On Saturdays we watch football, but on Fridays we talk basketball. Sometimes, we talk about the Buckeyes. Sometimes we talk about other teams. Sometimes we talk about arenas. Hell, sometimes we pretend we’re on a deserted island and have to decide what items we’d want if we were stranded.
Last week, we debated who would be the most important player to come off of Ohio State’s bench this season. It was a close vote, but Justin’s pick of Justice Sueing earned 39% of the vote, while Connor’s pick of Isaac Likekele earned 35%. 26% of the vote went to “other.” Interestingly enough, Sueing is expected to start for the Buckeyes this season. Makes you think!
With that, Justin is back within three.
After 68 weeks:
(There have been three ties)
This week, we’re broadening the scope to a national level. Preseason awards will be coming out very soon, including Player of the Year, All-Americans, and others. Big Ten presason awards and polls will be released soon as well. But for this assignment, Connor and Justin are debating who will be (or should be) the pre-season national player of the year.
Today’s question: Who is the preseason National POY?
Connor: Marcus Sasser
If you want a random, fun team to watch this season, look up what time the Houston Cougars are playing. Last season, the Coogs lost sophomore guard Tramon Mark for the season after seven games, and five games later lost Sasser for the season as well. All they did after this was go on to win 32 games, run straight through the AAC Tournament, and then reach the Elite Eight. Not bad.
This season Mark and Sasser are back, as well as junior guard Jamal Shead, who also averaged double digits last season in the absence of Mark and Sasser. Throw former five-star/6-foot-8/235-pound freshman forward Jarace Walker into the mix, and you’ve got quite a bit of talent there. And out of all of them, Sasser will be the one who stands out.
Sasser will be a preseason All-American, and will almost certainly be the AAC preseason player of the year. Before suffering a foot injury last season, Sasser averaged 17.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. He hit 43.7% of his three-point attempts, and 43.6% of his two-point attempts. He averaged 8.6 attempts from beyond the arc per game, and was playing 32 minutes per night as well, before the inury. He was basically bombing teams with threes on a nightly basis, and there was not a darn thing anyone could do to stop him.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard entered the 2022 NBA Draft, but withdrew and chose to return to Houston for his senior season. With the bevy of talent around him, I expect Sasser to put up similar — if not better — numbers this season than he did in the 12 games he played last season. Houston could wind up with four or five guys averaging double digits, which means teams will not be afforded the luxury of throwing multiple defenders at Sasser every night. He is going to get a lot of one-on-one looks, and make quite a few defenders look very silly.
Guards tend to dominate POY awards, and as long as Houston coasts through the AAC like they are expected to, Sasser could become the first household name to play for the Houston Cougars since Hakeem Olajuwon.
Justin: Armando Bacot
I am on a one-week winning streak, so time to keep that momentum going. For this question, my answer is pretty simple. North Carolina forward Armando Bacot. I thought about Drew Timme, but I am sticking with Bacot for the ridiculous stat line I think he will average.
Once Bacot announced he was returning to Chapel Hill along with teammates Caleb Love, R.J. Davis and Leaky Black and the transfer of Pete Nance from Northwestern, the Tar Heels became immediate national title contenders and, to some, the favorite.
Bacot is coming off on the best season by a big man you will see in college hoops. He averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds per game, recording 29 double-doubles in 39 games. Bacot was an absolute force all season, and with four out of five returning starters, this team is one of the more familiar groups in the country, and they can be expected to play as such.
Let’s be honest. If you are at a big brand and a big school, it gives you a better chance to win these awards, for better or for worse. There is no bigger brand than North Carolina, and with their expectations for their team, Bacot is easily a frontrunner for the award to begin the season.
Bacot has also taken steps this offseason to improve his game on offense and to make his game more versatile.
“I know at the next level I won’t be some big-time scorer posting and things like that,” Bacot told the News-Observer. “So, I’m just trying to be that janitor. I feel like everybody needs a janitor everywhere. So I think I can be that guy. So those kinds of things I want to really just specialize in.”
He said that watching guys in the league helped him come to that realization. Guys like Kevon Looney of the Golden State Warriors.
“That’s just a realization I just had to come to myself like, ‘Am I really gonna be out there shooting 10 jump hooks a game?’ No,” Bacot added. “But I can go out there and grab rebounds, sit in a dunking spot, catch lobs, set screens, get guys open. I mean, those are the things I’d been doing at the next level. So that’s something that we really put an emphasis on.”
He might legitimately average 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. And that would be fun to watch.
Who is the preseason National Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
Connor: Marcus Sasser
Justin: Armando Bacot