The NCAA basketball season is less than a few hours away and there will be a lot of players looking to make some big time contributions to their respective teams.
There are lots of interesting storylines that are about to be set into motion and this could be one of the best years for our Canadian men playing down south.
Now before the season kicks in, here is our preseason honor roll to get you ready for the what should be an exciting NC-Double-Eh season …
Most Outstanding Player – Kyle Wiltjer, Sr – Gonzaga
The debate between who will be the best NBA player between a few of the Canadians playing in the NCAA this season will go on until Draft day but this year’s most outstanding player will be Kyle Wiltjer.
Wiltjer, who was named preseason All American by the Associated Press, has had the good fortune of playing for teams with some very, very good players. This has allowed him to really ease into a role and work his way up the responsibility chain. Last season as a junior he was outstanding for Gonzaga filling in some pretty big shoes that fellow Canuck Kelly Olynyk left. Now with Kevin Pangos gone this will be his team to pilot. Coach Mark Few will likely run the offense through Wiltjer to help facilitate and making him pretty much indispensable. There are three players on the Zags that can make dramatic contributions but the team will only go so far as Wiltjer can lead them. Jamal Murray has a better shot at getting to the Final Four, Dillon Brooks and Xavier Rathan-Mayes might get to the Sweet Sixteen but Wiltjer is the reason Gonzaga would have a chance to win against these teams.
Top Newcomer – Jamal Murray, Fr – Kentucky
When you’re name starts showing up on pre-season All American lists and you’re forcing your coach to decide if you start over players that have performed well at the high major level the year before you got to campus, then you are one bad man. Jamal Murray is that guy. He’s got so much talent that one publication had him as the best small forward this season because he’s likely playing in a three-guard offense. How’s that for respect!
I don’t imagine that he’s going to average 20 points or 10 assists, not many players for Coach Calipari do at Kentucky, but whatever the modest numbers are he’ll be the catalyst in the backcourt. Will he be All American for sure, who knows. What we do know is that he’ll be the best Canadian newcomer, period.
Best Situation – Justin Edwards, Sr – Kansas St
Justin Edwards is right where he needs to be this season. He’s a senior on a team loaded with freshmen and sophomore talent; he happens to be the most dynamic scorer on his team, and probably the Big 12 Conference too. Oh yeah, and he’s a senior. This all should point out to Edwards looking a lot like the player he was at Maine three years ago only doing damage against high-major competition nightly. There has been a lot of chatter about how much he’s improved his outside shot over the summer, which just adds to his already exciting slashing game.
Last season, the Wildcats were incredibly balanced on O with the top scorer only averaging 12.5 ppg and the next two at 11.3 ppg.
Edwards only averaged 6.3 ppg but this season that should skyrocket with more offensive touches this season as an upperclassman. K-State is looking like an NCAA Tournament team (even if it is an at-large bid) and it could be Edwards who is a major part of that happening this season.
Worst Situation – Dyshawn Pierre, Sr – Dayton Flyers
In what was looking like the senior season that could potentially land him in second round NBA Draft talks, Dyshawn Pierre is still on the outside looking in.
Pierre fought the suspension and lost on his appeal. Now he’s in limbo. Pierre was the Flyer’s leading returning scorer and rebounder and was looking like he was ready to make the leap to elite level status in the Atlantic-10 Conference, and in the NCAA, that will have to be postponed now.
It’s very likely that he’ll be eligible to return for the second semester but that would mean that he’s lost at least eight games and would be playing catch up since he’s not been enrolled in school or allowed to workout with the team. There’s been no decision as of yet regarding Pierre returning to the Dayton campus or the team.
Due for a Breakout – Naz Mitrou-Long, Sr – Iowa St
As a freshman, Naz Mitrou-Long showed some promise hitting big shots in bigger moments. That continued into his sophomore and junior years also but he’s always been the fourth or fifth option. He’s played behind some very good guards and with some equally good post and wing options so shine was always at a minimum.
This season, as a senior, the spotlight may focus a little more on him. Even with fellow senior and pre-season All America candidate Georges Niang as the Cyclones’ do-it-all star, expect Mitrou-Long to best his 2014-15 numbers.
Redemption Time – Braeden Anderson, Sr – Seton Hall
I don’t know what to say about Braeden Anderson. This guy is supremely talented but has not had any luck at all. Not eligible at Kansas as a true freshman he was forced to transfer since the Big 12 doesn’t allow freshmen non-qualifiers. He transfers to Fresno St only to be unable to play until the second half of his then sophomore year.
Before the start of his junior season he is involved in a serious Automobile Accident and he is hospitalized for several weeks. He recovers and plays a few games the following season. He averaged only 1 point and 1.8 rebounds in 10.6 minutes in 17 games.
Honestly, Anderson’s time may be up in terms of becoming that All American type player many were projecting when he was a high school senior but he could still have his best college ball season.
And after what he’s been through that may be enough.
Don’t Call It a Comeback – Dylan Ennis
Dylan Ennis’ college basketball career has been a little bit of a roller coaster ride. He started off at Rice only to transfer after his all conference freshman season due to a coaching situation that actually depleted the team of its best players. He then spent the next two seasons, following his transfer year, at Villanova were he was a steady player for two Wildcat teams that reached the NCAA Tournament. Now that Ennis graduated in the spring is immediately eligible to play for an Oregon team that could use his outside shooting. Unfortunately his debut will have to wait at least a month after he injured his foot but he’s the perfect do-it-all type of player that could be the glue that puts the Ducks on a course to a deep run in March.
The Sleeper Cell – Stefan Jankovic
Even though Stefan Jankovic missed the first 11 games for Hawaii after transferring from Missouri midway through his freshman season he still managed to make a huge splash. He lead the team in blocks per game while placing third in points per game (10.6) and second in rebounding (4.9) all in 20 minutes per contest. And yet despite these numbers he’s still largely an unknown talent. The Warriors will likely rely heavily on Jankovic since he’s one of only three players taller than 6’7” and since he can step out and hit the three ball he’s a mismatch for most bigs. If he can get the freedom to play an outside/in game on the wing all season Jankovic could be all conference.
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida St
Duane Notice, South Carilina
Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii
Mychal Mulder, Kentucky
Justin Edwards, Kansas St
Dylan Ennis, Oregon
Chris Boucher, Oregon
Top Five Newcomers
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Jalen Poyser, UNLV
Mychal Mulder, Kentucky
Chris Boucher, Oregon
Nelson Kaputo, St. Bonaventure