Picking out the single crucial factor in making a college basketball team a winner isn’t always as easy as identifying the best player on the roster. For every Cleanthony Early who carries an unremarkable roster seemingly by himself, there’s a presumed weak link who steps up under pressure or a role player who supplies something no one else on the team can do.
At Michigan State, for example, the future NBA talents are Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, but neither of them will determine whether the Spartans reclaim the Big Ten crown from Indiana. Instead, senior PG Keith Appling must put his poor finish to 2012-13 behind him and prove that he’s ready to lead a potential national champion.
Herein, a closer look at Appling and the rest of the players who will have the most to say about the fortunes of the top 20 teams in our latest preseason rankings.