After months of analysis and speculation during the offseason, college basketball is almost here. So without further ado, it’s time to reveal my preseason awards.
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PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
He’ll be the near-unanimous pick. I’m not saying he’s a lock to win it, but he’s the easy selection prior to the start of the season based on what he’s already accomplished and the expectations relative to both Winston and the Spartans.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
A complete game-changer on the defensive end of the floor. He can really pressure the ball, has active hands and makes it extremely difficult for guys to get by him.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Cole Anthony, North Carolina
He’ll have a ton on his plate as a freshman at UNC, and he should be up to the task. A terrific, well-rounded point guard.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Beard, Texas Tech
With the fact that no one has had more success during the past two seasons, it seems like such an easy pick. While the Red Raiders lost nearly everyone off last year’s team that came within a bucket of winning the national title, this guy is an elite coach and will — once again — find a way to win despite the massive turnover.
C – Isaiah Stewart, 6-9, 240, Fr., Washington – The Rochester native chose to go across the country to play for Mike Hopkins, and he’ll give the Huskies a long, strong and hard-playing big man who will rebound at a high level, dominate in the paint, step out and make mid-range jumpers, and run the court — think Al Horford.
2018-19 Stats: N/A
G – Cassius Winston, 6-1, 185, Sr., Michigan State – He’s the best player on arguably the best team in the country and is a guy who can score at a high clip and make his teammates better. Winston is the safe pick for Player of the Year and for good reason.
2018-19 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 7.5 apg, 40% 3-pointers
G – Markus Howard, 5-11, 175, Sr., Marquette – Howard is a prolific scorer, but the question this season might be whether he’ll have too much on his shoulders. With the Hauser brothers transferring out, Howard might have to do too much for the Golden Eagles. But remember that he can flat-out score.
2018-19 Stats: 25.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg, 40% 3-pointers
G – Myles Powell, 6-2, 195, Sr., Seton Hall – Powell is an electric scorer that is the go-to guy for a Seton Hall team that has a chance to win the Big East. Powell can light it up from long distance and is also able to put it on the floor and score around the hoop.
2018-19 Stats: 23.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 36% 3-pointers
G – Cole Anthony, 6-3, 185, Fr., North Carolina – He’s got the bloodlines and should put up huge numbers this year in Chapel Hill. He’s a guy who can score in a variety of ways, and he’s more than capable of finding his teammates in the half-court and also in transition.
2018-19 Stats: N/A
F – Jordan Nwora, 6-7, 225, Jr., Louisville – The Cardinals are one of the best teams in the country, and Nwora is a guy who has the size and can really shoot it from deep. The key will be whether he can expand his game and be more effective off the bounce.
2018-19 Stats: 17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 37% 3-pointers
F – James Wiseman, 7-1, 240, Fr., Memphis – Long, skilled and athletic, Wiseman was considered the No. 1 prospect in his freshman class. His coach, Penny Hardaway, compares his game to that of former NBA forward Chris Bosh.
2018-19 Stats: N/A
PF/C – Kerry Blackshear Jr., 6-10, 250, Grad. Student, Florida – The Virginia Tech grad transfer chose the Gators over Kentucky, Texas A&M, and the Hokies. He won’t blow you away, but Blackshear should be a consistent frontline player — and maybe a double-double guy — for a team that could win the SEC.
2018-19 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg (at Virginia Tech)
G – Sam Merrill, 6-5, 210, Sr., Utah State – Merrill isn’t the most athletic guy in the country, but he knows how to score. He can really shoot it from deep, and he’s crafty enough to get to the basket. He’s also more than capable of making life easier for his teammates.
2018-19 Stats: 20.9 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.9 rpg, 38% 3-pointers
G – Tre Jones, 6-3, 185, So., Duke – He’ll need to become a better shooter, but Jones is an elite defender who leads and puts his teammates in ideal situations with the ball in their hands.
2018-19 Stats: 9.4 ppg, 5.3 apg
F – Lamar Stevens, 6-8, 230, Sr., Penn State – Was second in the Big Ten in scoring last season and seventh in rebounding. He’s a mismatch nightmare who thought about leaving for the NBA Draft, but opted to return to the Nittany Lions.
2018-19 Stats: 19.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg
F – Reggie Perry, 6-10, 250, So., Mississippi State – He had a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but had a strong summer and should make a significant jump. He’s big, strong and athletic, and can threaten for a double-double on most nights.
2018-19 Stats: 9.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Sr., Kansas – The key is health. He only played 11 games as a freshman and nine last season, but he made huge progress and showed that he was able to score in the paint before his season-ending hand injury. He’s a load down low for anyone — keep in mind that Bill Self loves to use his bigs.
2018-19 Stats: 13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg (9 games)
G – Ayo Dosunmu, 6-5, 185, Soph., Illinois – He’s got all the tools: the size for the point guard position, the athleticism, the speed, the court vision and the ability to defend. He can also make shots from the perimeter. Dosunmu will need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and improving his decision-making.
Stats: 13.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg
G – Jarron Cumberland, 6-5, 205, Sr., Cincinnati – He’s a big, strong wing who can really make shots from long distance and also finish with his strength around the basket. The question will be whether the Bearcats are good enough to be nationally relevant.
2018-19 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 39% 3-pointers
F – Jalen Smith, 6-10, 225, So., Maryland – “Stix” has gained some weight in the offseason, and he should have an expanded role up front with the departure of Bruno Fernando.
2018-19 Stats: 11.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F – Naji Marshall, 6-7, 225, Jr., Xavier – A big, strong and athletic forward who needs to improve his perimeter shot. He may not put up much better numbers because the Musketeers should be balanced with all their starters back.
2018-19 Stats: 14.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg
C – Derek Culver, 6-10, 255, So., West Virginia – The athletic big man missed the first part of last season, but was impressive when he played, recording eight double-doubles in Big 12 play. He should be a double-double force this season for a Mountaineers team that will be much improved.
2018-19 Stats: 11.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg
G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, So., Kansas – Dotson has the speed and toughness, and he’ll be the quarterback of a team that could win the national title.
2018-19 Stats: 12.3 ppg, 3.5 apg
G – Jordan Ford, 6-1, 175, Sr., Saint Mary’s – He’s slight of build, but finds a way to make plays. Ford can really shoot it from deep, and despite the fact that everyone game-planned for him a year ago, he had a terrific season and also led the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament.
2018-19 Stats: 21.1 ppg, 41% 3-pointers
F – Anthony Lamb, 6-6, 230, Sr., Vermont – Lamb improved his overall game last season, and John Becker expects him to do even more this year. He’s expanded his perimeter game and become an improved passer. Lamb’s the best player on a team that should be a mid-major power this season.
2018-19 Stats: 21.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg
PF – Charles Bassey, 6-11, 245, So., Western Kentucky – The talented big man averaged a double-double last season and thought about leaving for the NBA Draft before deciding to return to the Hilltoppers.
2018-19 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg
C – Nick Muszynski, 6-11, 235, So., Belmont – Skilled big man should take a major jump — especially with Dylan Windler off to the NBA.
2018-19 Stats: 14.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg
G – Bryce Aiken, 6-0, 175, Sr., Harvard – He’s been injured much of the past two seasons, but he averaged 22.2 points per game after missing the first two months last season. Aiken and teammate Seth Towns — if healthy — could lead the Crimson to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
2018-19 Stats: 22.2 ppg, 40% 3-pointers
G – Grant Riller, 6-3, 190, Sr., Charleston – Riller is a versatile guard who has been an established scorer, but he expanded his game and became more of a distributor last season. Look for him to be even more productive with the departure of Jarrell Brantley.
2018-19 Stats: 21.9 ppg, 4.1 apg