With the upcoming NCAA season barely a month away, it’s time to start previewing some of the top players to keep an eye on.
While most top underclassmen decided to declare early last year and avoid the influx of incoming freshman talent for this season, there remains a handful of returning players like Louisville’s Russ Smith and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart that are in the mix for All American status.
Along with those returning to school are the ultra talented freshmen led by Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, and Jabari Parker.
A number of players just missed the preseason list like Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early, Shabazz Napier of Connecticut, CJ Fair of Syracuse, and Chane Behanan of Louisville.
Let’s check out THD’s 2013-2014 Preseason NCAA All American Teams…
’12-’13 Stats: 10.5 ppg, 6.2 reb, 1.7 blk, .606 FG%
The time is now or never for the chiseled big man, who finally may be the focal point of the Gators offense with Mike Rosario, Brad Beal, and Kenny Boynton all gone. The former McDonald’s All American has been on the NBA’s radar since his freshman season, but the 6’9 and 250lb has been slow to reach his vast potential. This should be the year.
Ohio State Buckeyes
’12-’13 Stats: 9.7 ppg, 4.5 ast, 3.6 reb, 2 stl, .306 3PT%
It seems as if Craft has been at Ohio State forever, but he returns to the Buckeyes to take on more of a leadership role with DeShaun Thomas now off in the NBA. He may not be the game’s top facilitator but he causes fits as the college ranks’ best man defender and will sacrifice his body for loose balls and hustle points. Look for Craft to have a monster senior season with most of his supporting cast of the underclassmen variety.
North Carolina Tarheels
’12-’13 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 7.6 reb, 1.5 stl, .448 FG%
McAdoo would have been a Lottery pick if he had come out after his freshman season, but suffered through a trying sophomore campaign where some of his weaknesses were exposed. But he returns to Chapel Hill for his junior season with high expectations as the de-facto leader of the still rather young Tarheels roster. He has all of the physical tools like elite athleticism and a physique of a bodybuilder but if he improves his post play he should be one of the elite forwards in the nation.
’12-’13 Stats: 8.4 ppg, 6.1 reb, 2.1 blk, .631 FG%
When future Lottery pick Nerlens Noel went down halfway through last season with an ACL injury, we caught a glimpse of fellow 7 footer Cauley-Stein’s ability to be the last line of defense for the Wildcats. He may not be as athletic as Noel, or fit the mold of the prototypical Calipari center(Cousins, Davis, Camby), but he was a solid shot-blocker, rebounded well, and had a decent back-to-the back offensive game that should be much improved as one of the elder statesmen on the Wildcats’ roster this season.
’12-’13 Stats: 21.6 ppg, 15.7 reb, 3.3 blk(HS)
The Blake Griffin clone should be an immediate impact player as a freshman for coach Sean Miller this season. Surely Wildcat fans hope he has the same impact from the forward position as Derrick Williams a few years ago when he led the Cats to the Final Four. He’s touted as Blake Griffin 2.0, but with better handles and every bit as ferocious around the rim. Grab your popcorn.
’12-’13 Stats: 13.6 ppg, 8.8 reb, 1.6 blk, .321 3PT%
Blessed with an insane 7’5 wingspan, the 7 footer showed some promise as an elite rebounder and despite a still developing offensive game, has range out to the 3 point line. If coach Drew can convince Isaiah to hit the weight room and stay planted a bit more inside the painted area, he along with Cory Jefferson could be one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country.
Michigan State Spartans
’12-’13 Stats: 10.1 ppg, 7.5 reb, 1.2 blk, .566 FG%
Coach Izzo is surely happy Payne decided to return to Lansing for his senior season as he is a legitimate NBA talent as the Spartans make a push to make it back to the Final Four. Payne is a 6’10 super athletic shot-blocker that solidifies the Spartans’ froncourt, alongside Branden Dawson.
’12-’13 Stats: 6 ppg, 5.3 reb, .566 FG%
The once highly touted HS prospect started his freshman campaign slowly but came on strong late in the regular season, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors twice. During the postseason, McGary become one of the best big men in the country, helping to lead the Wolverines to the National Championship Game. With Tim Hardaway Jr and Trey Burke now in the NBA, the Wolverine attack is now spearheaded by McGary and Glenn Robinson III.
Duke Blue Devils
’12-’13 Stats: 18.4 ppg, 10.4 reb, 2.7 ast, 2.1 blk, 1.9 stl(HS)
Prior to the reclassification of Andrew Wiggins to the 2013 Class, Parker was touted as the best high school player since Lebron James. Many compare the 6’8 and 235lb forward as the 2nd coming of Carmelo Anthony as having good, but not great athleticism and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Jabari finished strong after suffering through a leg injury following his junior season, but surely Coach K is hoping Parker makes the same immediate impact as Melo did back in 2003.
In any other year, Randle would probably be the favorite to be National POY and #1 overall Draft pick, if it wasn’t for Andrew Wiggins. He is a premier scorer in the post, is a ferocious rebounder, and finishes above the rim as well as any player in college basketball. He’s the gem of Coach Cal’s best ever incoming recruiting class, featuring 5 of the Top 9 players in the class. Many have described the 6’9 and 235lb forward as a poor man’s Lebron James for his bruising style of play and has the potential to be a franchise player on the next level.
’12-’13 Stats: 10.9 ppg, 5.5 reb, 1.2 ast, .565 FG%, .339 3PT%
The son of former NCAA POY Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson surprised many by returning to Michigan for his sophomore campaign. He would have been a 1st Round selection if he remained in the draft, but now he and Mitch McGary will try and help the Wolverines make a return trip to the Final Four. By all accounts, the athletic small forward has added some bulk, making him a match-up nightmare when slashing to the basket. Robinson should be one of the more exciting players to watch this season.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
’12-’13 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 5.7 reb, 4.3 ast, 3 stl, .291 3PT%
If he had declared early for the 2013 NBA Draft, most would have agreed that Smart would have been the top PG selected. In addition to being a lock-down defender, he’s a coach’s dream when it comes to work ethic and leading a team. He still has a few flaws, like becoming a better shooter and facilitator but he’s one of the collegiate ranks’ best stat stuffers and it was a no brainer to include the 6’4 and 225lb floor general as a 1st Team All American.
Creighton Blue Jays
’12-’13 Stats: 23.4 ppg, 7.6 reb, 1.8 stl, .560 FG%, .481 3PT%
Over the last 3 seasons, the 6’8 and 230lb forward has been the most consistent offensive player in the nation, earning All American honors since his sophomore season. There is some argument whether his game translates to the next level, but he’s arguably the best scorer in college basketball. As the Blue Jays play some stiffer competition in the new Big East this season, look for McDermott to get much more TV time as one of the nation’s top seniors.
’12-’13 Stats: 17.9 ppg, 3.7 reb, 3 ast, 2.1 stl, .317 3PT%
Last season, Smith along with Peyton Siva were the key components to Louisville winning the 2013 National Championship. But with Siva graduated and a new cast of supporting backcourt players surrounding him, Smith will be the focal point for coach Pitino’s offensive attack this season. Known as “Russdiculous” by coach Pitino, the diminutive sparkplug is one of the hardest to guard players in the college ranks and should be a SportsCenter highlight waiting to happen.
’12-’13 Stats: 23.6 ppg, 11.3 reb, 2.5 ast, 2.7 blk, 2.3 stl
The player that has upwards of 10 NBA teams salivating and tanking next season in hopes of securing his services in 2014, is considered the best college prospect in decades. He established himself as the best HS player in the nation, consistently scoring 30+ points and having a rported unmeasurable vertical leap because it’s literally off the charts. Andrew has some freakish athleticism and finishes at the rim better than any player in the nation. He does have some flaws, like needing to add some bulk, but he will be the signature player in the college ranks this season.