Entering last college basketball season, Purdue center Zach Edey ranked No. 8 on our list of the sport's and was honored as a third-team preseason . The 7-foot-4 behemoth was expected to take on a larger role for the Boilermakers in the 2022-23 campaign following the departure of fellow star big man Trevion Williams.
Still, it was hard to project just how dominant Edey would become. He led the country in double-doubles with 27, finished second in rebounds per game, sixth in points per game and 21st field goal percentage. He became the first player Division I in history on record to rank in the top 25 for points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, according to Purdue.
He led the Boilermakers to Big Ten regular season and Tournament titles and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Though the season ended with a stunning and historic upset loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round, Edey's individual excellence made it a season to remember for Boilermakers fans. When he decided to return for a fourth year of college basketball, he instantly became the favorite to repeat as National Player of the Year. But doing so will be tough with plenty of other players capable of dethroning Edey as the most dominant player in college basketball.
For this week's edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are identify players not named Zach Edey who could break through and be college basketball's National Player of the Year for the 2023-24 season.
Kyle Filipowski, Duke
First things first, let the record show that I believe Zach Edey will repeat as Player of the Year. He'll be awesome again. Purdue will be awesome again. Barring a surprise or injury, the 7-foot-4 center should hold all of the trophies again.
But what if he doesn't?
If he doesn't, put me down for Duke's Kyle Filipowski, the 7-foot forward who is arguably the best NBA prospect who returned to college after last season. In an up-and-down year for the Blue Devils, Filipowski was consistently good. He averaged 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game while earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors. After that, the New York native was expected to enter the 2023 NBA Draft and become a first-round pick. Instead, he announced a return to Duke, solidifying the Blue Devils among the favorites to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Simply put, legitimate NBA prospects who return for their sophomore years sometimes emerge as statistical monsters. (Remember Blake Giffin at Oklahoma?) So I suspect Filipowski will take a noticeable leap this season, establish himself as an All-American for an obvious Final Four contender and maybe, just maybe, challenge Edey for POY awards. -- Gary Parrish
Justin Edwards, Kentucky
Each of my fellow coworkers have submitted excellent responses with great supporting evidence, but you'll notice one key difference in my selection -- he's the only freshman on the list. There's value in the known, as Parrish, Cobb and Salerno have evidenced. We know Hunter Dickinson will smash in KU's system. We know Kyle Filipowski will be a major player for Duke, and we know Donovan Clingan was a star in a supporting role as a freshman and now primed for a leap -- but there's also lots of value in the unknown.
So that's why I went with Justin Edwards.
Sure, Edwards could be another good-not-great freshman on a Kentucky roster stacked with talent, but he also might be a superstar who helps lead this Kentucky team to a special season. I tend to lean much further towards the latter. The former five-star recruit finished as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2023 class and is the second-highest ranked recruit playing in college this season behind only USC's Isaiah Collier. At 6-foot-7 he has already looked the part with UK this summer as a scorer and facilitator polished well beyond his years. Murmurs behind the scenes suggest he's poised to push for All-American status right away.
There's two other five-stars on UK's roster, and frankly, there are other five-stars with bigger opportunities -- like Collier -- but none look as ready as Edwards to surprise as a day-one star. If anyone can jump into the POY year race out of nowhere and push Edey this season, my money the freshman who could wind up leading one of college basketball's best teams. -- Kyle Boone
Donovan Clingan, UConn
The parallels between Edey and Clingan go well beyond the fact that they are both over seven feet tall. Much like Edey split time with Trevion Williams at center during the 2021-22 season, Clingan split time with Adama Sanogo at center for the Huskies during their national title run last year.
But now that Sanogo is gone, the runway is clear for Clingan to take off and dominate college basketball.
In just 13.1 minutes per game last season, Clingan averaged 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 65.5% shooting. He should at least double his playing time in the season ahead and become a focal point of UConn's offense amid the departures of Sanogo and top perimeter weapon Jordan Hawkins. While it's unlikely that Clingan will surge all the way to Edey's 2022-23 average of 22.3 points per game, he is a better rim protector than Edey and positioned to potentially lead the nation in blocks. If he can replicate Edey's foul-averse tendencies and maintain his conditioning, Clingan will find himself in the running for all sorts of postseason honors, including National Player of the Year. -- David Cobb
Hunter Dickinson, Kansas
Ever heard the "best player on the best team" cliché? Dickinson has a chance to be just that for Kansas this season. The Jayhawks were already going to be one of the most experienced teams in the country. Then they went out and got the No. 1 overall player in the transfer portal who has played in 94 career games in his career.
Dickinson is a perfect fit for Kansas head coach Bill Self. He is a traditional center who can score in a variety of ways and has shown ability to be a strong rebounder and block shots. Dickinson's scoring production could decrease as a result playing on a better overall team, but remember my first sentence. He is going to be the best player on the Jayhawks roster and they will have a strong case to be the No. 1 team all season.
Self and his staff have a history of working with some of the best big men in college basketball. The Jayhawks will have a chance to spam pick-and-roll with Dickinson in the fold and his improved ability to stretch the floor and hit shots from the perimeter will boost his case to win the most prestigious individual award in college basketball. -- Cameron Salerno