CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Sam Vecenie spent the July evaluation period at various 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 is nobody in college basketball as accomplished as Frank Kaminsky already was entering last season. Or as celebrated as Jahlil Okafor was heading into his freshman year. In fact, every single First Team AP All-American from the 2014-15 season was selected in June's NBA Draft, which leaves this sport with a gigantic hole to fill in terms of star power.
So what's the best way to predict which players might fill that hole this season?
By asking coaches the following ...
If you could pick any Division I player and put him on your team for this season, which player would you pick?
- Kris Dunn (Providence): 26 percent
- Ben Simmons (LSU): 21 percent
- Georges Niang (Iowa State): 20 percent
- Melo Trimble (Maryland): 6 percent
- Fred VanVleet (Wichita State): 5 percent
- Skal Labissiere (Kentucky): 4 percent
Others receiving votes: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Jaylen Brunson (Villanova), Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss), Jamal Murray (Kentucky ), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Jakob Poeltl (Utah), Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona), Tyler Ulis (Kentucky).
FIVE QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT
On Kris Dunn: "You can literally hand the ball to him and he'll go win you games on his own. Now, his health and durability, to me, is a major question mark. But you've got a kid that can legit go get you 15, 10 and 5 every night."
On Ben Simmons: "He's better than [Jahlil] Okafor. He goes into a pick-up game at LSU, doesn't take a shot, and he won't lose for seven games."
On Georges Niang: "I need someone who has proven that he can produce at this level, not someone who is projected to produce. Plus, this is to win college basketball games, not the NBA Draft. And Niang is a matchup nightmare."
I'm enamored by the potential of Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere, appreciative of the versatility of Georges Niang, and in love with the intangibles Fred VanVleet possesses. But, that said, I think the coaches got it right here.
The correct pick is likely Kris Dunn.
He's a 6-foot-4 point guard who averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds last season while leading Providence to the NCAA Tournament. His best game was probably a 27-point, 13-rebound, 11-assist performance in a January win over DePaul. And he is, in my opinion, the top NBA prospect who returned to college, meaning Dunn is the rare combination of a likely lottery pick who is already a proven monster at the Division I level.
Simply put, Dunn will have statistics worthy of all awards. The only question is whether his team will be good enough to keep him on everybody's radar. As always, we'll see. But, either way, he'll be appointment-television for basketball fans at all levels, if only because he's the one guy in the country capable of getting a triple-double against anybody.