In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Esayas Gebrekidan highlights who he deems as the top returners in college basketball after pouring through countless hours of film throughout the 2021-22 NCAA season:
In the last installment of Film Study, we identified some of the most under-recruited 2023 recruits who we felt were flying under the radar due to lack of exposure for various reasons. In the time since that last article, the focus has shifted to college basketball film as our staff looks ahead to the 2023 NBA draft.
With this next installment, we will be taking a look at some of the most talented, intriguing non-freshman college players in the country. With the NCAA season freshly underway, there will be plenty of opportunity to get an updated live look at the following names who jumped off the screen while we were analyzing their games from this past season.
With that, here are seven returners to keep a close eye on throughout the 2022-23 college basketball season:
6’0” Guard | St. John’s | Junior
Alexander will have the opportunity to take the next step in his development this season. As a sophomore, he averaged 5apg., which ranked in the top-20 in FGS (Floor General Skills). The film consistently shows above-average creation ability as Alexander is consistently attacking and setting up teammates for success. Heading into his junior year, Alexander is also regarded among the top defenders in the nation, coming off a season in which he put up a 91 DSI (Defensive Statistical Impact). As a defender, he wreaks havoc both in the full and half court, forcing opponents into turnovers and getting deflections. If Alexander can improve as a shooter, you can all but pencil St. John’s in as an NCAA tournament team and a squad that opposing programs will not want to play in March.
6’11” Big | North Carolina | Senior
After a breakout season where Bacot led UNC to the National Championship game, all eyes will be on the big man going into this season. A force in the paint and on the boards, Bacot showed flashes of his growing midrange game, stepping out knocking down shots. Bacot posted a C-RAM of 11.2, ranking ninth overall among returners. Bacot does a great job as a rim protector and rebounder and he is one of just three players returning from last season to post an ATR (Around The Rim) above 90. Bacot will be key to North Carolina's success but if he builds off of his play from last season, he will prove he is worthy of a shot on an NBA roster.
6’4” Guard | San Diego State | Senior
In Bradley’s first year at San Diego State, he helped lead the team to the NCAA Tournament before losing to Creighton in the first round by averaging 16.9ppg (on 40.1% shooting form 3), 5.4rpg, 2.7apg and 1spg. Bradley does it all, scores off the dribble, spots up, or can post up smaller guards and can play off the ball. A strong, physical presence on the defensive end, Bradley held opponents to 32.1% shooting from the field. Based on the film, Bradley’s ability to score at will and also defend at a high level makes him a player that should be on everyone's radar.
6’2” Guard | Houston | Senior
Prior to going down with a toe injury Sasser was on a roll last season, averaging 17.7ppg on 43% shooting from 3. When measuring 3PE (3-Point Efficiency), he finished the season second among players with 10 or more games played (per Cerebro). A very talented scorer, Sasser’s ability to create space off the dribble and get to the rim should allow him to improve as a playmaker for the Cougars this season. Defensively, he posted an 87 DSI — a physical defender on and off the ball, he is a tough match-up for opponents. Sasser’s two-way ability
makes him a player to watch this season and we expect him to lead Houston on a deep tournament run.
6’7” Wing | Gonzaga | Junior
Strawther’s role grew substantially in his second season with Gonzaga and he now has the opportunity to be one of the go-to guys with the Bulldogs, moving forward. As a sophomore, he was very efficient and scored in a variety of ways, particularly via spot ups, cuts, transition, and put-backs. With increased opportunity as ball-handler in 2022-23, expect an increase in his playmaking. More importantly, he will be required to pick up his scoring and take on a bigger role defensively if Gonzaga is to have continued success this season.
6’9” Big | Kentucky | Senior
An overwhelming two-way force, Tshiebwe averaged 17.4ppg, 15.1rpg, 1.1apg, 1.6bpg, and 1.8spg on his way to sweeping last season’s National Player of the Year awards. Tshiebwe can score down low on the block and gives his team extra opportunities with his rebounding but is also a great pick-and-pop option, knocking down 50% of those attempts. According to Cerebro Sports, Tshiebwe posted a DSI of 97 last season (ranking 16th in the nation) and a 98 rating for ATR making him one of the top defensive returners in the country. He held opponents to just 34.7% shooting from the field and although he only averaged a block-and-a-half per game, he altered countless attempts at the rim. The film suggests we can all expect Tshiebwe to pick up where he left off last season with another dominant campaign.
6’8” Forward | Kansas | RS-Junior
With Kansas losing a majority of their offensive production from a year ago, look for Wilson to step in and fill that void. Wilson does a great job getting to the rim and finishing in the paint but will need to improve his range shooting in order to keep opponents from sagging off of him. He’s flashed his playmaking throughout his time in Lawrence, and his increased ability to get to the paint off the dribble will free up shooters this season. If his first game of the season where Wilson put up 19 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists is any indicator, we can expect big numbers from the 6’8” forward throughout the season as Kansas looks to defend their title.