There is no shame in being a college player for four years, as seniors have really reclaimed their role as the much-needed stars of the game in recent years. Just check the results: teams aren’t winning championships without seniors, and this season could be a banner run for the most experienced class.
Here are my top 25 seniors for the season:
1. Cassius Winston, 6-1, Michigan State: Winston is the preseason national player and Big Ten player of the year. He’s an extension of Tom Izzo on the floor. Winston can flip a switch and take a game from one possession to three or four in a matter of minutes. He heats up and knows when to take shots within his reach. He has become an exceptional leader and a potential national champion.
2. Myles Powell, 6-2, Seton Hall: Powell is a big-shot maker who has a chance to be Big East player of the year and national player of the year. He should lead the Pirates to their best showing in the NCAA tournament since being the national runner-up in 1989.
3. Markus Howard, 5-11, Marquette: No one else in the country can pop off for 40 or 50 on a given night outside of Howard. He’ll be appointment viewing this season. And he’s built to lead the Golden Eagles to another NCAA tournament berth.
4. Lamar Stevens, 6-8, Penn State: Stevens could be a double-double machine this season. Expect him to be one of the toughest players to keep off the glass and outside the lane. He’ll also be one of the top leaders in the country, taking Penn State to the NCAA tournament.
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5. Kerry Blackshear Jr., 6-10, Florida: Blackshear Jr., came to Florida to fill a void — to become the final piece to push the Gators closer to a Final Four. He’s the preseason SEC player of the year after leading Virginia Tech to a Sweet 16. Don’t be surprised if it all happens as planned for Blackshear Jr.
6. Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, Kansas: Azubuike has had an injury-riddled career with the Jayhawks. But when he’s been right, he’s immovable and impactful in the post. Azubuike has the chance to make his mark and create a significant legacy with a healthy season.
7. Jarron Cumberland, 6-5, Cincinnati: Cumberland is the go-to scorer for the Bearcats. He should be one of the top three candidates for American Athletic Conference player of the year.
8. Anthony Cowan Jr., 6-0, Maryland: Cowan Jr., should be the next in line of great guards at Maryland to lead the Terps deep in the NCAA tournament. Like Winston, he has grown into his role as a scorer and distributor. Mark Turgeon can rely on Cowan every night.
9. Markell Johnson, 6-1, NC State: Johnson is the do-everything lead guard for the Wolfpack. If NC State makes the NCAA tournament, it will be because Johnson stuffed the stat sheet.
10. Sam Merrill, 6-5, Utah State: Merrill should end up winning back-to-back Mountain West player of the year honors. Merrill averaged over 20 points a game last season. He should match that and keep his assists a game average over four. He needs to get more national attention.
11. Marcus Evans, 6-2, VCU: Evans got hurt in the A-10 tournament and wasn’t 100 percent in the first-round game against UCF. Had he been then the Rams may not have been out. Evans will battle with multiple Davidson players for A-10 player of the year.
12. Jordan Ford, 6-1, Saint Mary’s: Think of the guards who have come through Moraga like Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills. Ford can end up being in their lane. He could leave Saint Mary’s with a deeper run than both in the NCAA tournament.
13. Anthony Lamb, 6-6, Vermont: Lamb averaged 21 points a game last season and could work all the angles around the lane. He was the player of the year in the America East last season. He should be again.
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14. Kamar Baldwin, 6-1, Butler: Baldwin doesn’t get the due he deserves. The Bulldogs coaching staff can count on him to deliver every game. Baldwin will be an all-Big East first team player. Lock it in.
15. Zavier Simpson, 6-0, Michigan: Simpson is the perfect player for Juwan Howard’s first Michigan team. He will be loyal, handle adverse situations and answer the call for points, assists and the need for a defensive stopper.
16. Payton Pritchard, 6-2, Oregon: Pritchard does a lot of the busy work for the Ducks. He isn’t the high flyer or the highlight reel. But he will get what needs to be done for Dana Altman’s crew to challenge for the Pac-12 title.
17. Breein Tyree, 6-2, Ole Miss: Tyree is the top returning scorer in the SEC at 17 points a game. He’ll probably match that and maybe surpass it this season as he leads the Rebels to a possible NCAA berth.
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18. Bryce Aiken, 6-0, Harvard: Aiken can score in bunches and has the ability to put up over 30. He averaged 22 a game and should deliver the Crimson an NCAA tournament berth and a possible first-round upset.
19. Nathan Knight, 6-10, William & Mary: Knight averaged 21 and grabbed nearly nine boards a game last season. If the Tribe is going to make its first ever NCAA tournament berth then Knight needs to have an CAA-player of the year season. It’s all doable.
20. Tres Tinkle, 6-8, Oregon State: Tinkle averaged 20 and 8 last season. He could end up being a double-double player this season. He will need to be close to those numbers to ensure the Beavers are in contention for an NCAA bid.
21. Alpha Diallo, 6-7, Providence: Diallo has grown into a significant leader for the Friars. He can deliver in a variety of ways on a given night. Ed Cooley can rely on Diallo to be on in some form each time out.
22. Yoeli Childs, 6-8, BYU: Childs got suspended for the first nine games, but he will make up for lost time. When he’s eligible, he’ll end up being one of the better scorers in the country, able to light up a team for 30-plus.
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23. Killian Tillie, 6-10, Gonzaga: Tillie has had an injury-riddled career with the Zags. But when he’s on — when he’s hitting deep 3s and protecting the rim — then the Zags are at a deep-run level.
24. Desmond Bane, 6-6, TCU: Bane gets no national love. Well, here we go. Bane averaged 15 points a game last season and should increase that number as he carries a heavy load this season for the Horned Frogs.
25. Jordan Lyons, 5-11, Furman: Lyons is a dynamite scorer/shooter, making 105 3s last season for the Paladins. He should have Furman in the hunt for first in the Southern and the NCAA tournament berth.