CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Reid Forgrave spent much of July on the road in cities across the country, covering the live recruiting periods. While there, and in the weeks since, they've surveyed coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They polled everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, coaches provided unfiltered honesty about a number of topics in the sport. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be posting the results on several questions posed to more than 100 coaches.
There isn't a single first- or second-team Associated Press All-American from last season playing this upcoming season, meaning the sport is, per usual, missing experienced star power. As I've said and written many times, that is the biggest problem college basketball faces -- a constant turnover of the best players no other mainstream sport experiences. We basically start fresh every season. So what's the best way to predict which players may become stars in 2017-18?
By asking college coaches the following question:
Who will be college basketball's best player this season?
Michael Porter Jr.
Joel Berry II
Marvin Bagley III
(Every player listed received at least two votes.)
Quotes that stood out
On Michael Porter ...
- "I always like people who can score and that can play multiple positions. And I think Michael Porter can play offensively at all five positions. You can put him anywhere and he's going to be a threat to score at any time on the offensive end. Defensively, no comment. I don't know. I think that's what the knock is. He's not tough or not physical. But he's so gifted offensively, and I think that [other stuff] comes with maturity, time and age. "
- "I don't know if he'll be the best player. But he's the most talented. He's been awesome every time I've seen him. He'll be a star in college and in the NBA. There's a reason two different schools have hired his dad."
- "He's the most versatile player in the class. I'd compare him to the guy the Sixers got who didn't play this year -- Ben Simmons."
On Miles Bridges ...
- "He's not Blake Griffin. But remember the sophomore season Blake had? I see Bridges to do something like that."
- "One year under your belt -- and he has as much talent as anybody -- but one year under your belt is a huge deal in college. You can't really replicate experience."
- "Expecting him to be dominant this year. Somebody with that much talent at 6-foot-7 will do whatever he wants at the college level. Should be a unanimous first team All-American."
On Jalen Brunson ...
- "He has a 67-9 record in his first two years at the collegiate level. He's a winner. I like winners."
- "He's the silent killer and best leader. He's not going to get 30 points a game. But he's going to get 14, eight assists and seven rebounds. Miles Bridges might get 28 and 10. But if I'm taking one of them, I'm taking Brunson. Best all-around player."
- "He's not the quickest or the best shooter. He's not the best scorer. But he knows how to run a team. He's going to end his career as the winningest player in Villanova history.
Let the record show that many answers came before Marvin Bagley reclassified and committed to Duke. So it's possible, if not probable, that the 6-foot-11 forward would have received more votes if the timing were different. That's worth noting.
As for the rest ...
It's interesting that no player got more than 20 percent of the vote, and that only three received more than 10 percent, because what it suggests is that there's no clear favorite for National Player of the Year. Personally, I'd go with Bridges. But Porter is a totally reasonable alternative. And, honestly, I could see any of the top 10 players listed developing into legitimate POY candidates. And one thing Bridges and Devonte' Graham have going for them, by the way, is that they're clearly the best players on consensus top-five teams. And guys like that tend to be a part of the POY race no matter what.
And, of course, the Player of the Year could come out of nowhere.
Just look at last season for proof.
We asked coaches a similar question last August. Seventeen players received at least two votes. But the eventual Player of the Year, Kansas guard Frank Mason, did not. And his closest competition for the award, Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, did not.
So keep that in mind as the season progresses.
The POY probably will come from this list. But he might not.
And the uncertainty is among the things that keeps college basketball interesting.