Earlier today, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook — otherwise known as the “Bible” for college hoops fans — released their first-team All-Americans, and the five names shouldn’t come as a surprise: Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
If there is any conjecture who the folks at Blue Ribbon believe the best player in the nation is, that can probably be put to rest as Andrew Wiggins is featured prominently in the middle of the cover, with the other four players behind him — high expectations for the freshman to live up to.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Travis Ford and the Oklahoma State faithful all collectively breathed a sigh of relief after learning Smart would return to Stillwater for his sophomore year. As a #5 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, losing to Oregon in their opening game was already a difficult pill for Oklahoma State to swallow heading into the offseason, but losing Smart to the NBA may have been equally as difficult. Smart, who averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists last season, was one of the most dynamic players in the country. His return elevates the Cowboys from a borderline Top 25 team to a fringe Top 10 team.
Russ Smith, Louisville
Russdiculous returns for his senior year — whether you’ve grown tired of this nick name or not is inconsequential to Cardinal fans — and will be the focal point of the Louisville backcourt with Peyton Siva graduating. As a junior, Smith averaged 18.7 points, but his erratic play, at times, gave Rick Pitino head aches. Despite that, Smith is one of the most explosive offensive players in the country, and if Louisville is to reach the Final Four for the third straight year, it will largely be because of him.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Like Ford at Oklahoma State, Tom Izzo received good news when Adreain Payne decided to put the NBA off for at least one more year and return to Michigan State for his junior season. As a result, the Spartans are a consensus Top 5 team entering the 2013-14 season. Payne developed into an immovable force that anchored Michigan State’s interior offense and defense averaging 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
All college basketball fans should be pleased to see Doug McDermott returning to Creighton. Playing on a bigger stage for his final year — even a watered down new Big East is a step up from the Missouri Valley — affords McDermott the opportunity to showcase his offensive skills for all to see. There may not be a player in the country that can score in the variety of ways that McDermott is able to. He is an incredibly efficient offensive player; his numbers speak for themselves — 23.2 points per game on 54.8% shooting and 49% 3PT shooting.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
While hosting Louisiana Monroe is Kansas’ first game of the season and will no doubt draw plenty of eyeballs, the entire college basketball community will be glued to Andrew Wiggins’ first game on a true national stage: Kansas vs. Duke on November 12th at the United Center. Much is expected of Wiggins, who was perhaps the biggest story during the offseason as he committed later in the 2013 recruiting process than many others. The youngster has handled himself with great poise, class, and dignity thus far. Now let’s see how he conducts himself on a national stage with the bright lights on him.