I cannot be certain but since I have not seen a college football game from the time the Iron Bowl ended to the time I am writing this, I can only assume the season has ended and we can now move on to the hardwood. And yes, maybe I am a little bitter but I also just love basketball and the amount of games I watched during ESPN’s Feast Week got me very excited for this season.
One thing is already clear about this year: Everyone is beatable and it is going to be very exciting. We have already seen two top-ranked teams go down at home to massive underdogs and if that’s happening in November, I have no idea what is in store for March.
So, instead of trying to predict the bracket or a national champion like I usually do, I decided to create a team of must-watch players. I wanted to create a starting lineup of my favorite college players to watch, almost as a reminder to myself and, of course, our readers on which games you should tune into now college football is over (yes, I’m sticking with it).
While I may have already lost some of you who think I am not being objective, I may lose even more with my first player because I’m going straight to Tuscaloosa. If you’re an Alabama fan, you know it can be tough to find joy in the game of basketball.
That being said, Kira Lewis is one of the most electric players in the SEC. He was already fun to watch and now he is playing in one of the fastest offenses in the country and he is benefitting from it.
To make sure I do not linger on the player you probably know the most about already, let’s move on to a player who may not be in college much longer. Ashton Hagans has secured a spot in Kentucky’s starting lineup and while his offensive game seems to have taken a step forward, it is his defense that keeps him on this list.
Hagans is one of the rare Kentucky players who did not leave after his freshman season and he appears to have made the correct decision by his play so far. After being named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, Hagans has dropped his defensive rating by 12.2 points and he is averaging a steal on 3.2 percent of every opponent possession, which may not sound like a lot but it is. Michael Jordan had a career steal percentage of 3.1.
While defense is always fun to watch, I still know scoring points wins games and no one scores more than Marquette’s Markus Howard. He is averaging 26 points per game including a 40-point performance against Davidson and a staggering 51-point performance against USC on consecutive nights. I’m not sure what else I can say other than, “Watch him.”
One of the players I fell in love with last week was Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and I was a little ashamed of myself for not knowing much about him before. The Bulldogs went 1-2 at the Maui Invitational but Edwards was the star of the tournament, averaging 22.3 ppg.
His breakout game came against Michigan State when Edwards made seven 3-pointers and finished with 37 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks. This dude is legit.
Rounding out this starting lineup that would almost certainly not work together on the court is a guy who should be getting the ball a whole lot more than he has in his career. I do not like Kansas but over the last four seasons, I have found myself getting actively angry with Bill Self for not feeding forward Udoka Azubuike.
After dealing with injury problems last season, I hope we get to see Azubuike at full force and hopefully he can avoid foul trouble too. The big man is a 79.7 percent shooter from the field — most of them being from within 2 feet — and he is coming off a 29-point performance in the Maui Invitational championship. Azubuike seems to be forgotten about sometimes but he is still one of the best in the sport right now.
Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for The Tribune.