While most of the talk heading into the 2013-2014 college basketball season will probably be about the insane Freshman class, the returning players who chose to spend another year in college instead of trying their luck in the NBA draft is filled with quality, including Doug McDermott, Marcus Smart, Russ Smith and the Michigan group.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, the Harrison twins and others make the Freshman class especially exciting, with Kentucky, as usual, looking like the one team that’s going to enjoy it more than anyone else. Still, as last season proved, it’s about building the best team, and not loading it with a lot of talent some coaches don’t really know what to make of sometimes.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, Senior
After three seasons in the MVC, Creighton are moving to the new Big East, which is said to have played a very big part in McDermott’s decision to stay on for his senior year, after being a consensus All-American these last couple of years, averaging 22.9 (sophomore) and 23.2 (junior season) points per game. He has a chance to become the first player since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale to be named first-team All-American three years in a row.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Sophomore
Everyone was convinced Smart was heading into the NBA after a freshman season averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists, making him possibly the top point guard entering the draft. Smart said he’s aware of the money he’s giving up, taking a risk. But he feels he owes the school something, while also wanting to stay with a group of guys he bonded with last season, hopefully going further than just the second round in the NCAA tournament, looking like the early favorite to win the national player of the year award.
Russ Smith, Louisville, Senior
Russ Smith was bound for the NBA, but early projections didn’t really favor him being too high of a pick, so the best player on a Louisville team that ended up winning the national title and part of two Final Fours, averaging 18.7 points per game last season, including 22.3 during the NCAA tournament. It’s rare to see Juniors after such seasons returning, but Smith had no choice. He’ll be a second round pick anyway, at least. By having a good senior season, he might end up being a much better pick.
The Michigan & Michigan State Crew
Mitch McGary didn’t really get himself noticed during his freshman season, until the NCAA tournament. He was the best player on a Michigan team with stars like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, helping the Wolverines reach the final, averaging 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds during the tournament. He’s bound to be one of the best big men in the nation next season, backed by the returning Glenn Robinson III (11 points, 5.4 rebounds), while Gary Harris (12.9 points per game) and Adreian Payne (10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds) will be bringing the same amount of smiles at East Lansing.