Here is my first Power 36 look at the 2020-21 season. The NBA draft is likely going to extend deep into the summer, possibly the fall. So rosters may not be set until school starts, hopefully with the fall semester.
What’s to like about these teams?
1) Gonzaga: Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Joel Ayayi and newcomer Jalen Suggs, assuming he doesn’t turn to the NBA, should keep the Zags rolling. This team will be just as deep as it was this past season.
[Editor’s note: This story was first published on April 8, 2020, before Petrusev signed with a Serbian pro team.]
2) Baylor: Jared Butler can lead the Bears to another possible No. 1 seed. The Bears will once again be a stingy defensive team, too.
3) Villanova: Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and a newcomer crew that means the Wildcats will be in the thick of the chase for a top seed. As expected, Saddiq Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are testing the NBA draft process.
4) Creighton: The Bluejays, like Nova, won a piece of the Big East regular-season title. The majority of the crew returns, led by Marcus Zegarowski, who could be the Big East Player of the Year.
5) Iowa: The Hawkeyes should be the pick to win the Big Ten with the likely return of the player of the year in Luka Garza. Getting Joe Wieskamp alongside him means the Hawkeyes offense will be loaded again.
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6) Wisconsin: The Badgers got a piece of the Big Ten regular-season title in their final game at Indiana. They will be picked with Iowa to make another run by returning the core of the team, a full season from Micah Potter and a heralded recruiting class.
7) Kansas: The status of Devon Dotson isn’t known yet. But what we do know is the top defensive player in the country — Naismith Award winner Marcus Garrett — should be back. David McCormack should star in replacing Udoka Azubuike. And the addition of Bryce Thompson means KU will be the pick in the Big 12.
8) Michigan: The Wolverines do take a hit by losing Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. But if Isaiah Livers returns then the Wolverines will be even higher than this prediction. Livers could be a first-team all-Big Ten if he comes back. Having Franz Wagner, Brandon Johns, Eli Brooks and bigs Austin Davis and Colin Castleton means this squad has more significant rotation players than most. The Athletic reported David DeJulius entered the transfer portal. Oh and they’ve potentially got a top-five recruiting class with Isaiah Todd.
9) Kentucky: The roster is still in flux with the draft (Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans declared), but one thing is certain — the Wildcats will be loaded with star talent with the top recruiting class. Six players from the top 50, led by Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston.
10) Virginia: The Cavaliers figured out how to win in the second half of the season. Add in Marquette transfer Sam Hauser and the Cavs will be ready to go on day one.
11) Duke: The Blue Devils are getting gutted by the draft (so far Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley), but it’s hard to see them falling too far with a top two recruiting class, led by Jalen Johnson. The Blue Devils will need experience off the bench and if it comes through then they will be in the case for the ACC title.
12) Michigan State: No Cassius Winston. No Xavier Tillman for now (still a chance he could come back). But the Spartans have a slew of wings/forwards that will rival any roster with Rocket Watts, Gabe Brown, Aaron Henry, Malik Hall, Marcus Bingham Jr., and Marquette transfer Joey Hauser.
13) Rutgers: The decision by 6-10 top 50 player Cliff Omoruyi to stay home in New Jersey and play for the Scarlet Knights pushed Rutgers higher in the top 25. Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr. and Myles Johnson are all supposed to be back. Baker is one of the best late-game shot makers returning.
14) Florida State: Leonard Hamilton said on our March Madness 365 podcast that he expects Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams to stay in the NBA draft. But he said he still thinks the Seminoles will be a top-10 team. It’s hard to argue after the Seminoles won the ACC regular season and were poised for another deep run. For now, we’ll put them in the teens, but Hamilton will probably be right that this squad could be in the top 10 by December or January.
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15) North Carolina: Declarations for the draft haven’t been announced yet. But the Tar Heels actually played decent down the stretch (won four of last six). Having a top five recruiting class, led by Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler and Caleb Love means UNC shouldn’t expect last season’s postseason miss (had there been one) to carry over to this season.
16) Tennessee: The Volunteers’ last two wins of the season were over Florida and at Kentucky. Only two seniors were on the roster. The Vols have a top five recruiting class led by Jaden Springer. Tennessee should be picked No. 1 or No. 2 in the SEC.
17) Texas Tech: Still unclear if the Red Raiders will feel the early entry bug. If they don’t then this squad will be in the thick of the chase for the Big 12 title. Top-30 player Nimari Burnett should be a major add.
18) West Virginia: No way we make a preseason mistake again with the Mountaineers. West Virginia has a chance to return one of the toughest frontcourts in the country.
19) UCLA: The majority of the Bruins are back (Chris Smith declared for the draft this week). And that’s great news considering UCLA was one of the hottest teams on the West Coast in the final few weeks of the season. UCLA should be the pick to win the Pac-12. Adding Daishen Nix adds even more depth to the perimeter for a team that now knows how to play Mick Cronin ball.
20) San Diego State: The Aztecs are going to defend. And if Malachi Flynn and Matt Mitchell are back the Aztecs won’t have an issue scoring. The pick up of Northridge grad transfer Terrell Gomez, who averaged nearly 20 points a game, should add to the scoring punch. SDSU will be the pick to win the Mountain West.
21) Illinois: The Illini are hard to rank because of the pending decisions for Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn declared for the NBA draft. If he stays in then the Illini slide down. Dosunmu’s decision means the difference between in and out of the Power 36. Losing Alan Griffin to Syracuse was a bit of a shocker. Still, the Ilini will have Trent Frazier, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Da’Monte Williams back.
22) Texas: The Longhorns had won five in a row before losing the final game to Oklahoma State. Texas was finally on the same page of how it needed to play to win. If this core comes back, then Shaka Smart will have a squad that should be in the top five of the Big 12.
23) Oregon: Payton Pritchard’s departure is a major hit. But the return of Will Richardson and the eligibility of Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi gives the Ducks a 1-2 punch to still be in the Pac-12 hunt.
24) Louisville: Gone are Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch. But getting David Johnson, Samuell Williamson and Malik Williams once again as well as the addition of Redford transfer guard Carlik Jones would mean the Cardinals still have the pop to be in the ACC race.
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25) Richmond: The Spiders would have been an interesting case for the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee. I think they would have been in and won a game or two. Richmond should return the top five scorers and that means Blake Francis, Grant Golden, Jacob Gilyard, Nick Sherod and Nathan Cayo could cause havoc in the A-10. Gilyard, Golden and Francis announced they are all entering the draft Monday but left open the possibility to return. My gut is they all do.
26) Oklahoma: The Sooners could return end up with one of the top scoring duos in the Big 12 in Austin Reaves and Brady Manek. They both averaged 14 a game last season. They should do more in ’21.
27) Houston: The Cougars had one senior last season. If everyone returns, led by Quentin Grimes then Houston will be the overwhelming favorite in the American. Nate Hinton, who grabbed eight boards a game, already announced he was putting his name in the draft, but could return.
28) Stanford: The Cardinal won’t sneak up on anyone next season. This team should be legit from the start with the return of Oscar da Silva, Tyrell Terry (if he doesn’t stay in the NBA draft) and Daejon Davis.
29) Florida: The Gators would have been in the NCAA tournament. But they weren’t the Final Four team some projected (including me). Still, if Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson join Scottie Lewis (he announced he is staying) and stick around then this squad should be a top-four SEC squad and NCAA tournament bound.
30) Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have the No. 1 player in the 2020 class in Cade Cunningham. He’s part of a five-player newcomer class that added Cal Baptist grad transfer Ferron Flavors. The return of Isaac Likekele means the Cowboys are ready to make a run toward a bid.
31) Indiana: The Hoosiers are another hard team to figure. If Trayce Jackson-Davis comes back then they shouldn’t sweat being an NCAA tournament team as much next season. Having Al Durham and Rob Phinisee back would be a huge lift and Justin Smith has a strong chance for a breakout season.
32) Providence: The Friars were one of the hottest teams in the country, not just the Big East, heading into the postseason. Sure, they lose five key seniors. But this squad still has ballers in David Duke, A.J. Reeves, an anchor inside in Nate Watson, a true point guard in Saint Joseph’s transfer Jared Bynum. Add in the work the Friars are doing in the transfer market and PC should be back in the mix in the Big East.
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33) Purdue: The Boilermakers have a slew of key figures back in Nojel Eastern, Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Aaron Wheeler and Eric Hunter Jr. Williams will have even more touches with Matt Haarms’ decision to transfer. And if this team plays old then there is no reason why they can’t move up here and in the Big Ten. But they must be more consistent than last season.
34) Utah: The Utes had their moments this past season where they looked like they could make an NCAA tournament run. But inconsistencies prevented them from being in position. Still, the roster has major pieces back that could pose problems in the Pac-12 with Timmy Allen, Rylan Jones and Both Gach as all legit All-Pac-12 candidates.
35) Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost Luther Muhammad to the transfer portal after Kaleb Wesson announced he was declaring for the draft. But the core of Kyle Young, E.J. Liddell, Duane Washington, Cal transfer Justice Sueing and Harvard transfer Seth Towns means the Buckeyes aren’t going anywhere.
36) Saint Louis: The Billikens could have their top seven scorers back from a team that won their final five games and finished fourth in the A-10. Hahsahn French and Jordan Goodwin declared for the draft but kept their options open. If they return then SLU will push Richmond and others for the top of the A-10.
On the bubble: SMU, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, UConn, USC, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, BYU, Rhode Island, Dayton, Tulsa, Memphis.
Nine of the 10 men’s basketball consensus First Team or Second Team All-Americans from last season have moved on to the professional ranks, leaving Iowa senior Luka Garza as the only standout from the bunch to return to college.
That means the sport will experience near-complete turnover from an elite, individual talent standpoint compared to last season.
Gone are Marquette’s Markus Howard, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard and Dayton’s Obi Toppin.
Replacing them are … well, we’ll have to wait to find out.
In an effort to identify potential breakout All-America candidates, I analyzed the last five consensus First Team and Second Team All-America teams, honing in on players who hadn’t previously been a consensus first- or second-team honoree, in order to identify the kind of seasons All-Americans typically have the year before their All-America campaign.
There are 40 players who returned to college who became All-Americans during this time period, plus nine freshmen. Based on the analysis, here are some returning college basketball players who haven’t been a consensus First or Second Team All-American who could potentially have a breakout All-America campaign in 2021, listed alphabetically by school:
- Arizona State: Remy Martin
- Baylor: Jared Butler
- Colorado: McKinley Wright IV
- Creighton: Marcus Zegarowski
- Dayton: Jalen Crutcher
- Florida: Keyontae Johnson
- Florida State: Devin Vassell
- Gonzaga: Corey Kispert
- Houston: Caleb Mills, Quentin Grimes
- Illinois: Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn (above)
- Indiana: Trayce Jackson-Davis
- Iowa: Joe Wieskamp
- Kansas: Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett
- LSU: Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart
- Michigan: Isaiah Livers
- NC State: Devon Daniels
- Oklahoma: Austin Reaves, Brady Manek
- Providence: David Duke
- Rutgers: Ron Harper Jr.
- San Diego State: Matt Mitchell
- UCLA: Chris Smith
- Utah State: Justin Bean
- Villanova: Collin Gillespie
- Virginia: Kihei Clark, Sam Hauser
- West Virginia: Oscar Tshiebwe
- Wisconsin: Nate Reuvers
Based on schools that were projected to make the 2020 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 through No. 12 seed, according to Bracket Matrix, and the statistical parameters I outline below.
Once the 2020-21 preseason AP poll is released, we might be able to whittle down that list of players, since in the last five seasons, 70 percent of the consensus First or Second Team All-Americans who were returning players played for a team that was ranked in the preseason.
The freshmen candidates
In the last five seasons, there have been nine freshmen who have been named a consensus First Team or Second Team All-American. Some of them have since become some of the brightest young stars in the NBA: Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young.
On average, that’s 1.8 freshmen per year who have been a First or Second Team All-American in the last half-decade, and there have been as many as three in one season during that span — Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Trae Young in 2018.
If we’re to project which one, two or three freshmen this season might be named an All-American next spring, here are some stats that could help.
Recent history tells us that freshmen who become All-Americans almost always play for teams that are ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and often teams that are ranked in the top five in the preseason.
|Vernon Carey Jr.||Duke||2020||No. 4|
|RJ Barrett||Duke||2019||No. 4|
|zion williamson||Duke||2019||No. 4|
|deandre ayton||Arizona||2018||No. 3|
|marvin bagley iii||Duke||2018||No. 1|
|lonzo ball||UCLA||2017||No. 16|
|malik monk||Kentucky||2017||No. 2|
|ben simmons||LSU||2016||No. 21|
March Madness correspondent Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36 rankings are headlined by Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova, Illinois and Iowa, while Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Creighton and Kansas are other schools that have appeared in the top five of various outlets’ preseason rankings since the end of the 2019-20 season.
Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, Kentucky’s BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke, and Kansas’s Bryce Thompson are the elite freshmen who play for teams in that potential preseason top-five group.
The team traits used to identify these players
Among the 40 returning college players who were a consensus First Team or Second Team All-American in the last five seasons, 62.5 percent of the time their team was ranked in the final AP poll during the previous season (25 of 40), 70 percent of the time their team was ranked in the preseason of their All-America season (28 of 40), and 87.5 percent of the time their school made the previous season’s NCAA tournament (35 of 40).
Among the 35 All-Americans whose school made the previous season’s NCAA tournament, their school’s average seed in the tournament was 4.9, with more double-digit seeds (six) than No. 1 seeds (five).
It’s not a secret that really good players often play for really good teams. Six of last season’s 10 consensus First Team or Second Team All-America selections played for a team that finished among the top eight teams on kenpom.com.
While the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled, we can use the aggregate of bracket projections from across the industry, courtesy of bracketmatrix.com, in order to identify what teams could have a potential 2021 All-American on their roster.
The player production used
If we take a 10,000-foot view at player development and the career arcs of recent All-Americans, in the season before an All-America campaign, those soon-to-be breakout players average 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 29.8 minutes per game, while starting 86.6 percent of the games in which they played.
Twenty-five of the 40 players started every game they played in the season prior to their All-America season.
Put simply, most breakout All-America players come off of a season in which they played most of their team’s available minutes, started the overwhelming majority of their team’s games and averaged double-digit points per game for an NCAA tournament team.
If we take our analysis to the next level, by position, here’s what recent breakout All-Americans (2016-20) averaged in the season before their All-America campaign. Scroll to the right to view the complete table.
|Position||Number||% of games started||minutes/game||points/game||rebounds/game||assists/game|
If we’re to learn from the career trajectories of recent All-Americans, the data listed above tells us that centers who become All-Americans are likely to start almost all of their team’s games in the season prior to their breakout season, even if their minutes-per-game isn’t particularly high. Guards who become All-Americans likely play more than 30 minutes per game the season prior to their All-America campaign, while averaging roughly 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
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The complete spreadsheet of my analysis is below. Scroll to view all the data.
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