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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | November 2, 2021

16 men's basketball national player of the year candidates, according to Andy Katz

First preseason 2022 March Madness bracket predictions by Andy Katz

The 2021-22 college basketball season kicks off on Tuesday, Nov. 9 and March Madness correspondent Andy Katz ranked his top 16 men's basketball national player of the year candidates on the latest March Madness 365 (#MM365) podcast, where he was joined by several of the candidates, including UCLA's Johnny Juzang, Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim, Illinois' Kofi Cockburn and Gonzaga's Drew Timme.

Katz seeded these players 1-16 in preparation for a fan voting contest that will begin on November 4 on March Madness' official Twitter account. 

You can listen to the latest #MM365 podcast below.

Here are Katz's top 16 national player of the year candidates in the preseason.

1. Johnny Juzang, UCLA

In his first season at UCLA, Juzang led the Bruins to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed, while finishing as the leading scorer in the 2021 NCAA Tournament with 137 points in six games, which was an average of 22.8 points per game. For the season, Juzang averaged a team-high 16 points per game, along with 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while shooting 50.7 percent from 2-point range and 3.53 percent from three.

He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection as a sophomore.

2. Drew Timme, Gonzaga

As a sophomore, Timme earned second-team All-America honors and he won the Karl Malone Award, which is given to the best power forward in the country, after he led the 31-1 Bulldogs in scoring (19.0 points per game) and rebounding (7.0 rebounds per game), while shooting 67.7 percent inside the arc.

Gonzaga's second, third and fourth-leading scorers from last season — Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi — have since moved on, so Timme will unquestionably be the team's best returning player and he'll be joined by another potential All-America candidate, freshman Chet Holmgren, in Gonzaga's frontcourt.

3. Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

Cockburn elected to return to Illinois for his junior year after he was named a consensus second-team All-American as a sophomore when he nearly averaged a double-double at 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting 65 percent from the field. At 7 feet and 285 pounds, Cockburn is a load to deal with in the post, as he drew an average of 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranked fifth nationally, per kenpom.com.

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4. Hunter Dickinson, Michigan

In a Big Ten Conference that's loaded with frontcourt talent, Dickinson is as good as any big man in the league. As a freshman, he was a consensus second-team All-American and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, while leading Michigan in scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (7.4 rebounds) on the way to a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He averaged four free throw attempts per game and he took almost 4.3 free throws for every 10 field goal attempts, which boosted his offensive efficiency.

5. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Think about this: Jackson-Davis is fifth on Katz's list but he's the third-highest ranked Big Ten big man. Jackson-Davis returned to Bloomington to play for former Hoosier Mike Woodson in his first year at the helm of his former school. The forward almost averaged 20 and 10 last season — 19.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, to be exact — while averaging almost 1.5 blocks per game. He'll be the centerpiece of an Indiana team that's searching for the program's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016.

6. Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

Gonzaga's frontcourt will be loaded this season with Drew Timme (No. 2 on this list) and Holmgren sharing the floor together. The Zags could have the best power forward (Timme) and center (Holmgren) in the country and with departed starters Kispert, Suggs and Ayayi vacating roughly 30 shots per game, the opportunity is there for Holmgren to be a star immediately.

The advanced analytics site barttorvik.com projects Holmgren to average 18.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while posting an offensive rating of 130, which would put him among the most efficient players in the country.

7. Paolo Banchero, Duke

Going back to barttorvik.com, Banchero is projected to average 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, while posting the highest usage rate on the Blue Devils, so if the talented freshman can deliver upon those projections, then he would likely find himself on All-America lists next spring.

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8. Collin Gillespie, Villanova

Gillespie was named Co-Big East Player of the Year last season after averaging 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, while helping the Wildcats win another regular-season title in the Big East. With shooting percentages of 48.5 percent from two, 37.6 percent from three and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line, Gillespie posted an offensive efficiency rating of 118.9, which ranked 124th nationally, per kenpom.com.

9. E.J. Liddell, Ohio State

Liddell was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore, when he averaged 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game for an Ohio State team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

10. Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse

Buddy Boeheim led a Sweet 16 run for No. 11 seed Syracuse last season. He averaged 17.8 points per game in the regular season, 29 points in two ACC tournament games and 22.3 points in three NCAA tournament games, while shooting 14-for-32 from deep in the big dance.

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11. Marcus Carr, Texas

As a redshirt junior at Minnesota, Carr averaged 19.4 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game, earning third-team All-Big Ten honors in the process. He transferred to Texas in the offseason.

12. Jaden Ivey, Purdue

Jaden Ivey is a prime candidate to have a breakout season. As a freshman, he was Purdue's second-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game, while starting 12 times and coming off the bench in 11 games. He shot 50 percent from two and 72 percent at the free-throw line. He'll look to improve on his 25.8-percent 3-point percentage from last season.

13. Emoni Bates, Memphis

Bates reclassified to the class of 2021 and enrolled at Memphis, where he joined a Tigers squad that won the 2021 NIT and posted the No. 1 defensive efficiency in the country last season, per kenpom.com. He's projected to average 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, according to barttorvik.com.

14. Max Abmas, Oral Roberts

Max Abmas led the country in scoring last season at 24.5 points per game and he led No. 15 seed Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16, as the Golden Eagles became just the second No. 15 seed to do so. Abmas is one of the best shooters in the country, as he shot 51.7 percent from two, 42.9 percent from three and 89.4 percent from the free-throw line, which gave him an outstanding offensive rating of 121.4, per kenpom.com.

15. Remy Martin, Kansas

Remy Martin is the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year after being a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 honoree at Arizona State, where he averaged 19.1 points per game for the second season in a row. He made almost half of his 2-point attempts and shot 34.6 percent from three, which was an improvement from his sophomore (31.2 percent) and junior (33.5 percent) seasons.

16. Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Oscar Tshiebwe transferred to Kentucky in the offseason and he'll provide a formidable inside presence for the Wildcats. He played just 10 games at West Virginia last season where he averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line.

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