Predicting the 2014-15 Player of the Year for Each College Basketball Conference
College basketball's Conference Player of the Year awards provide us with the most holistic snapshot of a season in a sport that consists of more than 350 teams spread across 49 states.
All it takes is one quick look through names like Doug McDermott, Shabazz Napier, Nick Johnson, Scottie Wilbekin, T.J. Warren and Fred VanVleet on the list of 32 players who received awards this past season, and we instantly remember some of the most intriguing stories that transpired.
And yet, conference POY awards don't get nearly the amount of attention that they deserve.
We spend months debating the best players in the major conferences only to have POY honors hastily announced between the end of the regular season and the start of conference tournaments—precisely when "The Bubble" is the only thing anyone is interested in talking about.
To marginally make up for the lack of respect they will receive in the middle of March, we're dedicating 32 end-of-May slides to the players we're expecting to win these awards in the upcoming season.
Because Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon were among the 100 percent of freshmen who failed to receive conference POY honors this past season, incoming freshmen were excluded from consideration.
The following slides are listed in alphabetical order by conference. Though a favorite and top challenger is listed for each conference, only one player per team was included.
Projected winner: Jameel Warney, Stony Brook
2013-14 stats: 14.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 BPG
Warney is one of 10 returning players who was named conference player of the year this past season. As such, he's unequivocally one of the favorites to take home the 2014-15 hardware from the America East.
Improved free-throw shooting would greatly help Warney's cause. During the 2012-13 season, Stony Brook's big man shot 61.6 percent from the field and 60.6 percent from the charity stripe. A little extra work on his uncontested 15-footers could make him a repeat winner and potentially carry the Seawolves to the NCAA tournament.
Biggest challenger: Peter Hooley, Albany
2013-14 stats: 15.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.6 APG
Hooley made a significant leap in his second season with the Great Danes, becoming a much more assertive scorer—particularly when they needed him most in the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Albany may be headed for a sub-.500 season after graduating three of its five starters, but Hooley should help keep the team afloat and vying for a second-straight NCAA berth.
Projected winner: Markus Kennedy, Southern Methodist
2013-14 stats: 12.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG
While Nic Moore and Emmanuel Mudiay are sharing the perimeter-scoring load for the Mustangs, Kennedy figures to be the primary interior threat for an SMU team that may open the 2014-15 season ranked in the top 10.
Kennedy's 2013-14 numbers are much more impressive once you note that he only averaged 25.0 minutes per game. Per 40 minutes, he tallied 19.8 points and 11.3 rebounds.
He was nothing special while fighting for playing time over the first month of the season, but he blossomed into one of the better forwards in the country once conference play began.
Biggest challenger: Will Cummings, Temple
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG
During the 2012-13 season, Khalif Wyatt averaged 20.5 points per game for Temple, carried the Owls to the NCAA tournament and won the A-10 Player of the Year award.
Cummings certainly has the skill to replicate that scoring mark. Whether Temple bounces back from last year's 9-22 record will determine if he is in the running for the American's award.
Projected winner: Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth
2013-14 stats: 15.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 APG
While 2013-14 contenders like Saint Louis, Saint Joseph's and Massachusetts lose a ton of starters and slip out of contention, VCU figures to remain a top dog in the A-10 thanks in large part to Treveon Graham.
Briante Weber's nation-leading 3.4 steals per game will be equally crucial to the Rams' success, but Graham's already impressive scoring and rebounding averages should receive a slight uptick now that he's no longer sharing those opportunities with Juvonte Reddic.
Expecting 20 points and 10 rebounds per game is overly optimistic, but Graham should get more than his fair share of double-doubles.
Biggest challenger: Steve Zack, La Salle
2013-14 stats: 8.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.9 BPG
I'm a sucker for anyone who averages more rebounds than points, and Zack got a lot of both last year. He had 14 double-doubles—same as Jabari Parker and two more than Montrezl Harrell.
With high-volume shooters like Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland graduating, Zack's scoring output should increase this season almost by default. And if La Salle goes anywhere this season, he'll be a huge part of it.
Projected winner: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
2013-14 stats: 17.4 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Frankly, it's surprising that Paige wasn't a more popular candidate for the award this past season. It ended up being a two-horse race between Jabari Parker and T.J. Warren, but Paige was the leader that kept North Carolina on the path for an NCAA tournament bid despite the off-the-court distractions involving P.J. Hairston.
Once again, Paige will be expected to lead the way for a team with high expectations. If he can simply duplicate last season's numbers while the Tar Heels lose three or four fewer games, it's hard to imagine anyone being a better candidate for this award.
Biggest challenger: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
2013-14 stats: 14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG
Unless Jahlil Okafor is every bit as good as advertised, can you name a single ACC big man who will be capable of slowing down Harrell? Think Kennedy Meeks is up to that challenge? What about Devin Thomas? Rakeem Christmas or Landry Nnoko?
Should he so desire, Harrell could average a double-double in his sleep this year.
Projected winner: Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast
2013-14 stats: 13.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Florida Gulf Coast should win the Atlantic Sun this season with plenty of room to spare, and Comer is one of the biggest reasons why.
The senior point guard has evolved into a better shooter and a smarter passer than the one that arrived on campus three years ago. As a freshman, Comer was a 23.4 percent three-point shooter who averaged six turnovers per 40 minutes. Last year, he shot 35.5 percent beyond the arc while committing just four turnovers per 40 minutes.
Florida Gulf Coast isn't quite Dunk City without Sherwood Brown and Chase Fieler, but a veteran backcourt of Comer and Bernard Thompson will keep the Eagles more dangerous than ever.
Biggest challenger: Malcolm Smith, Lipscomb
2013-14 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an expert in Lipscomb basketball, but the Bisons are returning four players who averaged at least 13.0 PPG last season.
Someone from that bunch is going to emerge as a contender for the Atlantic Sun POY award. My money is on the one who was a professional at getting to the free-throw line last season. According to KenPom.com (subscription required), Smith ranked fifth in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes.
Projected winner: Juwan Staten, West Virginia
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Most likely, this award will go to a player from Kansas or Texas, as the Jayhawks and Longhorns are likely to be the top teams battling for conference supremacy. However, both of those teams run very deep. It's hard to pinpoint one player from either roster to emerge as a primary candidate.
At West Virginia, however, there's no debate. Not even a little one. With Eron Harris and Terry Henderson both transferring, Staten will easily lead the Mountaineers in scoring. Depending on how much of that slack he picks up, he could even be in the running for leading scorer in the country.
Now, if WVU loses 20 games, that might not matter. Antoine Mason averaged 25.6 points per game last season, but he didn't win the MAAC POY award partially because Niagara had a 7-26 record.
If WVU is moderately competitive, though, look for Staten to do what T.J. Warren did last season, winning the ACC POY award for a team that just barely made the NCAA tournament.
Biggest challenger: Marcus Foster, Kansas State
2013-14 stats: 15.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG
Similar argument for Foster as the one just made for Staten with the caveat that Foster won't do quite as much scoring as Staten but is much more likely to be the leading scorer for a team that makes it to the Big Dance.
Projected winner: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
2013-14 stats: 17.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
Lather, rinse and repeat what was written on the previous slide about Juwan Staten.
With Markel Starks graduating, Smith-Rivera might score twice as many points as any other player on Georgetown's roster. But if the team loses 15 games and misses the NCAA tournament again, will anyone really care?
If the Hoyas can just get through the season without a Greg Whittington or Joshua Smith type of distraction, they should be in much better shape. Creighton, Providence and Xavier ought to each be marginally worse than last season, making room for Georgetown and Smith-Rivera to have a strong year.
Biggest challenger: JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
2013-14 stats: 14.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG
Should Georgetown fail to make a return to national relevance, however, look for Pinkston to be the driving force for a Villanova team that runs away with a Big East title.
Darrun Hilliard II and Josh Hart could certainly work their way into the mix for the POY award, but Pinkston's play at power forward is what will most help Villanova separate from the pack.
Projected winner: Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
2013-14 stats: 21.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG
From 2009-12, Damian Lillard was one of the best players in the country. However, while playing in the anonymity of the Big Sky conference, it felt like he was an urban legend; a mystery man who averaged better than 20 points per game on closed-circuit television.
Harvey is following nicely in his footsteps.
As a sophomore, Harvey shot 44.3 percent from the field, 43.3 percent from three-point range (while attempting 252 triples on the season) and 89.7 percent from the free-throw line. In a December game against eventual national champion Connecticut, Harvey led all scorers with 19 points.
Unfortunately, Eastern Washington was painfully incapable of playing defense and ended up losing more games than it won last season. Maybe we'll get lucky and see Harvey and the Eagles in the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Biggest challenger: Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State
2013-14 stats: 16.6 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Sacramento State wasn't any better than Eastern Washington last season, but McKinney was one of the better players the conference had to offer. He isn't quite as good of a shooter as Harvey, but he's one heck of a point guard who is going relatively unnoticed.
Projected winner: John Brown, High Point
2013-14 stats: 19.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.5 SPG
To say that Brown did a lot for High Point last season would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Not only did Brown lead the team in four of the five primary stat categories, but he had 211 more points, 97 more rebounds, 25 more blocks and 21 more steals than the next-best Panther. Those raw numbers are pretty close to what Cincinnati's Shaquille Thomas or Louisville's Wayne Blackshear posted for the 2013-14 season.
Effectively, Brown was an entire starting player from a prominent AAC team better than everyone else from a High Point team that earned the No. 1 seed in the Big South conference tournament.
Needless to say, he's the overwhelming favorite to win the award again this year.
Biggest challenger: Andrew Rowsey, North Carolina-Asheville
2013-14 stats: 20.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.3 SPG
If Brown has any competition, it's from the Bulldog who may eventually challenge the career three-point record that Oakland's Travis Bader set this season.
Though just a freshman, Rowsey shot 40.5 percent from three-point range last season, connecting on 106 triples to lead UNC-Asheville in scoring by a considerable margin.
Scarier still is that the 5'10" combo guard only grew more assertive as the season progressed. Through Jan. 15, Rowsey was averaging 16.2 points per game. Over the final 15 games, he averaged 24.9 PPG.
Projected winner: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2013-14 stats: 13.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.3 APG
Whether Kaminsky actually is the most valuable player in the conference will be secondary to the fact that he's already one of the most adored players in the country.
Combine Frank the Tank's celebrity status with the expectations that Wisconsin will be one of the five best teams in the nation, and he basically just needs to not screw up in order to win the award.
By that vein, he's in a similar place as both Marcus Smart and Mitch McGary were last season. Here's hoping Kaminsky has better luck remaining the front-runner throughout the season than those two players did.
Biggest challenger: Terran Petteway, Nebraska
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG
While the entire world went gaga over the great job that Tim Miles was doing at Nebraska, his best player somewhat bizarrely received almost no national attention.
Petteway led Nebraska in scoring by a margin of 170 points. It was his 35-point game against Minnesota that jump-started the Cornhuskers' six-week run near the end of the season. Petteway had 23 points in the crucial win at Michigan State and 26 in an equally huge win over Wisconsin.
Without him, Nebraska would still have a tournament drought dating back to 1998. With him, the Cornhuskers should be dancing for a second-straight year.
Projected winner: Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara
2013-14 stats: 21.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 APG
Despite playing just 31.1 minutes per game, Williams ranked second in the nation in rebounds per game, 12th in points per game and 41st in blocks per game. He had 16 double-doubles in 28 games, and he had seven games with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds.
In an early November blowout win over UNLV, Williams had 21 points and nine rebounds. Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith—both of whom declared for the NBA draft a year early—combined for 14 points and 16 rebounds.
In his next game against South Dakota State, Williams erupted for 39 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks.
Biggest challenger: Stephen Maxwell, Cal State Northridge
2013-14 stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG
Don't kid yourself: Williams is winning this award. But there might be a sect of support for Maxwell if he can lead the Matadors to a tournament bid after five consecutive losing seasons.
Should that happen, Stephan Hicks (17.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG) would also have to be considered a remote candidate for the Big West POY.
Colonial Athletic Association
Projected winner: Scott Eatherton, Northeastern
2013-14 stats: 15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.2 APG
The list of returning players who averaged at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game last season is a very short one. Alan Williams (UCSB), Shawn Long (ULL), Jarvis Williams (Murray State) and Eatherton are the only four—and each of those players is considered one of the primary candidates to win a conference POY award.
While each of the other three guys had averages helped out by the occasional monster performance, Eatherton was extremely consistent throughout the year. He never had more than 23 points or 16 rebounds in a game. He only twice had fewer than seven rebounds and scored at least 10 points in all but four games.
It didn't matter if he was playing against Harvard or Hofstra, he was always a threat for a double-double, finishing the season with 19 of them.
If Northeastern can do better than last year's 11-21 record, he'll win this conference's award.
Biggest challenger: Juan'ya Green, Hofstra
2013-14 stats: N/A (Transfer from Niagara)
Green is the only person on this list who didn't play collegiate ball last season, but he was so good in the previous two seasons for Niagara that it shouldn't be a problem.
During the 2012-13 season, Green averaged 16.5 points, 4.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. He was far from the best shooter in the world, but he played so many quality minutes on both ends of the court that it didn't much matter.
Projected winner: Kenneth Smith, Louisiana Tech
2013-14 stats: 7.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 SPG
Smith is the only projected winner who averaged less than 11.5 PPG last season—and he didn't come anywhere close to reaching that plateau.
However, he's the only returning player in the country who averaged better than 6.7 assists per game last year.
In the NIT quarterfinal loss to Florida State, Smith had 16 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Though he didn't have much of a scoring gene for most of the season, he scored at least 14 points in four of Louisiana Tech's final five games.
For good measure, Smith also ranked ninth in the nation in steals per game.
Biggest challenger: Pierria Henry, Charlotte
2013-14 stats: 12.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Not far behind Smith in the assists and steals hierarchy was Henry. Charlotte's point guard finished second in the conference in both categories while holding a significant lead over Smith in both points and rebounds.
Unfortunately, Charlotte sputtered to the finish line, losing six-straight games in February before closing the books on a 17-14 season.
For Henry to finish ahead of Smith, his team better improve in the head-to-head battles. Louisiana Tech won each of the 2013-14 pairings between the two schools by at least 20 points.
Projected winner: Keifer Sykes, Green Bay
2013-14 stats: 20.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG
When Green Bay was eliminated from the Horizon tournament by Milwaukee, we were robbed of what could have been one heck of a Cinderella story. Led by Sykes and Alec Brown, the Phoenix had all the makings of a squad that could pull off (at least) a couple of upsets.
In the second game of the season, Sykes scored 32 in a three-point loss to Wisconsin. Less than a month later, he had 21 points and 10 assists in a win over Virginia—which went on to win the ACC and earn a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Brown graduates this summer, but Sykes will be back for his senior season. Along with role players like Carrington Love, Jordan Fouse and Greg Mays, that's more than enough to make Green Bay the early favorite from the Horizon.
It also makes Sykes the favorite to repeat as Player of the Year.
Biggest challenger: Juwan Howard Jr., Detroit
2013-14 stats: 18.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG
Detroit (13-19) had a rough year trying to adjust to life after Ray McCallum and Jason Calliste, but Howard did his best to keep the Titans competitive. He more than doubled his scoring total from the previous season and attempted nearly twice as many field goals as any other player on the team.
Despite having 19 losses, Detroit could be just a few minor adjustments away from being a big player in the 2014-15 season. Fourteen of the Titans' losses were by 10 or fewer points.
If this team undergoes an eight-game swing of positive regression, Howard would likely get a lot of the credit.
Projected winner: Wesley Saunders, Harvard
2013-14 stats: 14.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.7 SPG
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Saunders won the award last season and should once again be the most important player on a team with (justifiable) aspirations of being ranked in the AP Top 25.
Siyani Chambers could certainly find himself in the mix, too, but when in doubt, go with the senior.
Biggest challenger: Justin Sears, Yale
2013-14 stats: 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG
Despite putting up strong numbers last season, Sears is quite unknown nationally. He's hardly to blame for that. I doubt the average college basketball fan can name a single player who went to Yale.
Unheralded statistics don't make them any less impressive. Sears averaged 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in his 14 conference games. In an early season loss to Connecticut, he had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Yale figures to be the primary threat to break up Harvard's string of consecutive conference titles. Doing so may be enough to get Sears a POY award.
Metro Atlantic Athletic
Projected winner: Marvin Dominique, St. Peter's
2013-14 stats: 16.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG
In Dominique's first game with the Peacocks after transferring from Fordham, he had 31 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to LIU Brooklyn. It was the first of 12 double-doubles that he would record on the year.
But great numbers in losses won't do you much good in this league. As previously mentioned, Antoine Mason nearly led the nation in scoring last season, but it was Billy Baron who was named MAAC Player of the Year while playing for a Canisius team that won 14 more games than Niagara.
St. Peter's went 14-17 last season but finished on a high note. The Peacocks won seven of their last 10 games and get back their three leading scorers. I wouldn't bet on them winning the conference, but they should be competitive enough for Dominique's numbers to be worth considering.
Biggest challenger: Marquis Wright, Siena
2013-14 stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG
You have to love freshman point guards who start from day one and average better than five assists per game. Wright didn't do a ton of damage in the scoring column, but he certainly had a helping hand in a lot of Siena's buckets.
There should be a fair amount of turnover in the MAAC standings this year. Canisius, Iona and Manhattan are each losing a handful of critical players. But Siena is set up nicely for a run at the conference title.
If Wright can make a slight increase to 10.0 PPG, 6.0 APG and 2.0 SPG for a first-place team, he'll have a strong case for Player of the Year.
Projected winner: Julius Brown, Toledo
2013-14 stats: 14.9 PPG, 6.0 APG, 2.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG
For a second consecutive season, Brown averaged 6.0 assists while scoring better than 13.0 points per game. He was indispensable during their 12-0 start to the season, and his leadership at point guard helped keep the Rockets on the fringe of the at-large discussion for much of the year.
This team was 4-28 in each of the two seasons before Brown's arrival. Toledo has finished above .500 in each of his first three years.
Now the question is whether he can improve upon his numbers and actually get the Rockets to the NCAA tournament? It has been 34 years since their last dance.
Biggest challenger: Zavier Turner, Ball State
2013-14 stats: 12.1 PPG, 3.7 APG, 1.7 RPG
It's almost impossible not to root for a 5'9" player who shoots 40.9 percent from three-point range and 88.0 percent from the free-throw line as a freshman on a team that loses 25 games.
Ball State isn't going anywhere fast, but keep an eye on Turner as he matures and improves upon his dreadful 0.93 assist-to-turnover ratio. He was one of four players on last year's roster that averaged better than 6.0 points per game, and he's the only one who didn't graduate.
If the Cardinals do anything at all in the next three years, it's probably because of him.
Projected winner: James Daniel, Howard
2013-14 stats: 21.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.3 SPG
[I'm well aware that this is a photo of graduating senior Jeremy Ingram, but we aren't exactly overflowing with photographic evidence that the MEAC plays basketball. Still, his picture seems relevant, because his departure opens the door for any of several other players to take the throne.]
Daniel led all freshmen in points per game last season, but he did so for a Howard team that won just one game against a team that finished the year with at least 10 wins. Eleven times he scored at least 20 points in a losing effort.
Business as usual for Howard, which has lost at least 21 games in 11 consecutive seasons.
But the times, they could be changing. Of Howard's six leading scorers from last season, five were freshmen. Outside of Daniel, not a single one of them was a prolific shooter, but it would only be fair to expect a certain degree of improvement.
Perhaps the Bison will be just good enough to make all of Daniels' points count for something.
Biggest challenger: Deron Powers, Hampton
2013-14 stats: 11.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG
A different MEAC team has won each of the past five regular-season titles, and Hampton could be shaping up to stretch that streak to six.
Leading scorer Du'Vaughn Maxwell is graduating for the Pirates, but they'll still have their starting point guard in Powers—who showed signs of becoming a leading scorer at the end of last season. In four of his final five games, Powers scored at least 19 points.
Projected winner: Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
2013-14 stats: 11.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.9 SPG
The Shockers aren't going 34-0 again, but VanVleet will still be one of the most valuable players in the country.
His emergence as one of the nation's most efficient and effective point guards was undoubtedly the catalyst that made that magical season possible.
VanVleet's assist count may take a hit with the graduation of Cleanthony Early, but he should also be expected to become one of the primary players picking up some of that scoring slack. The only excuse for a 41.8 percent three-point shooter and 83.0 percent free-throw shooter averaging 11.6 points per game is an overreliance on teammates.
Biggest challenger: Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
2013-14 stats: 15.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 BPG, 1.0 SPG
Wichita State will win the conference and a Shocker will win this award, but Tuttle should get quite a few votes if he keeps doing his thing while receiving a moderate increase in playing time.
Tuttle only averaged 29.5 minutes per game last season, but that was a 13 percent increase from his sophomore season, which was a 16 percent increase from his freshman year. If he can handle 32-34 minutes per game, he could average a double-double for one of the few Missouri Valley teams that can beat Wichita State.
Projected winner: J.J. Avila, Colorado State
2013-14 stats: 16.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.1 SPG
Save for Avila, each of the Mountain West's five leaders in scoring and rebounding were departing seniors. Without the likes of Xavier Thames, Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams, Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith and Deonte Burton, the honor for best player in the conference is pretty darn up in the air.
I'm already on record as saying that Colorado State is going to be a team that experiences some major positive progression, and Avila figures to be a huge part of that resurgence.
Avila had 12 games last season with at least 20 points, but he never really seemed to put it all together for a sustained hot streak.
He has an extra gear of potential. It's just a matter of finding it and maintaining it.
Biggest challenger: Dwayne Polee II, San Diego State
2013-14 stats: 8.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Polee's playing time last season was pretty erratic. Through the end of February, he had yet to play more than 20 minutes in a game. There were six games in which he either didn't play or received fewer than 10 minutes.
Over the final month of the season, though, he finally got an extended audition. Polee played at least 23 minutes in eight of San Diego State's final nine games. Despite coming during arguably the Aztecs' most difficult stretch of the season, he averaged 12.0 points per game and 18.4 points per 40 minutes.
San Diego State does have a strong incoming recruiting class, but Polee should get a chance to start and become one of the team's leading scorers.
Projected winner: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis (NY)
2013-14 stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
In case you haven't yet noticed, one of the best ways to get on this list is to rack up double-doubles.
Cannon only had nine games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds, but he also only averaged 30.0 minutes per game.
Give him a little more playing time, and he nearly would have led the nation in double-doubles. He had 21 games with at least eight points and eight rebounds, including leading all players with 16 points and eight rebounds in a 56-50 loss to Syracuse.
Biggest challenger: Dyami Starks, Bryant
2013-14 stats: 18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG
Of course, one other way to get on the list is to be an effective three-point shooter who nearly led the conference in scoring last season.
Such is the case for Starks, who had five games last season with at least 30 points, including each of the first three games of the season.
He cooled off considerably over the final month of the season, but if he can rediscover the stroke that had him making 3.6 three-pointers per game through the first 12 games, it would help carry the Bulldogs to their first NCAA tournament appearance.
Projected winner: Jarvis Williams, Murray State
2013-14 stats: 14.9 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG
It's difficult to gauge exactly how good Williams was while Murray State played against a schedule that included exactly zero teams who received a No. 10 seed or better in the NCAA tournament, but he had at least 10 points or 10 rebounds in 33 of 34 games last season.
Over his final 16 games, he averaged 17.0 PPG, scored at least 12 points in every game and shot 70.3 percent (102-of-145) from the field. The Racers went 13-3 during that stretch and didn't lose any of those games by more than one possession.
Provided he can carry that momentum into the 2014-15 season, Murray State ought to be the early favorite to win the OVC title.
Biggest challenger: Chris Horton, Austin Peay
2013-14 stats: 13.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.1 BPG
Austin Peay, on the other hand, has spent the past few seasons on the wrong end of the OVC spectrum. Last year's 12-18 record was the Governors' highest winning percentage since 2010-11.
If there's any light at the end of the tunnel, it's Horton.
He ranked 12th in the nation in blocked shots per game as a sophomore. Horton had 12 games last season with at least four blocked shots, including a 20-point, 16-rebound, four-block performance in the final game of the season.
Projected winner: Delon Wright, Utah
2013-14 stats: 15.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Arizona is going to win the Pac-12 title, but do you really feel confident in picking a specific Wildcat to earn POY honors? If my life depended on it, I'd say Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the favorite from that team, but anyone in the starting five is a solid candidate.
Plus, it's pretty hard not to like Wright's chances of taking home the hardware for the Utes.
Players who do a little bit of everything are just so much fun to watch. Wright had two games last season with at least 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals. He didn't come too tantalizingly close to recording any triple-doubles, but it's a possibility every time he steps on the court.
Provided he carries Utah back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, he'll be a media darling.
Biggest challenger: Joseph Young, Oregon
2013-14 stats: 18.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 SPG
Oregon is losing just about its entire roster this offseason for one reason or another, but the Ducks' leading scorer and three-point assassin will be back.
The Ducks may well go from 24 wins to 24 losses in one year, but Young might also average 24 points per game in the process.
I have no clue yet what their rotation is going to look like in November, but there's no question that Young will be able and expected to carry the scoring load.
Projected winner: Jesse Reed, American
2013-14 stats: 13.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
Had Maurice Watson Jr. not decided to transfer from Boston to Creighton, he would have been the overwhelming favorite here. As a sophomore, Watson averaged 13.3 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.6 RPG and 2.1 SPG for the first-place Terriers.
His departure weakens Boston significantly and opens the door for someone like Reed to be the 2014-15 Patriot League POY.
During the regular season, Reed shot 46.8 percent from three-point range—the ninth-highest percentage among players who attempted at least 125 triples.
Pretty crazy, considering he shot just 28.8 percent the previous season.
Biggest challenger: Kyle Wilson, Army
2013-14 stats: 18.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
Army has never been to the NCAA tournament. Heck, it's been 36 years since Army won more than 16 games in a season.
If this is finally their year, you better believe the media is going to find a Black Knight to fall in love with.
Wilson is clearly the favorite to become that player. He scored 273 more points than any other player on the roster last season, shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range.
Discovering some consistency will certainly help his case. In a span of four consecutive games in mid-February, Wilson scored 23, two, 29 and two points.
Projected winner: Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss
2013-14 stats: 17.3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.4 RPG
It's not often that a team loses its leading scorer and gets better, but Ole Miss certainly appears to be headed in that direction.
With Marshall Henderson graduating, that's 16.2 field-goal attempts per game to be divvied up among the remaining Rebels. Hopefully a good chunk of his 12.6 three-point attempts per game go to Summers, who shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Incoming transfers will be a massive part of the Rebels' game plan for the 2014-15 season, but if Summers was able to average 17.3 points per game while deferring so often to Henderson, imagine what he'll be capable of doing as the primary scorer.
Biggest challenger: Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
2013-14 stats: 13.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG
Pick a Wildcat.
Any Wildcat will do.
Harrison has to be the early favorite from Big Blue Nation because of his heroics during the 2014 NCAA tournament, but a strong case could be made for any of 10 players to emerge as the most valuable player for a Kentucky team that makes mincemeat of its competition all season.
Projected winner: Karl Cochran, Wofford
2013-14 stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 SPG
With Davidson and Elon both leaving the SoCon, Wofford should be one of the primary teams contending for the conference title.
Winning it would all but cement Cochran's status as Player of the Year.
He got out to a slow start last season, scoring 12 or fewer points in each of his first nine games. Once the shots started falling, though, he was almost unstoppable.
He went on to score at least 13 points in 20 of the next 24 games, including scoring 17 of the team's 40 points in the frustrating loss to Michigan in the NCAA tournament.
Biggest challenger: Rashawn Rembert, East Tennessee State
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
ETSU is one of the three new teams to the conference this year, and Rembert will be looking to make quick work of his new competition.
The Buccaneers shooting guard made 42.5 percent of his three-point attempts last season, including an 8-of-14 effort in a late February game against USC Upstate.
Projected winner: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin
2013-14 stats: 14.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG
Parker is the rare breed of player who can shoot it well from distance but prefers not to. Over the past two seasons, he shot 43.8 percent from three-point range yet averaged just 1.7 attempts per game.
He picks his spots well and rises to the occasion when necessary. In the Lumberjacks' program-altering win over VCU in last year's NCAA tournament, Parker scored a game-high 22 points.
It was his third-highest scoring total on the season, but something he's perfectly capable of doing on any given night. When Stephen F. Austin wins a third-straight regular-season title, he'll be one of the biggest reasons why.
Biggest challenger: Jalan West, Northwestern State
2013-14 stats: 19.4 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 SPG
West is an efficient player who benefited greatly from the Demons' nation-leading tempo, according to KenPom.com (subscription required).
Though it would be easy to attribute his per-game numbers to the added possessions in Northwestern State's system, West shot 46.3 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from three-point range and 87.6 percent from the free-throw line.
In his final game of the season, West scored 36 of the team's 78 points in a loss to Stephen F. Austin. It was a new career high for him, but also a sign of things to come.
Projected winner: Cody Larson, South Dakota State
2013-14 stats: 13.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 BPG
Once a prized piece of Florida's 2010 haul of recruits, Larson was redshirted for the 2010-11 season and attempted just 11 field goals during the 2011-12 season before leaving for South Dakota State.
After sitting out the 2012-13 season, last year was his first real chance to accomplish anything on a college court. Considering how long it had been since he played actual games, he did quite well.
Now, we'll find out if he can lead the Jackrabbits to another NCAA tournament bid.
They finished in a tie for second place in the conference standings last year, but North Dakota State is more than likely headed for a rebuilding season after losing five important seniors.
Biggest challenger: Korey Billbury, Oral Roberts
2013-14 stats: 15.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG
As further evidence that conference realignment is absurd, Oral Roberts went from the Summit League to the Southland and back to the Summit League in a span of three years.
Following that brief hiatus, Billbury will look to lead the Golden Eagles back to the top of the conference standings where they became an annual staple.
He came on strong during the latter half of the 2013-14 season. Over his final 14 games, Billbury averaged 20.1 PPG after only once scoring more than 18 points in his first 19 games of the year.
Projected winner: Ryan Harrow, Georgia State
2013-14 stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.2 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG
This is one of the two conferences in which I'm picking against the reigning POY. Harrow's teammate, R.J. Hunter, won the award this past season, averaging 18.3 PPG and shooting just a hair shy of 40 percent from three-point range.
Solid numbers for sure, but he was almost equally effective during the 2012-13 season in which Georgia State won 10 fewer games. The catalyst to the Panthers' success was the infusion of Harrow at point guard.
If the team has another wildly successful regular season, hopefully the voters will be able to see that.
Biggest challenger: Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette
2013-14 stats: 18.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.7 BPG
The Ragin' Cajuns lost one stud this offseason in Elfrid Payton, but retaining Long will keep them competitive for another season.
Not only did Long average a double-double last season, but he tallied 18 of them.
On top of those numbers, Long was also a strong source of blocked shots. He had 10 games with at least four blocks.
Poor Texas-Arlington was his favorite victim. In three contests against the Mavericks, he averaged 24.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.
Projected winner: Calvin Godfrey, Southern University
2013-14 stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG
The SWAC doesn't typically have much to brag about, but Aaric Murray was pretty incredible last season for Texas Southern. He first started making waves with a 48-point game against Temple and continued to dominate the competition en route to 21.6 PPG and 7.5 RPG.
Godfrey is no Murray, but he's perhaps the closest thing the conference has with Murray graduating. Godfrey did have 10 double-doubles last season, and he had an 18-point and nine-rebound game in November against Florida.
Biggest challenger: Jamel Waters, Alabama State
2013-14 stats: 14.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.8 SPG
Waters had 15 games last season with at least seven points and seven assists.
He didn't come particularly close to leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, but he did register a 2.6 while only twice committing more turnovers than assists in a game.
Projected winner: Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
2013-14 stats: 14.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Pangos has shot better than 40 percent from three-point range and better than 80 percent from the free-throw line in each of his three years in college.
He has been for Gonzaga what Matthew Dellavedova was for Saint Mary's, albeit with considerably fewer assists and turnovers, because he was splitting point guard duties with David Stockton. Now that he's the primary point guard, his usage rate and per-game numbers could increase considerably.
With shooters like Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer joining the team this year, it's within the realm of possibility that Pangos' assist average doubles to 7.0 per game.
Biggest challenger: Tyler Haws, Brigham Young
2013-14 stats: 23.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG
Statistically, Haws is probably going to win this battle by a country mile. He was the 2013-14 WCC POY and should have another great individual season for the Cougars.
But in the standings, Gonzaga is going to finish well ahead of BYU. Not only are the Bulldogs likely to be a top-10 team, but the Cougars could be headed for a rebuilding year. Matt Carlino transferred to Marquette, Eric Mika will be on an LDS mission and no one knows how well Kyle Collinsworth will bounce back from the knee injury that prematurely ended his season.
Jamal Aytes could be a nice second-semester addition as he transfers from UNLV, but this team has a lot of question marks after Haws.
Projected winner: Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.9 SPG
After all the dust had settled from conference realignment, most of us expected New Mexico State to go 16-0 in WAC play with an average margin of victory of at least 20 points per game.
But somehow the Aggies managed to lose four games and failed to even win the regular-season title.
Perhaps they were saving their domination for this year?
Even with the losses, Mullings was named the WAC POY last year, and he figures to be the leader in the clubhouse for this year's award as well. New Mexico State is losing some key players this offseason in Sim Bhullar, K.C. Ross-Miller and Renaldo Dixon, but that could simply mean more scoring opportunities for Mullings.
Biggest challenger: Isiah Umipig, Seattle
2013-14 stats: 19.5 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Umipig is basically the West Coast's version of Marshall Henderson, minus the issues with authority.
He finished fourth in the nation in three-point attempts, making 36.9 percent of them. In nine of his final 11 games last season, he attempted at least 11 three-pointers. He averaged better than 21 points per game during the stretch, but also averaged 18 field-goal attempts.
Despite seemingly shooting every time he touched the ball, Umipig managed to lead the Redhawks in assists.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.