. I’m not exactly sure how Duke will use it, just that he will use it a lot and that it should be fascinating. There aren’t many other playmakers on the list, and his first-year teammate AJ Griffin could be injured to start the season. It will be Banchero’s show from day one, and he’s SI’s first projected pick in the NBA draft for a reason.
4. Chet Holmgren, Freshman, Gonzaga
Here’s the other guy with a solid case as the potential No. 1 pick and a chance to set the college hoops on fire. The 7-footer Holmgren has a game-breaking knack: he can handle and shoot like a guard on the perimeter and erase shots around the basket with their length and time. He will make the game seem unfair at times, and complements Timme well enough in theory that they both thrive without getting in each other’s way. If Holmgren emerges as Gonzaga’s undoubtedly more important player, that may speed him up here, but it’s also possible that he and Timme will split the votes when it comes to praise. If it happens that way, it would be great news for the Zags’ title hopes.
5. Kofi Cockburn, junior, Illinois
Getting Cockburn back was a huge blow to the Illini – his skill set is outdated by NBA standards, but in college he’ll dole out plenty of low-post penalties for another year. With Ayo Dosunmu out of the NBA and guard Andre Curbelo expected to pass first, there should be even more touches available for Cockburn. There are two key areas you’ll need to improve to elevate your game: your free throws (55% from the line hurts especially when you hit the fifth most fouls out of 40 at college hoops, according to KenPom data) and your way of shooting. play, as he often had trouble playing in double teams. Any marginal improvement in either area is a boon to Illinois hopes and would strengthen Cockburn’s statistical argument for the national awards.
6. Jaime Jaquez Jr., junior, UCLA
All signs point to a great year for Jaquez, who took a stellar turn in March and should see a rebound in usage as UCLA gears up for another Final Four run. The Bruins steered their offense in their direction towards the end of last season and reaped the benefits, and while teammate Johnny Juzang appears to be getting more early attention, keep a close eye on Jaquez, who is a more versatile offensive weapon and has advanced as a jump shooter. For my money, Jaquez is UCLA’s best player (in the midst of an embarrassment of riches), and should be treated as such in these discussions going forward. There is a lot of room for improvement statistically, and it should be up to the task.
7. Johnny Juzang, junior, UCLA
Juzang joins teammate Jaquez on this list after a stellar turn at March Madness that has created great expectations for him this season. It’s quite possible that Juzang will end up getting the most national love on his team, particularly if his hot shots hold up for a full season. He may have streaks, but he’s capable of getting through big nights and will have an important platform at UCLA to make his case. Of course, Juzang and Jaquez may divide the attention of the awards, but both should have some punch in the conversation and deserve early recognition.
8. Jaden Ivey, sophomore, Purdue
Ivey has become a popular breakaway candidate as the top perimeter scorer on a loaded and experienced Purdue team, after seeming to have turned the corner over the summer with USA Basketball at the U19 world championships. A high-level athlete and stellar defender, Ivey has room to improve as a scorer and playmaker and a strong supporting cast to help him do so. He came in strong during the final month of last season and should be among the best guards in the country. If Purdue challenges for the title of the Big Ten and more, expect Ivey to attract a lot of national attention.
9. Collin Gillespie, Senior Grad, Villanova
Gillespie enters this season wielding the power of narrative, after a torn MCL in Villanova’s penultimate regular-season game ended his season, ruined the Wildcats’ chances of making noise in March and led to his return for a fifth. anus. Before the injury, he was in the midst of his best statistical season, and it’s only fair to expect another full workload on a team that returns most of its rotation and will again be the favorite in the Great East. Gillespie will be one of the best point guards in college basketball and arguably the most experienced, and his series of statistically strong seasons should continue. Whether that’s enough to outshine the biggest stars in the awards conversation is a fair question.
10. Max Abmas, junior, Oral Roberts
It won’t be easy for Abmas to continue his massive sophomore season, in which he led Division I in scoring and was impressively efficient in doing so. He captured national attention at the NCAA tournament, tested the waters of the NBA, and returned to school after a mediocre performance in the combined draft. You will see a lot of defensive attention, but you will also have a little more help this season, and there is plenty of room for you to expand your game as a playmaker. You won’t have the inside track of the national awards at Oral Roberts, but it deserves a mention, nonetheless, if you can find a way to improve on last year’s 24.5 points per game, be careful.
More college basketball coverage:
• ACC Men’s Basketball Preview, Rankings
• 64 reasons to be excited for the CBB season
• Pac-12 men’s basketball preview, rankings
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.