The college basketball season is not even one month old yet I am already looking toward the National Player of the Year race. It's hard not to think about it with so many stars in the league this year.
With the imminent threat of an NBA lockout when the time came to either enter the NBA Draft or return to college many stars who would have been first round picks decided to stay in school. Adding these returning stars with rising stars and the best freshman class in years is a recipe for success.
The college basketball landscape is now full of stars and this Player of the Year race will be one of the best we've seen.
There are a few players who looked to have a clear edge yet they have started off slowly, hitting a sophomore slump. We have also seen some players break out in the early goings, and if they can keep it up they will challenge the favorites.
There are about 10 players who will find themselves in the thick of the race, and they all have a good chance at being named the best player in a loaded college basketball landscape.
F Thomas Robinson, Kansas
G Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
F Robbie Hummel, Purdue
G Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
G Will Barton, Memphis
F Herb Pope, Seton Hall
C Anthony Davis, Kentucky
It's hard to pick one of Florida's four talented guards, but whichever emerges as their go-to guy will be a candidate for Player of the Year honors.
My personal favorite is freshman Brad Beal who has had an amazing season, averaging 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game despite being only 6'4".
They also have Kenny Boynton who averages 19.0 points and 3.1 assists per game. Erving Walker is also back, averaging 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
The Gators also have Mike Rosario who I don't think has much of a chance, but if he is asked to step up into a bigger role he could become their premier player.
The Gators are loaded at guard, and they have three or four legitimate NPoY candidates.
J'Covan Brown is a junior guard for the Texas Longhorns. At 6'1" he does not have a dominant physical presence yet he is typically the best player on the floor in all of his games.
Brown is averaging 20.6 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He has one of the most impressive stat-lines in the country despite having an awful game against North Texas (six points two rebounds, three assists).
The Longhorns have been struggling despite Brown's efforts. I think that that will definitely hold him back, yet if he keeps this up he will continue to climb the rankings for NPoY.
I didn't believe in Brown during the preseason, yet he has impressed me so far. He has a chance to be named the best player in the nation and his stats prove that.
The Pittsburgh Panthers lost a lot of talent since being named a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament last year, and their only star left (in my mind) is Ashton Gibbs.
Gibbs leads the team with 19.1 points per game and also averages 2.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He is easily their best player and will be forced to play an even bigger role down the stretch.
Gibbs is arguably the best shooting guard in the country and when the Panthers begin their tough Big East schedule he will be forced to average well over 20 points per game.
With the departure of Kemba Walker to the NBA the UConn Huskies looked for a guard to step up. Jeremy Lamb is easily their best guard (as we knew before the season started).
Lamb has been a great scorer this season, and we are still expecting more. He is averaging 20.3 points per game and that is a pace he can maintain throughout the season if not improve upon.
Lamb is the best player the Huskies have which is saying a lot considering they also have two great big men (Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi), an incredible swingman (DeAndre Daniels) and a pair of other talented guards (Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright)
Despite Boatright coming back from a suspension and taking some of his points Lamb will be an excellent player who remains in the conversation for NPoY all season.
Arguably the best all-around point guard in the country, Tu Hollway leads the Xavier Musketeers. While he does not have the passing ability of North Carolina's Kendall Marshall he more than makes up for it with his ability to score.
Coming off back-to-back clutch performances Holloway's stock keeps rising. He sent a game with the No. 19 Vanderbilt Commodores to overtime in a game they eventually won by 12, and he led an epic comeback against the Purdue Boilermakers on the road.
Holloway is the typical mid-major candidate who has a great chance of winning the award, similar to Jimmer Fredette in that aspect.
This senior guard will dominate the Atlantic-10, and he is currently averaging 18.0 points, 5.0 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He can do it all and will do even more for the Musketeers during their conference schedule.
At 6-0 the Xavier Musketeers are ranked No. 8 in the country and have cracked the Top 10. Holloway is a great leader and he will be a finalist for NPoY.
John Jenkins is probably the best shooting guard in the country. Despite his team falling out of the Top 25 after being ranked No. 7 in the country in the preseason poll Jenkins has been the best player on the floor in all of their games.
After being punished by their tough early season schedule the Commodores of Vanderbilt are 5-3 after losing back-to-back overtime games against Top 25 opponents.
Jenkins has dropped 21.1 points per game to go along with his 3.6 boards. He is No. 14 in the country in scoring and is No. 1 in a major conference.
Jenkins is the most prolific scorer in the country and his ability to lead a team that is missing its most important big man (Festus Ezeli) is significant. He uses his range to punish opponents, shooting over 43 percent from three. He is a thorough-bred leader and will be one of the best players in the nation this season.
Terrence Jones is a crazy-athletic 6'9" forward who runs the floor well and finishes in transition. He can take over a game at will and he seemingly always comes up in the clutch.
Jones averages 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He is having a slow start but he will take over this team as the leader when the SEC schedule comes up.
Jones is the best player on the team; better than Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist and the rest the seven NBA-ready stars the Wildcats have.
Jones will lead the best team in the nation, giving him consideration for NPoY.
Perry Jones missed the first five games of the season due to a suspension but he is back. In his return game he dropped 27 points and snagged six rebounds.
Jones is an athletic 6'11" forward-center who runs the floor extremely well and has some truly spectacular finishes. He and freshman forward Quincy Miller will be running all over opponents and finishing in style.
Jones is arguably the most dominant player in the country and he can take over a game. While he doesn't have the best range he drives incredibly well and is always a scoring threat.
Despite a poor showing in his second game (12 points, six rebounds) Jones is still averaging 19.5 points and six boards per game. He is bound to improve on those numbers over time and he will become a top three candidate by the end of the year.
The favored Player of the Year from the preseason was not my pick. I stood by this next player and I still do.
Barnes has had a disappointing star. While he is the type of player who can take over games, he has not done so yet and he has not had to in most games.
Barnes is averaging only 17.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He has not done as well as most experts projected and that is because he has not had to be dominant.
While there is no doubt in my mind that he will take over a few games this season he will not have to do so in most and will therefore suffer.
Barnes cannot touch this next player who is running away with NPoY honors.
Jared Sullinger is a man among boys. He has dominated in all of his games so far including against Top 10 opponents like Duke and Florida.
Sullinger averages 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season. He is the leader of the second-best team in the country and a team that lost only twice last season.
Sullinger can carve out space in the paint and finish well. If Sullinger were to be hit by a bus when he went up for a dunk he would still finish. True story.
This man should be in the NBA and he can secure a No. 1 overall pick by continuing his dominance and winning National Player of the Year honors.
Josh Schoch is an aspiring sportswriter dedicated to bringing you everything related to college basketball, college football, the NBA, NFL, MLB and much more. Follow him on Twitter.