At long last, the college basketball season is finally upon us, with the season tipping off today. So, before the season gets under way, I decided to make my picks for who will be the top players in college basketball this season and be named All-Americans come seasons end.
Last years first team was made up of Tyler Ulis, Buddy Hield, Malcolm Brogdon, Denzel Valentine and Brice Johnson, all of whom graduated or left for the NBA. The second team, made up of Kris Dunn, Perry Ellis, Georges Niang, Ben Simmons and Jakob Poeltl, was the same story. The only returner from last years All-American teams come from the third team in Grayson Allen, who was joined on that third team by Kay Felder, Yogi Ferrell, Jamal Murray and Jarrod Uthoff.
So, basically, that means we’re basically starting with a clean slate heading into this season. It will be interesting to see who steps up this season and earns a spot on the All-American teams. So, here’s my best shot at predicting who I think will do it.
Grayson Allen comes into this season as the only returning All-American from last season after averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three last season. Allen is the returning leading scorer on a Duke team that is ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll and are a common pick to win the National Title this season. Allen looks set for another big season, even with a top recruiting class coming into town and is currently the favorite to bring home the Player of the Year award come seasons end.
Markelle Fultz was a consensus top five recruit coming into this season and is currently looked at as a favorite to be the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Fultz is an extremely well rounded player, especially on the offensive end. He’s smooth with the ball in his hands, is a great at getting to the rim, can shoot from the outside and can create for others. The only thing that may hinder Fultz this season is if Washington doesn’t have the help from his teammates to make the NCAA Tournament. Either way, Fultz will definitely be one of the most exciting players to watch in the country this season.
Josh Hart was the leading scorer on the National Champioship winning Villanova Wildcats last season, averaging 15.5 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field along with 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Hart will likely again be the leading scorer and team leader on a Villanova that was slotted No. 4 in the preseason AP poll and has a real shot at repeating as National Champions this season.
Dillon Brooks is another returning upper-classman from one of the best teams in the country that made it to the Elite Eight last season. Brooks was the Ducks leading scorer last season, averaging 16.7 points along with 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. However, Brooks will begin the season on the sidelines as he is still recovering from foot surgery but he will be available for most of their schedule. Once he returns, it’s safe to assume he will be Oregons top scorer and will look to lead them deep into March yet again this season.
Ivan Rabb surprised many when he decided to return to California for his sophomore season after having a nice freshman campaign averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on 61.5 percent shooting from the field and being looked at as a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft. However, he did decide to return to college for another season and will look to improve on his first season. Cal also lost a good bit of their production from last season, meaning Rabb should see an increase in touches and will likely given a larger load offensively. Overall, Rabb looks primed for a big sophomore season and should be one of the most productive players in college.
Monte Morris | Iowa State | Guard | Senior
Monte Morris is one of the best all-around guards in the NCAA and will be tasked with taking on a much bigger role for Iowa State this season with Cyclones losing their other four top scorers to graduation. Morris was already Iowa State’s second leading scorer and leading assist guy last season after averaging 13.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season and we should expect those numbers to jump up this year on a competitive Cyclones team.
Melo Trimble | Maryland | Guard | Junior
Melo Trimble took a little bit of a step back last season after having a outstanding freshman season, averaging 14.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. However, he will have a chance to have a bounce-back junior season now with Maryland’s next four top scorers from last season graduating or heading to the NBA. Trimble will be asked to do a lot for Maryland this season but he’s shown he has the talent to do it. Expect a big year from Melo.
Josh Jackson | Kansas | Forward | Freshman
Josh Jackson was one of the top ranked recruits coming into this season and is looked at as a legitimate option to be the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Jackson is an extremely versatile wing player. He averaged 26.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game his senior year of high school. He’s a great athlete and a versatile player on both sides of the ball. Jackson can do just about everything on the court and will likely be a major factor in Kansas looking to win their 13th consecutive BIG 12 title.
Nigel Hayes | Wisconsin | Forward | Senior
Nigel Hayes will look to have another great season for Wisconsin this season. Hayes averaged 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season. His shooting percentages did take a dip last season but I think they should revert back to looking more like they did in his first two seasons and I see his numbers continuing to increase. Hayes will likely be the best player on a team that will likely a top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Bam Adebayo | Kentucky | Forward | Freshman
Bam Adebayo is another highly regarded recruit coming this season. Adebayo is a big bodied forward, listed at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds. He has a high motor and plays the game hard. He’s a beast on the boards and on the defensive end. He probably has the highest ceiling out of any of the Kentucky stacked freshman class. He will also look to be another one of John Calipari’s successful one-and-done big men.
Dennis Smith | NC State | Guard | Freshman
Dennis Smith is one of the most exciting players entering college basketball this season. Smith is an explosive athlete, extremely quick and a great all-around point guard. NC State also has a chance at being legitimate team this year with Smith, Abdul-Malik, BeeJay Anya and Maverick Rowan returning and talented Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven coming in. Smith is one of the most talented players enter college basketball and will be a must watch this season.
Jayson Tatum | Duke | Forward | Freshman
Jayson Tatum is another talented freshman this season (there’s a lot of those this season). Tatum has a very advanced skill set for his age and already has an NBA ready body. Tatum will likley be Duke’s second most important player on the Blue Devils this year behind Allen. Tatum is a likely top 5 pick in the 2017 Draft and a top player this college basketball season.
Jaron Blossomgame | Clemson | Forward | Senior
Jaron Blossomgame is one of the most underrated players in the NCAA. Blossomgame averaged 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season and shot 51.3 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three. He was a probable first round pick in the NBA Draft last season if he would have declared but decided to return for his senior season. I expect huge things from Blossomgame this year and could be one of the best under-the-radar players this year.
Alec Peters | Valparaiso | Forward | Senior
Alec Peters is mid-major player that played put up big numbers last season on a 30 win team. Peters averaged 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and shot 50.5 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from three last season. Peters plays in the same conference as Kay Felder, who made the All-American third team last season. If Peters can again improve on his big numbers and lead Valparaiso to the NCAA Tournament, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be in consideration for a spot on an All-American team.
Thomas Bryant | Indiana | Center | Sophomore
Thomas Bryant is another player that would have likely been a first round pick in the NBA Draft if he would have left last season. Bryant averaged 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season and an efficient 68.3 percent from the field. Bryant seems primed to have a break out season and the Hoosiers have high expectations this season as well.