–Marcus Paige, G, Jr., North Carolina – Arguably one of the Top 2 point guards in the nation (more on that below). He’ll be one of the front runners for the Cousy Award and might have to shoulder more of the scoring load with James Michael McAdoo gone. That’ll be interesting considering he clocked 17.5 points per game last season, along with 4.2 assists per.
–Fred VanVleet, G, Jr., Wichita State – Here’s that other member of the Top 2 point guard club I was talking about. I really didn’t want to choose between the two so I went this way. While Paige is more dynamic, VanVleet might be the coolest guy on the floor. Even-keel the whole way. He dished out 5.4 assists per game last season and gets a lot of the Shockers’ production back (sans Cleanthony Early, obviously).
–Georges Niang, F, Jr., Iowa State – I had Niang pegged as a guy that would come out for the 2014 NBA Draft. The college game is better for him not doing it. Niang has the ultimate “old man” game with a variety of moves, both midrange and under the basket. His spot-up game is on point too, hitting 48 threes last season. He’ll be relied on a little more with Melvin Ejim gone.
–Karl-Anthony Towns, C/F, Fr., Kentucky – I normally don’t put freshman in these spots, but Towns has been too hyped since he was an 8th grader to ignore it. I watched him in the UK Scouting Combine/Practice/Brilliant Calipari PR move and was impressed. There aren’t many times when you say that about a player in practice, but you can say that when that practice includes around 8-9 future NBA Draft picks. He’s hitting threes at a decent pace for a non-Durant guy his size, too (127 in three years as a prep).
–Cliff Alexander, C/F, Fr., Kansas – OK SO MAYBE I LIKE THE FRESHMAN THIS YEAR (My 2006, sophomore-in-college self nods in approval) I saw Alexander play a few times in AAU, and every time I did, he was a monster. He tried to rip the rim down every single time he was under the basket. Kansas won’t miss Joel Embiid (that much) with Alexander in, because Alexander isn’t the project Embiid was. His post game is incredibly polished.
–Juwan Staten, G, Sr., West Virginia – Here’s a guy who doesn’t get the love he should. Staten was the best player on a bad team last season, averaging 18.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5.8 apg as the Mountaineers finished 17-16. In 2014-15, he’ll be looked to for everything as the top 3 scorers behind him are gone. But Bob Huggins brings in host of junior college talent in Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton, BillyDee Williams and Tarik Phillip. It’ll be interesting to see if the three freshman (including redshirt Elijah Macon) will contribute early.
–Delon Wright, G, Sr., Utah – Another guy who didn’t get the national respect he should’ve. That’ll change this season. Wright averaged 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 5.3 apg for the Runnin’ Utes last season and helped them shock a number of people under coach Larry Krystkowiak (yea, I had to Google the spelling, at least I tried first), going 21-12. Utah could make the NCAA Tournament this season, and Wright will be a big reason why — if they do, or if they don’t.
–Stanley Johnson, G/F, Fr., Arizona – Sean Miller has a type, and that type is “slender with a ton of bounce.” Johnson slides right into the spot vacated by Aaron Gordon. He’s got a better penetration game from the perimeter and a slightly better jumper. He should enjoy his one season in Tuscon. At which point he’ll break up with Miller and the Wildcats head coach will have to find a new crush.
–Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville – Everyone said he was gone to the NBA Draft, including this guy. But he went back to Louisville and has landed on everyone’s All-American list. I’m one of the few that put him on their second team. The reason why has nothing to do with his talent. If he lands on all first-team rosters, it won’t shock anyone. But if he does, it’ll be because he improved his midrange game, which was already vastly improved last season, when he finished with 14 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
–Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke – I swear, I’m not fishing for clicks. I like Okafor. I think he’s a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. But it’s the preseason, and in the preseason, I look at what’s coming in. Duke has a lot of talent, per usual. For that, I think that Okafor won’t need to do a lot to start out. I really think he’ll average somewhere around 11 ppg up until ACC play, where coach Mike Krzyzewski will unleash him on the North Carolinas, Virginias and Louisvilles. But there will be an adaptation to the college game, and that lands him on my second team. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally wrong and he goes for 20-12 per and is a bonafide first team All-American by mid-season.
–Joseph Young, G, Sr., Oregon – If there’s a player in Division I college basketball who will be asked to do more for his team this season, please show me and I’ll swap him with Young in this spot. After the dismissal of Daymean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin for their alleged involvement in a sexual assault case, combined with the fact that highly-touted recruit JaQuan Lyle didn’t enroll at the school, that doesn’t leave a lot in the metaphorical cupboard for Young. I was against Young’s transfer waiver being granted when he left Houston, but after seeing all that Dana Altman lost, I’m ok with it. Even if it’s just because he has a least one totally competent scorer (18.9 ppg) on his roster.
–Marcus Foster, G, Soph., Kansas State – He was possibly the best freshm— no, he WAS the best freshman no one was talking about last season. The Wichita Falls, Texas native set the Big 12 on fire (in a two-game stretch, he went for 34 against then no.15 Texas and backed it up with 20 against then no.7-ranked Kansas) and came back for more in Manhattan. No one will miss him this season, as he’s got help in the form of senior Thomas Gipson (11.7 ppg), Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.
–Andrew Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky – Once he figured out how to distribute last season, Kentucky was a better team for it. He averaged 10.9 ppg and 4 apg, en route to helping a late-season resurgence in Lexington. Now with a plethora of weapons to hit for threes, midrange jumpers and lobs, he could very well lead the nation in assists. Harrison makes this team go, as he proved it late last season. This year, that shouldn’t change.
–Kelly Oubre, F, Fr., Kansas – Every list has a WTF? pick, Oubre is mine. He’s got the credentials to be an All-American, but can he do it with the likes of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander in front of him? I think so. He’s got more athleticism than either Ellis or Alexander in the face-up game and if he can stay consistent on defense, this could be his lone season in Lawrence. I see the potential, so I’m giving him a spot. Being left-handed doesn’t hurt.
–Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Jr., Kentucky – He didn’t come to Kentucky with a ton of hype, but has really become the most well-developed player in his two seasons under Calipari. Cauley-Stein has a good shot at being a Top 5 pick if he can raise his midrange and baseline jumper game, but he’ll also have to prove to scouts that he’s over the ankle injury. Yea, I’m reaching for reasons that WCS will have to improve, because there aren’t many.
Player of the Year – Marcus Paige
Freshman of the Year – Cliff Alexander
Defensive Player of the Year – Willie Cauley-Stein
It’s that time of year again. College hoops is here.
Yea, I get it, college football season is in full-swing. Cool. Here on this blog, though, no. It’s college basketball season because we say it is. Because Mark Emmert says it is. Or something.
Ok, first order of business, it’s been six long months, you’re trying to figure out exactly who is coming back and who left for the pros (or who listened to the wrong people). Never fear, The Backboard Chronicles has 15 of the best players in the nation in three neat, organized teams.
Without further ado , The Backboard Chronicles 2013-14 Preseason All-American team.
And big ups to you if you actually read the first five paragraphs of this post and didn’t scroll down. You’re detail-oriented.
G- Andrew Wiggins, Fr., Kansas – This one is summed up in one word, “duh.” Or one sound, whatever. Wiggins is by-in-large the greatest prospect most scouts have seen since LeBron. And to some, it’s not even close. Wiggins picked the Jayhawks over Kentucky and Florida State. Now, as a result, Bill Self’s team went from being on-par with Oklahoma State and claiming at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 Conference title to being favored over the Cowboys.
G- Marcus Smart, Soph., Oklahoma State – Speaking of Oklahoma State, meet the guy who will be responsible for dethroning Kansas. Smart was criticized for turning down Top 5 Lottery Pick money and coming back for his second year — though this guy thinks everyone should back off and let Smart do what he thinks is best for him. Smart paced Oklahoma State with 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season and all signs point to his boosting those numbers this season.
F- Doug McDermott, Sr., Creighton – The guy can flat out score. Post. Perimeter. Mid-range. In transition. Doesn’t matter. And he, like Smart, turned down a shot at being a decently-high NBA Draft pick for another year in the college ranks, playing for his dad with the Bluejays. The 6-8 offensive dynamo clocked 23.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot 54.8 percent from the field, 49 percent from three-point range and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. His exposure will boost with Creighton moving to the new Big East this season.
F- Jabari Parker, Fr., Duke – Call it a bold prediction, Parker will be here at the end of the year. Parker has been a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the focus of a number of recruiting profiles. But Parker is the crown jewel of a pretty solid recruiting class for Mike Kzyzewski. A 6-8, 225-pound slasher with a bevy of transition moves, Parker will have his way in the ACC. Maybe even ACC Player of the Year honors.
F/C- Julius Randle, Fr., Kentucky – There doesn’t seem to be a way to get through a preseason player list without including at least one from Calipari’s super-class. Julius Randle is that dude this year. Randle is a 6-9 post monster who can eat undersized (and even fairly-good sized) forwards for breakfast. He’s also already challenging Wiggins among the pundits for the 2013 NBA Draft’s top pick.
G- Russ Smith, Sr., Louisville – Smith almost left for the pros after last season. While I believe every player is free to make their own decisions (well, at least after their freshman year, David Stern) Smith made the right call to return. Smith went from unknown freshman to college basketball’s most mercurial sophomore to a bonafide star as a junior. With Peyton Siva gone and JuCo All-American Chris Jones in, it’s not unrealistic to think Smith’s 18.7-point average might hold this season. He’ll have to improve on the 2.7 turnovers and 32.8 percent clip from three.
G- Jahii Carson, R-Soph., Arizona State – Carson was the greatest redshirt freshman in the nation not named Ben McLemore last season, dropping in more points (18.5) and assists (5.1) than McLemore — albeit on a lesser talented team. Carson decided to come back, and as a result he’s expected to maintain what he did in Tempe last season.
F- Jerrelle Benimon, Sr., Towson – “Who?” Yea, I can here that now. But the Georgetown transfer proved he’s not just thriving in a new system under Pat Skerry with the Tigers. Benimon averaged 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds and shot 65.4 percent for a revived Towson team that won 18 games a season removed from a one-win campaign. He was the CAA Player of the Year in 2012-13. He can do that again this year. And more.
F- P.J. Hairston, Jr., North Carolina – If there’s anyone ready to see some hardwood, it’s Hairston, considering the offseason he’s had. Rental cars, agents, runners, they’ve all been a part of his summer. But off-the-court antics aside, Hairston can play. He’s already practicing with the team and there have been varying reports on how many games the 6-5 swingman will miss due to NCAA violaHAHAHAHAHA sorry couldn’t get through that. We all know Hairston will miss maybe an exhibition game. The junior averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and shot 43.1 percent from the field.
F/C- Adreian Payne, Jr., Michigan State – Tom Izzo has a way of just getting the best out of all of his players, be it a walk-on or five star. Payne is one of those guys. Payne went from seven points to 10.5 last season and from 4.2 rebounds to 7.6. Payne’s biggest boost came at the free throw line, where he went from 69.7 percent to 84.8 percent. If he stays on this track, he’s going to terrorize the B1G.
G- Gary Harris, Soph., Michigan State – After fighting off some early injury struggles, Harris ended up with a solid freshman season clocking 12.9 points and 1.4 assists per game. Now that he’s 100-percent, Harris should pair with Keith Appling to form a Top 2 backcourt in the B1G. This pick is based on Harris’ potential, and even with a sprained ankle he suffered in early August, I fully expect him to come back renewed and possibly turn himself into a first round draft pick.
G- Joe Jackson, Sr. Memphis – I believe in Joe Jackson. A Memphis-born product who was expected by a lot of people to spend one season at home before bolting for the pros, turnovers have remained his problem — he’s averaged at least 2.4 per game in this first three years with the Tigers. However, Jackson’s scoring production has improve yearly and it’s well-documented that Jackson bleeds Memphis. The guy has the drive and skill set, and this season he should put it all together.
F- C.J. Fair, Sr. Syracuse – There are a lot of arguments that Fair, who led the Orange in scoring despite being in the background to Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland all last season on the way to a Final Four. Fair might’ve been the most underappreciated player on a high-major team last season, with averages of 15.7 points, seven boards and shooting 47 percent overall and 46.9 percent from three-point range. Fair could’ve gone pro, probably landing on an NBA roster. Instead, he’ll be looked at as the leader and best player for Jim Boeheim.
F- Mitch McGary, Soph., Michigan – This one was a coin flip between McGary and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. McGary wins because honestly, he’s got more room to expand his game. McGary made a late-season move to 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds last year and he’ll be asked to do more down low with Tim Hardaway gone and Glenn Robinson III expanding his role.
F/C- Alex Kirk, R-Jr., New Mexico – Yet another product of the developmental redshirt year. Kirk went from 4.7 points and 3.7 boards in 2010-11 to 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds last year. He could’ve gone pro and taken advantage of the hype — a la Kelly Olynyk — but with Olynyk, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len coming out, the draft was front-loaded with big man talent. The 7-footer could really improve his draft stock with a solid season. He’ll get it.
(And no honorable mentions. Honorable mentions are for the weak.)