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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: The best in the sport

My preseason awards for the upcoming season.

"Moments 'Til Madness " Column Graphic
Graphic by Gretta Goorno

As the countdown continues to opening day for college hoops, the speculation over the season awards only grows. Anything can happen this year, but for now, these are my 202324 preseason individual awards.

National Player of the Year: Zach Edey

Purdue University’s Edey is the obvious pick for winning this season’s player of the year awards. After winning handily last year, it makes sense that the returning player of the year would go back-to-back. This was the same expectation for University of Kentucky’s former big man Oscar Tshiebwe, though, who instead followed up his player-of-the-year season with a rather disappointing year, only making the All-American second team. If I had to pick someone other than the overwhelming favorite in Edey, I would say Tyler Kolek has the best shot at winning the award come April. He’s coming off a great season with Marquette University, winning both the Big East regular season and tournament titles. If he can lead the Marquette University Golden Eagles to being one of the best squads in college hoops, I’d say he has a good shot at stealing the award in 2024.

Most Impactful Freshman: Stephon Castle

Castle isn’t the highest-rated freshman in the 2023 class or on the projected number-one team in the country, but he joins the defending national champions at the University of Connecticut, while also being the ninth-best high school prospect, according to 247Sports. He slots in perfectly to the starting lineup, playing the small forward/combo guard role, alongside veteran guard Tristen Newton and Rutgers University transfer Cam Spencer. Guys like the University of Southern California’s Isaiah Collier and the University of Kentucky’s Justin Edwards sit atop most freshmen rankings, but I feel Castle has the advantage over all other newcomers, fitting well into Huskies’ roster and being able to learn from one of the best coaches in the sport, Dan Hurley.

Most Impactful Transfer: Hunter Dickinson

Although this is not a real award, I feel it’s appropriate to include, as transfers are quickly becoming very important to the NCAA basketball landscape. With that, almost everyone involved in college hoops would tell you Dickinson is the pick to be the best transfer in college basketball. Over his three years at the University of Michigan, he put together two seasons of averaging 17 points per game, three appearances on the All-Big Ten teams and a spot on an All-American team as a freshman. While he has never had consistent tournament success, Dickinson is teaming up with one of the best coaches of all time in Bill Self, along with a stacked roster filled with experience and talent. It would be very surprising to me if Dickinson did not flourish at the University of Kansas.

Coach of the Year: Shaka Smart

While many would likely say Matt Painter or Bill Self, I think Marquette has a chance at beating out both those teams for the number one overall seed in March Madness. Losing just one player to the NBA draft, Smart is bringing back a team that dominated the Big East and finished the regular season as the sixth-best team in the country. Although it’s not guaranteed, I can’t see any reason why this team wouldn’t be even better than they were last season. A more experienced roster, along with one of the best guards in the country in Tyler Kolek, should help Smart put together his best year as a head coach and hopefully lead into a strong run in the NCAA Tournament.