Top Five players returning next season

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With a lot of focus on the guys who are entering the NBA draft, we take a look at the five guys to watch for the next college basketball season.

1. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker

The combination of both VanVleet and Baker coming back is what puts the Wichita duo at No. 1 on the list.  After Gregg Marshall has also turned down offers to leave, the fans of the Shockers must be dancing.  There is no doubt that the Shockers look to top the Missouri Valley and make even a deeper run at the NCAA Tournament next year.  VanVleet was able to showcase his skill and blow by defenses with his quickness multiple times in the tournament.  He may be the fastest guard in all of college basketball. Baker, meanwhile, has proven he can be the hot hand that the Shockers turn to.  He will look to once again improve his scoring average as he has done every season at Wichita.

VanVleet averaged 13.6 points per game, while Baker averaged 14.7 points per game.  They both averaged 4.5 rebounds per game and combined to average almost 2 steals a game.  Look for both VanVleet and Baker do big things in their last go around with Wichita.

Here VanVleet finds Baker who knocks down the 3-ball:

2. Tyler Ulis

After Kentucky unloaded seven players to the NBA draft, that leaves Tyler Ulis as the man to step up next season.  Excluding Alex Poythress who was out most of the season, Ulis will be the only Wildcat to return that averaged more than 3 points per game.  Ulis led the team in assists last year with 3.6 per game also.  He will find a bigger role this coming year with the departure of the Harrison twins.

Calipari once again brings in the No. 1 recruiting class, which will provide the usual power Kentucky has, but Ulis can be the one to spread the wealth and key the offense.  He will provide the team with experience, even if it is not as much as other teams have.

Pay close attention as Ulis throws a fancy behind the back pass to Cauley-Stein who finishes with the dunk:

3. Marcus Paige

Paige looks to be the man once again for the Tar Heels.  North Carolina returns virtually every player besides J.P. Tokoto.  There is serious reason to believe that North Carolina will contend for the national championship next year, and that will depend on the production of Paige. Paige scored 14 points a game and shot 40 percent from 3-point land. I guarantee you that North Carolina does not want to be swept by Duke again, especially after Duke claimed the national title. Look for Paige to be the reason why North Carolina makes a major run at it all.

Here is a short compilation of Paige with great finishes at the rim:

4. Kyle Wiltjer

Gonzaga scored the 10th most points per game last season with Wiltjer leading the way.  He was able to score 16.8 a game and was also second on the team in rebounding. It was a very productive year for him as it was his first after transferring from Kentucky and sitting out a year. He was also able to sink 47 percent of his 3-point attempts.  Wiltjer has not stated that he is coming back for sure, but many draft experts have him going undrafted. (If he was going to leave early, why not stay at Kentucky?)  If he comes back, he will no doubt lead the Zags in scoring once again. Gonzaga looks to win another WCC title next year and make a tournament run that will finally be celebrated with a Final Four.  Wiltjer’s scoring ability will be the reason Gonzaga is able to continue its dominance in the WCC.

5. Grayson Allen

Allen came to play when it mattered most last season.  When Duke was trailing in the second half of the national championship game against Wisconsin, the man who led the comeback wasn’t one of the players headed to the NBA draft.  Allen showed the nation that he can play at the highest stage in crucial moments.

Allen may also have the hustle more than any other player in the country.  If he did not spark the Blue Devils in the championship game, I truly believe it would have been the Badgers celebrating.  Look for Allen to have increased production next year with the departures of Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, and possibly Tyus Jones.  We can’t go off of tremendous stats from last year, but it will be interesting to see what Allen can do with more than 9 minutes per game. He could go down as one of the best to play at Duke when it is all said and done.

Watch Grayson Allen retrieve his own rebound and finish with power:

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