The comeback: Michael Porter Jr., University of Missouri
After three miserable seasons with a combined 27-67 record, new Head Coach Cuonzo Martin seemed to be turning the Missouri Tigers program around by nabbing a star-studded recruiting class—headlined by a projected top-five NBA Draft pick in Michael Porter Jr. However, excitement quickly came to a stop after Porter suffered a supposedly season-ending back injury in just his second minute of college play at the start of the 2017-18 season.
Fortunately, the rest of the Tigers held down the fort as Porter’s recovery progressed more quickly than expected. Now, Porter’s return will provide an injection of elite talent to a suddenly-scary Mizzou squad—which includes his brother Jontay, an emerging star in his own right.
The veteran: Devonte’ Graham, University of Kansas
Prior to this season, Devonte’ Graham was a typical Kansas Jayhawks guard, providing the perennial power with consistently strong, but under-the-radar, point guard play. After a season as a role player and two as a supporting starter, Graham has risen to become the central figure on the first-seeded Jayhawks, leading the team in points, assists, and steals per game and earning first-team All-American honours in the process.
Beyond the box score, Graham might be the single most important player on any team of Kansas’s elite level. The senior provides the Jayhawks with the team’s only reliable play-making, which explains why he ranks fifth in the NCAA in minutes played.
The journeyman: Marcus Foster, Creighton University
A lot can change in a few years. Marcus Foster entered the Kansas State Wildcats basketball program to little fanfare, but instantly took college basketball by storm with 25 points in his second career game. Foster followed up with consistently strong performances and ended his season as one of the country’s premier freshmen. Fast forward a year as Foster lost focus and gained weight, leading to his dismissal from the K-State basketball program.
But after sitting out for a year with the Creighton Bluejays, he flipped the script once again. Foster played a vital role for the Jays in 2016-17, and has again stepped up his game this season to be one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers. With little first-round draft buzz to his name, Foster will look to turn the tables one last time before his senior season concludes—starting with a matchup against none other than his former Wildcats.
The villain: Grayson Allen, Duke University
Despite competing in a sport monopolized by prolific one-and-done talents, Grayson Allen has kept a firm grip on the college basketball spotlight for four years. His long run of infamy began innocently enough with an explosive dunk during a 2015 Blue Devils Final Four victory. He held fans’ attention in the time since, consistently providing solid contributions and borderline-dirty plays.
Combining Allen’s questionable antics with Duke’s traditionally villainous brand, college basketball has found its bad boy. Alongside Duke’s latest set of blue-chippers, Allen will look to his undeniable talents—in creating wins and controversy—to troll fans one final time.