College basketball is alive and well.
While doomsayers claimed that the transfer portal and name, image and likeness rules would ruin the sport, we've instead seen some of the biggest names in the sports remain on campus, instead of heading to the NBA Draft. The extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic has also helped give us an encore season for several seniors.
For the second straight year, the reigning men's and women's national players of the year are both returning to school. On the women's side, three of the five players selected to the 2022-23 AP All-American first team are back.
Given the amount of experienced talent from both genders preparing to tip off this week, we may be looking at a college basketball golden age. The men are experiencing a renaissance, while the women's game has never been better, or more popular.
To help celebrate college basketball's opening day, here's a look at the top 25 players in college basketball this season—one list, both genders.
Honorable mentions: Rori Harmon, Texas; Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech; Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M; Max Abmas, Texas; Justin Moore, Villanova; Olivia Miles, Notre Dame; Azzi Fudd, UConn; Dajuan Harris, Kansas;
25. Tyson Walker, Michigan State
One of several veterans using his fifth year of eligibility, the point guard will be the floor leader for the nation's No. 4 team. He averaged 14.8 points, 2.9 assists and shot over 40% from three.
24. Bryce Hopkins, Providence
The big constant for the Friars, who are going through a coaching change, Hopkins averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds last season.
23. Alissa Pili, Utah
The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pili is coming off a 20.7 ppg, 5.7 rebound year with the Utes in her first season after transferring from USC.
22. Terrence Shannon, Illinois
He scored 17.2 ppg for the Illini last season and is an outside threat and a strong defensive player. In a preseason exhibition against No. 1 Kansas, he went off for 28 points and 2 steals, going 5-for-9 from three.
21. Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
After averaging 19.2 ppg and 6.2 rebounds as a senior, the first-team All-SEC player opted to use her fifth COVID year and return to the Vols.
20. Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
With Bueckers and Azzi Fudd battling injury, Edwards stepped up as UConn's top option with a breakout season. Now she has her teammates back healthy, which should put UConn back in its familiar position—the Final Four.
19. Ryan Nembhard, Gonzaga
Gonzaga felt the absence of Andrew Nembhard last year, when point guard was a weakness for the Zags. Younger brother Ryan now arrives after two years at Creighton to build on his 12 points and 5 assists last season.
18. Cotie McMahon, Ohio State
She averaged 15.1 ppg and 5.5 rpg as a freshman and got better as the year went on. The Buckeyes made the Elite Eight last season and look to be even better this year. Look for a breakout year for McMahon.
17. Tyrese Proctor, Duke
Proctor took over running Duke's offense from Jeremy Roach down the stretch last season, allowing both players to emerge. The 6-foot-5 ballhandler is also able to create his own shot and will keep defenses from collapsing on Kyle Filipowski inside.
16. MacKenzie Holmes, Indiana
It's hard to be a first-team All American and overlooked, but here is Holmes coming in at 16th on the list. Playing in the same conference as Caitlin Clark has allowed Holmes to stay under the radar despite 22.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds.
15. Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton
The two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year—one of just 11 players to accomplish that feat, including Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson—is back and likely to be counted on for a bigger scoring role. The 7-foot-1 senior averaged 15.1 ppg, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
14. Armando Bacot, UNC
The big man is already the Tar Heels career rebounding leader and will likely set the school scoring mark in his COVID year this season. His numbers dipped a bit last year as UNC struggled and missed the tournament, but if the Heels are back, he'll resume his spot as a player of the year candidate.
13. Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
The Gamecocks have to reload after three straight Final Fours, and Cardoso appears ready to take over as the go-to player. She averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 boards to win ACC Sixth Woman of the Year, and Dawn Staley has called her "dominant" in preseason practice.
12. Hailey Van Lith, LSU
Possibly the biggest name in the women's game to go through the transfer portal this year, and she ended up making the rich even richer by bolstering national champion LSU. Van Lith is one of the top shooters in the game, which is an area where the Tigers needed to reload.
11. Isaiah Collier, USC
The top recruit in the country signed with the Trojans, but it isn't Bronny James. Collier, a 5-star point guard at 6-foot-5 is ready to make an immediate impact, as his monster secret scrimmage performance against UNLV—23 points, 4-of-4 from three, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals—shows.
10. Aneesa Morrow, LSU
If Van Lith isn't the biggest women's transfer of the offseason, new teammate Morrow is. She takes her 25.7 ppg scoring average and 12 rebounds a night from DePaul to the national champs.
9. Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
The center led the Hokies to the Final Four last season and passed up the WNBA to return for year five. She already has school records for points, blocks and double-doubles as well as two ACC Player of the Year awards.
8. Kyle Filipowski, Duke
The seven-footer won ACC Rookie of the Year last season with 15.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg, despite playing on two bad hips. Now surgically repaired, he's back to lead the No. 2 team in the nation.
7. Cameron Brink, Stanford
Yet another national award winner is back. Brink won defensive player of the year honors with 3.5 blocks a game to go with her 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.
6. Tyler Kolek, Marquette
We get a break from the big men for the point guard that won Big East player of the year last season. He averaged 7.3 assists, which was third in the country and makes him the top returning assists man this season.
5. Paige Bueckers, UConn
Bueckers is our third returning national player of the year in the top five. In 2021, she became the first freshman to win the women's Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, AP and USBWA Player of the Year. She also led the Huskies in scoring, assists, steals and 3-point shooting. She's played 17 games in the two years since then after suffering a right ankle injury and two separate tears to her left knee. Finally healthy, she claims she's stronger than ever.
4. Hunter Dickinson, Kansas
The biggest name to change teams in the offseason, the 7-foot-2 Dickinson left Michigan for the top-rated team in the nation. He averaged 18.5 ppg and 9 rebounds last year and will now have fourth-year point guard Dajuan Harris getting him the ball.
3. Zach Edey, Purdue
The consensus Player of the Year on the men's side has something to prove after Purdue became the second 1-seed to lose to a 16 in March. They've been eliminated by 16, 15 and 13 seeds in Edey's three seasons so far. The 7-foot-3 Edey averaged 22.3 ppg, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks and should be the most dominant force in the men's game again this season.
2. Angel Reese, LSU
The women take the top two spots on the list. Reese led LSU to the national title last year and stirred up a rivalry with Clark due to her NCAA title game taunting. With averages of 23.8 ppg and 15.3 rpg, she can back up anything she says, and her team may be even better than last year's.
1. Caitlin Clark, Iowa
The consensus Women's Player of the Year returns to try to become the first repeat winner in seven years. She's the undisputed face of women's basketball and is more popular than many NBA players. The Hawkeyes drew 55,000 people for an exhibition game last month. Another successful season and an Iowa title run may turn her into the sport's equivalent of Taylor Swift.
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