Ranking the Top 25 Players for the 2017-18 College Basketball Season

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystNovember 8, 2017

Ranking the Top 25 Players for the 2017-18 College Basketball Season

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    Miles Bridges
    Miles BridgesRob Carr/Getty Images

    Miles Bridges is No. 1 on Bleacher Report's list of the top 25 men's basketball players heading into the 2017-18 season.

    Bridges is a sophomore who became the Wooden Award favorite the moment he turned down a shot at the NBA, but this list is otherwise littered with upperclassmen. In total, there are 10 seniors and five juniors in the top 25, including seven of the top 10. They aren't the sexiest draft prospects, but elder statesmen on title contenders tend to dominate both the preseason and postseason awards lists for a reason.

    Don't worry, though, draft junkies, several freshmen made the cut, including both Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr. in the top 10. As much as we crave proven, veteran leadership in player rankings, only a fool would exclude those versatile phenoms.

    Rankings boil down to two things: projected individual contributions and projected team success. The more a player has of each, the better. However, even though this is a ranking of individuals, the team portion of the equation is weighted a little more heavily. As we'll repeat later, it's better to average 12 points for a 28-win team than to average 28 points for a 12-win team.

Honorable Mentions

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    Shake Milton
    Shake MiltonRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    In addition to the top 25, here are 10 other players who are more than worth keeping an eye on for the next four months.

    Shake Milton, SMU: This was Semi Ojeleye's team last year, but the Mustangs should still be in good shape with Milton running the show. A darn fine shooter, passer and defender, Milton will be an excellent building block for a young team.

    Collin Sexton, Alabama: Would have been top 20 if not for Monday night's news that he still hasn't been cleared by the NCAA. Alabama decided to play it safe by holding him out of an exhibition game. We'll also play it safe by keeping him out of the top 25.

    Trevon Duval, Duke: Couldn't quite justify having three players from the same team in the top 25, and both Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley III are locks for the top 10. There might not be a more important player in the country, though, as Duke's backcourt depth is slim to none.

    Reid Travis, Stanford: When Travis has been healthy, he is almost impossible to stop. I'll never forget ESPN's Jay Williams saying during the 2014 McDonald's All-American game that Travis looks like he has been outside chopping wood since the age of four. And he has packed on even more muscle since high school.

    Chimezie Metu, USC: No Trojans cracked the top 25, as they are the classic "whole greater than the sum of its parts" type of roster that should win a ton of games. But Metu was close, because he can impact the game on both ends of the floor.

    Justin Jackson, Maryland: An overlooked freshman season because A) his teammate was Melo Trimble and B) North Carolina's Justin Jackson got all of the attention for that name. Nevertheless, this forward shot 43.8 percent from three-point range and put up solidalbeit, inconsistentnumbers. He should get more attention with the two aforementioned players out of the picture.

    Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest: Haven't seen many people talking about this guy, because no one is buying stock in Wake Forest after losing John Collins to the NBA. However, Crawford has been an outstanding young point guard in the ACC over the past two seasons. Tough to say who he'll actually pass to this year, but his career marks of 15.0 PPG, 5.0 APG and 1.6 SPG should remain high.

    Isaiah Wilkins, Virginia: Wilkins isn't much of a weapon on offense, but no one has been more valuable on defense over the past three seasons. His presence in the paint is the heart and soul of Tony Bennett's pack-line D, and his leadership as a senior should help steer Virginia to yet another NCAA tournament appearance.

    Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga: Hachimura barely saw the court as a freshman, but NBA draft experts have fallen head over heels in love with this guy. Gonzaga lost four of its five leading scorers from last season, so the door is certainly open for him to become a star if he has that much potential.

    Chris Clemons, Campbell: This is a nominee from well off the beaten path, but Clemons averaged 33.4 points in seven postseason games between the Big South tournament and the CIT. He has scored 1,460 points in just two seasons and is the clear favorite to lead the nation in scoring as a junior. Still, for all the points Marcus Keene scored last year at Central Michigan, he probably wasn't on anyone's end-of-season top 25.

Nos. 25-21

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    Mike Daum
    Mike DaumGene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    25. Mike Daum, South Dakota State

    This isn't just some token 25th-place vote for a small-school stud. Mike Daum is one of a kind.

    Since Sports Reference started tracking player efficiency rating in 2009-10, there have only been eight instances of a freshman or sophomore posting a mark of at least 32.5 and playing 700 or more minutes. Those players? Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, John Collins, John Brown (High Point), Javon McCrea (Buffalo) and Daum (twice).

    Neither he nor South Dakota State plays any defense, but he's so valuable on offense that it doesn't even matter.


    24. Yante Maten, Georgia

    Over the past two seasons, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten were arguably the best inside-outside duo in the country. With Frazier now out of the picture, it's time to find out if Maten can continue to dominate on his own. Perhaps he can become his own inside-outside duo? The big man shot 50.0 percent from three-point range from 2015-17 and may need to lean on that perimeter game a bit more to get open looks.


    23. Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

    In the past 14 years, only three players have averaged at least 20 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals per game for a full season: David Holston in 2008-09, Jalan West in 2014-15 and Jaylen Adams last year. But both Holston and West did so for teams that ranked top-five in the nation in adjusted tempo and that played no defense whatsoever.

    Adams racked up those stats for an average-paced team that was above-average on defense and actually competed with quality opponents. People need to pay more attention to this guy.


    22. Nick Ward, Michigan State

    Yet another statistical anomaly, Nick Ward averaged 28.0 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes last season. Those numbers flew well below the national radar because he only played 19.8 minutes per game. With similar playing timepredominantly against vastly inferior competitionGonzaga's Zach Collins averaged 23.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per 40, and that was deemed worthy of the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.


    21. Robert Williams, Texas A&M

    Speaking of the 2017 NBA draft, No. 10 is around where Robert Williams likely would have gone if he had declared. Instead, the 6'9" pogo stick with muscles is back with Texas A&M in hopes of getting a taste of the NCAA tournament. With any luck, he'll continue to improve his consistency as a sophomore. He was entirely hit or miss for the first 12 weeks of last year, but he averaged a solid 14.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks over his final 10 games.

Nos. 20-16

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    Landry Shamet
    Landry ShametAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    20. Landry Shamet, Wichita State

    Landry Shamet was a good player who became a god in conference play. Per KenPom.com, Shamet had an unconscionable 144.3 offensive rating in Missouri Valley Conference play. He shot 51.8 percent from three-point range and 62.1 percent from inside the arc for a 73.0 true-shooting percentage. Shamet also averaged 3.9 assists per game and 3.7 assists per turnover in those 18 games. Factor in how well he played in the NCAA tournament against Kentucky and it's no "Shocker" that people are going gaga over this guy.


    19. Mohamed Bamba, Texas

    The first of several freshmen in our top 25, Mohamed Bamba is also the first of his kind. It's impossible to talk about the dude without marveling at his nearly 8'0" wingspan. If we haven't cemented Bamba's nickname as The Pterodactyl by the time the NBA draft arrives, we will have failed as a college basketball society. He's still a bit raw in his development, but he has the tools to be an elite defender and rebounder immediately. If he also develops a reliable short-range jumper, look out.


    18. Mikal Bridges, Villanova

    Mikal Bridges is a sensational defender and a ridiculously efficient scorer. Per KenPom, he has ranked top-10 nationally in two-point percentage in each of his two seasons with Villanova, and he shot 39.3 percent from three-point range and 91.1 percent from the free-throw line last year.

    Now we get to find out if he can do it at a higher volume, as Bridges will be tasked with replacing a fair amount of Josh Hart's production. But his first two seasons were quite similar to Hart's, so a big junior-season jump is a reasonable expectation.


    17. Malik Newman, Kansas

    In perusing player rankings at other major sites, I was unable to find anyone else putting Malik Newman in their top 25. Here's my question, though: If we're not buying Newman as a star and the runaway favorite for top transfer in the country, why are we so certain Kansas is a top-five team?

    Newman was the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2015 247Sports composite rankings, and he has had the past year to develop under Bill Self's tutelage. I may be the highest with my ranking of Newman, and I still fear I'm underselling the impact he's going to have with the Jayhawks.


    16. Joel Berry II, North Carolina

    The broken hand that is going to keep Joel Berry II out of action to begin the season cost him several spots on this list, but he could be to this season what Dillon Brooks was for Oregon last year or what former teammate Marcus Paige was in 2015-16: miss the first few games, gradually get back into the swing of things and then become one of the most valuable players in the nation from February through April.

    The Tar Heels will need him now more than ever after losing virtually their entire frontcourt from last season.

Nos. 15-11

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    Jevon Carter
    Jevon CarterEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    15. Jevon Carter, West Virginia

    Defense typically gets overlooked in basketball player rankingslargely because compelling defensive metrics aren't nearly as readily available as offensive databut Jevon Carter is one of the exceptions to the rule.

    The point guard spearheads the Press Virginia attack, which resulted in 2.5 steals per game last season. But Carter has also become a big weapon on offense. He averaged 13.5 points as a junior, shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range.


    14. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

    Trevon Bluiett has become the new Perry Ellis. Not only does it feel like this dude has been at Xavier for at least seven seasons, but he puts up numbers like a metronome for a team that always seems to be a factor in March.

    He has posted at least 15 points and five rebounds in a game 42 times in his career, including doing so in 19 of 36 games last season. You generally know what you're getting from this guy every night, and you know it's going to be good.


    13. Jock Landale, Saint Mary's

    Last year's breakout sensation, Jock Landale went from a backup averaging 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game to a National Player of the Year candidate putting up 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds. He had at least 18 points and 10 rebounds in four of five games in March, and he scored in double figures in all but two contests as a junior.

    Really, the only people who could stop him were the referees, as foul trouble seemed to be the only thing that kept him from double-doubles on a nightly basis.


    12. Bruce Brown, Miami

    Bruce Brown put up solid numbers over the course of his freshman year, but my favorite stat remains how he fared in four games against Duke and North Carolina: 22.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 73.1 effective field-goal percentage. He was the KenPom game MVP six times, and three of those came against either the Blue Devils or Tar Heels.

    Moreover, Brown scored at least a dozen points in all seven games played against KenPom's top 15 teams. If he can take better advantage of Miami's lesser opponents this year, he might be the ACC Player of the Year.


    11. Deandre Ayton, Arizona

    A guard trapped in a center's body, Deandre Ayton is going to do some things this year that most 7'0" players should not be capable of doing. Yes, Arizona just had a 7'0" stretch 5 in Lauri Markkanen, but Ayton is a completely different animal with more strength and toughness. Everyone is raving over Michael Porter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III, but this freshman is going to turn a lot of heads with his versatility and athleticism.

10. Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

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    Angel Delgado
    Angel DelgadoGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 2.2 APG

    Compared to most players in our top 25, the advanced metrics don't care for Angel Delgado. He isn't much of a defender, he's a dreadful free-throw shooter (51.3 percent in his career) and he turns the ball over far too often (3.6 per 40 minutes last season).

    But, man, can this dude make up for it with his rebounding.

    Delgado recorded a double-double in 25 of his final 27 games last season. The only exceptions were a pair of snail-paced, low-scoring games against Villanova. He had seven games with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds, including a 21-and-20 performance against St. John's.

    Caleb Swanigan stole the double-double spotlight by going for at least 20 and 20 four times in the first two months of the season. However, in conference play, Delgado (14.1 RPG) was more of a rebounding phenom than Swanigan (12.6).

    The NCAA record for consecutive double-doubles in one season is 29, set by Mel Counts of Oregon State in 1963-64. And the record for total double-doubles in a season is 31, set by David Robinson in 1985-86. Don't be shocked if Delgado puts both of those records in jeopardy.

9. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

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    Ethan Happ
    Ethan HappMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG

    For his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Ethan Happ had the luxury of being surrounded by veterans.

    In all but one game of his freshman season, the starting five was Happ and four juniors. Similar story last year with four seniors surrounding Happ at the opening tip in 35 of 37 games. (How about the great injury luck Wisconsin has had lately?) Sharing a frontcourt with Nigel Hayes kept some of the attention off Happ. And playing with a free-shooting point guard like Bronson Koenig stretched the floor to open up even more space for Happ to do his thing.

    But now, this is his rodeo.

    An increase in volume is inevitable. No one is expecting him to jack up 21.9 shots per game like Marcus Keene did last season at Central Michigan, but Happ's 10.1 rate from 2016-17 simply isn't going to cut it anymore. Expect something more like 15 field-goal attempts per gameincluding the occasional three-pointerwhich would boost his scoring average to around 20 points if he can maintain his rate of points per shot.

    Hopefully, the added focus on offense won't detract from the defensive prowess, which is where Happ has been most valuable.

    Per Sports Reference, Happ ranked fourth in the nation in defensive rating, defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus last season. He is one of just four players in the past seven years to record at least 200 defensive rebounds, 60 steals and 40 blocks in one seasonand he played fewer minutes than anyone else on that list.

    Happ isn't a projected lottery pick and his team isn't in the preseason AP Top 25. He's the only player in our top 22 who fits both of those descriptions. But it was tempting to rank him even higher than this, because he would probably become the front-runner for the Wooden Award if the Badgers mess around and contend for a Big Ten title.

8. Devonte' Graham, Kansas

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    Devonte' Graham
    Devonte' GrahamJamie Squire/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 38.8% 3PT

    Just like Ethan Happ, Devonte' Graham has benefited from surrounding veterans. In Graham's first two seasons, Kansas had Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden. And for each of the past three years, Graham shared a backcourt with 2017 Wooden Award recipient Frank Mason III. There's no good way to quantify how much that has meant for Graham's development as a player, but let's just say it hasn't been a bad thing.

    The only possible negative from it is that we didn't properly appreciate his value while in a tertiary role. Keep in mind, Graham accumulated those impressive numbers listed above while playing in the shadow of Mason and Josh Jackson. Even on a team that averaged 83.2 points per game, 4.1 assists as a secondary ball-handler is a little ridiculous.

    And if we can take anything away from the exhibition game against Missouri last month, there's still more to come. Per KUSports.com, Graham finished that game with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He attempted 13 three-pointers—more than the rest of the team combined—and sank six of them.

    That many three-point attempts certainly jump off the page, but given the lack of frontcourt options on this year's Jayhawks roster, it was the rebounds that stood out the most. The small-ball, four-guard lineup is much more viable as a permanent solution if one of those guards is committed to defensive rebounding.

    Early returns are that Graham could be that guy. He is only 6'2", but that didn't stop George Mason's Marquise Moore from averaging 10.9 rebounds per game last season.

    Graham certainly doesn't need to average a double-double to grab our attention, but that additional versatility will pay major dividends in the player rankings. Everyone loves a stat-sheet stuffer, and Graham is going to fill up the box score on a nightly basis for a title contender.

7. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

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    Michael Porter Jr.
    Michael Porter Jr.Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    2016-17 StatsN/A (Incoming Freshman)

    Most people are going to have both Michael Porter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III in their top three along with Miles Bridges, but we're ranking the potential top two picks of the 2018 NBA draft just outside our top five.

    It's not a decision made because of any doubts in their potential or because of some arbitrary, archaic principle against putting freshmen on a preseason first-team ballot. There are just enough outstanding returning players on title contenders that this is where the new guys landed.

    If this was simply a ranking of players we want to watch as often as humanly possible, though, Porter might be No. 1 on the list.

    Versatility is the name of the game these days, and Porter has it in spades.

    A 6'10" forward with range and handles, there's really nothing he can't do. The season-long debate in NBA draft circles will be about whether he's better suited to be a 3 or a 4 at the next level. However, it would be super if we could just appreciate this hyperathlete's one year of college hoops without worrying about trying to put him in some kind of box.

    Can he lead Missouri to the NCAA tournament after three consecutive terrible seasons for this program? Or if things go poorly for the Tigers, is Porter just going to do his best Superman impression by shooting 20 or more times per game? That's what he did in the aforementioned exhibition game against Kansas, scoring 21 points on 20 field-goal attempts in just 23 minutes of action.

    The one thing we do know is that Missouri's success (or lack thereof) won't impact his draft status. Perhaps he'll become the third consecutive No. 1 pick to miss the NCAA tournament.

6. Marvin Bagley III, Duke

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    Marvin Bagley III
    Marvin Bagley IIILance King/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: N/A (Incoming Freshman)

    There are three things about Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr. that everyone should be able to agree on:

    1. Both are incredibly talented
    2. Porter is likely going to put up bigger numbers than Bagley
    3. Bagley is almost certainly going to play for the better team

    Whether you would rank Porter or Bagley higher likely boils down to whether you feel the second or third thing on that list is more important. Based on decades of Wooden Award voting data, most seem to agree that the third point is most critical. A player who averages 12 points for a 28-win team is going to get more end-of-season accolades than one who averages 28 points for a 12-win team. Case in point: Markelle Fultz wasn't even a top-10 finisher in the Wooden Award voting last season.

    Thus, advantage Bagley.

    Sharing the spotlight with Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. will likely keep Bagley from averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds per game, which he would be more than capable of doing on a less stacked team. However, he could be this year's version of 2014-15 Karl-Anthony Townsthe brightest on a roster full of shining stars who should make his team the favorite to win the national championship.

    Bagley should be for Duke what Harry Giles was supposed to be last year. Cut from the same cloth as Kevin Garnett, Bagley has ridiculous bounce and a motor that won't quit. And for a guy who might play center at the next level, he is astoundingly versatile on both ends of the floor, capable of knocking down a mid-range jumper before protecting the perimeter on D.

    Duke has produced a top-three draft pick in four consecutive years, and it'll only be a matter of months before Bagley extends that streak to five.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke

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    Grayson Allen
    Grayson AllenLance King/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 14.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 36.5% 3PT

    Knowing where to rank Grayson Allen is such a challenge because he has been two completely different players the past two seasons.

    We faced the same dilemma at this time last year when trying to figure out where to place Nigel Hayesa sophomore-year sensation who just could not find his stroke as a junior. Hayes didn't completely return to his most dominant form, but he was much better as a senior than he was as a junior. He stuck to what he was best at and he didn't force the issue, allowing his equally capable teammates to help steer the ship.

    Maybe that's what lies ahead for Allen, in which case this ranking will look way too generous in hindsight. But our assumption is that he will rise to the challenge of becoming the veteran leader for the No. 1 team in the country.

    At his best, Allen was incredible.

    On a team with no real point guardsorry, Derryck ThorntonAllen simultaneously played the 1 and the 2 for Duke as a sophomore. He shot 41.7 percent from three-point range when he wasn't busy driving the lane with reckless abandon. Even though Duke suffered 11 losses, he was one of the 10 finalists for the 2016 Wooden Award.

    Due to injuries, Allen wasn't anywhere near as aggressive as a junior, and his three-point accuracy dipped more than 5 percent. But if he can get back to shooting as well from distance as he did as a sophomore—while still serving as a secondary point guard—the most polarizing player in the game will also be one of its most valuable.

4. Allonzo Trier, Arizona

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    Allonzo Trier
    Allonzo TrierAlex Caparros/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 17.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 39.1% 3PT

    Allonzo Trier may have been the most oft-discussed player of 2016-17. Between not knowing why he was suspended for the first half of the season and then learning it was for performance-enhancing drugs, Trier's name was all over the CBB rumor mill for months. And then when he was finally allowed to return to the court, his immediate return to dominance made Arizona one of the favorites to win the national championship.

    That suspension is critical to keep in mind when comparing Trier's numbers to those of any other player. While most guys got to warm up with 12-13 nonconference games against a bunch of nobodies or quality teams still finding their footing, Trier's first appearance of the year came against UCLA in midseason form.

    And Trier only got better from there. Over the course of his final 10 games, he averaged 20.6 points and shot 50.0 percent from three-point range.

    He did all that while still sharing the spotlight with Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins. But with the first two no longer on the roster and the third rehabbing an injury that will keep him out for the start of the season, Trier and Deandre Ayton are the undisputed stars of Arizona's offense.

    It was a little surprising that Trier came back for a sophomore season after averaging 14.8 points per game as a freshman. It was really surprising that he's back for a junior year after all of last year's drama. It's quite exciting to find out what's left in Trier's bag of tricks that made him want to play another season.

3. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

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    Jalen Brunson
    Jalen BrunsonMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 14.7 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 37.8% 3PT

    Perhaps this is overly optimistic, but I see Jalen Brunson becoming this year's version of 2016-17 Frank Mason.

    Cemented for several seasons as the starting point guard for a team that repeatedly wins its conference, he is an efficient player who doesn't shoot all that much. But now that the team no longer has its two veteran staples who did most of the scoring, the point guard is going to shoulder more of the load and become one of the most valuable players in the nation.

    Sound familiar?

    Villanova still has some dudes, just like Kansas did. Mikal Bridges is a huge breakout candidate. Redshirt freshman Omari Spellman should be the best big man in the Big East. And there are several other quality offensive weapons in Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall.

    But Brunson is going to take over on a more consistent basis.

    There were several games last season in which there was just no stopping this guy. His ability to finish at the rim in a variety of acrobatic ways, convert from the free-throw line or somehow have the vision in traffic to find an open teammate makes him the most dangerous lead guard in the nation.

    Maybe he doesn't become quite the three-point assassin that Mason was as a senior, but the career 38.1 percent shooter from the perimeter does possess that potential. And we already know he has the unquantifiable clutch gene for the late-game heroics that made Mason the clear choice for the Wooden Award.

2. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

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    Bonzie Colson
    Bonzie ColsonKarl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    2016-17 Stats: 17.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 43.3% 3PT

    They broke the mold when they made Bonzie Colson.

    While most versatile stars are guards trapped in a 6'11" center's body, Colson is a center trapped in a 6'5" guard's body. Guys this size aren't supposed to average 12.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, but that's precisely what Colson did as a junior—while also becoming a better passer, defender and perimeter shooter.

    To be fair, Colson had a darn fine role model. When he was a freshman, Pat Connaughton was the 6'5" two-sport (baseball pitcher) athlete who led the team in rebounding as a senior.

    When Connaughton graduated, Colson took his spot as the undersized power forward. And when Zach Auguste graduated following the 2015-16 season, Colson became Notre Dame's entire post presence. He finished last season with 2.5 times as many rebounds as any teammate. Standing 6'5" or not, it's incredible that Notre Dame was able to win 26 games with just one "big" man.

    That's a testament to his overall value. Even late in the year when teams should've had enough video scouting to figure out a plan to stop him, no one could. He was the KenPom MVP in nine of his last 12 games, averaging 22.0 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 15-of-23 (65.2 percent) from three-point range.

    Notre Dame might drop off a bit after V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia graduated, but not if Colson has anything to say about it.

1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State

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    Miles Bridges
    Miles BridgesRey Del Rio/Getty Images

    2016-17 Stats: 16.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, 38.9% 3PT

    It's rare for a sophomore to be regarded as one of the best players in the country. The only other guys in the past five years that even spring to mind as strong candidates were Marcus Smart and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Maybe you could make the case for Ivan Rabb or Thomas Bryant last year, but B/R's C.J. Moore didn't put a single sophomore in his top 12 a year ago.

    The rationale should be obvious: If a player is that good, he would have left for the pros after his freshman season. It's usually only the ones who surprise us with their decisions to turn down a shot at the NBA who have any business being on a preseason list like this.

    That's exactly what Miles Bridges did and it's precisely why everyone and their uncle is picking him as the preseason National Player of the Year.

    Bridges was outstanding as a freshman. It was obvious from his college debut against Arizona that he was going to be special, and despite missing the entire month of December due to injury, he did not disappoint.

    The dunks were predominantly what showed up on highlight reels, but he was much more than just Mi Slamma Jamma. Bridges rebounded well, defended at a high level and was an efficient shooter.

    In a nutshell, he was the total package. Unlike Rabb, Bryant and Hollis-Jefferson—who maybe had enough untapped potential to become lottery picks after their freshman seasons—Bridges had already proved repeatedly that he is going to be dominant for years to come. As unexpected as his draft decision was, it made Michigan State one of the top candidates to win it all this year.


    Kerry Miller covers college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.