Five players to watch out for in 2020-21 college basketball season

Arizona State point guard Remy Martin looks on during game against Washington State Cougars
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Andrew Ortenberg


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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

The start of the 2020-21 college basketball season is right around the corner, and you can feel the magic in the air. Unfortunately we were all deprived of March Madness this past season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’ll only make the return of college basketball all the more special. The action will kick off Wednesday with a jam-packed slate featuring many dozens of games, and to get you prepared for all the craziness that’s about to ensue, today we’ll be highlighting five players you need to keep an eye on.

First we’ll start with a few clear stars who are either household names or on their way to becoming them, and then we’ll wrap up with a couple of lesser-known sleepers you’ll want to get familiar with. Let’s dive in:

Luka Garza – C – Iowa

It’s not too often that you see dominant seniors in college basketball these days, since most of the best players end up leaving early for the NBA draft. That’s why this Garza season has the potential to be so special, as the veteran big man is already the reigning Big Ten Player of the year and is now coming back for a fourth season as the feather in his cap. The first-team All-American bullied some really good front courts last year, averaging 24 points and ten rebounds.

Iowa is entering this season with their highest expectations in years, as they sit at number five in the opening AP poll. Their hopes of a deep run lie firmly on Garza’s shoulders, and he should be simply impossible to guard. He’s going to be very much in the National Player of the Year conversation.

Cade Cunningham – PG – Oklahoma State

We started with a seasoned old vet, so why not pivot now to an unproven freshman? That description might not be fair to Cunningham, as he is widely expected to immediately step in and become one of the best players in college basketball. Considered the top recruit in the country coming out of high school this past year, Cunningham is also widely believed to be firmly in the mix for the top overall pick on the 2021 draft.

He’s a 6’7 point guard, which makes him perfect for today’s game. He’s got superstar written all over him, and has the potential to immediately elevate an Oklahoma State program that has been a disappointment in recent years. The rest of the team around him isn’t all that talented on paper, and it’ll be interesting to see how far he’s able to carry them. He should see ridiculous volume right away, which is going to lead to some eye-popping stats.

Ayo Dosunmu – G – Illinois

Is this the year that Illinois basketball finally returns to its old glory? Many people seem to think so, as the Fighting Illini are starting the year off ranked eighth. When Garza isn’t stealing the show in this incredibly deep Big Ten conference, there’s a good chance it’ll be Dosunmu on any given night. The lengthy guard averaged 16.6 points per game as a sophomore last year, and that was even with his three-point stroke taking a bit of a step back.

If he can improve on his outside shooting a bit, which he showed he’s capable of as a freshman, then the sky is truly the limit for Dosunmu. He finished last season on a consistent tear, with at least 16 points in each of his last eight games. He should be able to build on that momentum and then some. This Illinois team is going to be really fun to watch, and you’ll be hearing Dosunmu’s name called frequently between now and March.

Blake Francis – PG – Richmond

Let’s turn now to a couple of guys flying more under the radar. It feels like ages ago that Richmond made their Sweet 16 run, but it was actually less than a decade. The team fell apart after that, but they’ve slowly been building back up again and quietly finished the season second in the Atlantic 10 last year. They’re a nice mid-major sleeper team that could make some real noise, and Francis is the largest reason why. He averaged 17.7 points per game last year while shooting better than 36 percent from three.

The Wagner transfer is a great underdog story, as he had only one DI offer coming out of high school. He also gets scrappy on defense and is super fun to watch. The Spiders return each of their top five scorers from last year, and each of them are seniors now, so this is a team that is well-equipped for COVID-19 times. Watch out for them.

Remy Martin – PG – Arizona State

Let’s wrap things up with one last guard. Not too many people are talking about this Arizona State team, but I think they’ve got the best roster in the Pac-12. Martin is the undisputed leader of this team, and the senior should be in for a huge season. He didn’t start as a freshman and then didn’t do anything too remarkable as a sophomore, before breaking out as a junior last year.

He averaged 19.1 points per game, and thrived once Bobby Hurley handed him the Martin has an incredible handle, and is electric to watch as a result. He’s a great playmaker who is plenty flashy at times, so don’t be surprised when he starts attracting national media attention as the season goes on.

Pickswise is the home of free NCAA basketball picks and predictions. We will provide predictions on both the side and totals for all of the power-conference and Top 25 games during the 2020-21 season.

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