I hope you all are just as excited as I am for Thanksgiving. This holiday not only brings great food and family gatherings, but plenty of outstanding college basketball highlighted by early season tournaments. With these games starting up, I feel it is only fitting to go ahead and make my picks on the national awards. Keep in mind, these are just preseason awards. A whole lot can change between now and when the nets are cut down in Atlanta, Ga. come April. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana
This is a very trendy pick amongst sports media across the nation. Zeller is the top player on the top team and it’s hard not to like this guy. He plays with a ton of intensity and while he is an incredibly talented rebounder and defender, his offensive game has only been getting better. Along with a very deep Hoosier squad, Zeller could rack in Player of the Year awards in the 2012-13 campaign.
Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga
Few has built up the Gonzaga program very well over the years and this year could be the best one yet. With a back court featuring Kevin Pangos and David Stockton (yes, John’s son) along with a reliable scoring threat in Elias Harris, Gonzaga could really make some noise nationally and attract some attention for Few as the Coach of the Year.
Freshman of the Year: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Muhammad is now eligible after being cleared by the NCAA and UCLA is as good as they’ve been in years. While there are some other attractive names to pick from like Rodney Purvis of NC State and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Muhammad is the most talented Freshman in the nation and should display that this year for the Bruins.
Top Transfer: Mark Lyons, Arizona
Again, there are plenty other candidates to choose from in this category. Hell, four players on the Missouri Tigers’ roster could play their way into this category if things fell into place; however, Lyons is an experienced guard who had three very productive years at Xavier before sitting out last year. Now reunited with former head coach Sean Miller, Lyons could help lead Arizona back to the promise land.
Sixth Man of the Year: Antonio Barton, Memphis
The younger brother of former Tiger Will Barton, Antonio has established himself as a legitimite scoring option for Memphis and will defenitely get startes’ minutes this year, even if he is coming off the bench. Josh Pastner’s squad is very talented and this is probably the best Memphis team since John Calipari left. Barton should playe a big role on it.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State
You really do feel old when you realize Craft is now a senior for the Buckeyes. He’s been one of the best perimeter defenders year after year and he should finally get some recognition for it this year. While DeShaun Thomas may be the star scorer of this team, Craft will be the one called upon in March to lock down the opponent’s top scorer outside.
While it is still early and rankings will drastically change from week to week, I’ve gone ahead and made my second top 25 poll of the year. Let’s take a look.
4. Ohio State
11. North Carolina
13. Michigan State
14. North Carolina State
19. Oklahoma State
23. San Diego State
Like I’ve said, it is still very early in the season. A third of these teams will probably play their way out of the top 25 by the end of this year and I’m sure there will be a surprise team or two work their way up to the top ten of the polls. While there will be good NFL football on Thanksgiving and some great college football games on this weekend, there are plenty of great basketball match-ups as well. Many of the early season tournaments are already underway and there will be a ton of games this weekend from the Bahamas to Maui. If you have any opinions or comments you’d like to voice regarding the awards or my top 25, feel free to comment. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!