CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent the July evaluation period at NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on players, coaches and issues in the sport. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.
There isn't a single First Team or Second Team AP All-American from last season playing college basketball this season, meaning the sport is missing obvious star power -- especially when you combine the lack of established high-level players with the fact that no incoming freshman is as hyped as Ben Simmons was a year ago.
So what's the best way to predict which players might fill that hole this season?
By asking college coaches the following question:
If you could pick any Division I player and put him on your team for this season, which player would you pick?
FIVE QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT
It's interesting, but unsurprising, that there was not a consensus answer to this question. No player got more than 13 percent of the vote, which is way different from last year, when the votes basically all went to Providence's Kris Dunn (26 percent), LSU's Ben Simmons (21 percent) and Iowa State's Georges Niang (20 percent).
From talking to coaches, here's what I believe: If not for two torn ACLs, the leading vote getter would've been Duke's Harry Giles. Multiple coaches described him as "the next Chris Webber." But the 6-foot-10 freshman hasn't played since November of last year, and nobody knows how he'll respond to a second major surgery.
Consequently, Giles' teammate received the most votes.
And that makes sense for the exact reason lots of coaches said - because Grayson Allen is going to be one of the nation's best scorers for what should be the nation's best team. The 6-5 junior averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. He's a lock for every preseason All-America team and will likely be most people's preseason National Player of the Year.
So, again, I was not surprised Allen led all vote-getters.
But the name I actually heard more often than any other is Markelle Fultz. The Washington freshman finished first among coaches I polled but was significantly lower among those Matt Norlander contacted, which led to Fultz finishing slightly behind Allen in the final tally. Still, it's clear, coaches really like Fultz. One coach who worked with the point guard this summer told me he was "by far" the best player on the USA team that won gold at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship last month. Several others predicted he'll be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Just a special, special talent. If Washington is good enough, Fultz will stack hardware in what should be his lone season of college basketball.
If you're keeping track by school, Duke had three players (Grayson Allen, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum) receive votes, which led all teams. Kentucky (Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo), Villanova (Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins) and Kansas (Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson) each had two players get votes. For what it's worth, those four schools are first, second, third and fourth in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one).