Nearly six months ago, nets were being cut down in Houston at the national championship game, signifying the end of another college basketball season. After a long summer break and now into the beginning of fall, hoops are nearly back on the calendar.
To celebrate the sport’s near return, ESPN’s Jay Bilas recently named his top five incoming freshmen for the 2023-2024 season. The group comes from across the country, spanning from the northeast all the way out to sunny Los Angeles on the West Coast.
NBA teams are already looking ahead of the ’24 Draft but college basketball fans likely will get to enjoy these players for at least one season. And there is nothing more exciting than seeing a freshman progress throughout a season before turning into a star when it matters most.
A lot of eyeballs are going to be on USC this season, with some talented players on the roster under Andy Enfield. Bronny James will bring some name recognition but Collier was still the No. 1 overall player in the country per the On3 Industry Rankings.
Bilas described Collier as a “wizard” with the ball and should become one of the best distributors in college basketball. Come the summer of 2024, Collier could be the first college player taken in the NBA Draft.
John Calipari was able to bring an incredible recruiting class to Lexington but Edwards might be gaining the most attention. “Well rounded” was the word Bilas used for Edwards, talking about his ability to perform on the defensive end too.
Kentucky will give a lot of minutes to freshmen this season, one where they desperately need to perform well in the NCAA Tournament. Edwards will hopefully become someone Calipari can depend on down the stretch.
“I call him a three-level scorer,” Bilas said on Castle. UConn is defending their national championship with Bobby Hurley and adding a prospect like Castle only adds belief in a potential back-to-back.
Funny enough, UConn was not even picked to win the Big East this season. A nice mix of experience and youthful talent will help determine if the Huskies can remain on top of the college basketball world.
Scott Drew has been one of the more consistent head coaches in the Big 12 and has continually brought in impressive freshmen to contribute. Walter is expected to be the next of the bunch, originally being from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Bilas likes how Walter fits into the Baylor system, with Drew playing three guards at once. If Drew is going to contend for another conference title, Walter will be a huge reason why.
Mara is the lone player unranked during the recruiting cycle to appear on Bilas’ list. He comes from Spain but will be playing for Mick Cronin to kick off his college basketball career.
Whenever you have a 7’3 big man being described as “very skilled,” eyes are immediately going to be raised. UCLA is hoping Mara can be the difference in getting them over the hump and back to having a real chance in March.
The college basketball season will tip off on Nov. 6, with plenty of ranked teams scheduled to be in action. Games will begin to pick up in intensity as the month prolongs, just beginning the journey to the NCAA Tournament in five months time.