Most people didn’t expect Victor Oladipo to become one of the best guards in the country last season.
Most people didn’t realize Otto Porter would become one of the most complete forwards in the country.
And most people didn’t predict that Mason Plumlee and Kelly Olynyk would become two of the most dominant post players in college basketball.
Every year, college basketball features players who emerge as stars and carry their teams to great success. The following list looks at ten dark horse candidates for the 2013-14 College Basketball Player of the Year award.
These ten players are listed in no particular order.
When C.J. Fair announced he would return to Syracuse for his senior season, it immediately made the Orange one of the favorites to win the ACC.
Fair is a 6’8”, 215-pound forward who is the perfect fit for Jim Boeheim’s system at Syracuse. He has a solid mid-range game and he’s also very effective around the basket.
He averaged 14.5 points and seven rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field last season as a junior.
He will also be the featured player for the Orange after the departures of Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland.
If Fair can lead Syracuse to a strong season, the nation will certainly notice his ability.
UCLA’s postseason aspirations were all but finished last season when Jordan Adams went down with a season-ending foot injury in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Adams was the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game.
The 6’5”, 220-pound rising sophomore guard from Atlanta, Ga., was an honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 Team last season and will serve as a great player to build around for new head coach Steve Alford.
Once Adams is fully-recovered from his foot injury, he’ll be prepared to become one of the best players in the country next season.
Kevin Pangos is the latest in the line of great guards who have played over the years for Mark Few at Gonzaga.
The talented point guard from Newmarket, Ontario, is one of the better perimeter shooters in college basketball and he’s been improving his ability to create offense off the dribble.
As a rising junior, Pangos is leading the Bulldogs next season and will help maintain the level of consistent success that has become the standard at Gonzaga.
Mitch McGary is the Michigan player who’s receiving all the attention and preseason hype after electing to return to school for another year.
However, Glenn Robinson III gave the team a big boost when he also announced he would be returning to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season.
Robinson averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game last season while often being the team’s third or fourth option on offense. With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. moving on to the NBA, Michigan fans will see Robinson’s opportunities and production increase.
Winning the National Player of the Year award would mean Glenn Robinson III could put his award right beside his dad’s, which Glenn Robinson Jr. won in 1994 at Purdue.
Joe Jackson has had an up-and-down career at Memphis, but the 6’1", 171-pound point guard is hoping to end his career with the Tigers on a high note.
Memphis fans are hoping for the same thing after Jackson announced he would be returning for his senior season.
Jackson averaged nearly 14 points and 4.8 assists per game last season while shooting over 44-percent from beyond the three-point line. He was also the 2013 Conference USA Player of the Year.
He will be counted on to provide leadership and playmaking ability as the senior point guard for the Tigers and next season could serve as the perfect opportunity for him to show the potential that made him one of the highest-ranked players coming out of high school in 2010.
P.J. Hairston could be a non-factor in the player of the year race if he is ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of his offseason issues. His criminal charges were recently dropped but the NCAA is still investigating his use of a rental car.
However, Hairston is still eligible and the key returning player for the Tar Heels until the NCAA deems otherwise.
He has an impressive combination of shooting range and strength, which makes him one of the most explosive offensive players in college basketball. At 6’5”, 220 pounds, Hairston is a difficult matchup because of his ability to score from anywhere on the court.
He averaged 14.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore, but he has the potential to average a double-double on a regular basis.
Isaiah Austin will receive most of the preseason attention for the Baylor Bears, but Cory Jefferson will emerge as the team’s true star.
Jefferson is a 6’9”, 220-pound redshirt senior who averaged 13.3 points, eight rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season. He was also a key player for Team USA at the World University Games this offseason.
Jefferson has the ability to finish around the basket and provides the Bears with a strong presence on the boards.
Baylor should be much improved next season and it will give Cory Jefferson the opportunity to perform with a bigger spotlight.
Jordan McRae is a 6’6”, 185-pound guard who emerged as one of the best players in the SEC last season for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Now, McRae is returning to school for his senior season and an opportunity to lead his team to the NCAA tournament.
He was an All-SEC player last season while averaging 15.7 points per game, which led the team in scoring. McRae has great versatility and athleticism, making him a weapon who can be used in multiple positions on the court.
Dwayne Evans was one of the most underrated players in the country last season while playing for St. Louis, an extremely underrated team.
The Billikens finished the season with a 28-7 record and Evans was a big part of their success, leading the team in scoring and rebounding at 14 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
He’s been one of the better rebounders in college basketball over the past three years and he’s worked to improve his offensive game during the course of his career.
As a senior, Evans will be counted on to lead the team again and help St. Louis make another successful run to the NCAA tournament.
There isn’t a question about whether or not Jahii Carson is a candidate to win the Player of the Year award next season. The only question is whether he qualifies as a dark horse.
After a redshirt freshman season in 2012-13 that saw him average 18.5 points, 5.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, Carson returns to Arizona State with hopes of getting to the NCAA tournament.
It was a major boost for the Sun Devils when Carson announced he would be returning to school, as it gives Herb Sendek one of the best point guards in the country.
There is an explosiveness to Carson’s game that makes him one of the most exciting players in college basketball, who will remind many of Trey Burke, last season’s Player of the Year.
Who do you consider to be a dark horse to be the player of the year? Leave your nominations in the comments below.