College Basketball season is quickly coming up and all the preseason storylines are beginning to release. Who will win their conferences? Which freshman will make the biggest impacts? And who are the best players in the country? Here is Hoop Group Insider's first and second team All-American predictions for the 2018-19 season.
Edwards was the leading scorer for a talented Purdue team last season. Now with over 50% of their scoring gone, Edwards will be the focal point of this team. I expect Edwards to be near the same scoring as last season, (18.5) while upping his assists and leading the team their as well. He was third last season at 2.8, but the Boilermakers also had veteran guards Vincent Edwards and Dakota Mathias. With the ball in Carsen’s hands more, that number will rise.
Hachimura was a match-up nightmare last season for Gonzaga coming off the bench. Now with Jonathan Williams gone, Mark Few will go to Hachimura early and often from the tip. Hachimura has size and length; he’s a great scorer who mainly works from the inside, but is developing his outside game more and more. The Zags have enough production surrounding him that teams won't be able to double down as much as they'd like. Hachimura is also a strong rebounder, and could average a double-double for the Zags.
Luke Maye's stock has done nothing but rise since he hit that magical shot against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. He's not the most talented player on North Carolina, nor is he the most athletic. But he is the heart of the Tar Heels this season. He averaged a double double last season and his production will only go up without Joel Berry. North Carolina has a lot of talent, with Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams returning, and Nasir Little now on campus. In crunch time though, it will be Maye getting his name called.
Lawson sat out last season, but led the AAC in rebounding, (9.9) and was second in scoring (19.2) as a sophomore at Memphis. Now playing for a coach who knows how to get the most out of his bigs, expect Kansas to work through Lawson a lot this season. He’s efficient from the floor and has the ability to play away from the basket; that is pivotal with Udoka Azubuike clogging up the middle. With Kansas expected to be one of the best teams in the country, and Lawson their best player, he’s an obvious first team choice.
As a freshman, RJ Barrett is a common pick for National Player of the Year in college basketball this season. We haven't seen Barrett play collegiately yet, but he's put on dominant displays in the FIBA U19 games, leading Canada to the gold medal. Barrett scored 38 agaisnt John Calipari and team USA in the gold medal game. In Duke’s talented freshman class, he shines above the others. Barrett will thrive in transition for Duke, especailly when they implement their small ball line up. He’ll be able to get to the basket and open up opportunities for himself and teammates around him.
Just missing a first team nod, Williams was one of the main reasons for the Vols’ surprising season. He averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds on his way to SEC Co-Player of the Year. Tennessee won’t sneak up on anyone this season, and everyone knows how good Williams is. With a strong conference and tough out of conference schedule, Williams will have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers on a big stage.
Battle’s season last year seemed to gain legitimacy once Syracuse reached the Sweet 16. Battle was the best player for the Orange, but many thought the team wasn’t that good, and undeserving of a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Battle’s game is simple: he’s a scorer. He averaged 19 points a game last season and went over 20 points fifteen times. After testing the draft waters, the Jersey native is back and will once again be one of the best scoring guards in the ACC.
Martin was the best player on a Nevada team that made a strong run in the NCAA Tournament, and is expected to be even better this season. Martin, like his brother Cody, stuffs the statsheet for the Wolfpack. He averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal per game. What makes Martin stand out over his brother is the 40% shooting from three.
Howard is one of the most entertaining guards in the country. He’s Steph Curry-esque in the sense that he had games last season with double digit three point attempts, while connecting at a 40% clip. Howard was third in the Big East in scoring last season. In what may be a down year for the conference, Howard will be either one or two in scoring again.
An upperclassmen on Villanova is going to step up and lead Villanova this season, it’s just a matter who. A lot of preseason teams are picking Eric Paschall, but I like Booth for a few reasons. He’s Nova’s outside threat, connecting on 38% of threes last year. That’s second among returners, but he doubled Collin Gillespie in attempts. Also look at how Nova “struggled” when Booth had injury last year (they lost 2 of 7 games.) He makes the Wildcats go, and I think he will have a big senior year.