The new college basketball season is still more than four full months away, but the rosters are largely set and, barring injury, various teams have a general sense of what they expect to achieve. In this context, which players will feel an especially high sense of urgency, more than most of their peers on the hardwood when play starts in November?
Grayson Allen, Duke Blue Devils
Other players might come close, but no one has the same feeling of pressure that Allen will shoulder this upcoming season at Duke. He started his career in such a thrilling and satisfying way, being the late-stage hero of the 2015 NCAA national championship game victory over Wisconsin. His sophomore year was filled with controversial events, but it fundamentally remained on course the whole way, and Allen led Duke to the Sweet 16. He very likely would have been a first-round NBA Draft pick at the time, but he wanted to come back for his junior season. It was then that Allen got involved in more tripping incidents, with the furor surrounding them becoming so great that Allen genuinely lost his way for some time. His numbers suffered, his overall play suffered, his legitimacy as a leader took a hit, and his stock dropped to a considerable degree. Allen is now back in an attempt to reclaim most – if not all – of what he lost. It is not about redemption, because Allen brought his hardships on himself, but there is a powerful need to restore something that has been lost.
Devonte Graham, Kansas Jayhawks
With Kansas once again failing to make the Final Four – the Jayhawks have made the Elite Eight the last two seasons but failed to win that next game – there is a growing level of frustration in Lawrence. The team that continues to dominate the Big 12 has been magnificently consistent in winning conference championships and getting top-two seedings in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas, in terms of an NCAA tournament seed, has not had a bad season since the year 2000, when it was a No. 8 seed. The Jayhawks have not been lower than a No. 4 seed in any NCAA Tournament since 2001. Yet, they have made the Final Four just two times under Bill Self, who began coaching the team in 2003. Self has lost five times in the Elite Eight, a source of great pain for Jayhawk fans. Graham, who is a longtime veteran of the program, will feel the need to correct this historical imbalance more than any other Jayhawk. Frank Mason, his back court mate the past few seasons, is now in the pros. This is Graham’s team. It’s up to him to be the leader.
Deng Adel, Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals lost Donovan Mitchell, their best player, so Adel will need to step up and fill the void in order to lead Louisville deep into the NCAA Tournament. Adel owns immense athletic ability and can jump out of the gymnasium, but this next season, a lot of people will be skeptical that he can increase his basketball IQ and combine his talent with a sharper mind. He will want to refute those ideas and become a floor leader who helps Louisville’s offense to do exactly what it needs to do in the right situations and moments.
Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags, having just made the first Final Four and national championship game in school history, lost Przemek Karnowski to graduation and Nigel Williams-Goss to the NBA Draft. Gonzaga also watched Zach Collins become a one-and-done player, something which did not seem likely in February. The team has sustained a lot of losses, so within this depleted environment, someone must emerge as the man who can carry the scoring load and be the complete player who keeps everything together. Williams is that man. This will be his time to shine, and since a lot of people will doubt the Zags this next season, Williams will take it personally when he hears criticism of Gonzaga. He will want to show that Gonzaga will not fall off the map this 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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