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Vol. 52, No. 1 • November 2014 • .pdf version
Kentucky, Okafor heavy favorites in men's poll
For the second year in a row, Kentucky is the USBWA favorite to win the national title.
Marcus Paige of North Carolina was named the favorite to to win the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award by just one vote, and Duke's Jahlil Okafor is the heavy favorite to win the Wayman Tisdale Award, given to the nation's top freshman.
Kentucky earned all but three first-place votes. The other first-place votes all went to Arizona, which finished in a tie for second with Wisconsin.
The rest of the top 10 included, in order, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, Wichita State, Virginia and Florida.
The rest of the Top 20 included: Gonzaga, Villanova, Texas, Iowa State, San Diego State, Michigan State, VCU, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Rounding out the Top 25: Ohio State, SMU, Syracuse, Stanford and Michigan. Other vote-getters included: Iowa (25), Colorado (20), Harvard (17), Memphis (17), Utah (16), Kansas State (13), Stephen F. Austin (10), Arkansas (5), Minnesota (3), UCLA (2), LSU (1), Dayton (1) and Pittsburgh (1).
Paige received six first-place votes for player of the year, followed by Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky with five and Branden Dawson of Michigan State, Sam Dekker of Wisconsin and Aaron Harrison of Kentucky receiving one apiece. Paige and Kaminsky were placed on the USBWA's preseason All-America team, along with Okafor, Montrezl Harrell of Louisville and Fred VanVleet of Wichita State.
Others who received multiple votes included Dawson, Dekker, Harrison, Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of Arizona and Georges Niang of Iowa State. Ron Baker of Wichita State, Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky and Delon Wright of Utah also received votes.
Okafor received all but one vote for the Wayman Tisdale Award, with the other going to Stanley Jefferson of Arizona.
Men's Preseason Top 25: 1. Kentucky; t2. Arizona; t2. Wisconsin; 4. Duke; 5. North Carolina; 6. Kansas; 7. Louisville; 8. Wichita State; 9. Virginia; 10. Florida; 11. Gonzaga; 12. Villanova; 13. Texas; 14. Iowa State; 15. San Diego State; 16. Michigan State; 17. VCU; 18. Connecticut; 19. Oklahoma; 20. Nebraska; 21. Ohio State; 22. SMU; 23. Syracuse; 24. Stanford; 25. Michigan.
UConn, Stewart figure to three-peat in women's hoops
Looking ahead to the women's season, there was a tendency to simply go back to what was said in this space 12 months ago and simply cut and paste much of the same into the narrative.
Coming off the two straight NCAA titles, Connecticut is the overwhelming favorite to add another three-peat to its collection, perhaps another back-to-back unbeaten run and with it the honor of Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma tying the immortal men's basketball legend John Wooden of UCLA with 10 championships after he snapped the women's deadlock last season with the legendary and former Tennessee great Pat Summitt.
Barring unforeseen bad news, the Huskies have even greater distance for the most part over the field because last season's prominent challengers have all graduated key players.
South Carolina under Dawn Staley is seen as the best bet to take a shot namely because everyone is back from the Gamecocks crew that won the regular season Southeastern Conference and gained a first-ever No. 1 seed on Selection Monday.
The other reason for such Connecticut dominance is in the race for preseason player of the year where likewise exists with Huskies junior Breanna Stewart, the reigning USBWA national player of the year.
Stewart was the lone collegian on Auriemma's USA Basketball squad that captured the FIBA Gold Medal at the World Championship in Turkey in early October.
Since a board similar to the men's organization is still being built at USBWA on the women's side, there was no formal vote for honors, but discussions with key members point to several names to be mentioned.
For one, the subtractions mentioned above give rise to the return of such golden oldies in national rankings as Rutgers, which won the WNIT and has everyone back, highlighted by senior Betnijah Laney and sophomore Tyler Scaife, who was last season's rookie sensation.
Likewise for Texas, already picked to win the Big 12, with Nneka Enemkpali, a senior, in the All-America discussion.
Elizabeth Williams returns for her senior season at Duke as one of two potentials to be the No. 1 pick in next April's WNBA draft. Another is Kalenna Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn.
Kaela Davis could send Georgia Tech to its best season yet, while Jewell Loyd picks up the torch at Notre Dame, which is not likely to match its unbeaten record into last season's title game against UConn.
Meanwhile, when it comes to fresh faces, another reason South Carolina is getting so much attention is landing in-state project A'ja Wilson, the No. 1 bluechip prospect of last season who played for Staley last summer on the U-18 USA Basketball gold medalists.
Women's Preseason Top 25: 1. Connecticut; 2. South Carolina; 3. Tennessee; 4. Texas; 5. North Carolina; 6. Texas A&M; 7. Notre Dame; 8. Kentucky; 9. Louisville; 10. Rutgers; 11. California; 12. Baylor; 13. Oklahoma; 14. Stanford; 15. UCLA; 16. Iowa; 17. Maryland; 18. Oklahoma State; 19. Dayton; 20. DePaul; 21. West Virginia; 22. Purdue; 23. Nebraska; 24. Gonzaga; 25. Florida State.
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