As the season gets going, It’s time to give you my preseason top 50 players in the country – led by a couple of guys who reside on Tobacco Road.
The Canadian versatile wing was the No. 1 player in the country coming out of high school, and he’s the frontrunner to become the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft.
The skilled big man showed that the shot to beat Kentucky was hardly a fluke. He averaged a double-double last season (16.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg).
Lawson put up 19.2 points and 9.9 boards two years ago, but no one noticed because it was on an irrelevant Memphis team. Now, he will be the featured player on a stacked Kansas squad.
The guy who started his career at Fordham is now a potential first-round pick and Jay Wright’s best player. With four of ‘Nova’s top six gone from last year’s national championship team, the versatile forward will go from a role guy to a featured player.
Waters had to do most of it himself last season, but this year he’ll have no shortage of talent around him. He can score (15.9 ppg), distribute (6.0 apg), and also defend.
The key reason why the Vols came out of nowhere last season. The hard-playing forward was the SEC Player of the Year after averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 boards.
Led the Badgers in scoring (17.9), rebounding (8.0) and assists (3.7) last season. This year he should have more support from his teammates, who are more experienced and healthy.
Battle considered leaving for the NBA Draft after averaging 19.2 points, but will need to improve his efficiency after shooting just 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.
A McDonald’s All-American who brings toughness and aggressiveness to the table, Johnson is long, athletic and can really fill the stat sheet due to his versatility.
The MVP of the McDonald’s game blends a combination of skill and athleticism into his 6-foot-6 frame. Little should team with senior Luke Maye to form one of the nation’s best forward duos.
Edwards will likely be among the nation’s leading scorers after averaging 18.5 points last season, especially with the Boilermakers losing their other four starters from last season.
Terrific wing scorer who averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season – his first after transferring in with his brother from N.C. State.
Big-time scorer who averaged 21.6 points last season, but also rebounds (5.0) well for his position and can make people around him better (4.7 apg).
The athletic Japanese forward hardly played as a freshman, averaged 11.6 points last season and should take another step this season.
Guy was the leading scorer on a team that earned the No. 1 overall seed a year ago. He is a terrific shooter who averaged 14.1 points as a sophomore.
When they use the term “freak athlete,” they should limit it to a handful of players in the world. Zion is one of those guys. He’s big, strong and an ultra-athlete. A matchup nightmare.
The most underrated player in the country. Wright averaged 14.2 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 boards last season – and he also brings it on the defensive side of the ball.
Wade was injured during last season’s Elite Eight run, but was the team’s best player a year ago, averaging 16.2 points and 6.2 boards while shooting 44 percent from deep.
A huge pickup for Archie Miller and the Hoosiers to keep Langford in-state, Langford is a big-time scorer who should put up points immediately.
Arguably the best rim protector in the country, Konate should be a double-double guy with a developing offensive game.
With Miles Bridges gone, this is now Winston’s team. He’s an elite shooter who will also be one of the nation’s top passers.
The Canadian forward wasted no time becoming one of the Orange’s top players. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.8 boards – and if his shot continues to improve, he’ll be even more difficult to stop.
Versatile forward who averaged 9.2 points and 3.6 boards while coming off the bench. Missed the NCAA tourney loss to UMBC due to a broken wrist.
Won’t put up the numbers he did at Stanford (19.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) a year ago, but he’ll be an integral piece as a grad student in Lexington. Travis will bring toughness and also leadership as well as the ability to score in the paint and rebound at a high level.
He’s extremely versatile, and exceptionally talented. Can play multiple positions – including the point guard spot at 6-foot-8.
Big, versatile guard who can play both on and off the ball. Probably won’t lead the Jayhawks in scoring, but should be the team’s second-leading scorer and will do more than just score.
The long and athletic big man returned to school despite likely being a first-round pick. Now it’ll be his turn after the Razorbacks lost their starting backcourt from a year ago.
Had to do it all last season, and may not help a ton of help again this year for new coach Dan Hurley. Adams can score, distribute and brings an element of toughness to the point guard spot.
The skilled forward could have left – either for the NBA Draft or to transfer elsewhere as a grad transfer. Instead, he elected to finish his career for T.J. Otzelberger and the Jackrabbits. Averaged 23.9 points and 10.3 boards while shooting 43 percent from 3 a year ago.
Led the Terps in scoring (15.8), assists (5.1) and steals (1.5) last season and is also one of the better defenders in the Big Ten. He’ll have even more responsibility on him with the departure of Kevin Huerter.
31. Nick Ward, C, Jr., Michigan State
Averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 boards last season … in just 19 minutes per game. Now, with Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. gone, he and Cassius Winston will be the featured guys.
32. Jon Elmore, G, Sr., Marshall
Big-time scorer and shooter who had a pair of triple-doubles a year ago. The West Virginia native should have an even better year after working on his strength in the offseason.
33. Chris Silva, PF, Sr., South Carolina
While he led the Gamecocks in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (8.0) last season, he’s also one of the top shot-blockers in the country. Silva’s offensive game continues to improve and he’ll be Frank Martin’s top player this year in Columbia.
34. Charles Bassey, C/PF, Fr., Western Kentucky
Talented forward initially from Nigeria who re-classified and came to Western Kentucky along with his mentor, Hennssy Auriantal. Bassey is big, skilled and could be a first-round pick come June.
35. Ty Jerome, PG, Jr., Virginia
He sometimes gets overshadowed by backcourt mate, Kyle Guy, but Jerome is a guy who makes his teammates better and can also score. Averaged 10.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.1 boards per game as a sophomore.
36. Lindell Wigginton, G, Soph., Iowa State
The Canadian was a bright spot in a tough season in Ames, averaging 16.7 points per game. Wigginton showed he can really shoot it, and if he can improve his decision-making, should get the Cyclones back to the NCAA tourney.
37. Jalen Hudson, SG-SF, Sr., Florida
The former Virginia Tech Hokie led the Gators in scoring last season at 15.5 points per game while shooting 40 percent from deep. He’s capable of going for 20 on any night, but needs to become more consistent.
38. PJ Washington, PF, Soph., Kentucky
Washington put up 10.8 points and led the ‘Cats in rebounding last, and should see similar production this year despite a plethora of big men in Lexington. He’s a hard-working forward who can step out and make mid-range jumpers with ease.
39. Charles Matthews, SG, Sr., Michigan
The long, skilled wing was second on the team in scoring at 13 points per game, and now he should be the focal point of John Beilein’s offense with the departure of Moe Wagner.
40. Juwan Morgan, PF, Sr., Indiana
Veteran forward won’t get the hype of teammate Romeo Langford, but was in the top 10 in both scoring, rebounding and blocks in the Big Ten a year ago.
41. Markus Howard, G, Jr., Marquette
One of the top pure shooters in the nation, Howard averaged 20.4 points per game last season. He’ll be a primary reason why the Golden Eagles are expected to get back to the NCAA tourney this year.
42. Ja Morant, PG, Soph., Murray State
The Ohio Valley knows all about the sophomore guard from South Carolina, and so do the NBA guys. Morant is a guard who can score, distribute and also rebounds extremely well for someone his size.
43. Phil Booth, PG, Sr., Villanova
Booth is a veteran point guard who has been a part of two national title teams. He averaged 10 points per game, but that will go up significantly with the departure of four of the team’s top six scorers.
44. Ky Bowman, PG, Jr., Boston College
It’ll be Bowman’s show with the departure of Jerome Robinson to the NBA. Bowman is a tough, hard-nosed guard who averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season.
45. Tres Tinkle, F, Jr., Oregon State
Tinkle is a well-rounded forward who averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists after a sophomore campaign in which he only played in six games due to injury.
46. Bol Bol, C, Fr., Oregon
The son of Manute is a big-time shot-blocker like his father, and a far more effective 3-point shooter. The key for Dana Altman and the Ducks is a consistent effort.
47. Kellan Grady, SG, Soph., Davidson
The A-10 Rookie of the Year averaged 18 points per game as a freshman while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. With Peyton Aldridge gone, Grady’s production is likely to increase.
48. Jordan Murphy, C, Sr., Minnesota
The San Antonio native had 24 double-doubles last season, but it went unnoticed because of the Gophers struggles as a team. This year, Minnesota should be much better – and Murphy will continue to rack up double-doubles.
49. Jalen McDaniels, PF, RS Soph., San Diego State
The long, skilled forward averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 boards, but should take a big jump for the Aztecs this season in being more assertive and aggressive on a consistent basis.
50. Tyler Herro, SG, Fr., Kentucky
Herro has the size and ability to score, but even more important for John Calipari will be Herro’s ability to make shots from the perimeter.