We've now hit the phase where we must start handing out the big (virtual) hardware. It's that most cherished of moments: the preseason awards! Here at CBS Sports, we focus on the big three: Player, freshman and coach of the year. If you're interested in a wider look at the best players, our All-America teams are waiting for you right here.
Here's how we landed on the winners: The collective CBS Sports college basketball braintrust of writers and analysts individually submitted ballots and offered their top three choices for each of the categories below. This year didn't seem as difficult as some in the past, and that's with good reason: remember that 2021-22 will be a season in which there are more returning players than usual in the modern era. The NCAA has allowed all scholarship athletes an extra year of competition on account of COVID-19 turning the entire sports world on its side for a year.
College basketball's season starts in 19 days. Here's where expectations nationally are the highest in the sport. -- Matt Norlander
Note: The CBS Sports Preseason individual awards were voted on by college basketball writers at CBSSports.com and 247Sports as well as broadcasters and analysts from CBS and CBS Sports Network.
CBS Sports 2021-22 Preseason Player of the Year
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Drew Timme was the leading scorer and rebounder for a Gonzaga team that played in last season's title game of the NCAA Tournament and finished 31-1. The 6-foot-10 forward is the only CBS Sports First Team All-American from last season who returned to school for this season. So it shouldn't really come as a surprise that he's the choice for the CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year.
Simply put, Timme is a great college player on a great college team — specifically the team that is the betting-favorite to win the 2022 NCAA Tournament. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game last season while shooting 65.5 percent from the field -- and he was even better in the NCAA Tournament, where he averaged 20.3 points and led the Zags to victories over North Florida, Oklahoma, Creighton, USC and UCLA before they were upset in the championship game by Scott Drew's Baylor Bears.
If Timme produces at a similar level this season, and Gonzaga remains at or near the top of the sport, he'll have a great chance to join Adam Morrison as the only Zags to ever win a National Player of the Year award. -- Gary Parrish
It's time to give some love to the players with the biggest expectations heading into the season. We discuss the 2021-22 CBS Sports big preseason awards and three All-America teams on the latest edition of the Eye on College Basketball podcast.
CBS Sports 2021-22 Preseason Coach of the Year
Matt Painter, Purdue
While more animated Big Ten peers such as Tom Izzo, Mark Turgeon, Fran McCaffery, Juwan Howard and Brad Underwood tend to get more national attention, Purdue coach Matt Painter has quietly guided the Boilermakers to an incredible 91-40 mark in Big Ten play over the last seven seasons. The long underrated Purdue coach is now getting his due as the Boilermakers enter the 2021-22 season with a roster capable of competing for the program's first Final Four appearance since 1980.
Last season, Painter guided a team relying heavily on four freshmen to a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That young team is a veteran group now, with basically every key contributor back and a pair of four-star freshmen joining the mix. In the era of mass transfers, this roster's combination of continuity, depth and star power is a testament to Painter's chops as a coach as he enters his 17th season leading his alma mater.
Painter is a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year winner, and he won the NABC National Coach of the Year honor in 2019. Yet, he still seems undervalued nationally, perhaps in part because he's locked in at his alma mater and hasn't reached a Final Four. But don't be surprised if he adds to his awards collection this season and cements his place as an elite coach within the sport's changing vanguard. -- David Cobb
CBS Sports 2021-22 Preseason Freshman of the Year
Paolo Banchero, Duke
With the No. 1 recruit from last year's class (Chet Holmgren) joining a star-studded Gonzaga roster, No. 2 overall recruit Paolo Banchero figures to be in line to step up as the sport's brightest young star at Duke. The Blue Devils lost their top two scorers from last season and with some of the playmaking gone to boot, Banchero's going to be a do-it-all weapon for a top-15 Duke team. We're expecting him to create, to score, and to be successful in just about everything he's asked to do as the alpha for this team. - Kyle Boone