Accurately predicting the national player of the year in the preseason is a hard task. Though college basketball has high turnover rates, leading to seemingly obvious candidates every fall to be tabbed as the best player in the sport, the fact of the matter is not that simple. Before we reveal our awards for this year, let’s quickly revel in a history lesson.
Here’s the past nine years worth of CBS Sports Preseason POY picks from CBSSports.com, many of which were matched by national outlets elsewhere. Players in bold wound up winning the award at the end of said season, while the actual players who won are in parentheses.
- 2011: Jared Sullinger (Anthony Davis)
- 2012: Cody Zeller (Trey Burke)
- 2013: Andrew Wiggins (Doug McDermott)
- 2014: Jahlil Okafor (Frank Kaminsky)
- 2015: Kyle Wiltjer (Denzel Valentine/Buddy Hield)
- 2016: Grayson Allen (Frank Mason III)
- 2017: Jalen Brunson
- 2018: RJ Barrett (Zion Williamson)
- 2019: Cassius Winston (Obi Toppin)
This should give some hope to fan bases of our first, second and third-team All-Americans who did not win our Preseason Player of the Year in 2020. Because while accurately picking the top player in the sport every October is challenging, the hit rate on a preseason All-American in the past decade is almost 100%.
OK. You’d like to know about our Preseason Freshman of the Year projections. Well, that’s a bit more likely to be accurate. Here’s our history of picks dating back to the 2011-12 season.
- 2011: Anthony Davis
- 2012: Shabazz Muhammad (Marcus Smart)
- 2013: Andrew Wiggins (Jabari Parker)
- 2014: Jahlil Okafor
- 2015: Ben Simmons
- 2016: Markelle Fultz (Lonzo Ball)
- 2017: Marvin Bagley III (Trae Young)
- 2018: RJ Barrett (Zion Williamson)
- 2019: Cole Anthony (Vernon Carey Jr.)
The mystery of every season. Gotta love it. And as for coach of the year, each of our voters took their own interpretation and approach, be it from listing the expected coach of the best team to the coach who’s done the best job at building up a top-10 program in the past few years and rewarding them with a vote for returning their team to top-shelf status.
Here are our three big preseason honors for the 2020-21 college basketball season.
Note: The CBS Sports Preseason All-America Teams were voted on by college basketball writers at CBSSports.com and 247Sports as well as broadcasters and analysts from CBS and CBS Sports Network.
CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year
Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham could prove to be both the best player in college basketball and obvious choice to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Or a non-freshman might breakthrough in a way that was impossible to predict in October. As always, we’ll see. But based on what he accomplished last season, the only sensible pick for CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year is Iowa senior Luka Garza — the 6-foot-11 center who averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds as a junior. Garza was a consensus First Team All-American last season, one who had the nation’s highest Player Efficiency Rating (35.11) and finished No. 1 in the KenPom Player of the Year standings. His decision to return to the Big Ten for a final season has Iowa ranked fifth in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1 and should give the Hawkeyes a legitimate chance to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1980. — Gary Parrish
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CBS Sports Preseason Coach of the Year
Mark Few, Gonzaga
The Bulldogs spent most of last season ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 nationally, and that was after Mark Few entered the season with measured expectations for an inexperienced group. This Gonzaga team has proven producers ready to take the next step in Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Drew Timme. They will combine with an intriguing group of newcomers that includes five-star freshman Jalen Suggs to give Few another Final Four-caliber team. It will be especially interesting to see how Few unleashes Suggs, who is the highest-ranked prospect that Few has ever signed, according to 247Sports. — David Cobb
CBS Sports Preseason Freshman of the Year
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
A 6-8 guard who was viewed as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, Cunningham arrives at Oklahoma State as the most decorated recruit in program history. And he’ll get a chance to prove his value early. The Cowboys are planning to make their system revolve around the potential future No. 1 pick as the primary creator and initiator for a team that should challenge in the top half of the Big 12. He should shine right away as one of the biggest rookie stars in the sport. — Kyle Boone