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#1  Jared Sullinger- Ohio St

Sullinger was a candidate for player of the year last year as a freshman and now with Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, and Nolan Smith all in the NBA, he is the early favorite to capture the award. Sullinger made good on his promise to return for his sophomore year and is expected to lead the Buckeyes to another highly successful season. Last year, Sullinger’s stats included 17.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and a stellar .541 field goal percentage. He is an absolute animal in the post who can handle even the best double teams and is also very skilled at passing back out. Even with the losses of sharpshooter Jon Diebler and versatile swingman David Lighty, Sullinger still has running mate William Buford and smooth point guard Aaron Craft to help him out. The Buckeye center is poised to have another phenomenal year, although this one should be even better. Expect Sully to win player of the year and to see Ohio St. in the final four.

#2 Harrison Barnes- North Carolina

Another super sophomore makes the top of the list. Barnes is another player who passed up being a lottery ticket for returning to college hoops for at least one more year. Barnes really started hitting his stride during conference play last year averaging 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. His freshman highlights included hitting a buzzer beating three against Florida St. and scoring 40 points against Clemson in the ACC tournament. Barnes is a versatile big man who still has the potential to be even better than he already is. His strength, big frame, and ability to stretch the floor make him a matchup nightmare. With the returns of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, everyone is expecting Barnes and the Tar Heels to win a nation championship. While nothing is set in stone, it should be a great season for Barnes and North Carolina.

#3   Terrence Jones- Kentucky

 While many may remember Terrence Jones for his disappearing act in the NCAA tournament, you can’t forget that he was a preseason favorite to win player of the year. Jones is just oozing with potential and although he had a fantastic season last year with 16.5 points and 8.9 rebounds, he could really break out this year and just become a completely unstoppable force in college basketball. Talent surrounds him with fellow Wildcats Doron Lamb and Darius Miller as well as top recruited newcomers Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague. It’s no surprise that the top three players on this list are on what will probably be the top three teams in the nation when the season starts. That being said, Jones needs to be a leader for this team on and off the court and increase his field goal percentage, but he will have another great year and dominate his foes.

# 4   John Jenkins- Vanderbilt

A true sharpshooter, Jenkins was money from everywhere on the floor, shooting 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Those are incredible numbers for a shooting guard. Jenkins has a chance this year to develop even more and improve on his 19.5 points per game. With Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli on board for Jenkins’ junior year, he should be better than ever. Jenkins is great at creating his own shot and has a silky smooth three-point stroke that could be the best in the nation. He is going to put up a ton of points this year and could even lead the nation in scoring. The Commodores will be fun to watch this year and look to finally get over the hump and win some tournament games, maybe quite a few.

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#5   Ashton Gibbs- Pittsburgh

 Even though the Panthers won’t be in the ACC for much longer, Gibbs plans on making their remaining time memorable. While Pitt did lose some starters, they also return some key players and have a nice recruiting class that will help make Gibbs a top five player. While many think he is NBA ready, Gibbs should improve his game and be even better this year. It may be tough to increase his three-point percentage (nearly 50%), but Gibbs has the potential to do so. On top of being a great shooter, Gibbs excels on slashing and attacking the basket, making him an all around threat. He should carry even more of the offensive load with Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, and Gary McGhee gone so expect him to go off this season.

#6    Perry Jones- Baylor

The athletic freak that is Perry Jones has the Bears primed for a very successful year. With Quincy Acy by his side, as well as promising recruits Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello, Baylor will be in the mix for the Big 12 title. Jones is a very fast and long athlete who is very explosive and excellent at finishing under the basket. And the best part about Jones? He still has a long way to go before reaching his full potential. Jones declined being a top five pick in the draft next year because he said he wasn’t mature enough and ready to be on his own, so you know he’s on the right track. As talented as Jones is, once he breaks out and reaches his full potential, he will become a tremendous NBA big man. Who knows, this could be the year for that.

#7   Tu Holloway- Xavier

 The best returning player that is not in a big six conference is Holloway, without a doubt. The senior is an all around threat averaging 20.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists last year. Holloway has also improved his shooting every year and looks to do it again this season. A small but quick and crafty guard, Holloway is one of those do-it-all players who is looking to avenge a first round loss to Marquette in the NCAA tournament. The Musketeers will be right in the thick of things for the conference title, and expect them to ride Holloway as deep into March as they can.

#8   Jeremy Lamb- Connecticut

The lanky sophomore who really came up big for the Huskies during the championship run last year will be their leader this year. Lamb, who has a wingspan of 7’ 11”, is a great defender because of his length and quick hands, but he is also good on the offensive side of the ball as well. Lamb has good range and a nice pull up jumper. Including Lamb, Connecticut has four returning starters and looks poised for another magical season. Expect a huge jump is his 10.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game averages as he looks to fill Kemba Walker’s shoes and defend the Huskies title.

#9   Jordan Taylor- Wisconsin

Taylor could possibly be the best point guard in the country this year as he’ll take over more of the offensive load that was left by Jon Leuer. And after averaging 18.1 points last year, an increase from that will be huge. Taylor has a great three-point shot and excels at distributing the ball and running the offense. He is also very good at not turning the ball over (1.2 turnovers per game last year) like the rest of the Badgers. Wisconsin is a consistently good team and its recent success has a lot to do with the fact that Taylor has been their point guard for the past 4 years. Expect a big year from Taylor.

#10   John Henson- North Carolina

Henson is a good scorer and a great rebounder, but his most impressive attribute is his length. The Tar Heel is 6’ 10” with an extraordinary 7’ 6” wingspan. This was made evident in last year’s NCAA tournament when he was tipping passing with ease. Another good aspect of Henson’s game is that he is a great player in transition, usually beating other big men down the court. Henson, like Barnes, has great potential to be a special NBA player. He averaged 11.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and an astounding 3.1 blocks per game last season. While Henson did have some absentminded moments last year, he should grow with another season at Chapel Hill and be a key cog in the Tar Heels’ run to a title.

#11   JaMychal Green Alabama

The Tide broke out last season with Green leading the way. Although they only made it to the NIT final, Alabama is looking for bigger and better things this season. Green is very athletic and a superior rebounder that could make him a solid NBA power forward.  Green averaged 16 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks last year, but only shot 48% from the field, a mediocre percentage for a big man. Green made Dick Vitale’s third team All-Solid Gold, and he may be even higher than that by season’s end. Green should not only be on the top players list by the end of the year, but expect to see him quite often on ESPN’s top plays as well.

#12 Khris Middleton- Texas A&M

Lots of controversy has been surrounding Texas A&M but Middleton is ready to make everyone forget about that for a while and make the Aggies a true contender in the Big He has great size for his position and is still growing. He’s also a threat to score from anywhere on the floor in any way. He seems to be a Jamal Crawford type player who can just light it up any given night by putting the ball in the basket at will. Averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds a year ago, Middleton will once again be the go-to guy and if the Aggies play their cards right, they could be the best team in the Lone Star state this year.

#13   Austin Rivers- Duke

Rivers will be the top freshman this year and many are pegging him to go first overall in next year’s draft. Rivers is a quick combo guard who has a knack for scoring. He’ll provide this season with many jaw dropping moves and finishes around the basketball that will show he’s NBA ready. He had a fantastic high school career and being Doc Rivers’ son is nothing to hang your head on. I can imagine Rivers being the Kyrie Irving of this year’s Blue Devils’ squad, a team leader, dynamic scorer, and good at finding his teammates. Since Rivers is only a freshman, there is still some unknown about him. But him and the rest of Duke’s freshman should help them continue to pick up wins.

#14  Tim Hardaway Jr.- Michigan

Following in your father’s footsteps is never easy, especially if he was as successful as Tim Hardaway Sr. was. But with the talent and potential that the younger Hardaway flashed last season, he’s going to be a fantastic player. He averaged 13.9 points a season ago and with Darius Morris in the NBA, he’ll become the leading scorer for the Wolverines. He still has a lot to work on in terms of taking better shots, but he certainly has a winning attitude: Hardaway expects the Wolverines to contend for the national title. That may be a bit of a stretch, but Michigan will certainly be a competitive ballclub this season.

#15 Tyler Zeller- North Carolina

Yet another Tar Heel big man makes the list. Zeller has the size and strength of a true center but also has great mobility and athleticism for a seven footer. He is a monster in the post and uses that right hook to perfection. He may be in the shadow of Barnes and Henson, but Zeller is a better scorer than Henson, a better rebounder than Barnes, and has more experience then the two. He could be the biggest key to a Tar Heel championship run and also looks to be a solid big man in the NBA.

#16  Anthony Davis- Kentucky

The Anthony Davis hype train has been picking up steam and there is a very solid chance that he ends the year much higher on this list. Davis had a growth spurt his junior year of high school, so he does have some perimeter skills. As far as the rest of his game goes, he is good at passing and ball handling, outstanding at rebounding, and his 7’ 4” wingspan makes him a force to be reckoned with defensively. The potential for this guy is very high and he should be a lottery pick next year. He will be one of the most exciting freshmen this year and expect him to pair up very well with Terrence Jones. North Carolina’s frontcourt may look better now, but Davis has the ability to outperform all of them.

#17  Draymond Green- Michigan St.

Green is the type of player who has always been very talented, but with the loss of Kailan Lucas, Green should thrive being the go-to guy. Green may not be the tallest power forward, but he is bulky and he knows how to use his body. He averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4 assists, just showing how versatile he is. He also improved his three point shooting, hitting 37 of them last year. Green has a nice jump shot and is also good at blocking them. The Spartans may not have as much success as they’ve had in the past, but they should still make the NCAA tournament with Green, a very underrated player, leading the way.

#18   Jeffery Taylor- Vanderbilt

Taylor has great athletic ability, especially on defense, and is powerful down low. A great compliment to Jenkins on the outside, Taylor has the potential to be better than the 15.1 points per game average he was last year. Expect him to grow a lot this year and improve his rebounding, but his stats may suffer a bit from sharing the load with Ezeli and Jenkins. Regardless, Taylor is a stud who will shine this season as bright as the Vanderbilt jersey.

#19  Trevor Mbakwe- Minnesota

Mbakwe and the Golden Gopher endured a tough stretch last year that saw Minnesota’s tournament hope disappear. Mbakwe struggled a bit, but looks to come back this year to avenge their loss. He was an animal on the glass averaging 10.5 rebounds and should collect many more this season. Mbakwe is the kind of player who can dominate a game on both sides of the ball, so look for Minnesota to contend with some top tier teams this year.

#20  Cleveland Melvin- DePaul

One can hope that the rest of the Blue Demons can develop as well as Melvin will so that he gets the national attention he deserves. Melvin was dominant in the paint last season as a freshman but he really showed breakout potential, even in a dismal season for DePaul. He averaged 14.3 points last year as well as 5 rebounds, but expect those numbers to spike greatly. Melvin is a sleeper to lead the Big East in rebounding. Coach Oliver Purnell has sang his praises for the young big man, and he should be able to move the Blue Demons out of the Big East basement this season.

#21  Yancy Gates- Cincinnati

Gates broke out last year, as did the Bearcats. Averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, he was a monster down low this year and showed he could hang with the physicality of the Big East. He has a bulky frame that should allow him to bully many players down low. Cincinnati is looking to build off of its success from last season, and with Gates leading the crew, expect a sweet sixteen appearance.

#22   Peyton Siva- Louisville

Siva should score a lot more points this year with Preston Knowles out of the picture. As he showed last season in the NCAA tournament, he was able to carry the team and make impossible plays. While it may be a bit of a ridiculous comparison, Siva somewhat reminds me of Derrick Rose. He should be one of the top point guards in the nation this year and averages double digits points. Siva is going to be tough to defend this year, and will headline one of the best teams in the Big East.

#23   Kris Joseph- Syracuse

Joseph is the returning leading scorer on a talented Orange squad that only lost Rick Jackson. Syracuse had its ups and downs last year, but they seem poised for a spectacular season with Joseph leading the way. A talented swingman, Joseph averaged 14.4 points and 5 rebounds last year. He’s always been talented, but this could be the year he really breaks out and becomes a true star. Expect big things from Joseph and the Orange this season.

#24  Quincy Acy- Baylor

Acy and Jones will make one hell of a duo down low, but don’t put Acy on the backburner. He may not be as talented as Jones, but he still has great athleticism and rebounding ability. He averaged 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds last season but Baylor was too inconsistent of a team to really be taken seriously. Now, they have a great looking lineup and should be able to rebound with the best of the best. Acy has a great field goal percentage and is underrated since Jones receives all the hype at Baylor, so don’t sleep on him.

#25  William Buford- Ohio St.

The list starts with a Buckeye and ends with a Buckeye. Buford did a little bit of everything last season for Ohio St., and despite the fact that there were so many scorers on the team, he still averaged 14.3 points. Buford should see an expanded roll this year and get a lot more shots. Plus, with Aaron Craft starting this year, he should get set up to score a lot more. Buford will greatly help his draft status as he tries to help the Buckeyes win a national title.

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