Top returning college basketball players in 2015-16
Every year college basketball fans complain about the strip-mining job the NBA conducts each summer, but there is plenty of talent to go around for the 2015-16 college basketball season.
Yeah, some of the younger guys have moved on, but juniors and seniors dominate the best college basketball has to offer, and the top Player of the Year candidates are guys who have been through the wars and have taken the time to develop. Here's a look at the players to watch in college basketball this season.
Marcus Paige, Guard, North Carolina
If you had to pick one player in college basketball to get you a bucket when the game is on the line, Marcus Paige would probably be that guy. UNC's talented guard has the quickness to beat anyone off the dribble, he can drain the outside jumper and does a great job of getting to the free-throw line. He also has a knack for the big moment. Earlier in his career, the second half was Marcus Paige's playground. His scoring average exploded after the break, and he was nearly unstoppable. He has found consistency over the past couple of seasons, although his numbers did drop last year thanks to a foot injury that limited him. This season as a senior, Paige is ready to bring it all together and help lead the Tar Heels to the ranks of the elite in the country. There are few players like him, and the fact he is a quality passer makes him tough to defend.
Malcolm Brogdon, Guard, Virginia
Brogdon has continued to develop with each passing season, and this could be the year this first-team All-ACC talent breaks out. Experience isn't an issue, and he can make in impact on both sides of the ball. His length and desire make him disruptive on the defensive end—he has a wingspan of 6-10 despite measuring out at 6-6—and he's physical on the offensive end and can finish through contact. His jumper continues to progress, and he's going to be the heart and soul on a Virginia squad that could be special.
Ron Baker, Guard, Wichita State
If you're looking for the picture of a quality, four-year college star, look up Ron Baker. He doesn't do anything great, but he does everything well and makes his teammates better every time he's on the floor. He doesn't make many bad choices with the ball, he knocks down the open jumper with a wicked efficiency that seems to improve when the game is on the line, and he plays great positional defense to make up for a lack of quickness. He's one of those players who beats your team while you wonder how he's doing it.
Kyle Wiltjer, Forward, Gonzaga
Wiltjer is going to draw a lot of attention as a possible national Player of the Year. He's the definition of a stretch-4 who also knows how to play with his back to the basket when needed. The 6-10 forward averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 boards last season, and he was efficient on offense by shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from beyond the arc. He creates driving lanes for his teammates and does a great job of passing out of double teams when they come. You won't find anyone better in the West Coast Conference, and if he takes some strides, he's going to be in the Naismith discussion all season.
Georges Niang, Forward, Iowa State
Niang has been through the wars, and he's ready to finish his career on a high note. There's nothing Niang can't do. Need him to dive after a loose ball? He can pick up some floor burns, no problem. Need a shot at the buzzer with a hand in your face? Yeah, Niang has that kind of poise, too. He can put the ball on the floor, he has great vision and attacks the glass hard every time the ball goes toward the rim. Niang will put the Cyclones on his back this year, and he can carry them far.
Kris Dunn, Guard, Providence
Make sure to catch Dunn at least a couple times this year. You won't find many players who blend his speed, his quickness and his vision on the floor while also playing with his hair on fire every minute he's on the court. But he's not out of control. He's simply one of the best all-around players in college basketball. He averaged 15.6 points, 5.5 boards and 7.5 assists last year, which isn't bad for a 6-4 guard. This kid is going to be special.
Fred Van Vleet, Guard, Wichita State
Van Vleet toyed with the NBA during the offseason, but he's back for his senior season, and he made a good choice. It remains to be seen how his game translates on the next level, but Van Vleet's basketball IQ and poise on the court make him the perfect college point guard. He isn't the biggest player on the court, and Van Vleet isn't going to shake-and-bake his way to the bucket on every possession. But then again, he doesn't need to. Van Vleet can hurt teams inside and out, he's good at getting to the line and knows when it's his time to take over. Oh, did we mention he's a good defender to boot?
Grayson Allen, Guard, Duke
Mike Krzyzewski has developed a trend of rolling in recruits as phenomenal freshmen and rolling them out, after one year, right on into the NBA. Grayson Allen chose to go a different route. Typically, when a player averages only 4.4 per game, you'd think he would need to do a lot more, but Allen showed his value during the NCAA Tournament last year. He dropped 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench in the national championship game against Wisconsin. With only four upperclassmen on the roster, Allen will have a chance to become a leader on and off the floor for the Blue Devils.
Kyle Collinsworth, Forward, BYU
Triple-doubles are far from rare at the NBA level. College is a different story. But Collinsworth has made them routine for the Cougars, and his all-around game make him must-see TV. He already owns six trip-dubs in his career, which already ties the NCAA career record, and he has improved both his shooting and his ball-handling skills this season. He's a grinder who will be fun to watch.
Jakob Poeltl, Center, Stanford
Poeltl is big, he's agile and he plays with a swagger that allows him to intimidate on the court. The bottom line with this 7-foot, 235-pounder from Austria is he has just scratched the surface of his potential. He's just a sophomore, and he needs to find consistency on the floor. That said, Poeltl has great hands and is impossible to root out of the low block. Other guys may be quicker. Other guys may be more athletic. But few put all their tools together as well as Poeltl. Conference Previews
ACC Basketball Preview
Big 12 Basketball Preview
Big Ten Basketball Preview
Mountain West Basketball Preview
Pac-12 Basketball Preview
Patriot League Basketball Preview
SEC Basketball Preview
WCC Basketball Preview