The college basketball season will be marked by a number of returning stars who will carry teams on their backs, and it will also be propelled by the well-known freshmen who are likely to form the 2018 batch of one-and-done standouts who will go to the NBA. Think of Marvin Bagley at Duke and Michael Porter Jr. at Missouri. Some freshmen aren’t as widely known or as hyped as the one-and-done centerpieces, but they will still be powerfully valuable to their teams and should make major contributions in the upcoming season. These aren’t the headline-making freshmen in college basketball, but they will be very important players for their respective programs.
Lonnie Walker, Miami Hurricanes
The Miami Hurricanes will bring back two proven players, Bruce Brown and Ja’Quan Newton. Two players can do a lot of the work on a basketball team, but over the course of a long season, one or both members of an elite duo will have an off game, and someone else has to pick up the slack. Teams need third scoring options. They need someone to balance the floor so that the top players won’t be double-teamed as much and will continue to operate in one-on-one situations. Miami’s expected third wheel next season will be Walker, a dynamic freshman who will allow Brown and Newton to have a lot more freedom than they otherwise would have enjoyed. Walker gives Miami the extra measure of scoring punch and diversity the Hurricanes will need to be a top-level team in the ACC.
Troy Brown, Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks lose their big performers from their first Final Four team since 1939. Dylan Ennis, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Dillon Brooks, and Tyler Dorsey are all gone. The Ducks are not going to contend for the Final Four this next season. Their goal will be to make the NCAA Tournament. Then the program could focus on having a bigger season in 2019. If Oregon is to make March Madness, New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown is one piece head coach Dana Altman will rely on. Then there’s another Brown. Troy, a freshman, will inject a lot of the above-the-rim athleticism into the Ducks that they had last year. If he manages his learning curve well, Troy Brown will enable Oregon to remain an NCAA Tournament program.
Collin Sexton, Alabama Crimson Tide
The top high school recruits get a chance to play in all sorts of tournaments and other amateur basketball showcases in front of coaches and scouts. In the most recent cycle of such events, it was widely felt that Sexton stood above most of the competition. He is a point guard who will play for a head coach, Avery Johnson, who was an NBA championship-winning point guard. If the coach and the star recruit mesh, Alabama could make a return to the NCAA Tournament and begin to fulfill the promise of its potential under Johnson.
Brian Bowen, Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals were a No. 2 seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament because of the shooting and scoring of Donovan Mitchell. While Mitchell left for the NBA this past summer, Bowen – who is regarded as an excellent perimeter shooter – can compensate for Mitchell’s absence and give Rick Pitino a player who can shoot over the top of defenses. This is the right component part Louisville needed in order to remain a frontline contender for the Final Four. He’s going to be a big key to their success.
Jaylen Hands, UCLA Bruins
The point guard who will replace Lonzo Ball faces a tall task, but Hands is regarded as someone with the skill level to create a minimal drop-off from Ball, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. With Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning for UCLA, there’s enough talent for Hands to blend into the lineup without feeling he has to do everything himself. And it’ll be interesting to see him playing with Ball’s brother, LiAngelo. Hands is obviously a good player but the Ball’s – including LaVar – bring plenty of additional attention and pressure to the team. We’ll see how that impacts Hands and his performance in the coming season.
The 2017-18 NCAA Tournament futures have been posted. Visit Diamond Sportsbook to get all of the latest college basketball betting lines right here.
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