Thursday, December 7, 2023

College basketball rankings: Breaking down the top five players at every position entering the 2023-24 season

CBS Sports released its Top 100 And 1 player list last week and the 2023-24 season is expected to be defined once again by dominant centers. Four of the five players on the CBS Sports Preseason All-America First Team were big men. The top five spots on the list were all occupied by front court players. 

Headlining the list is towering Purdue center Zach Edey. Last season, the 7-foot-4 big man averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds pergame on his way to winning National Player of the Year Award. Other highly-ranked centers include North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, KansasHunter Dickinson and Creighton Ryan Kalkbrenner.

Even with all the attention paid to big men, guard play is still king come March. Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor and TexasMax Abmas all ranked in the top-10 and are expected to help lead their respective teams to a deep NCAA Tournament run. 

We broke our rankings into seven different position categories: point guard, shooting guard, combo guard, small forward, wing, power forward and center. Power conference players dominated the top of the list. The only mid-major player ranked at the top of his position group was Dayton PF DaRon Holmes ll.

Ranking top players by position

Point guards

Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (6) Tyler Kolek Marquette Senior
2. (20) Tyson Walker Michigan State Graduate
3. (27) Aidan Mahaney Saint Mary’s Sophomore
4. (36) Jamal Shead Houston Senior
5. (39) Tyrese Hunter Texas Junior

Kolek is the consensus best point guard in college basketball, so it’s no surprise he headlines this list. The reigning Big East Player of the Year is an excellent facilitator and is a major reason why Marquette is the preseason No. 5 team. Mahaney is poised to take a massive jump at Saint Mary’s. He may be a relative unknown name to most (unless you stay up late to watch West Coast Conference basketball) but he averaged 13.9 points as a true freshman and played a massive role in a win over Gonzaga at the start of WCC play. There’s a lot of continuity in this group as all five players played for their respective programs last season.

Shooting guards

Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (16) Terrence Shannon Jr. Illinois Fifth year
2. (21) Justin Moore Villanova Graduate
3. (23) Santiago Vescovi Tennessee Fifth year
4. (24) L.J. Cryer Houston Senior
5. (31) Alijah Martin FAU Junior

In a surprising decision, Shannon elected to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft to come back to Illinois. The former Texas Tech shooting guard provides a one-two punch with returner Coleman Hawkins. Moore is back at Villanova after he tore his achilles in the Elite Eight win over Houston in 2022. He provides coach Kyle Neptune with a reliable veteran that should help the Wildcats compete in the Big East.

Combo guards

Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (7) Wade Taylor IV Texas A&M Junior
2. (9) Max Abmas Texas Graduate
3. (11) Isaiah Collier USC Freshman
4. (14) Tyrese Proctor Duke Sophomore
5. (15) Ryan Nembhard Gonzaga Sophomore

The top combo guards feature two returners, two transfers and the No. 2 overall recruit from the 2023 recruiting cycle. Collier was a late bloomer in high school before he skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings. He is the highest-rated recruit in history of USC basketball and already in consideration to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. All five of the teams on this list are expected to compete for their respective league titles. Taylor could prove to be the most important because of the wide-open status of the SEC.

Small forwards

Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (10) Bryce Hopkins Providence Junior
2. (18) Justin Edwards Kentucky Freshman
3. (26) Baylor Scheierman Creighton Senior
4. (38) Kevin McCullar Jr. Kansas Redshirt-Senior
5. (68) Tucker DeVries Drake Junior

Hopkins leads this list after the Kentucky transfer averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in 34.9 minutes last season.  Edwards showed why he can be Kentucky’s No. 1 option during the GLOBL Jam games in Canada this summer. DeVries was one of a handful of mid-major players on this list.


Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (12) Trey Alexander Creighton Junior
2. (41) Ja’Kobe Walter Baylor Freshman
3. (59) Antonio Reeves Kentucky Fifth year
4. (65) Stephon Castle UConn Freshman
5. (70) Matthew Cleveland Miami Junior

Two true freshmen headline this list of wings. Baylor coach Scott Drew has experience developing young players quickly and Walter has the physical build to succeed in the Big 12. Castle should step into a prominent role right away for the reigning champs after the Huskies lost a ton of firepower to the NBA Draft.

Power forwards

Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (28) DaRon Holmes II Dayton Junior
2. (34) Tolu Smith Mississippi State Graduate
3. (37) Tristan Da Silva Colorado Senior
4. (43) PJ Hall Clemson Senior
5. (53) Eric Dixon Villanova Redshirt senior

Mississippi State was dealt a brutal blow when it was announced Smith would miss the start of the season because of a foot injury. He was a candidate for SEC Preseason Player of the Year and his injury will likely knock him out until at least the start of conference play. Colorado’s Da Silva is a dark horse candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year. The Buffaloes are expected to field their best roster in years and he should be the focal point.


Rank (Overall) Player School Class
1. (1) Zach Edey Purdue Senior
2. (2) Armando Bacot North Carolina Graduate
3. (3) Kyle Filipowski Duke Sophomore
4. (4) Hunter Dickinson Kansas Senior
5. (5) Ryan Kalkbrenner Creighton Senior

Unless you live under a rock, you know how dominant Edey was last season. The 7-foot-4 burly big man took America by storm and emerged as the top player in the sport. Purdue has an opportunity to follow the same script as Virginia and capture a national title the season after losing to a No. 16 seed in the first round. 

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