The trend of freshmen significantly impacting college basketball could potentially shift to full-blown domination next season. We’ve grown accustomed to a handful of first-year players being among the best in the game, but this talent pool is much deeper: ten frosh went in the first-round of the 2016 NBA draft; 15 are currently projected to be first-round draft picks in 2017. Most play for blue-blood programs which expect to be Final Four contenders. Using ESPN’s rankings, 17 of the top-25 incoming freshman are going to just six schools: Kentucky (5), Duke (4), UCLA (2), Kansas (2), Arizona (2), and Michigan State (2).
The defending national champion Villanova Wildcats are a clear exception. Coach Jay Wright’s program returns a strong nucleus of veteran talent, led by senior Naismith Award candidate Josh Hart. That should give the Wildcats the edge in chemistry and experience, but the team also has an incoming five-star recruit of it’s own; Omari Spellman (6’9, PF) will be counted on for toughness on the inside. If the Ohio native can replace the productivity of departed big-man Daniel Ochefu, Nova will be excellent. This is a team capable of winning a stacked Big East and earning a trip back to the Final Four.
The new norm for Kentucky and Duke is to have loaded incoming classes. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski have embraced the one-and-done era of college basketball. Each coach has won a national title (Calipari in 2012, Krzyzewski in 2015) with a nucleus of freshmen talent and both expect to back in contention this season.
Duke’s class is led by Harry Giles, who could be the first pick in next year’s NBA Draft. The Blue Devils also return a Naismith candidate of their own in Grayson Allen. The junior’s leadership will be invaluable as this young group finds its footing at the next level.
Duke’s freshman class could be the best in school history, but Kentucky’s is even better according to many. We have a pretty good sample size of freshman-dominated teams coached by Calipari. They have been good enough to win a national title and they have been bad enough to lose in the first-round of the NIT. This year’s version should be one of the more successful groups. Only the UK classes of 2011 and 2014 can rival this group in sheer talent.
In mid-summer, college hoops isn’t on the radar of most sports fans. For the next few months, most will be focused on the MLB pennant races and the kickoff to the football season. But the tip to the season (November 11) will be here before you know it, and you don’t want to be scrambling for the lay of the land at the last minute! So let’s take a look at what the odds say about the upcoming season.
Who’s going to be the best player in the country? Who will get drafted first? Which coach might follow these stud freshmen to the NBA? Here are the current projections.
2016-17 NCAA Basketball Futures
Odds to win the 2017 National Championship:
Michigan State: 25/1
Odds to be an NBA coach at this time next year:
Kevin Ollie (Connecticut): 3/1
John Calipari (Kentucky): 4/1
Gregg Marshall (Wichita State): 9/2
Jay Wright (Villanova): 5/1
Tony Bennett (Virginia): 10/1
Chris Mack (Xavier): 12/1
Rick Pitino (Louisville): 20/1
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke): 50/1
Odds to be the no. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft:
Harry Giles (Duke): 7/2
Josh Jackson (Kansas): 4/1 (Pictured above, right, receiving co-MVP honors at the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game along with incoming Duke freshman Frank Jackson.)
Markelle Fultz (Washington): 6/1
Dennis Smith Jr (N.C. State): 8/1
Jayson Tatum (Duke): 12/1
Lonzo Ball (UCLA) 15/1
Bam Adebayo (Kentucky) 18/1
Ivan Rabb (California) 25/1
Miles Bridges (Michigan State): 30/1
Odds to win the 2017 Naismith Award:
Grayson Allen (Duke): 5/1
Josh Hart (Villanova): 8/1
Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga): 12/1
Ivan Rabb (California): 16/1
Josh Jackson (Kansas): 20/1
Dillon Brooks (Oregon): 25/1
Harry Giles (Duke): 25/1
Bam Adebayo (Kentucky): 30/1
Lonzo Ball (UCLA) 40/1
Miles Bridges (Michigan State): 40/1
Photo credit: TonyTheTiger [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.