Coach Tom Crean’s Hoosiers are No. 1 in both preseason polls. If Indiana is going back to the Final Four, Zeller is going to play a major role in the journey. When the former Mr. Basketball from Indiana signed with Crean in 2010, the Hoosiers suddenly had credibility again. After everything the Hoosiers endured under Kelvin Sampson, that was a big deal. If there were doubters, Zeller proved them all wrong during his freshman season when he averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and shot 62 percent from the floor. Crean said he has never seen an 18-year-old so fundamentally sound. Guess what? He’s only going to get better. MORE: Get the latest in college basketball at Scout.com.
Setting the stage
Last season Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Thomas Robinson of Kansas elevated their games to a higher level and ended up in the national championship game. Davis emerged as the consensus National Player of the Year and his Wildcats prevailed on that final Monday night of the season. Davis and Robinson have moved on to the NBA. As a new season begins, the stage is empty and we await a new cast of characters and a new star to accept the lead role. Here are 10 stars to watch in 2012-13. — KEN DAVIS, Scout.com national college basketball writer MORE: Get the latest in college basketball at Scout.com.
C.J. Leslie, NC State
It’s a little strange hearing the Wolfpack mentioned as the favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference over rivals Duke and North Carolina. Of course, Leslie thought it was strange when coach Mark Gottfried started calling him Calvin, his real first name. It was one of many motivational tools Gottfried used and Leslie, an underachiever who was labeled as lazy and selfish, responded last season, averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. When he decided to bypass the NBA and return to the Wolfpack, NC State became the ACC favorite and a top 10 pick nationally. MORE: Get the latest on your favorite team at Scout.com.
Jeff Withey, Kansas
The Jayhawks had a national player of the year candidate last season in Thomas Robinson. But when Kansas reached the Final Four in New Orleans, this is what Robinson said about center Jeff Withey: “For me, he’s meant everything. Without Jeff, I probably wouldn’t have had anywhere close to the season I’m having.” After an inconsistent start to the season, Withey came on strong with the help of a little tough love from coach Bill Self. The KU center was a monster in the NCAA Tournament, blocking 10 shots against North Carolina State and putting up 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the regional championship against North Carolina. This season, with Robinson gone, Withey will need to average 13 or 14 points and continue to protect the rim. If he does, Kansas should win the Big 12 a ninth straight time. MORE: Get the latest recruiting news at Scout.com.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
There was a time when you hated to put a freshman on a list with this much pressure. But Noel is the freshman of choice this season at Kentucky, where the rules are drastically different. People want to know if Noel is the next Anthony Davis, and that’s just not fair. Davis was a one-of-a-kind freshman surrounded by five other UK players who were taken in the NBA draft after winning the NCAA championship. Noel is the best of a new group of youngsters at Kentucky. He’s not going to be the national player of the year, but he is going to block a lot of shots and help Kentucky win a lot of games. A lot of people will be watching — especially in Lexington. MORE: Get news, tournament predictions and more at Scout.com.
Mike Moser, UNLV
Runnin’ Rebels fans were relieved when their talented power forward decided to return to UNLV rather than enter the draft. Moser transferred from UCLA and became an instant impact player in coach Dave Rice’s system. He led the Rebels in scoring, rebounding and steals. He averaged a double-double (14 points, 10.5 rebounds) and Rice expects him to do that again. He was a unanimous All-Mountain West first-team selection in addition to being named the conference Newcomer of the Year. His mom wants to see him graduate and win a national championship. Rebels fans are glad he has listened to her so far. MORE: Get ready for the season opener at Scout.com.
Solomon Hill, Arizona
If you like your players versatile, Hill is your guy. Coach Sean Miller knows he can put his senior at either forward spot and Hill will produce. Hill is 6-foot-7, so he was a bit undersized at power forward last season, but he still averaged 12.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists. This season Hill can move back to the wing because the Wildcats will have help from some young talent in the post. Hill has been dieting, getting into shape and preparing for a solid senior season. No more fast food, he says, just a lot more focus and versatility to go with his sensibility. That’s bad news for Arizona opponents. MORE: Get the latest on college hoops at Scout.com.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Some fans knew about Canaan before his junior year. Those who didn’t catch on last season should figure it out this time around. Canaan is a senior who busted onto the scene when he averaged 19.4 points and 3.8 rebounds for the team that was the last unbeaten in Division I with a 23-0 record. Expect Canaan to be in the running for National Player of the Year and that’s pretty amazing for a guy who didn’t even start on his AAU basketball team. Canaan always has the green light to shoot but with his reputation, he will attract a great deal of defensive attention. He should be fun to watch. MORE: Check out our preseason power rankings at Scout.com.
Peyton Siva, Louisville
The Cardinals’ point guard has strong Christian beliefs and wears No. 3 to represent the Holy Trinity. He also participates in regular Bible study and his brother, Michael, compares him to Tim Tebow. Put that together and Louisville coach Rick Pitino will tell you that Siva is one of the five best people he has ever coached. When Siva listened to a Pitino pep talk last February, the senior from Seattle changed his game and led the Cardinals to the Final Four. He has learned to stay away from stupid fouls while remaining aggressive. He passes first, plays tough defense and finally has become the leader Pitino wanted him to be. With talent all around him, and the right attitude, Siva might lead second-ranked Louisville to the national championship. MORE: Get the latest recruiting news at Scout.com.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott scored 801 points in his sophomore season at Creighton. Not impressed? Only Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson (984) and Indiana State’s Larry Bird (918) ever scored more as a sophomore in the Missouri Valley Conference. Creighton opens the season ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press preseason poll and McDermott will be a candidate for National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds last season for the Blue Jays. Coach Greg McDermott, who just happens to be Doug’s dad, has this team thinking well beyond a MVC title — thanks in large part to his son’s outstanding post moves. MORE: Get the latest on your favorite team at Scout.com.
Trey Burke, Michigan
Michigan coach John Beilein uses words like “calm” and “controlled” to explain Burke’s play at point guard for the Wolverines last season. That’s impressive because Burke was just a freshman. Despite his youth, he started 33 of 34 games and led Michigan in scoring and assists. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week seven times. Burke averaged 14.8 points, 4.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds, but his greatest attribute was his poise — especially in late-game situations. In a conference loaded with talent, Burke has to avoid a sophomore jinx if Michigan expects to contend for the Big Ten title. MORE: Get your college hoops fix at Scout.com.