The Huskies have one, that’s right ONE, senior on its roster. That would be guard Andrew Andrews, who averaged 15 points last season, and he’ll have to lead a very young Husky team. With just three total upperclassmen there are going to be some growing pains, but more importantly they’ll be a ton of fun to watch. Romar put together the 10th ranked recruiting class in the nation according to ESPN and some of those recruits, like guard Dejounte Murray of Rainier Beach, will have to take on sizable roles. There will be a lot of energy at Alaska Airlines Arena this season, whether or not that energy leads to wins remains to be seen.
Washington State, much like the Huskies, are also in rebuilding mode. Head coach Ernie Kent has the team headed in the right direction but still has a ways to go. The Cougs will be replacing its best player, guard DaVonte Lacy, and who will score in his absence is a question mark. Junior forward Josh Hawkinson will clearly be the Cougars’ best player and will hope to answer that question. Hawkinson averaged 14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the 2014-2015 campaign. Junior college transfer Conor Clifford was arguably the biggest addition to Kent’s squad in recruiting and his 7’0″, 270 pound frame will have to protect the key. Much like the Huskies, there are question marks that can’t be answered until games get going.
Basketball in the state of Washington will once again be ran by Gonzaga. The Zags enter the season ranked #9 in AP’s Top-25 and return forward Kyle Wiltjer who was selected as a preseason all-american. Gonzaga also brings back talented big men in sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis and senior center Przemek Karnowski– but who will fill the voids left in the backcourt by Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell? A lot of that will fall on senior Kyle Dranginis, but the Zags could get a huge lift in guard play from Husky transfer Nigel Williams-Goss. I’m not worried about Gonzaga in regular season play, the real challenge comes when March hits. Gonzaga has just one ranked team on its schedule coming into the season, #12 Arizona at home, so it’ll once again be tough to predict how they’ll do in the postseason. Even so, it would be a shock if Gonzaga doesn’t win the West Coast Conference and receive a fairly high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Preseason rankings for the rest of the nation can be found here.
Players to watch:
- Ben Simmons: freshman forward, LSU: What if I told you that freak of nature running back Leonard Fournette isn’t even the most famous face on LSU’s campus? That’s because it’s the truth, and that designation belongs to 6’10” Aussie Ben Simmons who has yet to even suit up in the purple and gold. From my readings and viewings of his highlights, the guy does everything well and he very well could be the best player in the nation already. It’ll be a treat to watch him develop this season and if he decides to leave Baton Rouge after one season, odds are he’ll be the first pick in the next NBA Draft.
- Melo Trimble: sophomore guard, Maryland: Trimble and Maryland burst onto the season last year going 28-7 after the Terrapins were just 17-15 a year earlier. This year, Maryland’s first in the Big 10, they won’t be catching anyone by surprise and Trimble hopes to build on his freshman season where he averaged 16.2 points per game. Trimble was named the Big Ten’s preseason player of the year and it will be up to him to manage arguably the best starting 5 on paper in the country.
- Kyle Wiltjer: senior forward, Gonzaga
- Georges Niang: senior forward, Iowa State
- Denzel Valentine: senior guard, Michigan State
- Kris Dunn: junior guard, Providence
- Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet: senior guards, Wichita State,
- Malcolm Brogdon: senior guard, Virginia
- Kyle Collinsworth: senior guard, BYU
A prediction of Final Four teams, way too early: Maryland, Virginia, Wichita State, Michigan State