Will Duke"s top players help them repeat this?
It's that time again. Football is in full swing, and baseball is coming down to the end of its marathon, while hockey and pro basketball are getting ready for training camp.
That means it is time for the college basketball previews to come out in full force.
I know it's hard to remember who left for the draft and who stayed in every year, so that's why it's important for you to get caught up on the best of the best coming back.
Duke is trying to repeat (unless we can all agree to treat it like any other horrible memory and just suppress it until it is forgotten), and they might be the favorite again, as they have a few players on this list.
Let the debate begin!
1. Kalin Lucas, SR., Michigan State
He led his team to the championship game two years ago and was hoping to do the same last year until his injury very late in the season. He is the floor general who makes everything work for the Spartans, and with a healthy Lucas, they have a chance to get back to the championship again.
2. Jacob Pullen, SR., Kansas State
He was the better part of one of the nation's most exciting backcourt combinations last year. With Denis Clemente now gone, all the pressure rests on Pullen's shoulders, or maybe his beard.
3. Corey Fisher, SR., Villanova
Scottie Reynolds is now gone, so it is time for Corey Fisher to shine. He was a stud in high school and showed signs of greatness last year. He has a lot of talent around him, but ultimately it is Nova's leader who will decide who far this team will go.
4. Kemba Walker, JR., UConn
It's hard to believe Kemba Walker is only a junior; it seems like he has been at UConn forever. While he has always had the unbelievable talent, something has been missing. If Kemba can be a true PG and leader, then he might be able to take up the No. 1 spot by year's end.
5. Isaiah Thomas, JR., Washington
This 5'8" PG is always being compared to his namesake. While he might not be as good as Zeke (he might be a better GM though), he is a very good player in his own right. He, like the four above him, is very exciting to watch, and he will help Washington gain some respect for the horrible Pac-10.
1. LaceDarius Dunn, SR., Baylor
LD is another player who seems like he has been in college forever. If I'm not mistaken, he might have played with David Wesley back in the '90s. It was a tough decision on who was the best SG in college between him and the next man. However, he is more athletic, and I like his outside jumper better.
2. Jimmer Fredette, SR., BYU
LD might have edged him out, barely, in the best SG contest, but he edged LD out in the best name contest. Don't be fooled; he might not look the part, but this man can score with anyone. You can't stop the Jimmer—you can only hope to contain him.
3. Malcolm Delaney, SR., Virginia Tech
Delaney can play the 1 or 2 for V Tech, but in order for them to be a force, they need him to score at will. He can drop three-bombs all day but is a good enough ball-handler to drive and hit the mid-range shot.
4. E'Twaun Moore, SR., Purdue
Just one of the three amigos Purdue has to offer. While E'Twaun doesn't get the hype like Robbie Hummel, he might be a better player. He can score in bunches and is an underrated defender. He needs to be the player to lift Purdue when they go through offensive dry spells like most Big Ten teams do.
5. Nolan Smith, SR., Duke
While Michael Myers, I mean Kyle Singler, got the glory, it was really Nolan Smith who was the key to Duke winning the championship. Singler and Jon Scheyer played great, no doubt, but it was Smith who took his game to the next level and gave Duke an athletic guard who could defend and drive, something they hadn't had in years.
1. Kyle Singler, SR., Duke
When he isn't terrorizing teens in the Halloween movies, he is busy terrorizing opponents on the court. He creates one of the toughest mismatches in college, as he is too big for guards to cover him and brings forwards out to the three-point line if they try to cover him. He deserves a lot of credit for Duke's NC and is trying for a repeat along with Player of the Year honors.
2. Robbie Hummel, SR., Purdue
He is similar to Singler in a lot of ways. They both have the hype, and while Singler is a better outside shooter, Hummel is a better defender. Singler gets the nod over Hummel, however, because of that championship ring he gets to carry around.
3. Elias Harris, SO., Gonzaga
I am really high on the 6'8" German-born player. He has more potential then Singler and Hummel but is still young and doesn't have the experience like the other two. He creates matchup problems like the other two but shows more athleticism and finishing ability.
4. Austin Freeman, SR., Georgetown
Freeman is the definition of a 'tweener. He doesn't have the height of a 3 or the quickness of a 2. In college, however, Freeman is great and a deadly outside shooter. He won't let diabetes stop him from competing for Big East POY honors.
5. Scotty Hopson, JR., Tennessee
Talent-wise, he definitely has more than the other four. The 6'6" high school stud was thought to be one and done, but something has been missing. With most of the go-to players Tennessee has had over these past four years gone, it is Hopson's time to shine. He can explode on any given night, but he needs more consistency.
1. Trey Thompkins, JR., Georgia
You might not know who he is, because let's face it, UGA basketball games don't get televised often, and for good reason. Having said that, he is a reason to televise these games. He is the best PF in college basketball because of his inside-outside scoring ability. He thought about going to the pros but decided to come back and work on the ole draft stock.
2. Marcus Morris, JR., Kansas
The better twin is how I know him. Marcus looked to be the ingredient that completed the perfect recipe for Kansas last year and a big reason why I picked them to win it all. Now with everyone else gone, Morris has to be the straw that stirs the Kool-Aid at Kansas, and he definitely has the talent to do so. (I wanted to make another food/drink reference but couldn't think of any.)
3. Derrick Williams, SO., Arizona
One of the all-time great Penn State WRs sprouted eight inches and transferred to Zona. No, I'm just kidding, this is a different D-Will. He was a beast last year for Arizona and looks to be another one of Arizona's constant pro prospects. Not as good as the other two, but he is still young and could be the numero uno this time next year. He is the best slasher PF in college ball.
4. Jon Leuer, SR., Wisconsin
I don't know how Bo Ryan does it. He gets players who don't look like much and don't even seem to have a ton of talent and just gets the absolute best of them. Jon Leuer, however, does have some talent, so that is why four years with Ryan has made him a top five PF in college basketball.
5. Lavoy Allen, SR., Temple
This is my dark horse. The PF game in college basketball is not that strong. Lavoy Allen does everything great except for his aggressiveness. He can shoot the J, is a tremendous rebounder, a great defender, and has good hands/feet for a big man. He is the total package and is trying to lead Temple to its fourth straight A-10 tournament championship. If he ever got an ego and became aggressive, watch out.
1. JaJuan Johnson, SR., Purdue
JJ clearly is the best center in college basketball. Even though he can still be considered a PF, he has the mentality of a great center. He is my early pick for POY in college basketball, and if injury-free he is the man who will try to lead the Boilermakers to the NC.
2. Jared Sullinger, FR., Ohio State
Usually I don't put freshmen in the top five of a position because they have not proved anything, unless they are pure greatness like Derrick Rose/John Wall were coming out of HS. However, the C position in college is weak this year, and this guy is a beast who reminds me of Al Jefferson. Yes, I could have put Kyrie Irving as a PG or Harrison Barnes as a SF in the top five, but those positions are deep.
(Side note: My favorite freshman this year—Cory Joseph of Texas. He has the purest shot I've seen since Steph Curry. Just butter.)
3. Jordan Williams, SO., Maryland
He proved that Greivis Vasquez wasn't the only stud on Maryland last year. He has a big body that dominates the boards and is a good defender. He only finished behind Derrick Favors for ROY honors in the ACC.
4. Matt Howard, SR., Butler
He doesn't look like a center in any way, shape, or form. He is only 6'8" and isn't really that strong, but boy is he crafty in the post. He has post moves for days, and you can't measure his heart. He throws his body around for rebounds more than anyone, but this also leads to his foul trouble, which he can't be in this year if Butler is going to make a run again.
He might not be the best player on his team—Shelvin Mack is—but he is one of the best centers in college basketball.
5. I don't think anyone is really enough of a standout at C to gain this fifth spot. I will leave this spot open for someone to prove me wrong. I was thinking about putting Robert Sacre from Gonzaga, Mike Tisdale from Illinois, Aaric Murray from LaSalle, or Tyler Zeller from North Carolina, but none of them deserve it yet.
Here are some players who just missed the cut for their positions but are tremendous anyway.
Shelvin Mack Jr. G Butler, Kevin Anderson SR. G Richmond, Randy Culpepper SR. G UTEP, Ashton Gibbs JR. G Pittsburgh, Jeremy Hazell SR. G Seton Hall, Chris Warren SR. G Ole Miss, Brandon Knight FR. F Kentucky, Harrison Barnes FR. F North Carolina, Kyrie Irving FR. G Duke
(These rankings are not based on pro potential—just on how they are in college. There is a big difference.)