When the consensus national player of the year returns to college to be the star of a top-five team and projected power-conference champion, conventional wisdom suggests he should be the subsequent preseason national player of the year. That's why Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe topped the ballot I submitted for CBS Sports Preseason POY earlier this week. It just seemed like the simple and right thing to do. But, in an interesting turn of events, most of my colleagues disagreed — which is why Gonzaga's Drew Timme is the CBS Sports Preseason National Player of the Year.
Tshiebwe finished a close second in the voting.
UNC's Armando Bacot was third.
To be clear, I love Timme. He's a fabulous college player who will probably become a consensus three-time All-American at the end of this season, especially if he leads the Zags to a fourth straight No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But I was still surprised he received more votes than Tshiebwe, who averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds last season while collecting every meaningful POY award. So, with this in mind, I asked some of my colleagues who listed Timme ahead of Tshiebwe why they voted the way they did.
Here's what Matt Norlander said: "Timme was my pick because I believe he is going to be a more valuable player than Tshiebwe, who will have more talent and stat-compilers around him. Timme should feast and put up the best numbers of his career for a projected No. 1 seed. Plus: we haven't had a back-to-back NPOY in 40 years. Playing the odds."
Added Kyle Boone: "To me, Timme and Tshiebwe were pretty even — and I was leaning Tshiebwe over Timme — until Tshiebwe's recent knee procedure. So I just used that uncertainty to break the tie. Timme generally seems like a better bet to put up bigger counting stats given how much talent UK has around Tshiebwe. I'm thinking Jacob Toppin, Antonio Reeves, Daimion Collins and Cason Wallace will all eat into the big pie of production Tshiebwe has this season more than the supporting cast did last season."
And David Cobb was blunt: "Those guys are idiots. I voted for Tshiebwe because he deserves it until someone comes and takes it from him."
Personally, I'm siding with Cobb here. I think Tshiebwe should top all POY lists heading into this season based on what he did last season. But the truth is that nobody gets trophies or their Wikipedia page updated for being named a preseason POY. It's just a paper-honor. The end-of-the-season awards are the ones that matter. So I'm happy to sit back and see how it goes, and I'm just glad we get to watch Tshiebwe, Timme, Bacot and every other possible candidate start competing soon and get to earning on the court whatever honors will someday come their way.
On that note, don't forget, Tshiebwe and Timme will have what amounts to a head-to-head matchup in less than a month. That's when Kentucky and Gonzaga are scheduled to play a neutral-court game on the third Sunday in November that could serve as a big step toward POY awards for those two programs' best players. -- Gary Parrish
Note: The CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year were voted on by college basketball writers at CBS Sports and 247Sports as well as broadcasters from CBS and CBS Sports Network.
2022-23 CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year
Drew Timme | Gonzaga | F | 6-10 | Sr.
For the second consecutive season, Gonzaga's mischievous mustachioed maestro in the middle is CBS Sports' choice for the highest individual preseason honor in college basketball. After taking the early entry pre-draft period right up to the deadline, Timme channeled Michael Jordan when he tweeted the following in June:
I’m back— drew timme (@drewtimme2) June 2, 2022
Wouldn't you know it, Timme hasn't tweeted since. Two words and that's it. I'll see you in the fall.
Now the fall is here and with it comes another highly ranked Gonzaga team seeking to make a third Final Four and win its first national title. If that's to happen, Timme will need to be one of the best players in the sport.
We're predicting he'll be the best — beating out the reigning National Player of the Year in Tshiebwe, who of course also received votes for our biggest preseason honor. College hoops is going to benefit significantly this season by having a big batch of big men return to the sport,. It could be argued Timme is as well-known as any of them.
Consider: Gonzaga is 90-7 the past three seasons with Timme on the roster. He enters his fourth season with 1,521 points, 617 rebounds, 206 assists and 79 blocks to his name. Playing alongside future No. 2 NBA Draft pick Chet Holmgren last season, Timme averaged 18.4 points and 6.8 rebounds for the No. 1 overall seed. Gonzaga was upset in the Sweet 16 by Arkansas, setting the tenor for a revenge '22-23 season alongside Zag returnees Julian Strawther, Anton Watson, Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis.
"He's the best post player I've seen in college basketball in I-don't-know-how-many many years and he's a consummate winner," one opposing coach told CBS Sports this summer. "He's nasty, tough, can score, his IQ is dependable."
"Consummate" is a good word to describe Timme in terms of his college sports appeal and star power. His game is suited for dominance at this level and he embraces the spotlight that comes with being a player who's equal parts applauded and playfully villainized at times (thanks to that 'stache celebration he's adopted). Timme has some of the best footwork the game has seen in a long time, and if he's improved in the offseason, he'll be closet to unstoppable in the post against most opponents. If another huge year for Gonzaga is forthcoming, it should mean another monster season for Timme, who's poised to turn in one of the most impressive four-year college careers the sport has seen in the past two decades.
2022-23 CBS Sports Preseason Freshman of the Year
Nick Smith | Arkansas | G | 6-5
Arkansas has one of its most heralded incoming recruiting classes in program history — it ranked second behind only almighty Duke — and Smith appears to be the crown jewel of the class. A Little Rock, Arkansas, native, Smith opted to stay close to home over competing offers from Kansas, Kentucky and a lengthy list of high-major suitors, giving the Razorbacks in the process their highest-ranked signee in school history.
Smith is in a class that includes two other five-stars who are top-five ranked signees in program history — Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh — so he very well may have some competition even on his own team to earn Freshman of the Year honors. But his ascension in the high school ranks over the last two years from outside the top 50 in his own class to No. 1 overall suggests his one-and-done trajectory could make him a star right away.
The path to producing at a FOY rate is wide open: Arkansas lost nearly 90% of its total scoring production from last season's Elite Eight team including most of its backcourt. His ability to score it and create combined with his endless confidence combine to make him one of the breakout stars not just of college basketball's rookie class – but of the entire sport.