College basketball fans across the state should have an enjoyable winter if the Athlon Sports preseason publication is on the mark.
Athlon has Michigan State as the nation’s No. 2 ranked team, behind only Arizona and ahead of No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Louisville and No. 6 Kentucky.
The publication has the Spartans winning the Big Ten title before earning the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, then advancing to the national championship game and losing to Arizona.
MSU 6-foot-7 sophomore Miles Bridges is predicted to be the National Player of the Year. Power forward Nick Ward is ranked as the No. 39 player in the nation, also noted to be the second-best offensive rebounder in the country. Jaren Jackson, a 6-11 freshman small forward, is ranked No. 59.
Michigan, which has the nation’s No. 37 player in center Moritz Wagner, is picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten, then to get a No. 8 seed in the West Region. The Wolverines are said to have one of the premier transfers in 6-5 point guard Charles Matthews, a former four-star recruit who played at Kentucky.
Western Michigan is picked to win the Mid-American Conference with guard Thomas Wilder as conference Player of the Year and sophomore forward Reggie Jones a second-team performer. The Broncos are predicted to land a No. 13 seed in the South Region.
Athlon also says Oakland will win the Horizon League with conference Player of the Year Jalen Hayes, along with former Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn earning a spot on the first team with Martez Walker being a second-teamer. The Grizzlies will earn a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region, Athlon says.