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College basketball preview: Our Final Four picks, All-Americans and more

By Andy Katz and John Fanta
FOX Sports College Basketball Writers

The college basketball season is fast-approaching, with all 25 groups within the AP Top 25 preseason ballot scheduled to take the courtroom on Monday.

Our faculty basketball reporters Andy Katz and John Fanta took on some burning questions forward of the season in our first version of our faculty basketball roundtable.

Top faculty basketball storylines

Mark Titus and Tate Frazier are joined by Andy Katz to speak about thrilling storylines forward of the season.

Who are your preseason All-Americans? And who will likely be Player of the Year?


In a season the place the return of massive males dominates faculty basketball, dimension is the theme on my All-American preseason crew. But it’s a guard’s sport, and I consider Houston can win all of it in April. This means I’m going all in on Cougars senior Marcus Sasser. Had he not been restricted to 12 video games resulting from a foot damage, we will solely marvel what Sasser might have completed final season. Even with out him and Tramon Mark, who each suffered season-ending setbacks final December, the Cougars nonetheless reached the Elite Eight. Now each gamers are again, together with a wealthy core of expertise. Sasser averaged 17.7 factors on a whopping 44% from past the arc. He has an actual shot to be the most effective guard within the nation, and Houston has an opportunity to be the highest crew within the land. I’ll facet with Sasser.

Katz: I’m going with the identical 5. And at this juncture, my decide for Player of the Year is definitely Gonzaga’s Drew Timme. Tshiebwe must produce related monster numbers to win it in back-to-back seasons. Timme goes to have to hold the Zags to a convention title and excessive seed more than some other participant on this checklist. Sure, Sasser and TJD will bear heavy burdens as properly. But the load administration on Timme is immense, and he is as much as the problem. If there are a couple of candidates who might simply crash this All-America social gathering, they’re: UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., TCU’s Mike Miles Jr. and Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. The Bruins are the decide within the Pac-12 and have the products to be a prime seed. If that occurs, count on Jaquez to provide. Miles is the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, and if the Horned Frogs win the convention, then conserving him off the primary crew will likely be troublesome. Smith might be the most effective freshman within the nation, is an SEC Player of the Year candidate and a cause the Hogs compete for the SEC title.

Who are your Final Four picks? And who will win the nationwide championship?

Katz: North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, TCU. National champion: UCLA.

The Bruins are on fairly a run over the previous three seasons and two of their key gamers are again — Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Campbell is a cash playmaker, and guards win titles. If Jaquez had been wholesome, the Bruins might have positively taken out Carolina within the Sweet 16 and then confronted Saint Peter’s for a second straight Final Four look. I really like the 1-2 punch of those two. But they’re hardly alone. Freshman star Amari Bailey might have an all-American season. Jaylen Clark and Adem Bona are primed to have breakout seasons. The Bruins defend. And they have expertise and an edge. So why not?

Fanta: Houston, Baylor, Kentucky, Virginia. My nationwide champion: Baylor.

The Bears will lower down the nets for the second time in three years. Last season, this crew was snake-bitten by accidents. A primary-weekend exit to North Carolina is the kind of factor that Scott Drew can use as gas for the marketing campaign forward. Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer will cost among the finest backcourts in America, and highly-touted freshman Keyonte George is without doubt one of the gamers I’m wanting ahead to seeing this season essentially the most. With West Virginia switch Jalen Bridges within the fold and Flo Thamba on the heart slot, the Bears are well-rounded and will as soon as once more be one of many nation’s prime defensive groups. Add in a five-star expertise in George to what the Bears’ different guards are doing, and the offensive prospects will be scary. It will likely be attention-grabbing to see how the bench develops for this crew, however their make-up is de facto sturdy. 

Which coaches are you shopping for inventory in?

Fanta: I’ll purchase inventory in a trio of first-year coaches, plus two coaches who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament final season, however ought to return to the dance ground this season.

First-year coaches: Florida’s Todd Golden, Xavier’s Sean Miller and UMass’ Frank Martin.

Two coaches who didn’t attain the NCAA Tournament however will this season: Oregon’s Dana Altman and Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton. 

I’ll elaborate on these: Miller’s gained more than 73% of the video games he’s coached. He’s a winner and has among the finest rosters within the Big East. Talent hasn’t been the difficulty at Xavier. Coaching was the difficulty. Not anymore. As for Florida, Golden hit it massive within the switch portal with Kyle Lofton, Will Richard and Alex Fudge. He stored Kowacie Reeves, too, and I feel he’s the proper match for the Gators.

At UMass, Martin is taking the bull by the horns, and I’ll purchase any little bit of inventory being offered. Before final yr, Altman had reached seven of the earlier eight NCAA Tournaments. With Will Richardson main the way in which, the Ducks is not going to keep down. They will likely be again and will problem on the prime of the Pac-12. As for Boynton, the Cowboys weren’t allowed within the NCAA Tournament final yr resulting from a harsh set of penalties. I feel that’s solely fueled the hearth for what this yr’s crew will likely be. Moussa Cisse is an elite rim protector. If the Pokes’ backcourt is in sync, they could be a Big 12 darkish horse.

Katz: Jon Scheyer, Duke; Hubert Davis, North Carolina; Todd Golden, Florida; Jeff Linder, Wyoming; Micah Shrewsberry, Penn State; Shaheen Holloway, Seton Hall; Darren DeVries, Drake; Shantay Legans, Portland

Scheyer and Davis are going to have the Duke-Carolina rivalry sturdy for years to return. They are nonetheless going to corral a few of the greatest expertise within the nation. Golden can work the analytics to his benefit by getting the proper suits. He will win in Gainesville. Linder might have the Pokes within the Sweet 16 and be on his option to one other job. Shrewsberry might be the following Matt Painter within the Big Ten. He will construct a profitable program and might have the Nittany Lions in place for a bid. Holloway may have his alma mater within the thick of the Big East bid competition. DeVries has a winner at Drake and will likely be a sizzling commodity. Legans, like Golden final season, might get the third bid out of the WCC and will likely be extremely coveted.

Who are your picks to win every convention?

Katz: Big Ten: Indiana; Big East: Xavier; ACC: North Carolina; Big 12: Kansas; SEC: Kentucky; Pac-12: UCLA.

I’m not going towards my preseason picks right here. The Hoosiers return the most effective participant and essentially the most expertise. They additionally could have the highest freshmen. They need to be the preseason decide. The identical is true within the ACC with all that’s returning for the Tar Heels. The addition of Pete Nance is a stable substitute for Brady Manek. I’m not going to go towards the reigning champs within the Big 12, although I might positively see TCU, Baylor or Texas profitable the league. Kansas is Kansas. And there may be sufficient returning to warrant a decide. Kentucky is primed to avenge final season’s first-round shocker to St. Peter’s. The 1-2 punch of Sahvir Wheeler and Oscar Tshiebwe together with a number of newcomers ought to put the Wildcats ready to stave off Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn. UCLA is the clear front-runner within the Pac-12. See above.

Fanta: Big Ten: Illinois; Big East: Creighton; ACC: Virginia; Big 12: Baylor; SEC: Tennessee; Pac-12: UCLA.

I’ll go “off the map” with the Southeastern Conference, however the Volunteers are a top-15 crew. Having Santiago Vescovi again is invaluable, and returnees Josiah Jordan-James and Olivier Nkamhoua give Tennessee expertise and size. I’m very intrigued to see what highly-touted freshman Julian Phillips brings to the desk from the wing place. He is de facto dynamic and ought to play properly off Vescovi. Rick Barnes’ groups all the time defend. If they discover sufficient offense, be careful for the Vols.

As for Virginia, Tony Bennett brings again all of his main contributors and I feel the Hoos are each bit nearly as good as North Carolina and Duke, if not higher. They’re simply not essentially receiving the nationwide consideration, however that’s precisely what Bennett would like. Look for 6-foot-6 wing Jayden Gardner to have a giant fifth season after he averaged over 15 factors final season.

As for the Big Ten, Brad Underwood’s crew has tons of versatility, big-time transfers in Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer, and a loaded recruiting class. I additionally count on RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins to make massive leaps.

Which convention would be the hardest from prime to backside?

Fanta: To me, it’s the Big 12. Baylor and Kansas might find yourself being top-five groups within the nation, whereas TCU is poised for a probably historic yr for this system and Texas is stacked with Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter charging the Longhorns. Texas Tech might be a top-20 crew if it figures sure issues out, and Oklahoma State is a crew that defends at a excessive stage. When Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia and Kansas State are on the backside of your league, that’s ridiculous. The Big 12 has the final two nationwide champions and the league has been represented within the final 4 Final Fours. It’s additionally the one convention to have three completely different groups play in three consecutive nationwide championship video games. 

Not solely is that this league deep, nevertheless it’s racking up {hardware}.  

Katz: Big 12. 

Have to agree with John right here. The Big 12 remains to be the league to beat. There is competitors with the SEC and Big Ten, however the depth from 1-to-10 within the Big 12 is difficult to beat. I absolutely count on eight of the ten to be in competition for bids, with Kansas State and West Virginia in all probability the odd groups out. But Kansas, TCU, Texas and Baylor are all legit Final Four contenders and therefore title prospects. Texas Tech is correct behind, however not by a lot. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa State are all proficient sufficient to make one other run towards a bid.

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Andy Katz is a longtime faculty basketball author, analyst and host. He will be seen on the Big Ten Network, in addition to March Madness and, and he hosts the podcast “March Madness 365.” Katz labored at ESPN for almost 20 years and, previous to that, in newspapers for 9 years.

John Fanta is a nationwide faculty basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports. He covers the game in a wide range of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to offering commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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