A year ago, Luka Garza was the obvious choice for Preseason National Player of the Year, while Cade Cunningham stood out early for Freshman of the Year — and neither disappointed.
Once again, it was easy to choose the POY and FOY, but then it got difficult with the All-American teams, especially due to the excess of big men in the equation.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Drew Timme, Gonzaga
He averaged 19 points and seven boards last season for a team that lost in the national title game, and that makes him the clear frontrunner for POY this season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Darryl Morsell, Marquette
The veteran guard was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season before transferring to play for Shaka Smart and Marquette this year.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR | Paolo Banchero, Duke
Banchero has the entire package; he’s big, strong, skilled and athletic, and should be the star for Mike Krzyzewski’s swan song. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t average at least 15 points and eight boards.
COACH OF THE YEAR | Scott Drew, Baylor
This is as much for what he has done in building this program and leading the Bears to the national title last season. But after losing a lottery pick in Davion Mitchell, another NBA player in Jared Butler and two more starters in MaCio Teague and Mark Vital, Drew will find a way to keep Baylor among the nation’s elite this year.
F – Paolo Banchero, 6-10, 250, Fr., Duke The Seattle native reminds me a lot of Chris Webber because of his size, strength, skill and versatility. Banchero is strong and athletic, can rebound and take it the length of the court, and is also brutal to stop in transition. There’s not much he can’t do, and he should be Duke’s leading scorer and rebounder this year.
2020-21 Stats: N/A
F – Drew Timme, 6-10, 235, Jr., Gonzaga He made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season, and the hard-playing big man should be Gonzaga’s most productive player again this year. He can really score in the paint, and he also has a pass-first point guard in Andrew Nembhard.
2020-21 Stats: 19.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg
C – Hunter Dickinson, 7-1, 260, Soph., Michigan The big man had a dominant season a year ago as a freshman. Look for the lefty to improve his conditioning, his ability to stretch the defense and his scoring with his right hand. Dickinson should be a double-double guy on most nights this season.
2020-21 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg
G – Andre Curbelo, 6-1, 175, Soph., Illinois Yes, he’ll have to show he can make shots from the perimeter, but Curbelo could lead the country in assists. He’ll have weapons around him, and Curbelo is a terrific ball handler with high-level court vision and passing ability. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t average 15 points and 7 assists.
2020-21 Stats: 9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg, 4.0 rpg
G – Buddy Boeheim, 6-6, 205, Sr., Syracuse Boeheim averaged almost 18 points last season, and that number should climb to at least 20 this year. He is one of the best pure shooters in the country, and look for him to expand his game this season as a senior.
2020-21 Stats: 17.8 ppg, 38% 3-pointers
F – Chet Holmgren, 7-0, 195, Fr., Gonzaga He’s a long and super-skilled frosh, who enters college as the top-ranked freshman. Holmgren can shoot it from deep, finish around the basket and is a prolific shot blocker. Holmgren will take a back seat to Drew Timme in terms of production, but that frontline duo will be fun to watch.
2020-21 Stats: N/A
F – E.J. Liddell, 6-7, 240, Jr., Ohio State The undersized big man showed he could step out and make shots from beyond the arc last season, making 34 percent of his threes. Liddell’s production will increase with the departure of Duane Washington from Columbus.
2020-21 Stats: 16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg
C – Kofi Cockburn, 7-0, 285, Jr., Illinois He’s nearly unstoppable around the basket due to his size and strength. Cockburn controls the glass, is a force in the paint and also has one of the better passers in the country on his team in Andre Curbelo.
2020-21 Stats: 17.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg
G – Marcus Carr, 6-2, 195, Sr., Texas Carr transferred to Texas and will be the most important player for Chris Beard this season. He’s already shown he can score at a high level, but now he’ll have no shortage of talent around him. Look for Carr to lead Texas in scoring and assists.
2020-21 Stats: 19.4 ppg, 4.9 apg (Minnesota)
G – Max Abmas, 6-0, 175, Jr., Oral Roberts Abmas led the country in scoring last season and is an elite three-point shooter, but it’s what he did in the NCAA Tournament — becoming the first player since Steph Curry to score 25-plus in his first three tourney games.
2020-21 Stats: 24.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 43% 3-pointers
F – Jabari Smith, 6-10, 220, Fr., Auburn Long and athletic, Smith can step out and shoot it, and score around the basket. He’s also a quality rebounder and shot blocker. Smith plays with a high motor and should be one of the most productive freshmen in the country.
2020-21 Stats: N/A
G – Johnny Juzang, 6-6, 210, Jr., UCLA Juzang was at his best when it mattered most last season, averaging 22.8 points in six NCAA Tournament games. This was actually a tough decision whether to go with Juzang or teammate Jaime Jaquez, but Juzang was so dominant on the offensive end in the tourney.
2020-21 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg
G – Jahvon Quinerly, 6-1, 175, Jr., Alabama After a rocky start to his college career at Villanova, Quinerly played well last season for the Tide and will have an increased role now that the ball should be in his hands far more after the departure of Herb Jones. Quinerly shot it well from deep and has improved his decision-making.
2020-21 Stats: 12.9 ppg, 3.2 apg
G – Collin Gillespie, 6-3, 195, Sr., Villanova He’s the guy who runs everything for Jay Wright and the Wildcats, and it was clear how much ‘Nova missed him last season when he was injured down the stretch. Gillespie is a fifth-year player who distributes and also scores when needed.
2020-21 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 4.6 apg
G – Emoni Bates, 6-9, 190, Fr., Memphis Most didn’t think Bates would ever choose to play in college, but the skilled and versatile scorer opted to reclassify and join Memphis, where Penny Hardaway told me he’ll use him plenty at the point guard spot. Bates needs to get stronger, but he’s a big-time scorer.
2020-21 Stats: N/A
MORE: Not-So-Secret List of 2021 College Basketball Scrimmages